Bob Henshaw (2008 ) discusses some possible directions higher education institutions might take when adopting technology (published in Innovate, 4(5) at: http://www.innovateonline.info/index.php?view=article&id=533&action=synopsis).
He predicts that patterns of technology adoption will be uneven among institutions, but all will likely feel similar forces such as “shifting demographics, market, political and other forces” (p.1). He points out that institutions are at crossroads when it comes to adopting technology and that the greatest influence on their adoption is the organizational culture, mostly defined by the faculty. Again, the issue of engaging faculty in online learning raises its head but this time due to the decline in full-time tenured staff. As stated by Ruth, Sammons and Poulin (2007), the contingent staff/faculty might just be the solution to increase alternative modes of delivering education that blends technology, content, instruction and interaction.
Another factor influencing the adoption of technology is institutional mission and plans. More elite institutions are delineating distance education from traditional modes of program delivery insisting they are maintaining their status and exclusivity. Meanwhile, smaller institutions and for-profit providers are looking to the adult education market as a means to provide and address more innovate course delivery.
Other concerns, influences and forces regarding online learning are:
- student profiles will shift to 3/4 of undergraduates being nontraditional calling for hybrid and online programs
- some regions will experiences declining populations requiring institutions to adopt blended residential models and niche degree programs to reduce costs and increase revenue
- demand for global/international education will increase by 70% between 2003 and 2025
- access and digital divide issues will need to be addressed by institutions becoming innovative to not cater only to students from higher socioeconomic levels
- mobile technologies will require institutions to consider miniaturization of devices, and service integration
- learning online and working across networks and with informal resources (such as virtual worlds, gaming, web feeds) will be the newer ways to access and stream information
- third-party services, such as human and artificial intelligence-mediated tutors and media conglomerates, will alleviate institutions from constantly inventing innovative educational services and products
- cradle-to-grave assessment strategies will help students map their learning preferences and strengths, bridging public education with higher education paths, and provided a demanded personalized learning opportunities.
- some disruptions that might affect technology adoption are economic fluxes and recessions, and security issues causing institutions to reassess their dependency on technology.
Henshaw predicts it will be another ten years before advances in online learning and a widely accepted framework for assembling custom curricula across institutions converge” (p.2). He senses in 25 years some institutions will look the same (remarkably) and some will become unrecognizable.
It will remain to be seen if this comes to fruition. I sense that old models of governance and teaching and learning will change within all institutions, driven by the knowledge economy, and displacing some institutions that do not change with the times. Though some models of higher education have persisted since the middle ages, newer concepts on how knowledge is formed will prevail and be embraced by upcoming generations.