The Future Model of Higher Education

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Written by David Clemens

Presenter: Joseph Aoun, President of NorthEastern University.

Can higher education institutions hold their own in a world that is becoming automated? With technology progressing at a rapid rate it is unclear of what role these intuitions of learning will play moving forward, as the traditional expectations of learning are changing. Joseph Aouns poses this conundrum to the audience and discusses his solution to the problem. The current externalities associated with higher education are growing and will need to be addressed in the near future due to advances in artificial intelligence, robotics, and automation. The discussion of intelligent systems is becoming increasingly focused around the decrease in jobs that will be available in the future. Numerous studies suggest that in the next 15 years 45% of the jobs available today we know are going to disappear. White collar jobs are bound to be hit as well blue collar ones. On the bright side, there are also new jobs that will be created from this new technology. This transition will be a challenge for the higher education system, universities can and must prepare students for an ever-changing life. To do so educator’s must be in-tune with what companies are looking for.

Key Takeaways

 “What we have to do in higher education is to prepare and educate our students for an ever-changing life.”- Joseph Aoun

The Concept of New Literacy

New literacy is the understanding of technology, data literacy, and other non-writing based systems. The current system give students a general education, these are based around the liberal arts. Aoun wants to introduce the concept of new literacy. There are also the humanics, the study of what makes humans different from machines.

The first step to begin new literacy is to completely redo general education to include the goals of data literacy, tech literacy, data literacy, and humanics, among others.

The one characteristic that makes humans robot proof is the ability of create new idea, products, and capacities. Creativity, entrepreneurship, and innovations are all goals that should try to be achieved through new literacy. The ability to create cognitive capacities are essential in higher education, yet universities have not focused on them.

The new literacy of humanics, tech literacy, and data literacy should supplement the traditional education structure. Once students know what is required educators can help them focus on how to achieve it. This is done by bringing an experiential component to learning.

Experience Learning

The dichotomy between university study and real life is growing. Experience learning is building a different model of education by integrating the classroom with the world. This experience learning is done by participating in coops; paid internships of at least 6 months which provide skills that cannot be gained in a conventional classroom. For these students, nothing is given, every step they must complete on their own. Once they are placed in a company they get a mentor within the company to further their learning experience.

The model of experimental learning through coops has multiple takeaways:

  • The learner now understands what he or she is good at in the workplace, in which fields they need to improve, and whether this is a field that they would like to further pursue.
  • From the learners point of view coops allow them to refine their knowledge base and constantly build upon it.
  • The employer benefits from coops as well, as they now have information to make the informed decision of if the student is a appropriate fit for the company.
  • With the experience gained from the coop students can question the traditional style of learning when they return to the classroom at the end of their coop.

Post-Grad Learners. Who will train those that need to re-tool their experience? Because of the changes in technology coming in the near future everyone will need to retool in order to stay competitive and productive.

One problem with the traditional education model is that universities have focused learning on the undergrad level with research and PhDs, there is still not a full embrace of integrated learning.

There is a growing demand of those who need to re-tool to stay competitive in the workplace. Universities play the perfect role in fulfilling these requirements, however, many have given up on this aspect of learning.

To fill the gap, business have made their own university like programs to tailor workers to the re-tooling skillset they require. This shift is a failure of higher education to properly engage a very important demographic.

As it stands today, lifelong learning is not integrated with the traditional model, the current model assumes that people are learning in a full-time situation and don’t factor in employment of other obligations.

“No one is going to be set for life.”-Joseph Aoun

Lifelong Learning   

“We are at a major turning point, our Artificial intelligence is destroying jobs as well as creating jobs, and the implications on higher education are profound, we have to rethink out models.”- Joseph Aoun

Lifelong learning is not well integrated with the current education model, as it assumes that the student is in a full-time learning situation. Universities need to rethink how learning is provided.

The notion of degrees has to be rethought to incorporate the use of certificates, as they have become a popular option in the business world and overtime have filled the gap that the University system used to provide for.

Certificates for certain skills need to be reintroduced so that they can essentially “stack” to become the equivalent of a degree, allowing additional flexibility while maintaining education quality and rigor.

Universities will have to come to the student: as online learning is becoming more mainstream and practical the notion of forcing someone to spend time on campus can take away from the learning experience considering the working status of the student. Aoun gives the example of his IBM partnership, a hybrid strategy which focuses both online components with onsite supplements to train its staff.

If Universities fail to adequately address this adult population of learners then expect to see a proliferation of more companies start their own education programs.

Editor’s Note: The preceding is an essay from a special print report produced by Diplomatic Courier after the 2017 World Government Summit in Dubai, UAE. To read the full report download our free app on your device or view the digital edition here.