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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Responding to the New Student Revolution

This week, "Inside Higher Education" carried an article -- 
 Ready or Not, Change is Coming | Inside Higher Ed --
about the dramatic shift in student circumstances and student expectations of higher education. 

The author, Marni Baker Stein, notes that not only is this generation of students more likely to work while attending college, they have very specific expectations of higher education, including that they (quoting Ms. Stein here):
  • attend, perhaps more than ever before, to the outcomes of their education; 
  • expect a return on their investment and increasingly demand
  • internships, practical experience and direct windows into possible
    employment paths from the very start of their post-secondary careers;
  • value personalization that is embedded in their day-to-day experiences
  • and that responds to both their weaknesses and strengths;
  • prefer optimized pathways that recognize and credit prior knowledge and experience and allow them to move at their own pace;
  • opt to work across multiple institutions and multiple instructional contexts to get to goal; and
  • demand a student experience accessible anytime, anywhere, and on any device.
This suggests to me that colleges and universities must begin to pay more attention to the unique opportunities that online technology provides to not only increase access and convenience for students, but to meet their expectations that an education is more than taking lecture notes and passing tests.  Specifically:

*Increasing the use of competency-based learning

*Integrate learning with practical experience, building on the fact that online learning eliminates geography as a defining factor in the student's experience, allowing them to mix formal learning and practical experience.

*Creating learning communities and adopting a pedagogy that encourages collaborative and active learning based on inquiry, research, and problem solving.

*Facilitating collaboration across institutions (such as the Great Plains IDEA and CIC CourseShare) so that all students have access to the best possible courses and experiences.

*Encouraging use of mobile devices to sustain active learning communities.

In short, online learning must evolve beyond simply providing access to ensuring a learning environment that will help today's students--on-campus, off-campus, and in between--be successful in a globalized information society.   This is the real challenge for the second generation of online learning.