Preparing for the University of the Future

Educational technology has experienced a dramatic acceleration during the last two years during the Covid pandemic crisis. As universities resume blended classes, higher education leadership are evaluating whether they are on the right path toward the university of the future.

Digital Transformation, Education 4.0, automation, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Virtual and Augmented Reality (VAR), robotics, 3D-printing (3DP), AI chatbots, virtual environments, Digital Twin, and smart campus are among the terminologies now firmly adopted by faculty and other university staff.

The workforce of the future depends on today’s universities' adaptation to change and adapt to 21st century skills. Such skills include critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and a growth mindset.

During the last couple of years, institutions experienced the need to create a resilient system of education. The awakening resulted in joining the digital transformation, deploying technology in the classroom, and immersing into virtual and remote education. It became a learning process that went beyond the student population but involved everyone from education technologists to administrators to leadership to academics. So, what next?

The university of the future is set to deliver a more personalized learning experience. It will bridge the gap between education and the increasingly competitive market through internships and universities partnering with businesses. Universities will offer a default blended learning environment to cater to a broader range of students across borders. The on-campus-only model will become obsolete during this decade.

During the next three to five years, universities willing to attract students and remain competitive will up their game to cater to an uncertain job market and to jobs that do not yet exist. Big cities are, too, experiencing changes as the remote work trend triggers a migration toward less crowded towns, making this a great opportunity for certain universities to attract students willing to relocate as they plan a better life-work balance for their future. With the rise and future of smart cities, changes in the landscape triggered by the current age of working remotely will also see a transformation in the higher education sphere. 

Universities must adapt to change:

Technology is paramount in enabling change. Personalized learning is no longer an option but a requirement to meet students’ individual needs. Delivering a larger proportion of a course virtually, free up time so instructors can have more one-to-one sessions with students. This also allows instructors to tailor content that better responds to individual needs. Virtual classrooms and Learning Management Systems (LMS) help with engagement and feedback between students and faculty.

Today’s learner wants to receive not only excellent teaching but also the skills they need to enter the workforce. Technology and the adoption of digital tools as well as a fast and reliable 5G network help universities deliver a personalized experience whenever their students are based and how they choose to learn. A personalized learning experience is the only way to deliver the best value to each student. At the time of enrollment, students hold the power. They will seek the best return on their time and fee investment.

Students are consumers who want their needs to be met. In order to navigate toward the university of the future, it is paramount that university leadership understand and respond to what current and future students want from their university experience.