The Pew Research Center today released a survey of academics, entrepreneurs, I.T. workers and various other "experts and stakeholders" that was designed to glean whether colleges and universities are likely to undergo significant changes by the year 2020.
The survey's 1,021 respondents were asked to choose which of the following scenarios is more likely to come true in the next seven and a half years: a) Not much will have changed, aside from the proliferation of certain mobile and classroom technologies, and "most universities will mostly require in-person, on-campus attendance of students most of the time at courses featuring a lot of traditional lectures" and assessment methods; or b) Self-paced learning, online "hybrid" courses will have become par for the course at most universities, and assessment will have shifted to "more individually oriented outcomes and capacities that are relevant to subject mastery."
Sixty percent of respondents predicted that the latter is more likely to be true, and 39 percent endorsed the former, more conservative prospectus. (The remaining 1 percent did not respond to the question.) The survey, administered by Pew's Internet & American Life Project in concert with Elon University, framed the questions as a stark dichotomy in order to provoke strong responses. But it noted that respondents revealed many shades of gray in their qualified responses, and that "a significant number of survey participants said the true outcome will encompass portions of both scenarios."
The sample was admittedly nonrandom, and purposefully sought out self-identifying "futurists," "entrepreneurs" and "advocates," among other experts.
The University of California at Berkeley is joining edX, which was recently formed by Harvard University at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to offer MOOCs, or massively open online courses. The Berkeley announcement comes a week after Coursera, another provider of MOOCs by elite universities, announced a major expansion. In the announcement from edX, the three members are now referred to as the "X Universities." In a statement explaining the choice of edX, Robert J. Birgeneau, the chancellor at Berkeley, specifically noted the nonprofit model at edX. "We are committed to excellence in online education with the dual goals of distributing higher education more broadly and enriching the quality of campus-based education. We share the vision of MIT and Harvard leadership and believe that collaborating with the not-for-profit model of edX is the best way to do this," he said.
A distance learning group is raising an alarm about a change to Pell Grants in a Senate appropriations bill for fiscal year 2013 that, if signed into law, could cut the need-based grants for students taking online classes. A provision in the bill, which would increase the overall Pell Grant next year, would stop allowing students taking online classes to claim room and board expenses, as well as "miscellaneous personal expenses," as part of their cost of living when applying for Pell Grants.
Currently, Pell Grants take all forms of expenses into account for all students, whether they're commuters, residential students or enrolled in online or distance learning programs. Students would still be able to use those expenses when applying for student loans or other forms of financial aid. "It is hard to understand why the cost for a student’s living expenses are not allowable if the student takes online courses, but would be allowable if that same student were to commute to campus to take the same courses in a classroom," wrote Russ Poulin, deputy director for research and analysis with the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education.
In this month's edition of The Pulse podcast, Rod Murray discusses how to manage your social media portfolio with the help of "If This Then That," as well as Apple's new podcast app. The Pulse is Inside Higher Ed's monthly technology podcast, produced by Murray, executive director of the office of academic technology at University of the Sciences. Find out more about The Pulse here.