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The 7 key trends that the Peterson and Rudgers identify for higher education in 2018 are:1. Eroding support for higher ed. 2. Challenges to the business model. 3. Violent activism and balancing free speech, safety and climate. 4. #MeToo movement in the academy. 5. Student safety in Greek life and athletics. 6. Reckoning with the racist past. 7. Presidents as public thought leaders.

What do you think?

What would be your 7 trends?

Here is my alternative list:

1 - Public disinvestment in higher ed. 2018 should be the year that every discipline, specialization, and profession that relates to higher education should focus on public funding. What if every professional conference in every field took the erosion of public funding as its theme?   What we need most of all is a common understanding of what is going on with public funding, and what the impact may be.  There are still some fundamental disagreements about if public money is falling at an absolute or relative rate.  It is not totally clear how schools are making up for shortfalls in state dollars.  Is this a story of getting more efficient, or of reducing access and quality?  What is the relationship between cutbacks in public funding and student debt?  Have states that have cut funding experienced adverse impacts on employment and wages?  Where does the free college movement come into this?

2 - Growing inequality across institutions. The fiscal challenges of many schools, including public institutions and small tuition dependent schools, is only one part of the higher ed economic story. The other part of the story is about inequality.  It may be that higher education is both mirroring and fueling larger trends around stratification.  At the same time that the majority of colleges and universities are struggling, a few institutions are able to invest large amounts of resources on a small number of students and faculty.  The gap between the best schools and those in the middle may be widening.  We need to pay attention to how those colleges and universities with the most resources are making improvements in their academic and experiential offerings.  We should ask about what responsibility those who lead wealthy institutions have to the other schools within our system.

3 - Online education as a strategic priority for small residential schools. 2018 will be a big year for online education.  What will surprise everyone is that the 2018 online education story will not come from the usual suspects. This will not be about the growth of massive programs with enormous enrollments.  Rather, advances in online education will emerge from small and traditional campus-based residential institutions.  In 2018, the liberal arts college will be where it is happening in the world of online education.  The reason for this is simple.  The world’s best educational experiences can already be found at small colleges. Want a good education?  Then find a school where the classes are small, and where the professor knows who you are and cares about your future.  Translate this educational philosophy to online learning and you have a winner.  In 2018 we will see a critical mass of small colleges offering high quality online courses to their matriculated students, and to new categories of learners.

4 - The diffusion of learning science. 2018 will be the year of the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL). At some schools, the practices of teaching and scholarship have already merged.  This trend is set to get much bigger.  What every school across the higher ed spectrum has in common is that learning is a priority.  It is strange, therefore, that the norms of evidence-based learning practice have not as of yet fully diffused to teaching.  This will change in 2018, as teaching practices that are at odds with the research on how people learn will increasingly feel as anachronistic as smoking at faculty meetings.

5 - Course redesigns, blended learning, and active learning classrooms.  2018 will be the tipping point where the majority of new classrooms that are renovated will be planned as active learning spaces.  This means that tiered seating and fixed desks will disappear, to be replaced by flat floors and flexible furniture.  Rather than spaces designed for lecturing, classrooms will be designed for collaboration and coaching.  This shift in 2018 from traditional to active learning classrooms will be driven by growing programs in course redesign.  As blended learning becomes the norm, the face-to-face component of teaching and learning will migrate from lecture halls to flexible / creative spaces.

6 - The new admissions funnel. The shift in how students find, select, apply, and are admitted to schools will be the big surprise story of 2018.  In short, open online education will move from a practice that online learning people care about - to one that admissions people love. The reason is that open online courses are the ideal funnel to matriculation.  These are programs, such the MicroMasters initiative from edX, that are win/win for both students and schools.  On the student side, MicroMasters provide a low-cost method to receive an alternative credential, while simultaneously working towards admission and completion of a graduate degree. This lowers both the cost and the time necessary to complete a graduate program.  For the schools, MicroMasters provide a way to find talented students - a more diverse pool that can be recruited using traditional methods.  The alternative credentials of the MicroMasters can bring in new revenues, as while their per-student costs are low, the scale at which they can be offered can result in significant revenues.  2018 is the year that admissions folks will be knocking on the door of those in charge of open online education.

7 - The surprising resilience of small colleges.  In one year we will look back on 2018 as the year that small colleges refused to go away.  Despite claims that the sky is falling, the vast majority of small colleges will end the year in better shape than where they started.  The reason is that the world’s best education can be had at a small college.  Higher education is expensive.  Why not get the most value for the money?  This means finding a school where classes are small, and the professors are able to build relationship with the students.  Sure, some small colleges will close - but they will be the one’s that moved away from this relational model of learning.  The best schools are the one’s with the best supported faculty.   The more that a small college can invest in its professors and its students, the more economically resilient that school will be over the long-term.  2018 will be the year that small is beautiful in higher ed.

What are your 7 (or 1 or 2) big higher trends that you think will be most important in 2018?


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