The Learner Revolution and What it Means for Higher Education

Welcome to the Learner Revolution, where traditional and nontraditional students have more control over how, when and where they learn. Retention, graduation and student success are now a shared responsibility between learners and institutions.

September 30, 2018
 

The long-held popular image of “college” in the United States has been that of young undergraduates roaming tree-shaded quads between their classes in ivy-covered neo-Gothic buildings and living in cramped dorm rooms.

But that description has been undergoing a makeover in the last decade, thanks to shifting demographics and a growing demand for jobs that require a college degree. The stereotypical student straight out of high school is already being replaced by the working adult. Nearly 40 percent of college students are 25 and older, and one-third attend part-time.

Now, how students of all ages learn is also being transformed. In the last five years, a combination of new technology and the growing recognition of learning science to inform pedagogy have forced colleges to rethink their approach to campus-based courses, online learning, and what ultimately defines student success. Lectures are out and “flipped classrooms” are in. Faculty members are collecting data on students in real time to see what’s working and what isn’t in their courses. And more institutions are investing resources in teaching centers and starting online degree programs as student demand for virtual learning continues to grow. 

Not since Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press in the mid-fifteenth century have we seen the scale of disruption that we’re experiencing right now in higher education. “The Internet has put information at our fingertips,” said Cathy Davidson, author of The New Education: How to Revolutionize the University to Prepare Students for a World in Flux and director of the Futures Initiative at the City University of New York. “Students never had just one learning style, but schools and universities always taught that way because it was easy and scalable. Technology and online education offers an opportunity to give students more choice.”

The networked world has fundamentally changed how we teach and how we learn. Knowledge is no longer a commodity delivered solely from teacher to student, but something that emerges from the learners’ own exploration—whether that’s in an online discussion with other students, in a classroom debate with a professor, or a mix of both.

Welcome to the Learner Revolution, where traditional and nontraditional students have more control over how, when, and where they learn. No longer is the prevailing mentality of college “sink or swim.” Retention, graduation, and student success are now a shared responsibility between learners and institutions.

Vistasp Karbhari, the president of the University of Texas at Arlington, describes this era as one where the learner rather than the institution is at the core. This is a big cultural shift for many institutions where the student is often a forgotten user.

“Our objective is how do we make learning more accessible, reduce costs, serve a more diverse set of learners, and improve outcomes,” Karbhari said. “In all, we need to deliver more high-quality education to more people.”

Such a goal comes at a critical time for higher education. More jobs than ever before require a credential after high school, but the supply is lagging demand by 1 percentage point every year, compounding the skills-gap problem facing the United States. The solution is for higher education to serve more students by deploying technology to scale their operations, revising admissions standards built on exclusivity, and creating new credentials to recognize different types of learning.

Get the whitepaper »

 

 

Back to Top