Educators Say Universities Need To Adapt In Order To Stay Relevant

June 23, 2010

Student Talking on Phone and Using a LaptopFrom a tiny room in Mountain View, CA, Salman Khan is altering the way people think about teaching. According to MercuryNews.com, Khan's simple, personal, and free YouTube lectures are viewed 70,000 times a day and the Khan Academy website, which launched in 2006, has received more than 16 million page views.

His lessons, which now range from math to the Haitian revolution, started as a way to help his young cousin who was struggling in math. Frustrated by every day obstacles--work, family, soccer practice, and different time zones--Khan posted his tutoring sessions online and eventually caught the attention of not only other students in need, but also educators and venture capitalists.

Khan is a perfect example of how universities need to come up with new and innovative ways to educate today's young adults, which was the belief among academic leaders during a panel discussion presented by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

According to Insider Higher Ed, the panel of academics agreed that universities of the future will have to adapt to the needs of young adults and older people continuing education if they want to stay relevant. The Chronicle of Higher Education states that there are three factors that could lead to "massive restructuring": globalization, the accessibility of information and technology, and a shift in demographics that will result in a greater number of working students. James J. Duderstadt, president emeritus of the University of Michigan and one of the panel speakers, suggests that universities become global institutions and "meta" institutions, universities that facilitate peer-learning, in order to keep up.

William Pepicello, president of the University of Phoenix, pointed out that information is at students' fingertips thanks to technology and the Internet. Because of this, Inside Higher Ed quoted, "the next generation of students is expecting that higher education is going to be as accessible as the rest of the world."

Duderstadt complimented the adaptability of the for-profit sector saying, "It has established a very effective model with not simply how to finance but to provide quality higher education opportunities to working adults." Furthermore, he cited the University of Phoenix as a model and encouraged educators to use technology to teach the increasing number of people that work and attend school or those with family responsibilities.

However, although times are changing, universities are here to stay. John L. King, vice provost for academic information for the University of Michigan, said that traditional universities are "deep repositories of academic knowledge that can't simply be replaced." According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, Duderstadt added that academic practices and how universities operate will change, but their existence is far from threatened.

Compiled by Heidi M. Agustin


"Experts Ponder the Future of the American University," chronical.com, June 21, 2010, Karin Fischer and Ian Wilhelm

"Mountain View's global teacher of 1,516 lessons and counting," mercurynews.com, June 20, 2010, Lisa Krieger

"Universities at a Crossroads," insidehighered.com, June 22, 2010, David Moltz

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