Our collective throng of universities and colleges in the United States, the massive institutions that were built to deliver formal education to young students, must learn to adapt to our changing society. The old social order at our universities is in the process of being usurped. Crowd sourcing, open source technology, and a much more diverse student demographic, conjoined with a more connected world, via the internet, will eliminate the current “business as usual” conduct at our institutions of higher education.
Historically, universities have been the venue and the catalyst of societal change. Young students that populated a university campus transformed the buildings and classrooms into a collective community of people who were able and willing to be trained in order to contribute knowledge and labors to an established society. But societies around the globe are now in the midst of change, and the changes might be more cataclysmic than many anticipate. Which begs the question: Are universities equipped to train people to meet these new challenges?
So, are we are about to witness the creative destruction of these hallowed halls and ivory towers of learning? Will these institutions be creatively destroyed and rebuilt? Could we be experiencing a transformative era of educational change?
Author, and professor at City University of New York, Jeff Jarvis, recently stated: “We spew it from a lectern; we expect it to be spewed back in a test. That kind of education does not produce the innovators who would invent Google. The real need for education in the economy will be re-education.” Jarvis is a technology journalist and an educator; therefore his thoughts and words on this important matter should be strongly contemplated by university administrators and regents.
We now see the confluence of older students who are retraining, and thus preparing for an emerging new economy. Indeed, they are studying along side of the traditional younger student body. It is an interesting sight to see. So, will this increase in generational cognitive diversity result in the creation of new and innovative learning? One must hope that this dynamic will bring wisdom and youthful enthusiasm together, but is this rather new academic mix enough to promote positive and effective change?
Consider the numerous types of diversity that is spreading across the academic landscape: In and around these university campuses we hear a profusion of global languages fill the air; we witness a wide array of differential skin color, as well as diverse sexual orientation. The change is taking place, and it is ubiquitous. It is generating a new, creative class of students. Perhaps somewhat of a microcosm of a creative city that was so skillfully described by Richard Florida in his timeless book: The Rise of the Creative Class.
Therefore, the college campus of today should promote a much different culture than the one most educators and school administrators experienced when they attended a university. College campuses today should be crying out for new forms of communities; a new ethos of cognitive and social diversity that are united with new technologies and online social platforms. A convergence of older student’s wisdom; the new and innovative ideas of younger students; and the cultural experiences of a contingent of global students must fuel this educational creative destruction and promote an emergence of educational innovation. And all institutional education must fully embrace new technologies.
So, has the time come to rethink process of university entrance and acceptance. Are the entrance exams that have been used as a screening process still relevant? Is the archaic lecture format no longer the preeminent primary source of dispensing information? Are the old ways of testing and tricking a student no longer relevant? Perhaps the answers to those questions might still be yes to some limited extent. But the processes of teaching and learning needs to evolve and keep pace with our changing world or it will no longer provide society with the utility that is so necessary for continued societal progress.