The Ever Changing World of Higher Education
Upon close examination into the past decade of higher education it would be appropriate to say that the most positive changes have been brought about by the adaptation of technology. In fact, no other single thing has brought about so much change in such a short period of time, and with such positive results. Of these changes, I have chosen to discuss the ones I think have had the most impact. First, would be the availability of higher education to a greater majority and a much more diverse group of individuals, followed by the impact technology has had on school revenues, and lastly, the impact it has had on the learning process.
One of the ways this has been accomplished is through online learning, or distance learning, as it is referred to. We do not have to look too far back into our past to realize a time that this would have been impossible to imagine. Yet, today millions of students ranging in ages from eighteen to eighty are enjoying the flexibility distance learning affords them, some of whom would not have been able to continue their education otherwise because of life’s circumstances: work, family, transportation, etc.
Recently the National Center for Education Statistics explored data to determine how participation in distant learning courses varied with student characteristics. “Key findings include: (1) From 2000 to 2008, the percentage of undergraduates enrolled in at least one distance education class expanded from 8 percent to 20 percent, and the percentage enrolled in a distance education degree program increased from 2 percent to 4 percent” (Radford 22). The numbers would certainly be higher now since an additional three years have passed.
In addition, technology ( in particular distance learning), while it has impacted so many students in a positive way, has had an even greater bearing on “the institution” of higher education, first and foremost in the area of economics. Due to the state of the economy, institutions of higher learning have been required to raise funds from students as opposed to getting sufficient government assistance. We are experiencing rapidly changing policies in tuition and financial aid that we have not seen in the past. And, we are being told that more are on the way. Due to major cutbacks in virtually every area of our nation’s economy we have recently seen an ever increasing demand on older individuals to enhance their employability skills or change careers mid stream. For many this has meant going back to school, thus having a profound impact on school enrollment. It is very likely that without distance learning some institutions of higher learning would not be able to keep up with that demand.
The cost of any initial investments required by schools has proven to be insignificant in comparison to the benefits reaped. An example of one of today’s universities being constructed, as reported in USA Today, “. . . Central...