I recently read an article on the future of urban planning. The author predicted that we would soon be in a world where downtown high rise office buildings would be vacant as the impact of mobile computing, virtual work teams, and decreasing costs of overhead took their toll on urban development and corporate management. Of course, it got me thinking about the education industry and the continuing role of technology in the future.
I am not sure I would go as far as the author in the article I read. While I believe that we are rapidly approaching a new normal in the delivery, consumption, and pricing of education, I tend to see the influx of technology as providing just one more really good set of options to the consumer. If we look to other industries, such as retail or corporate work teams, we are not seeing physical structures such as shopping centers and office buildings sitting vacant. The American consumer still desires an experience in their consumer activity. Online shopping did not replace Saturday afternoon at the mall. However, when price and convenience are mixed into the equation as new options, it provides the consumer greater flexibility in getting what they want.
The future of education will largely be predicated on consumer choice - where lower cost and higher flexibility become a prevailing option for many consumers - and yet where bricks and mortal "experiences" are equally as important in the mix, but not always the primary option. We know that younger consumers are gravitating to a hybrid model of consumption: online, in residence, and low residence, all with different pricing models. The real pressure will be on institutions not to simply allow, but embrace, this multi-faceted consumer. Transfer policies will need to more audience friendly and degrees from multiple institutions working together for the benefit of the consumer will be the expectation.
Sounds like education is growing up.