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Higher education digital challenge

Ramon Murguia Higher Education

In order to understand where we are heading in higher education, we need to know where we are coming from. The first formal education was established in Greece by Plato and Aristotle about 2,400 years ago. The first formal university was the University of Bologna about 1,000 years ago. Today, if we look at the University of Bologna or any other university, most of them look the same. Iconic buildings that most people recognize, respect and some aspire to attend. Moreover, if we look inside those buildings, the classrooms, have not change since the beginning of classes. There is no difference between the classroom where Shakespeare took classes and the once most students experience everyday today. In fact, the walls and the techniques provided to learn by teachers, is the same since the moment education started. Classes have a professor and students, a classroom with blackboard and one way communication for them to learn.

The technological environment has impacted many industries, as mentioned in my previous article about How technology is impacting other industries "Industries most affected by technology". In the article there are many companies that have disrupted complete industries. However, let me explain additional industries that have suffered by technology. The first is the book industry. First books were handwritten and reach was scarce, then Gutenberg invented the print and many others had the opportunity to learn, but still printers where limited. After that the typewriter was created and more people had the opportunity to share knowledge and computers followed with internet and now cloud services. These makes a knowledge impact and access bigger than ever. As a matter of fact, there is more content available that humans can handle (take a look at "Are humans capable to manage the current speed of content generation"). Another important impact was to travel agencies. Travel agents were necessary and the gurus and guides to any travel plan or arrangement. Technology came to allow companies such as Expedia or Kayak to put everything to our finger tips and around these companies other 75 companies or apps to solve your travel from inspire or dream about a place, booking, transit and ongoing support and finally sharing memories and creating loyalty.

Higher education is not the exception to technology. Today if we take a look at the potential student journey, there are 8 stages (content creation, managing content, discover, connecting, experience, learn, credential and support or advance) with 26 clusters and more than 15,000 companies that are already digitizing all the processes and providing universities with tools to move into a world where technology becomes a support to leverage the knowledge, learning and opportunities to students with a unique experience everywhere they want and at anytime.

There are challenges to make this happen. In fact, six important elements we need to consider in order to accelerate the adoption and reach of technology. The first has to do with professors. The way they teach has to evolve and the tools they need to learn are different. The second are students, their behavior and way to learn in a self driven pace and support themselves with bots or virtual tools has a mindset evolution that not everyone today is ready. The third is already here and has to do with the process/systems. As mentioned before there are more than 15,000 companies or tools, helping different parts of the process. Now, the biggest challenge will come from regulators, minister of education and government that could facilitate and validate certifications and changes at the pace that private education is evolving. Companies that might hire people with the same interest as traditional students and finally, the changes will open competition and substitutes products such as certifications, moocs (massive open online course) and free products that prepare people to be capable to perform in an environment as any other graduate.

In conclusion, the information provided makes us think about the challenge the education industry is facing and how fast is moving to a digital environment. The elements are there, the willingness to change might not be entirely ready by all players. However, the growth for digital courses in USA, Brazil and Mexico is steady and double digit, reflecting a behavioral change by students that will make the rest of the elements accelerate.

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