I’ve just returned from a lovely trip to Monterey, CA to attend the New Media Consortium‘s summer conference. It was, all told, a good experience, about which I will write more later. At most education conferences, especially those that have a technology component, talk often centers around what the future holds for education and what role technology will play in that future. As I am reading The Black Swan at the moment, the best thing we can say is that we don’t know. On the other hand not knowing does not mean not being prepared. It means being prepared for even the weirdest outcome. Laura pointed to several articles and blogs addressing what she calls a potential higher ed bubble. I’m leary of arguments that suggest that technology can save education entirely, but I’m equally skeptical of positions that suggest that technology will kill education (at least of the traditional kind).
As I wrote last week, and as Tim Burke wrote, cost pressures are going to cause many colleges to make some difficult decisions. Students who might have once considered an elite liberal arts college may not be able to even get in as need-blind admissions go away. Or they won’t consider it at all. Colleges will have to find ways to make their brand affordable to a larger population by cutting significantly–programs, staff, etc. Those are tough decisions to make, and they often have significant effects on the future of the college. There’s no way of knowing what those effects are.
I have this strange feeling that education is changing right before our eyes, but like a blurry picture, we can’t see what it’s changing into yet. As students make their desires and needs known through selection, we will see how the industry responds.