Issues and Innovation in Higher Education

Issues and Innovation in Higher Education

Trends in higher education make news on a regular basis. Changes in enrollment data, how courses are taught, and how credit is awarded are a few of the practical matters being discussed in the media and by higher education officials. Philosophical questions such as the purpose of an education – to earn more money over a career span, or to develop talent, creativity and innovation? – are weighed by professors, students and business people.

Discussions about these issues invite participants of all levels to be open-minded and consider the possibilities. The federal government Goal 2020 is that once again the United States will have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by the year 2020. The Lumina Foundation is even more specific with GOAL 2025: That 60 percent of the people in the United States will have a higher education degree by 2025.

If this sounds ambitious, it is. The Lumina Foundation reports that for the past 40 years the attainment of higher education levels in the United States has remained flat while it has been increasing in other industrialized countries and continues to rise.

Educating more people isn’t just about a race for numbers. It’s about remaining globally competitive – about having citizens who can innovate, create and lead business. The US needs a more educated work force, more college graduates, and increased innovation in business to be strong competitively. Albert Einstein said “The problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking at which we created them.” Doing business the same way and delivering education the same way won’t solve the problems either.

A valuable resource for increasing the levels of higher education attainment in the US is the “potential completers,” adult learners who have received college credit but lack a degree. The goals of 2020 and 2025 cannot be achieved with the sole focus on incoming “traditional students.” Adult learners are a dynamic force that can improve completion rates.

Opportunities unfold as colleges and universities use new models for delivering education and awarding credit. While adult learners must often squeeze their education in between family and work responsibilities, they aren’t limited to taking courses at a local college or even an extension location. College courses can be accessed online anytime. And in classes, technology provides new ways for students to learn, for example with Avatars in medical simulations. Online discussions and bulletin boards provide new opportunities for students to interact and raise their critical thinking to new levels.

Returning to school after a lapse in education doesn’t have to be a negative factor or mean starting completely at the beginning. Prior learning assessments and Competency-Based Education are ways that students can earn credit from earlier educational and work experience and potentially reduce the amount of time to degree completion.

This blog will introduce new ideas, pass along information, inform readers, and discuss trends in education. It won’t necessarily provide answers, but rather ideas to consider as we look at the future of business and higher education.