Takeaways from "College (Un)bound: The Future of Higher Education"

This summer our team has had heard from Jeff Selingo, author of the recently published “College (Un)Bound: The Future of Higher Education” and Editor-at-Large of Chronicle of Higher Education, on three occasions: Eduventures Annual Conference,  Salesforce Higher Ed Summit and CASE Summit Conference.

We walked away each time feeling that his message was timely and relevant for those in education. So much so, that we, along with LearnLaunch, are hosting Jeff to MassChallenge on July 30th.

College (Un)bound presents many sides of the discussion on the future of higher education.  Rather than a ‘doom or gloom’ view of where our traditional universities are heading, Jeff’s research focuses an interesting lens on the far-reaching power of data, technology, and analytics to make education more effective, more personalized, and more far-reaching.

In preparation for our event, we wanted to share a few of our major takeaways from College (Un)Bound with our community.  While many important points are raised, we focused particularly on three that resonated with us and our clients – empowerment of the family, data-driven decisions, and transforming understanding of learning.

Empowering the student and family

“We want students as informed about the institution as the institution is informed about students”

Throughout his book, Jeff touches on the impactful role of data in providing students and applicants with additional insights and tools.  Whereas schools traditionally gathered students’ data through application and transcripts, students and families were left in the dark regarding the performance or accountability of the institution.  Thanks to an influx in accessible data, now applicants can learn the graduation rate, job outcomes, and financial viability of any institution.  For example, the Department of Education now displays the graduation rates of colleges as students complete the online federal application for federal aid.  There is expected to be a new accountability amongst institutions for student outcomes, and for how institutions are effectively handling budgets and programming.

Data-Driven Decision-Making

“Few things on horizon that will have a more dramatic impact on the future of higher education than data analytics” – Siemans, analytics expert at Athabasca

Ask any family applying to college, and you will hear the same story.  The admissions process can be a black hole with students left spending thousands applying to often too many schools.  Yet, with the advent of programs such as Naviance and ConnectEdu, software is providing new clarity into the feasibility and fit of institutions.   While the art of choosing a school will always require some personal intuition, algorithms and analytics can point students in the right direction, and even support class selection or SAT prep earlier in high school.

Once students enroll at an institution, data can help them stay there, pursue majors aligned with their interests and strengths, and graduate on time. “Data sharing will become a reality for college students everywhere in the future,” explains Jeff’s in his book.  By better tracking and understanding where students excel and struggle, analytics will act as a virtual advisor, providing students with tailored course suggestions based on past performance and interests.   Tristan Denley, of Austin Peay State University, is looking to isolate “fingerprint courses” – those that indicate probable success in a major based on historical grade trends.  By pointing students in a direction that has worked for similar students in the past, data-driven insights can help more students graduate on time.

Changing the understanding of learning

“Only two in ten undergraduates attend a residential four-year college full-time, and not all of them graduate on time”

Often when the conversation turns to the changing landscape of higher education, people believe that that the traditional campus is under attack.  Yet, in many ways, this demonstrates an outdated vision of education, without consideration of the many community and online programs that enroll thousands of students.

MOOCs and hybrid online & offline courses are changing the culture at the core of higher education, and for many, expanding the access to world-class education.  This was a theme that ran throughout the recent CASE Summit in San Francisco.  In a panel led by Jeff, Coursera’s Daphne Koller explained that open courses are not replacing professors, but instead providing more far-reaching access to those unable to attend due to finances or availability.  Sal Khan, another presenter at CASE Summit, also speaks about this ‘flipping of the classroom” in which time-boxed lessons in the confines of a classroom desk no longer define learning.

For many, better technology and data will allow for a more personalized learning experience.  Students will have the opportunity to target and focus on lessons and topics with which they struggle.  Teachers will no longer stand in front of classrooms or at lecture halls, but instead will both know and respond to the progress of each individual student.  Learning will not be passive – but active, engaged, and multi-faceted.

We enjoyed Jeff’s book and cannot wait to host him later this month. Learn more below about our event in Boston, featuring Jeff along with John Gallaugher of Boston College, Aaron O’Hearn of Startup Institute and Sarah Hodges of Intelligent.ly!

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