Economic Issues

Global economic change, and the risk of recessions, means scarce resources for higher education.

The global economy is a corporate structure without representation from either the general public or countries with little power or economic infrastructure. Those least educated are the most vulnerable in turbulent economic times. In addition, the education system itself can fall victim. Government deficits, competition for public funding, limited corporate funds, and diminishing philanthropic activity combine to paint a picture of flat, if not diminishing, budgets for higher education (McGuiness, 2016). Institutions of higher education have two choices: to look for innovative ways to self-fund or create corporate models that bring in investment dollars. Funding for higher education has been in decline since the post-war era.

In the last decade,The National Centre for Public Policy and Higher Education in the USA issued a press release regarding the tuition crisis and a significant loss of college opportunities. This crisis is reiterated by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (2015) in their discussion of a changing balance between education costs and benefits in some countries. Education institutions are forced to spend time resolving such issues; spending valuable teaching and research time as resolving these challenges takes up large amounts of time and energy. Without adequate and continuously increasing numbers of student enrollments, institutions cannot sustain themselves. This creates a market-driven environment for education institutions, institutions that should be immune to market forces and focused the development of knowledge and citizenry.

Changing Demographics

Existing higher education systems will not satisfy the growing demand for enrollment.

A combination of changing student characteristics and rising enrolments will change the culture and climate of higher education in the next decades. Add to this the need for programs for seniors and lifelong learners, and governments are recognizing that more students will seek higher education than current facilities can accommodate (Oblinger, Barone, & Hawkins, 2001; Hanna, 2000. Accommodating the rampant individualism in twenty-first century culture will be required (Keller, 2008). This social fact, in combination with increasing participation of older adults in higher education, requires greater attention to individual needs.This means creating course and program schedules that are flexible, convenient, and accessible. The development of learner-centered curriculum and instruction is now imperative (Cleveland-Innes & Ernes, 2005). The rise of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) is one example of how things could change due to the increase and diversity of lifelong learners (Sharrock, 2015).

Globalization and Intercultural Relations

Geographic mobility, immigration, and education technology mean intercultural experiences are part of daily student life. Institutions face the requirement to create a culture and climate that offer respect and support in all aspects of learning for every student, regardless of language background, nationality, race, gender, and culture.

Learner-centered curriculum must consider this changing student body and, in particular, the globalization of society and learning environments. Globalization refers to operating in reference to, or ensuring application to, the whole — in this case, the whole world.

Emerging Technologies

Technological opportunities for higher education are becoming even more diverse and ubiquitous.

Information and communication technology is transforming human activity and social organizational structures broadly; higher education is part of this transformation. “New technology will transform higher education as we know it today” (Oblinger et al., 2001, p. 2). And we can add that Artificial Intelligence will even make a bigger transformation of what we call higher education (Aoun, 2017).This is so for managing the infrastructure of the institution and is so for one of higher education's central mandates — teaching and learning (Bates & Sangrà, 2011). Infrastructure has increased in size and efficiency as the technology increases in speed and decreases in cost. High-speed networks offer expanding connections. In the last decades, higher education has, if not embraced new technology, has reached out to utilize the Internet and other forms of technologically mediated learning. This has transformed interaction opportunities among students and between student and teacher, affecting both program management and the teaching-learning experience.

There is Huge Growth in Internet Use

Technology is not only ubiquitous; more people from more nationalities, age groups, and lifestyles use it competently.The number of Internet users was approximately 1.97 billion worldwide in 2010 and more than doubled by 2019 (4.39 billion).The opportunity to network and access information is a significant change in the way people approach, use, and share information. Higher education, in the business of vetting, creating, and disseminating information in the form of knowledge, must both engage and analyze Internet practices and progress.

Technological Fluency is a Graduation Requirement

Technology literacy and fluency are both a requirement to succeed in education and a graduation requirement; individuals will need such skills to function in a global, networked world. “Universities are beginning to list the fluent use of technology as an outcome skill, encourage students to take online courses, and even requiring students to take at least one online course before they graduate” (Howell et al., 2003, n.p.). In Europe, the European Commission has fostered the creation of the Digital Competence Framework for Citizens, as w'ell as the more specific Digital Competence Framework for Educators, specially addressed to teachers at any educational level.The understanding of Augmented and Virtual Reality, and Artificial Intelligence will be a must in the very next years to design proper programs with educational purposes.

Teaching and Learning

Information, and Knowledge, is Growing Exponentially

The proliferation of new information makes the job of teaching more dynamic and constructive than ever before.Those involved in teaching will put in more hours staying at the cutting edge of knowledge in the field. They will be continually constructing new ways of understanding content as new ideas are integrated with previous knowledge.This knowledge proliferation increases demands on everyone to keep content current, eating up resources already in short supply. In addition, the current Open Science movement is enhancing the use of open content, that content that can be easily created, accessed, modified, transformed, and re-used (Caswell, Henson,Jensen, & Wiley, 2008).

Instruction Must Become More Learner-centered and Self-directed

Pedagogy, or the art and science of teaching, has been ostensibly absent from delivery models in higher education. The best we can say is that since inception of higher education institutions, information has been transmitted to students. This transmission model is evaluated harshly in light of constructivist and meta-cognitive models of teaching and learning. Applying learner-centeredness to teaching and learning models will allow students to participate more fully in the arrangement of their own learning experiences. Curriculum objectives will expand to learning about learning processes, strategies, and methods, i.e. “metalearning.” Individual education plans will emerge, plans created by the student in consultation with the teacher, rather than by the teacher in consultation with the student (Cleveland-Innes & Ernes, 2005).This requires a level of self-directedness that must be allowed, encouraged, and developed.

The Role of Faculty as Teacher and Student as Learner Must Change

In the transition to a learner-centered curriculum, roles for faculty and students will be agreed-upon and explicit, embedding role clarity into a new curriculum structure. For the students, required behaviors, attitudes, and values as a participant in higher education must translate into the role of self-directed, continuous, active learner. For the faculty, the current role of teacher is highly variable across institutions, disciplines, and faculty members. An adjustment to behaviors, attitudes, and values more considerate of students is required. Faculty will include strategies that foster deep rather than surface learning. In addition, faculty will support increased responsibility for students.

Changing Faculty Roles Increases the Need for Faculty Development and Support

Currently, faculty members serve as content experts, selecting disciplinary content that aligns with universal requirements. Unfortunately, most faculty members do so with limited knowledge of pedagogy', learning technology, or learning evaluation. This means that teaching and assessment strategies used by instructors vary widely. Teaching is based on personal preferences and disciplinary traditions. Without direction from the institution, teaching quality is not systematic but sporadic. “The absence of a common basis for understanding and evaluating teaching makes it more difficult for members of the academy to agree on what good teaching is” (Zemsky, Wegner, and Massy, 2005, p. 125).

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