Higher education, particularly the costs of earning college degrees, has been in the national spotlight. Learning formats, a push for more nursing and education majors and strategies to ensure every high school student can receive a quality postsecondary education are also at the forefront of local and national higher education initiatives. Technology is also driving changes in higher education.

In fact, technology isn’t just driving how people communicate and keep in touch, technology is also changing the ways that adults learn. According to the Gilfus Education Group leading technology trends expected to impact higher education are the expansion of distance learning programs offered at traditional colleges and universities, including programs that are designed to more closely mirror live classroom courses as well as an increase in tablets being used to deliver distance learning college lessons.

Digital textbooks or e-books are also expected to increase in usage across college campuses. This, in turn, can lower the amount of money students spend buying or renting print textbooks. Furthermore, digital textbooks, particularly those accompanied by audio or video tapes, may help streamline the distance learning process, perhaps making distance learning more attractive to adult continuing education students.

Shifting the Focus of College Classroom Courses

The focus of college courses is also changing. For example, more professors may focus on the process of figuring out “how to” understand and solve complicated scientific problems and life challenges instead of focusing solely on getting students to retain information. In other words, innovation and creativity may be encouraged and taught more than the ability to memorize dates, names and historic facts.

Additionally, and as reported in the January 20, 2012 “What You (Really) Need to Know” New York Times article “active learning classrooms” will become more prominent. In these classrooms students will brainstorm, share ideas and discuss academic, social, political, etc. concepts and theories openly rather than learn in individual silos. Data analysis may also become more prominent in college classrooms. For as the New York Times article states, “The marshalling of data to test presumptions and locate paths to success is transforming almost every aspect of human life.”

Other trends and changes expected to occur in higher education include students demanding more from colleges and universities for the money that they pay these schools. For example, students may start demanding that colleges and universities increase their job placement percentages, perhaps even tying tuition costs to job placement rates for graduates.

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More Changes in Higher Education

Admissions standards may also be tightened, particularly at for-profit schools as noted in the December 30, 2011 Fox Business “Education Trends for 2012” article that quotes Daniel Pianko, a University Ventures Fund partner, as saying, “By 2013, many for-profit colleges will have more stringent admissions standards than many second tier traditional colleges.” To help meet the rising costs of tuition more students, recent high school graduates and adults continuing their education, might enroll at community colleges in larger numbers. After completing two years of academic students, these students may decide to transfer their credits and enroll in traditional postsecondary schools or they might supplement their undergraduate degrees with more advanced college certificate and diploma programs.

Tax laws around education deductions may also change to offer additional support to students and parents participating in college savings plans like the 529 Plan and to encourage further learning. However, it is classroom technology and learning systems that might change the most over the coming months and years. For example, social media networks may get incorporated into parts of the learning process. Whatever changes occur, students are encouraged to remain at the helm of their education, staying abreast of (and offering input to school administrators and government officials regarding) changes, trends and new tax and school policies and procedures.

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