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National Guest Speaker Anthony G. Picciano, Ph.D - Higher Education’s Future: The Digital University

January 22, 2019

Drew Faust, the former president of Harvard University, in a message to the World Economic Forum in 2015, described three major forces that will shape the future of higher education:

  1. The influence of technology
  2. The changing shape of knowledge
  3. The attempt to define the value of education

She went on to extol the facilities that digital technology and communications will provide for teaching, learning, and research. She foresees great benefits in technology’s ability to reach masses of students around the globe and to easily quantify large databases for scaling up and assessment purposes. She concluded that:

“So much of what humanity has achieved has been sparked and sustained by the research and teaching that take place every day at colleges and universities, sites of curiosity and creativity that nurture some of the finest aspirations of individuals and, in turn, improve their lives—and their livelihoods. As the landscape continues to change, we must be careful to protect the ideals at the heart of higher education, ideals that serve us all well as we work together to improve the world.” (Faust, 2015)

While Faust presented three key elements in higher education’s future, it is the interplay of these elements that will become most crucial in predicting its future. Will technology drive the shape of knowledge and the definition of value or will it be the other way around? Techno-centrists see technology as the driver while others who look at higher education holistically see technology as a tool serving the needs of the other elements.

The main focus of this presentation will be on higher education’s digital future. Critical issues examined will include evolving technologies, pedagogical practice, the role of college faculty, the ascendency of instructional design by independent contractors, and the role of online education in promoting changes in institutional missions and strategies. The presentation will begin with a review of the present state of online education in our colleges and universities and move to a speculation on the near future (2020s) and more distant future (2030s and beyond) and will explore the roles of emerging technologies such as adaptive learning, brain-machine interfaces, and artificial intelligence on instructional practice.

Presenter: Anthony G. Picciano, Ph.D

View the Presentation Slides

View the Recorded Livestream on YouTube