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January 28, 2015

Universities Must Move to the Forefront of Digital Innovation

NOTE:  This does not necessarily reflect the views of the UGFA but is the view of one of our members to stimulate dialogue amongst academics.


Universities Must Move to the Forefront of Digital Innovation!

Contemporary philosophy recognizes the increasing digitalization of our universe, and the consequent and inevitable rise of the trans-human. It is the responsibility of our post-secondary institutions to stand at the forefront of modern knowledge. And yet they have not kept pace with the latest technological advances in digital learning. It’s time for universities to step up to the plate and enter the modern world.
        Recent years have seen qualitative advances in academic awareness.  Sure, libraries and archives are increasingly to be found on line. Students no longer require living teachers; in fact that the old-fashioned ‘lecturer’ – standing behind a lectern and pontificating – has become an anachronism. With interactive interface technologies, students are provided with the opportunity to communicate with virtual instructors — that is, to participate in a traditional Socratic dialogue -- on ‘skype’ or through chat. Most understand that universities of the future will not require attendance to ‘classes’ (now a somewhat antique term) — but instead, will be accessible to everyone, online, 24 hours a day.
        However, we’re only halfway there.
        The focus in recent years has been on coming to terms with the demise of the traditional notion of ‘professor.’ But the future requires a significant re-imagining of the presently outmoded concept of ‘student.’ So what will the universities of the future look like? In the past, students were assumed to be living breathing human beings. It is become increasingly clear that -- in the 21st century -- students will be replaced by machines. To speak quite frankly, post-secondary education will consist of computers teaching other computers.
        This will be a difficult notion for many to accept. Older academics may still feel nostalgic for the dusty domain of textbooks and libraries, where grey haired professors shook their heads, and stretched their gnarled fingers to ‘make a point’ with eager, breathing undergraduates. But those days are over. The future of education will not only see the eradication of professors but the eradication of students as well.
        Think about it.
Humans learn more slowly and less efficiently than machines. It is quite simply old-fashioned to imagine that humans can be entrusted with a commodity as priceless as knowledge.  In addition, it’s important to remember that  in the future most of us will need more time  to complete our arduous shopping and purchasing tasks -- and also more time to consume the massive amounts of digital entertainment that are available to us through various platforms such as itunes, Amazon and Netflix. We are online 24 hours a day anyway -- shopping, flirting, chatting, being entertained and entertaining others -- and ‘de-stressing’ from our complex 21st century lives.  We routinely rely on computers to store, analyze and distribute knowledge, anyway.  Isn’t it time that computers, rather than people, went to school?
        There’s no turning back. The time has come for universities replace students with computers and be at the very forefront of digital innovation.

POSTED BY: Susan Hubers

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