Login | Viewpoint

Camplification

Open education has the power to reinvigorate higher ed campuses.

A friend suggested to me that someday we might want to change our name from Campus Technology to Education Technology. As options for online learning grow--and the cost of traditional institutions skyrockets--it's a fair suggestion. In some respects, the importance of the physical campus is diminishing.

It doesn't seem too far-fetched to imagine a higher ed world where large numbers of students receive their education from home--or wherever. This brave new world is the subject of this month's cover story, "DIY.edu," riffing off the provocative book, DIY U, by Anya Kamenetz. For the article, we asked three leading advocates of open education for their views on how the DIY U movement would influence higher education.

Interestingly, a couple of the panelists feel that continuing learners--rather than traditional college-aged students--might be the major beneficiaries. I agree.

For someone like myself--someone who attended a traditional college and has worked for more than 25 years--the idea of continuing my education from the comfort of home is extremely appealing. I am at a stage in my life where I enjoy learning for learning's sake, but I am unwilling to disrupt my family's lives to make it happen.

But when I look at the educational needs of my two children, currently 12 and 10, I am less convinced of an online-only approach to higher ed. The benefits of face-to-face interaction with professors, of building a network of friends and contacts, plus the social growth that comes from four years living in a halfway house to adulthood are, I believe, valuable components of a well-rounded education.

So I was pleased to read that our three experts feel that reports of the death of the college campus are greatly exaggerated. Rather, they see an existential threat to those institutions that fail to accommodate these new avenues for learning. Again, I agree. I believe the brick-and-mortar institution is here to stay, but the education students receive will know no campus bounds. Technology is making it possible for students to follow expertise wherever it exists--at another institution, within online communities, or abroad. It opens up educational possibilities for students who previously were limited by what their own school offered. If anything, the potential is for a flowering of higher education, rather than a grim reaping. Any school that tries to keep student learning locked inside the walls is asking for trouble, though.

This renaissance will not come without upheaval. The traditional silos that separate learning within individual institutions must give way to a new spirit of collaboration. If a school cannot break down the walls within, it's unlikely to succeed in breaking down the walls to the outside world either. But succeed it must: The possibilities are too fantastic to countenance failure.           

Does it make sense to change the magazine's name? Someday, maybe. But I don't think I would remove "campus" from the title. I would add to it instead. With apologies to Google, how about Campus+?

About the Author

Andrew Barbour is the former executive editor of Campus Technology.

comments powered by Disqus