The Future of Education: A Town Hall

Where is higher education headed? What does the liberal arts experience look like in the future? How is it already changing? Is it changing? These are the overarching questions for the Future of Education Town Hall on October 4th at 4:00pm in the HCC Digital Auditorium.

Last week, an article entitled “UMW Announces New School for Graduate, Continuing and Online Education” was published on Fredericksburg Today. The article focuses on what our new University president, Troy Paino, addressed at Fredericksburg City’s Economic Development Breakfast. The idea of a school of continuing and professional studies arose as a potential consideration for how UMW can handle and adapt to the changing economy. Despite the rather hasty assumption by Fredericksburg Today that a new school was a definite plan, some important factors should indeed be considered when talking about the future of higher education.

The first is that increasingly students are coming to higher education with college credits from online courses or dual enrollment programs through their high schools. As a result, the need for entry-level courses and prerequisite courses could be smaller. Secondly, students attending four-year colleges may begin to seek out online or summer credits from other institutions to complete their degrees quicker. Lastly, graduate certificates are a rising trend because as Paino explains, certificate programs build upon students’ degree or partial degrees. Higher education institutions are already attempting to adapt to these education trends, but there is still much to discuss, and this what we’d like to do during this Town Hall.

The future of Education Town Hall will be an open forum. Members of DTLT will briefly raise and talk about five questions regarding the future of education, and then we encourage the rest of the community to participate by sharing their thoughts and concerns, and by posing other questions around the topic. Instead of just moderating the discussion, as we intend to do with many of these Town Halls, our goal with this one is to join the fray more directly. As a new team, this will give DTLT an opportunity to lay some of what we value more clearly on the line. And our group is particularly primed to speak on the topics of this town hall. We hope the conversation will help drive thinking about how the UMW community can lead and model new approaches to education.

The following are just a few of the questions we hope to discuss:

  • What does a liberal arts experience look like for increasingly non-traditional students (i.e. working adults, commuter students, fully online students)?
  • How do we as faculty and institutions advocate for and build structures to support these non-traditional students?
  • Where does learning happen? As a public liberal arts institution with an obligation to the people of the state, how do we redesign course structures (scheduling, credit hours, seat-time etc.) to make education accessible?
  • What’s the value of a degree? How do new ways of thinking about credentialing sit alongside the value of liberal arts education? Again, how can liberal arts institutions help drive thinking about enrichment courses, certification, continuing education, lifelong learning? 
  • What counts? How do we respond to the litany of buzz words like mastery, badging, bootcamps, gamification, prestige, and grit?

Join us Tuesday, October 4th at 4:00pm at the Hurley Convergence Center Digital Auditorium. If you can’t make it in person we’ll post a link to the live stream on the schedule for the series, and you can join the backchannel on Twitter with #DoOO.

Also, mark your calendars for Wednesday, October 12th at 4pm for the second Design Sprint, where we will experiment with the collaborative annotation tool as we further explore the questions raised during the town hall. 

Photo by julochka (CC BY-NC 2.0)

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