Classrooms in 2050

What will classrooms look like in 2050? Of course it’s easy to picture (!), haven’t you figured it out yet?

Yes, I know that I know nothing of this, which is why five leaders in their field were asked what they thought about it: what is the future of education? by Ariel Bogle.

This is what they think. As I read it (and please do so yourself on the link above) I got more and more annoyed. It was less and less about classrooms or learning in 2050 and more about ‘what’s happening now you think will have an impact in 30+ years time’. Only two, Naomi Davidson and Michael Gibson, seemed to truly look beyond the here-and-now projected education 36 years forward.

  • students will already be used to “interactive, engaging, live classes from anywhere they may happen to be, with the only requirement being a camera, a screen, and a wi-fi connection.”

Is this a warning? If we’re going to truly support engaged learners we need to get this done at the basic level to enable further change, connection, etc.

  • “students will always value personal engagement and active learning with peers, professors, experts, and mentors. The quality of this engagement—more than physical spaces—will define the classrooms of the future.”

No more classrooms then?

  • “Institutions seeking to reach diverse student populations will have created clear and accelerated pathways to degrees for students by adopting new technologies and innovations that deliver course content and provide robust student support.”

isn’t this what we are already seeing? Is this just being added here because it’s easy – it’s not about predicting the future or even trying to direct the future, it’s just stating where we ought to, or want to, be in x years time.

  • “students will have the ability to take online courses elsewhere and have them automatically count towards degree requirements at their home institution.”

Well, there’s nothing stopping this happening in the here and now, isn’t there? We have governing and accrediting bodies – if they work with schools and colleges then this could happen far quicker than 2050.

  • “students will have access to live digital dashboards that help them better understand their progress towards their academic goals and whether they need to speak with an advisor or professor. “

We’re talking about learner analytics and Big Data again. Some students already have this. I’d put this more in the ‘classroom of 2020’ category, not 2050.

  • “the question itself—’what will the college classroom look like’—presupposes a single solution, and a single intention. What MOOCs and flipped classrooms, and even Codecademy, demonstrate is that there is more than one way to learn and to educate, and more than one goal in doing so.”

This is more forward thinking .. will we even need classrooms? Will clicks replace bricks? Will the local ‘social area’ (currently these are the coffee shops, but in 2050 culture and fashion may have something completely different) be the gathering point where students, of all ages, congregate and learn from online resources .. and each other – “the real difference in 2050 will be the availability of multiple approaches, and the acknowledgement of multiple goals.”Utopia Classroom 2050

  • “the four year degree will cease to exist, as higher education shifts to competency-based degrees over the time-based programs of today. “

This I can see happening. In the UK students are now paying up to £9,000 a year, and there is talk of this cap being removed to allow even higher tuition fees. With many talking about degrees not preparing students for the (current) modern workplace any institution that can produce students and study ready for this workplace will have the market to themselves for a while.

  • “technical literacy will overtake physical and financial considerations in determining opportunities to attend college.”

A utopian view of the education system, but a welcome vision for where we should / could be heading. Are we sufficiently ‘advanced’ enough to pull this off?

  • “the future of learning will resemble not the one size fits all class room of the industrial era, but the small group tutorials of medieval Oxford and Cambridge”

It’s not going backwards, per se, but continuing development of resources and learning styles? With quicker, easier access to online resources and materials perhaps there is less need for classrooms, and therefore physical access to your teacher. Smaller rooms are needed for the smaller groups to meet, if they want to – the emphasis here is that they can still do the course even if they choose to stay away from a physical space?

  • “unlike in the past, the best tutors will not be professors or dons, but something similar to coaches and caddies, there to help motivate, soothe after frustrations, and offer advice on which tools to use in a rough spot.”

This comes back to the earlier comment about competency-based degrees, and that it is not limited to schools, colleges, or universities to provide the learning ‘degree’. You can take MOOCs from anyone and any provider, Starbucks are providing their staff with ‘degrees’, as are Morissons PLC in the UK. At the moment these are really only sponsored degrees, but it might not stay like this for long – who’s to say that Google, Apple, etc. wouldn’t rather have their own staff take their own courses, and get credit and degree-status for it? Time will tell.

  • “even in 2050, computers will not have cured us of vanity and folly. Although it may be faster, cheaper, and easier to learn anything than ever before, the status-based campus may be with us yet.”

Yup, Just because we think things are changing (or think it needs to change) doesn’t mean it will. Whatever change we see or implement will be controlled by those who want it to go in a particular direction, be it major universities steering change and development for the brick-based learning environments, or MOOC providers who can work out how to stay in business and provide free degrees from online resources and learning opportunities.

This post is because I read the article, but also brought some of the work I did for the Edinburgh / Coursera EDCMOOC, especially the utopian / dystopian feeling of looking forward and considering our current activities and how it impacts on where we’re taking education.

What do you think? Will we see a mass-commercialisation of degree-awarding organisations – instead of a 2:1 business degree from Warwick or Oxford you’ll get a 2:1 accounting degree from KPMG? Will classrooms actually be needed, for teaching & learning, or will we just have ‘pods’ in social or business districts where you have access to knowledge experts in a decentralised learning grid (decentralised in that they are not employed by the university, but somehow linked professionally to the learning ‘outcome’)?

Image source: Berlin Hauptbahnhof (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)