- Higher ed professionals worried their schools were not compliant with regulations, and were anxious about enrollment growth and faculty buy-in to online learning, according to focus groups held by the Online Learning Consortium and the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies.
- Focus groups attendees were concerned what the future of higher ed would be by 2025, questioning if enrollees would still see a point to college, and they questioned if they would be in competition with non-academic businesses like Amazon.
- Professionals were asked what keeps them up at night in regards to higher ed and online learning presently, as well as what they expect will make them or their potential successor anxious about higher ed institutions in 2025.
As interest in online learning continues to increase due to accessibility and cost, higher ed institutions are forced to reassess their own strengths in response. In a New York Times discussion last year on higher ed’s future, James E. Ryan, the dean of the Graduate School of Education at Harvard, acknowledged the traditional college lecture would soon be antiquated, and schools must commit to a “rethinking of how we spend time in the classroom.”
Ryan suggested highlighting attributes of higher education that cannot be replicated online, such as team projects. In a way, it is reminiscent of the ongoing discussions centered around how liberal arts institutions can continue to thrive when industries increasingly desire STEM backgrounds from college graduates. By focusing on what makes these universities stand apart from their counterparts (be they tech-oriented institutions or institutions dedicated to online learning), these schools inadvertently argue cases for their continued existence.
The panelists at the aforementioned Times discussion were not eager to discuss (at-the-time Republican candidate) Donald Trump’s higher education policies, but if Pell Grants and need-based support from the federal government is reduced, the demand for online learning from students who cannot afford the on-campus higher ed experience will become greater. It will be important to see if online learning services drop their own prices in response to what an increased interest from lower-income applicants.