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Tue Apr 17, 2018, 07:17 AM


The Future of College Looks Like the Future of Retail

Online learning has come a long way since the turn of the millennium. It certainly hasn’t displaced traditional colleges, as its biggest proponents said it had the potential to, but it has gained widespread popularity: The number of students in the U.S. enrolled in at least one online course rose from 1.6 million in 2002 to more than 6 million in 2016.

As online learning extends its reach, though, it is starting to run into a major obstacle: There are undeniable advantages, as traditional colleges have long known, to learning in a shared physical space. Recognizing this, some online programs are gradually incorporating elements of the old-school, brick-and-mortar model—just as online retailers such as Bonobos and Warby Parker use relatively small physical outlets to spark sales on their websites and increase customer loyalty. Perhaps the future of higher education sits somewhere between the physical and the digital.

A recent move by the online-degree provider 2U exemplifies this hybrid strategy. The company partnered with WeWork, the co-working firm, to let 2U students enrolled in its programs at universities, such as Georgetown and USC, to use space at any WeWork location to take tests or meet with study groups. “Many of our students have young families,” said Chip Paucek, the CEO and co-founder of 2U. “They can’t pick up and move to a campus, yet often need the facilities of one.”

Students in many of 2U’s degree programs already meet up with each other during yearly class meetings held on campuses, Paucek said, but the WeWork partnership allows for more-consistent in-person gatherings and the potential for new programs, such as architecture, for which physical studio space is required. Paucek is, for someone who runs an online-degree company, remarkably open about the importance of physical space: “The history of online education is a vast underestimation of the power of people,” he told me.

Richard DeMillo, the executive director of the Center for 21st Century Universities at the Georgia Institute of Technology, thinks that some traditional campuses will gradually move toward a similar middle ground. He wouldn’t be surprised if universities start fusing the best of the online experience with the best of the physical experience, possibly like 2U is trying to do with WeWork. “Think of it as the storefront for the university,” DeMillo said.

DeMillo says he’s already seen the physical-digital dichotomy start to dissolve. He remembers when, a few years ago, Georgia Tech launched an online master’s degree in computer science, and students in the program started showing up at university-affiliated events in their hometowns. Some of the online students even traveled to Atlanta for commencement—the first time many of them had ever set foot on the campus. “They wanted to see in person the professors they got to know over video,” DeMillo said. “Students don’t have a problem blending the two experiences, either for efficiency or because they are digital natives.”


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Reply The Future of College Looks Like the Future of Retail (Original post)
FarCenter Apr 2018 OP
exboyfil Apr 2018 #1
FarCenter Apr 2018 #2

Response to FarCenter (Original post)

Tue Apr 17, 2018, 07:29 AM

1. At least in engineering (and I suspect most sciences) you

cannot easily duplicate the study group/tutorial features at an engineering university online. My daughter did her first two years of engineering online basically, but she had assistance with problems from me and two of her engineering teachers at the high school (going beyond their required duties - lets hear it for public school teachers). Once she got on campus I was no longer very useful, and she switched to a study group as well as going to the tutorial sessions run by TAs and the professors.

Also the design classes are impossible online.

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Response to exboyfil (Reply #1)

Tue Apr 17, 2018, 08:01 AM

2. That's why the trend is towards a blended online and physical approach


The lecture part can be done online.

The truly interactive parts need to be done by groups in a physical meeting. However, for many things, such meetings can be arranged off-campus in relatively inexpensive space.

Courses that rely on specific equipment for laboratories, design exercises, etc. will still require physical space. These my usually be on campus, but in the case of cooperative education with business, governments, etc., they may use off-campus spaces and equipment.

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