Digital Revolution Transforming Higher Education

Education Technology Insights | Friday, May 20, 2022

Late Harvard University professor Clayton Christensen 2011 famously predicted that 50 percent of the 4000 colleges and universities in the U.S. would be bankrupt in 10 to 15 years.

FREMONT, CA: Clayton Christensen made this prophecy based on the notion that digital alternatives, in his view, are much cheaper and friendlier than conventional instruction. Bill Gates, too predicted that online education would undermine the very foundations of U.S. colleges, destabilizing the university entirely. But the tech experts were mistaken because traditional education was not crushed down by digital. Instead, it played a primitive role in helping it survive.

Remote learning in higher education avoided what could have been an unmitigated catastrophe. During the pandemic, digital education allowed students to continue their education almost entirely uninterrupted, faculty to remain employed, and institutions to continue in business. Competition from online alternatives to traditional education is low as there are issues like falling grades in high school in regions like New England and the Midwest. In many areas, there is a reduction in state funding. The COVID-19 pandemic has hit higher education very hard, but it has also maximized the number of students enrolled in distance education. While the print publication industry suffered to the extent of local papers being shut down, the online news portal trend grew, but colleges and universities did not meet the same fate. It slowly adapted to the virtual revolution by letting online courses and degrees slowly infiltrate higher education. A recent analysis of the Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System revealed a surprising new finding that, even before the pandemic, more than half of college students in the U.S were enrolled in at least one online course. Western Governors and Southern New Hampshire, the most prominent universities in the U.S., report more than 100,000 primarily online enrollments each.

Widespread opposition from the faculty to digital education over the years could not keep remote education from surging as digital education made its way into the educational, cultural as well as commercial spheres.

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