More and more students are attending two-year colleges instead of four-year schools. Within five years, minorities will make up more than half of the country’s under-18 population. And, by 2020, two thirds of all jobs will require education beyond high school—up from roughly a quarter 40 years ago.
The first two years of a four-year college experience could rely more heavily on online instruction, coupled with group work in class with coaching by faculty members, internships or service-learning experiences.
“What we can do is try to do a much better job of using these new technological tools that we have … to have a combination of human touch and a technological learning environment that is again much better than what people are getting,” said Kevin Carey, director of the Education Policy Program at the New America Foundation.
There’s a misconception, Carey said, that campus instruction is personal and individualized, while online instruction is not. . . . “Particularly in your first and second years, there’s nothing interpersonal about sitting in a lecture hall twice a week watching someone talk … whereas good online learning environments can be customized to you personally in a way that can actually rival or surpass what can happen in a traditional classroom.”
Colleges will need to find ways to measure achievement and competency, said Robert Shireman, who directs California Competes. “You can go into a gym and you can tell whether people are actually exercising. A lot of colleges you go in and you can’t tell” whether students are learning, he said.