The Future of Higher Education sounds like Music.

The Future of Higher Education sounds like Music.

In the beginning of the 20th century, the music industry was perceived as a typical “performing arts” industry: to see an opera, you went to the opera house; to hear a jazz band, you went to a jazz club. However, the invention of the phonograph quickly led to the development of recorded productions, which suddenly made music available on-demand.

The growth of the Internet has dramatically changed the way we listen to music. Innovative distribution channels such as the iTunes Genius feature and Spotify have emerged from this new opportunity: it is now possible to listen to your favorite music at any given time and place. In just one century, the music industry has evolved into an on-demand model with complete personalization. Is the same about to happen with education in Flanders?

Higher education in Flanders is currently a “performing” industry: students meet at fixed times in overcrowded auditoriums to listen to professors who tell the same (boring or interesting) stories each year, over and over again. This “teacher-centric” approach has clearly reached its limits and is now turning into a “recorded production model” through the use of innovative technologies. The emergence (and success) of e-learning initiatives and online learning platforms such as “massive open online courses” (MOOCs) are good examples.

The first challenge (or should we say opportunity?) we need to tackle, is the need for an infrastructure to efficiently produce and distribute courses, and more importantly, excite and motivate students. Furthermore, the role of each actor will thoroughly change: professors are not only required to teach, they are also responsible for creating their own courses – and even become their students’ coach. It is important to keep in mind though that online courses are not replacing auditoriums. They are merely an addition. Concert pianists still go on tour, but also spend much time in the studio and with their fans!

The knowledge explosion and the expansion of higher education will be the catalysts of the coming (r)evolution.

Traditional learning models are no longer capable of keeping up with and adapting to the influx of new knowledge, based on the physical restrictions of information dissemination. As a result, there will be a gradual switch to more customizable and on-demand learning platforms – in combination with concepts such as “lifelong learning”. In other words, future learning models will focus on the ones learning instead of the ones teaching. The latest technologies in the field of data analysis and “Internet-enhanced learning” already help to achieve this, which is music to my ears!