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Top 10 List: Prepare for The College of 2020

Is your college ready for 2020? Are you anticipating how society is going to change and trying to position yourself where your customer wants you to be? Or, are you stuck in the old mode of thinking that what we have is good enough?

This is a partial checklist of what colleges should to be doing to be ahead of the game:

1. Articulation — Is your college negotiating agreements with community colleges, other institutions with similar missions and programs as yours, and some for-profit providers? If not, it’s time to start.

2. Course availability — Are courses available from multiple entry points, such as online and in-person, at remote sites, and on e-devices such as cellphones and iPads? You can’t be afraid to experiment with this.

3. Part-time students — Are all of your services and people devoted to the needs of your full-time students? Or, are you offering special services, accommodation, and attention to part-timers? They will make up the fastest-growing percentage of new students. Show them you care.

4. Adult Students — Related to the last point. The greatest growth in your students is not going to be in 18-22 year-olds but in students in their 30s and older. What are you doing that makes them feel more welcome and comfortable?

5. Enrollment base —  Is your budget based on tuition from full-time students? Realize that they will become fewer in number, and the budget is going to have to work in course-by-course students, drop-in students, etc.

6. Degrees — Are you trying to offer every degree program yourself? Are you going to focus on what you do better than anyone else, and then find partnerships that cover other programs?

7. The finish line — It isn’t enough to get students in the door. Your college needs to figure out how to get them to finish their degrees. An estimated 37 million Americans have some college credit for no college degree. They need you to get better opportunities for themselves. Find them, and show them how you can help.

8. Blended studies — Higher education has been defined for too long by studies in specific disciplines when research, culture and particularly the working world are looking for connections between the disciplines. Look for ways to blend your curriculums and come up with new programs of study that combine them.

9. Give credit where credit is due. A growing trend in higher education is to give credit for life experience. Witness the growth of Western Governors University, where this concept is key. Is your college developing tests to measure the aptitudes and skills of your students? You’ll burn them out if you force them to relearn things they already know.

10. Culture – This is the foundation of your institution and your greatest asset. Make sure to develop programs and create opportunities that cultivate a distinct culture. It is your brand. It’s what sets you apart. How you help it grow and strengthen will make a difference.


Digital Textbooks in South Korea

Students read textbooks on notebook PCs at Guil Elementary School in Seoul, South Korea. /Yonhap

The College of 2020 in South Korea will be online and accessible through tablet computers nationwide. In what now positions South Korea at the forefront of digital education initiatives, the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology in South Korea recently announced it would invest more than $2 billion in digital textbooks for students nationwide. South Korea is not wasting any time moving towards a digital education – in less than four years it will have all textbooks digitized. At that point, the majority of learning will be centered on tablets. The ultimate goal is to have all textbooks digitized by 2015 and available to students through a cloud computing system. All students will have free access to the textbooks through tablet PCs, which the government will supply to low-income families who cannot afford them.

The goal of the project is to make knowledge more accessible and free for students starting in elementary school. This digital-textbook initiative will both personalize and enhance the ability of South Korean students to learn at their own pace, as well as give institutions and parents the ability to create custom learning plans for students.  According to the South Korean newspaper ChosunIlbo, The Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology also wants to start offering classes online for students who fall behind or get ill. These online classes would count as regular attendance.

Without a doubt, South Korea’s investment in a digital textbook program represents a significant shift in education. In the United States there are a number of key interactive textbook companies – including Inkling, Kno, and PushpopPress, but without large-scale adoption and endorsements they will be competing on price and available titles. Also large scale adoption will likely take longer. In the US, textbook sales are a $4.5 billion market, so large-scale collaboration is also highly improbable. But, if the United States or a collective group of US institutions were able to spearhead a similar digital textbook initiative it would create an incredible opportunity for students – to both accelerate learning and provide greater access to knowledge.


The Faces of Higher Ed: Part-Time Student

This is the first post in an occasional series on the Faces of Higher Education. These are the stories of students, faculty, and administrators within the United States Higher Education system. Each person will be presented through interviews, profiles, or stories.

So often when thinking about higher education we look at statistics, trends, and institutions, but rarely do we look at the people.  The faces and stories within higher education often highlight the issues better than any chart or data set. Here’s one.

Ajmal Davi is a 29 year-old part-time student at Northern Virginia Community College studying to be a certified Cisco network technician.  He is also a nighttime taxi driver with three small children. Ajmal is originally from Pakistan, but moved to the Washington DC area when he was 11. “I never want to live anywhere else,” he said, “DC is the center of the world.” Last week I flew into Washington Dulles Airport and caught a taxi. Ajmal was my driver.  It was 11:30 pm and I was his first fare of the night. He told me that he drives all night 6 days a week and two days a week he takes classes at NOVA. He is able to take them either in the morning or early afternoon. He said the NOVA program is perfect for him, because it leads directly to a certification. “When you study economics,” he said, “you have to take classes in history and math. But with the Cisco program all of the classes have to do with the Cisco network, so I know that all of my classes count.”

During our 40 minute conversation, Ajmal told me how he has loved computers from a young age. They are his passion and now he wants to turn that passion into a career. Ajmal gives me a crash course on Cisco routers and his clarity and intensity give me the feeling that I am watching a how-to video on YouTube. “Networks are really incredible, beautiful even,” he says. He told me about how he recently bought a router and set up his entire apartment to function through a central hub. He showed me how on his iPhone he can turn on the television, turn off the bathroom light, and even check when his refrigerator was last opened.

The traditional part-time student is not “traditional” at all. The ability for an institution to cater to a student like Ajmal, who works at night and has a family, will be critical for The College of 2020. Northern Virginia Community College offers a program Ajmal is not only passionate about, but one that he can do on his own terms, on his own time, and that will lead directly to a new career. Ajmal seemed a bit anxious throughout our conversation and he eventually told me why. “Sorry,” he said, “I am very nervous. I have an interview tomorrow for a junior network engineer position at a government contractor.” At 29, Ajmal is following his dream.


Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain


The next decade is going to be a sorting out process for private colleges and universities. The wealthy ones with large followings and a national name will be fine financially. But the smaller, less well-known regional institutions that don’t have significant financial resources will struggle to make it.

Those that figure out how to appeal to prospective students, add value, and meet customers where they are, tailoring their offerings to the audience, have the best chance. Every now and then, you read a success story about a college you may not have otherwise heard of that is extremely insightful about what it’s customers really need. Often, they are religious institutions that define their missions broadly.

Some religious colleges are seeing their mission as helping underserved populations, and figuring out how to get to them. Other colleges, religious and non-religious could learn a lot by examining a success story like Mid-Continent University, a Baptist institution in Kentucky.  It offers degrees to adults who take as little as one class a week at satellite campuses and community locations, such as churches. Or learn from a formerly small college, Indiana Wesleyan University, that was founded 90 years ago to serve 25 local Methodist churches, but now has campuses across a three-state region. It awarded 5,600 degrees in 2009 alone.

Not all of the smartest strategies come from the so-called “market leaders.” There are a lot of mid-level players that realize that higher education is changing fundamentally. And they can either change with it, or fade away.


The College of 2020: My Son

I don’t intend to insert myself too often into this blog. I want primarily to pass along good information, and thought-provoking viewpoints.

But I also want to give some background on why this topic is so important to me. You see, my oldest child will graduate from high school in 2020. So when I think about the college of 2020, I am thinking about my son, and his future. I wonder how well his education is preparing him for a digital, hyper-connected future. I am not the only one who wonders about such things.

My son loves TV and movies. He can get on the computer or play Wii just about anytime he wants. But he usually chooses reading or writing. Mostly, he seems to learn well in groups. He put together a movie in summer camp this year with two kids his age, one of whom knew more about online video editing than most adults. The result is a dreamy wistful piece that might be the first item I grab if our house catches fire. And I wonder how his schooling reinforces such meandering? It doesn’t.

It’s easy to get obsessed as a parent about how well even a 9-year-old is prepared for college. But then, I try to step out of that thought process and think more realistically: My son may never go to college. More likely, he will not define college in the same way I did. The college of 2020 will look a lot different, in fact, it won’t be “traditional” college at all. My son is far more likely to go to several colleges before getting a degree, to take part-time classes, to take a class online, to gain credit for work experience. As an artsy kid, he is going to spend a lot of time writing, and needing one-on-one encouragement. It’s a different kind of learning, the kind most colleges today are not very good at. I believe they will get better, or he will find the kind of encouragement, feedback and learning he needs somewhere else.

There is a fairly good chance he will never really identify with an alma mater the way most of us do. He may never set foot in a dorm, or a campus rec center. His lab work, if any, may be entirely virtual. He may never set foot on a campus at all, except for perhaps the day he graduates.

All of these scenarios are an even more likely outcome for his 6-year-old brother.

I have the concerns most parents have. I need my children to know they are supported and loved, I need to expose my kids to travel and as many life experiences as possible, I need to save more for their education.

But I also have optimism about their college educations. I believe that colleges are about to undergo fundamental changes, driven by competition, deep consumer skepticism, the need to cut costs, and by a crying need for increased productivity. The college of 2020 will be a collection of community driven ideas that focus on learning rather than teaching. The implications of those changes are profound, but necessary. The American system of higher education, as it is currently constituted, is simply unsustainable.

I believe that much of this will happen while my children are still children. And I believe they will be better people because of it.


The Culture Shift: Future of Higher Education

The College of 2020 will demand an examination of the current education paradigms. The times are a changing.


The Mobile Campus: Stanford App


This is the fourth post in a four part series on The Mobile Campus. This series examines how students are using smart phones and the impact on higher education. To read the first post on mobile application use click here. To read the second post on Foursquare for universities click here. For the third post on iPad textbooks click here.

For the last post in The Mobile Campus series I wanted to focus on university mobile apps.  Several universities have launched mobile applications for their student body, including Penn State, the University of Maryland, and Texas A&M, but none have been as comprehensive and useful as the app and mobile website developed for Stanford University.

It seems fitting that the prestigious university near Silicon Valley would have a good app, but I didn’t expect this many features. The Stanford app literally does everything and contains everything a student could need. There’s a good reason for this; it was developed by a group of Stanford students. Who needs a website? Stanford truly understands the needs of its student population by offering them anything they could need in their pocket. And students love it – the app has over 1400 five star ratings in the iPhone app store. The features speak for themselves. They include:

  • Athletics: View Athletic schedules, scores, news, and events.
  • Balance: Students are able to check their bill and current balance on their account.
  • Courses: Browse and search course descriptions, times, locations, and view your grades when they are available. If a student has a question or wants to get more information on a course, they can contact the professor directly through the app.
  • Directory: A Mobile Campus directory with department, student, and faculty contact information.  If you find a student or professor you need to reach dial them directly with one click or add them to your contacts.
  • Emergency: Access important numbers and report emergencies.
  • Events: Search and keep track of all of the events on the Stanford campus., including concerts and lecture. Users are able to browse events by name, subject, date, or location.
  • Game: Through CreditU students can get points and earn rewards for going to class. This makes college like a game – which is popular in geolocation apps like Foursqaure and Gowalla.
  • Images: Browse and save images from across the Stanford campus
  • Itunes-U: Stream lectures, concerts, and other video and audio.
  • Library: Find library books by call number and see current availability. Users are also able to access other Library resources.
  • Maps: Lost? Search campus buildings by name and see where they are located relative to your own current location. Looking for the bus? The app also includes real-time bus routes and schedules on the map.
  • News: Read about news from all across the Stanford campus. All departments and all sources – from the Daily to the Graduate School of Business.
  • Radio: Listen to the college station KZSU live.
  • Ride: Request a safe ride home from anywhere on campus.
  • Tour: Take a Tour of the Stanford campus.
  • Trivia – What do you know about Stanford?
  • Videos – Access hundreds of hours of Stanford video content from across the university and stream it directly to your phone.

As campuses across the country develop their own apps and mobile websites, they need to look at Stanford’s app as the benchmark. No other institution is meeting students where they on the Web are and responding to student needs like Stanford.

To learn more about Stanford’s mobile initiatives visit

To visit Stanford’s mobile website check out

To download the iStanford app for the iPhone click here.


The Mobile Campus: Textbooks for iPad


This is the third post in a four part series on The Mobile Campus. This series examines how students are using mobile devices and the impact on higher education. To read the first post on student mobile application usage trends click here. To read the second post about location based application Foursquare’s partnership with universities click here.

Backpacks will be a lot lighter this fall when student’s head back to class at some colleges.  Inkling, a San Francisco start-up has developed an interactive textbook platform for the iPad. Both universities and investors have taken notice. Publishing companies McGraw-Hill and Pearson are early investors. According to the Association of American Publishers, $4.5 billion worth of textbooks were sold in 2010. The universities already set to use Inkling iPad textbooks this fall include Brown, University of California-Irvine, and the University of Central Florida.

But will they college students use interactive iPad textbooks? Are they interested? Turns out it’s exactly what they want. A July 2011 research study by Kelton Research revealed college students can expect to spend more than $2400 on textbooks before getting a degree and the average student carries 20 pounds of books around campus. According to the same study, 62% of the college student respondents revealed they would spend more time studying if they had either online or mobile access to their textbooks, and 71% of respondents were ready for required reading to be accessible through a mobile or online application. Although there are dozens of mobile tablets on the market, The iPad is the most advanced and popular, making it the perfect platform for interactive textbooks.

When it launched in 2010, Inkling had 4 books for the iPad, but by fall semester there will be over 100 textbooks downloadable within the iPad app. Currently students are able to buy book chapters through the iTunes app store at $2.99 each. Art, business, history, and medical textbooks make up a bulk of Inkling’s catalogue. Users are able to interact in many ways with the textbook – from rotating images, to zooming, to watching imbedded videos. Medical textbooks that show 3D renderings of the heart and other elements of the circulatory system have been receiving rave reviews from medical students.

Inkling is currently the frontrunner in the interactive tablet textbook space, but they certainly have competitors – including CourseSmart, which offers PDF e-textbook services and Push Pop Press, an interactive iPad reading platform which was recently acquired by Facebook. Another competitor Kno has a database of 70,000 textbooks that can be downloaded and read on mobile devices, but they lack the interactivity of Inkling’s iPad offerings.

So what does this mean? One thing is for certain – students will carry fewer textbooks in the coming years. Whether it is Inkling or another company, textbooks will continue to transition onto tablets and other devices that make them more accessible and engaging. As long as digital textbooks meet the needs of students they will dominate the market by 2020. If they make learning easier, more efficient, engaging, and fun, then they will disrupt one foundation of learning.

To learn more about Inkling visit

To download the application, visit the Apple iTunes store by clicking here.


The New Higher Ed Model

Screen shot 2011-07-20 at 12.06.57 AM

Higher education is about to undergo a profound shift to a new more-open style with many competitors and options, even more than there are right now. The traditional style of higher education – residential four-year bachelor-degree oriented campuses – will hang on, but increasingly wane as the predominant model of higher education.

The College of 2020 is grounded in the ideas that will contribute to that shift, ideas we first expressed two years ago in the report The College of 2020: Students. But first, let’s set the stage.

 Why is it happening now?

 The answers can be divided into three primary categories:

Technological – We have become used to the idea, as consumers, of having almost instant access to just about any information we need, via a smart phone, a laptop, an iPad, a GPS, a Kindle, and numerous other devices. The power, speed and agility of such devices will only increase with time. And so will our ability to do more with them. The quality of video and audio, and the connectivity of such devices will also grow, and the acceptance of them as the “new normal” will grow, too. This is one new way that colleges will offer classes (if they are not doing so already). Future students will expect no less.

Cultural – Our society is evolving into one that prizes convenience and speed, above almost all other virtues. If I can save time and get a similar experience, why wouldn’t I go the easiest possible route. Faced with making a transaction in person or online, how many people any more opt to do something in person? Such opportunities make us more efficient, and for most of us, being more efficient increases the quality of our lives. Businesses, governments, even our families and alliances of friends are constantly looking for ways to make interactions more efficient. Given that, how much patience is the average student going to have for a college that insists that one size fits all – that you must come to our campus, pay our price, and sit in our classroom and learn in our way, or you can’t get what you want. Consumers have come too far and been conditioned too much to look for efficiencies to accept those conditions. They will look for a provider of education that works to meet their schedule, rather than adapting their lives to meet a college’s schedule.

Financial – The tuition in the California State University system has more than doubled for in-state students just since 2007! Nearly every state (46) had a shortfall in funding this year for higher education. Most public universities responded with large tuition increases. This severe recession has turned most of us into bargain hunters, or at least consumers who question the prices we have been paying. We wonder if there are other options that cost less. There are such options in higher education – they are just waiting to be invented, or discovered.

 This just begins to scratch the surface. Welcome to the discussion. We’ll have a lot more to say about all of these themes and more. Tune in often.