All posts tagged college of 2020

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 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.


College Tuition Problem


The cost of health care continues to grow at a pace that threatens the financial health of the United States. The real-estate bubble pushed housing prices up at rates that proved unsustainable.

Yet, as Cristian Deritis points out in a fascinating report for Moody’s Analytics, those well-known price spirals were nothing compared to the cost of college tuition. The price of tuition and fees has more than doubled since 2000. Technological and pedagogical innovations are likely to greatly impact higher education in the next decade, but what makes higher education ripe for disruptive forces is it’s simply become too expensive, and, outside of isolated success, there seems to be no widespread effort to contain those costs. A number of reports link this tuition increase primarily to administrative growth. Whatever, the reason, it is undermining the business model of traditional colleges and universities.

Colleges have maintained their privileged position in American society because of the status and monetary benefits the receipt of its product (a degree) can bring. That long-term advantage remains in place. A new report from Georgetown University, “The College Payoff,” finds that individuals receiving a bachelor’s degree earn 84 percent more over a lifetime than those with just a high school diploma. That college-degree tuition premium was 75 percent in 1999.

But that advantage is being lost in the sea of student debt. The outstanding balance in student loans from tuition has nearly doubled in just the last four years, to $750 billion. (see Chart 1 in Deritis report, mentioned above) Students are finding out the hard way that they cannot make enough in some careers to pay off those loans. (Teaching, anyone?) And colleges are rarely responding in creative ways to help their customers.

Look for students, then, to look for alternatives. Straighter Line, for instance, is on an incredible online advertising spending binge, advertising that it is offers college-level courses at 90 percent less than, well, colleges. Students are looking for more answers like that, other inexpensive distance-education courses, and alternatives like Western Governors University, which grants credit for life experience.


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

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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.


The Mobile Campus: College in Your Pocket

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This is the first post in a four part series on The Mobile Campus. Over the next few weeks this series will examine how students are using smart phones and the impact on higher education.

Students are literally sleeping with their phones. A recent report from the Pew Research center claimed that 35 percent of US Adults own a smart phone and two-thirds of them sleep right next to their phone. And when they wake up they are now spending more time in mobile application than on the Internet.

A recent report from Flurry, a mobile data company, showed that Americans on average spend 81 minutes a day in mobile applications, compared with Comscore data that shows Americans spend 74 minutes on the internet – on both computers and other mobile devices.

So how are they spending their time?

Of the 85,000 apps that Flurry tracked on multiple mobile devices, people spent on average: 38 minutes playing games, 26 minutes in social network apps (Facebook/Twitter),  9% in News apps, 7% in entertainment apps, and 5% in other. Students will continue to use their mobile devices as a way to get information and explore the world around them. Universities can no longer think about students without their smart phones – they need to consistently be responding to students who are always connected.

Classes and streaming lectures on Facebook? Testing through games?

What do you think?


– Grant Sabatier