It is clear by now that the historic rationale for a campus-based institution has been significantly modified by technology, data analytics and design. In a world where the potential of technologies such as 3D Printing, both positive and negative, has only scratched the surface, it is difficult to define what learning spaces will look like in the new universe. I do not think this portends the end of the campus as a learning space and resource. There are myriad ways that campuses and what they do will be modified. And the location of learning, where it happens, is yet another one.
Learner Comfort. I believe that one of the defining factors for location in the future will be learner comfort. While one person might be comfortable on line and in a virtual learning group, another might prefer a blended situation with face-to-face interaction on a regular basis. Still others might prefer a technologically enhanced low residency model, where people gather, as they do at the Vermont College of Fine Arts, twice a year with significant mentoring and technological support and work sharing throughout the rest of the year. Such a pattern allows people to continue to work, in this case make their art, while integrating that work with learning projects.
Learner Convenience. Convenience will also inform the decision about location. For union workers, it could be either the workplace or the union hall. For other workers, the place of employment might not only be most physically convenient but might also be the location of resources and learning projects pertinent to the learning. For others, as discussed in an earlier article, web-based learning communities might be best, with or without the support of a local learning center. And for military learners, the place they live and work would probably be best.
Networked Campuses. From the campus’ perspective, the new universe will, in many cases, convert the historic vertical structure of campus organization into a more varied and, flatter, horizontal structure. Historically, campuses were a resource oasis in the low information desert. Libraries, laboratories, classrooms, faculty and faculty offices and other resources that higher education demanded were gathered on a campus because there was no other way to organize and provide them.
Now, however, and more so in the new universe, institutions will have to decide which resources they will invest in and own and which they will coordinate with third parties to provide. As a plain matter of fact, most institutions will not be able to afford the investments required to excel at all aspects of academics and learning support in the new universe. So, as Parchment offers electronic transcripts, Straighterline offers low cost entry level courses, and Civitas improves learning platforms and related services, the “campus”, instead of being a discrete entity, will be a network of services organized for the common purpose of successfully educating learners throughout life.
The underlying point here is that, once again, the new universe of learning takes what has historically been a fixed and known asset, the campus where learning happened, and turned it into a variable to be defined through diagnosis of the best overall package for the learners involved.
What other thoughts about “new spaces, new places” can you offer to fill this thinking out?