The deeper purposes of college, the learning mission, and all that it implies, will be significantly changed and improved at the college of the future. What follows is a short list that collectively describes the core function of the college of the future, sense-making. In an information-rich world, the ability of people to organize pertinent information to serve their own learning purposes will be of paramount importance. And their ability to understand their learning and its meaning, going forward, will be greatly enhanced.
- The Academic GPS. We know that, for too many learners, college is a series of false starts, blind alleys, and wasted time. Using data analytics, the academic GPS will help the learner determine what she knows upon entry, what her learning goals are, and what she needs to learn to get where she wants to go. This is an ongoing information loop that continually personalizes the learning journey for the individual learner. “Sense-making” may not be a very fancy term. But the academic GPS will be to the learning journey what google maps has become to travel.
- Assessment of Learning. As part of the academic GPS process, there will be an ongoing process of converting prior learning and experience, wherever and however gained, into career, personal and academic value. The college of the future will, in this sense, be a translator and a converter of learning into discrete value. All assessment, of prior or current learning, will be understood as a part of the college’s pedagogy, a process through which the learner is helped to understand what she knows and what that knowledge means to her and her goals. In the college of the future, assessment will be understood as the process of extracting meaning from experience through reflection, thus creating the capacity for conscious lifelong learning in the future.
- Lifelong Portfolios. Finally, the college of the future will either provide or contribute to a validated, dynamic record of all that a learner has accomplished. This “living record” will support and chronicle the learning journey throughout the years as learners come and go, based on their learning needs, from a necessarily wide variety of programs and models. Some colleges will have a lifelong relationship with learners. In other cases, learners will migrate to the programs and resources that they need as the need arises and is understood. A dynamic, accurate, and validated record is a critical component of sense-making.
These core functions can “flex” to fit numerous operating models and a wide variety of learning pathways. These pathways will range from sequential learning the way colleges operate today to “come and go” learning in multiple sites and situations throughout life, connected by evidence-based assessments and a lifelong transcript/portfolio. The college of the future will partner with the learner to help her organize and achieve her personalized learning path. Next: the Learning Support team at the college of the future.