The first “modern” universities were formed in the 15th century. It is not a coincidence that this revolution of learning followed the invention of the printing press in 1450.
Think about it. Prior to the printing press, knowledge was at a premium. Those with great memories and the ability to recall and communicate knowledge were at a premium. Lecture was the medium for learning.
With the advent of the printing press, knowledge was more readily available. No longer was memorization and lecture the most critical skill in the ecosystem of knowledge sharing. A new medium (print) replaced the lecturer and a new age was born. Memorization was replaced by explanation and the facilitation of understanding as the most critical aspects of teaching.
Six hundred years later education has barely changed, but, just as the printing press forced a revolution, so too will digital and social media.
The print media brought the ability to recall facts to the masses. As a result, information became widely available and modern universities began to focus on explanation and understanding rather than information sharing. Digital and social medium has brought explanation to the masses. As a result, education must once again reinvent itself.
Perhaps the next generation of learning will be all about the application of knowledge and understanding to pragmatic realities. Or maybe the greatest educators will focus on the aggregation and curation of vast pools of knowledge and understanding into a more meaningful and systematic curriculum. Another possibility is mentorship and the creation of a continuous learning environment over a period of one’s life as opposed to just a few formative years.
Will universities even exist in the future? Who knows, but most likely not in the same form. Whatever the change, I believe it will take shape over the next few decades. It’s time for a new value proposition in education, and frankly, it’s overdue.