Online Education Impacts Campuses – 2017

Equivalent of 500,000 undergrads are only online

Is traditional undergraduate campus building space being made less necessary by online education? Yes.

The growth of online education is depressing the need for the brick and mortar of campuses just like online sales are reducing the need for retail space. In fall 2015 the scale of the undergraduate impact was      12 Arizona States or          52 Harvards.

 

So far more than 23 million square feet of traditional campus space has been obviated by online education. This space is existing and unbuilt.

  • Existing – excess space that is no longer needed; and
  • Unbuilt – space that need not be built.

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Return to a Medieval Form: Unbundling College

Higher education has been moving toward an unbundled model in which students can buy what they want and disregard the rest. It is like getting the cable channels you view and not paying for the rest. It is almost as if students were beginning to hire their professors.

Once upon a time groups of students did hire instructors. Classes met on a transient basis wherever and whenever they could find space. Students were from many nations. They were often poor and their instructors, since they were employed depending on student demand, were not very well off either. Students and academics found cities to be more hospitable for education than enclaves in the country.

The year was 1088, the place was Bologna. A few years later the experiment was repeated in Paris. These fledgling enterprises soon earned royal charters and began to be administered by the church, and so ended the entrepreneurial, unbundled nature of those start-ups. Continue reading

Neuroscience and Campus – Memory and Place

tower-stair-2Memory has been tethered to place by human evolution. Campuses have been among these places for more than a thousand years.

The Question  As students and teachers swim further into the digital stream of online education and simulated reality, will place continue to matter?

This question has taken me far beyond the disciplines of brick and mortar. Higher education, sociology, cultural anthropology, student life, academic business, learning analytics, neuroscience and artificial intelligence have all been on my reading list.

My research is not complete, but my tentative conclusion:

For centuries, campus has been part of the standard paradigm. It has always been there – a setting, not a participant. The future of the campus in the learning enterprise depends on being re-designed to be an agent, a necessary supportive ingredient, not just being there.

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University Architect – Builder / Steward / Shaper

The roles and responsibilities of a university architect ebb and flow with changes in administration and each particular project. When fast and cheap are valued, the role is to build short-term solutions. If investment in the future is intended a balance of stewardship and creativity is required.

Fluid Environments – Expectations vary for each campus and project. They swing through a wide range, project to project and campus to campus. This dynamic can make a university architect feel the need to be a like a chameleon, shifting from one context to another. In one setting the responsibilities are direct implementation according to established rules. In another, extensive consultation and consideration of long-term consequences are expected. Continue reading

University of Uber / Airbnb

GT.chaos.1.baseWhat are the Uber or Airbnb equivalents of the university? These are the questions Tom Fisher thinks campus planners should be asking.

We are at the trailing edge of six decades of campus facilities expansion. The resulting mix of assets can be a rich foundation on which to rebuild and right-size sustainable institutions, or part of an unsustainable burden that helps to sink the rest.

In a recent interview, Fisher argued for rethinking many of the assumptions of the physical campus.

The campuses we have inherited are way too big. I know that seems odd, because when you are on a campus everyone is crying for more space, but we have a lot of highly specialized space that goes under-utilized…the faculty office being one of the more notable ones. Increasingly faculty are carrying their office in their laptop and cell phone. So this idea of having a room set aside for yourself is really antiquated. Classrooms are changing. They will still be used, but the whole campus is a teaching environment. The whole city and region is a learning environment.

The Challenge for SCUP and Campus Planners

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Graduation Rates – Campus Does Matter

Hajrasouliha.1Campus does matter for graduation rates and Amir Hajrasouliha has done the math.

Three physical campus dimensions, urbanism, greenness and on-campus living, are significantly correlated with student retention and graduation rates. His work controlled for the influences of student selectivity, class size, total enrollment, university types and education expenditures. However, he found no significant correlation between student success and land use organization or spatial configuration.

Amir’s dissertation, The Morphology of the Well Designed Campus is the first research to use rigorous statistical methods to quantify the relationship between the physical characteristics of a campus and student success. This is not a series of case studies or perceptual surveys. This work connects the theory and practice of campus planning to student success by carefully controlling for relevant variables. Continue reading

Bryan Alexander – in the crease between education and technology

Queen SacrificeBryan Alexander works in the crease between technology and teaching, between traditional higher education and innovation. Through his Future Trends Forum he is interviewing leaders in technology and education.

He is among the best observers of the disruptions roiling higher education. Bryan has a gift for metaphor, labeling some institutional survival tactics to be “queen sacrifices”. He applies it to the growing number of institutions jettisoning programs and departments and redefining mission. Continue reading