Future of the Campus in a Digital World

2 by 1 by 3As the need for synchronous place and time evaporates, the physical campus must provide values that are not available by other means. Campuses need to be transformed as if their survival were at stake.

Future of the Campus in a Digital World. is my assessment of the state of the campus at the close of 2014.  It is in the form of a 10 page pdf.  I hope you will share it with your colleagues and let me know your thoughts.

CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

6 thoughts on “Future of the Campus in a Digital World

  1. Michael, thanks for sharing the great article. One idea that intrigued me was the metric you proposed for evaluating the cost vs. benefit of sustainability improvements to facilities; dividing the cost of improvements by credit hour. This tracks costs against revenue, with revenue streams derived both from physical utilization and digitally accessed utilization.

    Is it common practice to employ this metric to look at comprehensive annual facility operations and repair costs against credit hour?

    The resulting data would be relevant for individual classroom buildings, lecture halls and labs and relevant if one were to look at costs comprehensively for the entire portfolio of buildings and the entirety of credit hours for the institution. It would be harder to adapt this metric to the other types of facilities on campus; offices, libraries, theaters, etc.

    That said, collecting this data from many institutions would allow for patterns to emerge and benchmarking between institutions. Collecting this data in one institution, building by building, would generate a cold eyed perspective of costs and benefits. This cold-eye would be a great tool in assisting administrators making distinctions between buildings and places that are truly priceless and those that are not.

    • The disconnect between academic productivity (student success) and the cost of the campus is fairly complete. Making the connection will be part of scaling institutions to bend the curve of costs while increasing capacity without additional capital burden. There is much to do, but traditional approaches that add more net square feet are headed in the wrong direction.

  2. The Future of the Campus in a Digital World is an excellent summary of the challenges facing higher education. To make the campus matter will take more than over-the-top recreation centers and luxury condo-style residence halls. It will require more one-on-one teaching, between faculty and students and between students and their peers. The value of ‘live’ teaching and learning cannot be overstated. How to make it affordable and accessible to meet the ever broadening demand is the central question.

    MOOCs now have ‘user groups’ who meet together to discuss and better understand the course material. Libraries are reasserting their role as the place for students to go for out-of-classroom study and learning. Group study areas and maker spaces are being created both on-campus and off. All of these reinforce the value of one-to-one and small group education. How we combine virtual, asynchronous teaching offered by the virtual campus with the proven value of small group learning is the problem we all must address to define the campus of the future.

    • I think you are right on the mark. This Spring I will be experimenting with a blend of synchronous, asynchronous, F2F and virtual teaching. I’ll be teaching the same course as the same time at Georgia Tech and Minnesota. The primary classroom/studio will be in Atlanta with GTech students and guests. Virtual guests and UMN students will be present via web conference. I will be using the Desire2Learn LMS and will be at UMN for a few sessions where I believe there will be F2F value.

      I’ll keep you posted.

  3. Michael, thank you for the excellent article. I agree that campuses will have to change, but I don’t think their survival will be at risk any time soon.

    In light of the chasm between what online can and cannot offer, the campus itself and the on-campus experience will increasingly become an important differentiator. Already, colleges have focused on the campus experience as a major marketing driver, encompassing everything from sports to extra-curricular activities, as they outsource their online programs to third-party operators. The most competitive institutions will be the ones able to integrate, activate, scale, market, and monetize their physical campuses.
    As online learning becomes more competitive, transferable, and commoditized, the true differentiator of on-site learning will be the campus experience—the setting and context of learning. Real estate is as much a part of the foundation of the future university as it has been in the past.

    In this sense, the traditional, non-profit institutions have a leading edge—they have legacy real estate holdings that can accommodate the commoditized universities of tomorrow. What will most likely occur is that for-profits will steadily take over poorly performing non-profit campuses and use the assets under a more robust business model. In fact, this is already happening in isolated instances, as you mentioned.

  4. Michael,

    Great article. The one recommendation that really hit home was to not build additional space. Recent Master Planning work I have been doing have consistently demonstrated systemically underutilized space. There is not a capacity problem in most instances, but as you rightly suggest, there is a problem of understanding the pace and nature of this change. The argument you make regarding office space is really telling. This, more than anything else, represents a revolution in student engagement and 24/7 availability and participation that is being driven by the students themselves. The office as status symbol is no longer relevant.

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