What will be the model of higher education 10 years from now? I have often wondered about this during the course of my studies. Let's have a look at how it might be 10 years from now.
The average cost of attending a good university in the US now for Bachelor's is roughly 25000$/yr in public universities and around 45000$/yr in private universities. The same for a Master's program is somewhere around 30% more than Bachelor's per year. Even though the cost of attending universities in countries like India and China is far less, we have to accept the fact that most of the top universities are located in the first world countries. It's every student's dream to study at one of the best universities in the world. So just like that, the top universities always come at a higher price which puts the students in debt at the end of the degree.
It's fairly safe to assume that the person's knowledge and expertise in the field accounts more, rather than blindly looking at the number of degrees he/she possesses. I guess everyone would agree with me on that. Nevertheless, having degrees are important. They do help a lot for job interviews etc. If we look at the past, even having a single degree would have kept the person apart from the crowd. This was decades ago. Now in this 21st century, having a single degree has become too mainstream. We have more than 3 million Bachelor's degree graduates passing out, from India/China alone. In order for people to keep up with the demand, now most people either do an MS or an MBA as well. Maybe, even a Master's degree can become very common after 10 years. By the time you are done with Bachelor's and Master's, you would have shelled out a good sum of money especially if it's from the first world countries.
There has been a surge in the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) in the past 3 years. This is mainly due to the rise of websites like coursera, edX, udacity etc. Now students can learn from the best instructors from the top universities in a much cheaper educational model. There is no doubt that determined students learn a lot from this medium. Apart from individual courses they have even started nano degrees provided to the students. But is it possible to really certify these courses? Are they credible in the eyes of a potential employer or an admission's committee? As of now, the simple answer would be a plain 'No'. This has become a medium of education even for working professionals. For example, educational models such as Pluralsight which provide a monthly/yearly subscription access to Industry oriented courses or UpX which teach industry oriented courses as batches in real-time online classes. Still, most of these models lack the kind of procured environment and interaction that the traditional classroom teaching guarantees.
Just like people count money after taking it out from the ATM, no matter how much you try, it's very difficult to trust an automated model even it's good. Nevertheless, I believe the future of higher education lies in perfectly balancing the Online and Traditional models. The educational websites would optimize the courses in a more procured grading environments. Students won't be able to complete a course by just hit and trails like now in coursera. Every attempt would start to matter. As we move forward, this model will become more credible with mandatory webcam procured examinations etc. As the courses become more credible, students will have the option to transfer these courses as credits to their traditional university credits. The absence of Infrastructure and physical faculty presence in credit hours will bring down the combined cost of attendance. With the rise of Virtual Computing Labs(VCL), even majority of the technical lab sessions will be done and evaluated online. Purely online nano degrees would become more credible and common. Semi-online degrees would start to emerge with online credit transfer. Many arts/science degrees and courses will still require you to follow the traditional model. For example, go to labs, burn some resistors or break some test tubes and learn from your mistakes. This is my take on the future of higher education at the end of next 10 years.