Higher Education's Digital Future

Concurrent Session 9

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

This presentation will be based on my new book entitled, "Online Education Policy and Practice: The Past, Present, and Future of the Digital University" (Taylor & Francis/Routledge, 2017).  This presentation will focus on the near future (2020s) and more distant futre (2030s and beyond). 


Anthony G. Picciano is a professor in Education Leadership program at Hunter College, the Ph.D. Urban Education at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY). He has held several administrative appointments at the City University and State University of New York. Dr. Picciano started his career working with computer systems in the late 1960s. He taught his first college-level course in computer programming and systems analysis in 1971. In the 1970s and 1980s, he was involved with developing computer facilities, computer-assisted instruction (CAI) laboratories, and data networks at the City University of New York. He started teaching online in 1996. In 1998, Dr. Picciano co-founded CUNY Online, a multi-million dollar initiative funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation that provided support to faculty using the Internet for course development. He was a founding member and continues to serve on the Board of Directors of the Online Learning Consortium (formerly the Sloan Consortium). Dr. Picciano's research interests are education leadership, education policy, Internet-based teaching and learning, and multimedia instructional models. With Jeff Seaman, Dr. Picciano has conducted major national studies on the extent and nature of online and blended learning in American K-12 school districts. He has authored numerous articles and frequently speaks and presents at conferences on education and technology. He has authored sixteen books including: The Community College in the Post-Recession Reform Era: Aims and Outcomes of a Decade of Experimentation. (in press, Routledge, Taylor & Francis) Online Education: Foundations, Planning, and Pedagogy (1st Ed). (2018, Routledge/Taylor & Francis). CUNY's First Fifty Years: Triumphs and Ordeals of a People's University (2018, Routledge/Taylor & Francis) Educational Leadership and Planning for Technology, 5th Edition (2011, Pearson) Data-Driven Decision Making for Effective School Leadership (2006, Pearson) Distance Learning: Making Connections across Virtual Space and Time (2001, Pearson) Educational Research Primer (2004, Continuum) The Great Education-Industrial Complex: Ideology, Technology, and Profit (2013, Routledge/Taylor & Francis) Blended Learning: Research Perspectives, Volume 1 (2007, The Sloan Consortium) Blended Learning: Research Perspectives, Volume 2 (2014, Routledge/Taylor & Francis) Conducting Research in Online and Blended Learning Environments: New Pedagogical Frontiers (2016, Routledge/Taylor & Francis). Online Education Policy and Practice: The Past, Present, and Future of the Digital University (2017, New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis, Publisher). Dr. Picciano was elected to the Inaugural Class of the Sloan Consortium Fellows in recognition of outstanding publications that have advanced the field of online learning. Dr. Picciano was the 2010 recipient of the Sloan Consortium National Award for Outstanding Achievement in Online Education by an Individual. Visit Dr. Picciano website at: http://anthonypicciano.com

Extended Abstract

The extended abstract is as follows;

In this session, I intend to focus almost entirely on the future of online education in the short range (2020s) and the long range (2030s).  In the short range, online education will have matured and Internet technology will be integrated into the vast majority of college instruction. A wide variety of delivery designs, some fully online and some blended will be the rule throughout higher education.  Students will come to expect that every course will have online components. Fully online programs will be as common as face-to-face programs.  During this period, policymakers will question the need for faculty as teachers.  Faculty will be seen more as designers and supervisors of courses.  

My long-range predictions are more provocative and include examinations of  possible new digital technologies that will have major impact on most human endeavors including higher education in the year 2030 and beyond.  Predicting what will happen in the future is difficult; timing in particular is very speculative.  The work of futurist Ray Kurzweil is featured with regard to the singularity, when man-machine technology will begin to outperform human brain functions and will begin to repair and replicate itself.  While there are skeptics, it is likely that technologies augmenting the human brain will evolve.  Neural implants, intelligent self-generating nanobots, and brainnets are likely to become realities in the post 2030 time-frame.  Many of these technologies will rely on supercloud computer networks far more advanced than the cloud computing of the present day.  Artificial intelligence will dominate much of the man-machine interface technologies and concerns will arise about the loss of control over humanity’s future.

The presentation will conclude with a brief caution calling for higher education to change and adapt, to use technologies that are beneficial, and to question those that are not.  But most important do not ignore them.