As the tuition prices skyrocket, government funding is cut to a minimum and the nation’s economy struggles to get back on it’s feet, the future of higher education appears to be bleak.

Still, studies have shown that higher education enrollment increases in times of economic recession, and post-secondary education is increasingly more valuable in the competitive job market.

Such paradoxical conditions cause a predicament for the upcoming generation of college students, but there are solutions to the seemingly unavoidable crisis.

Harvard business professor Clayton M. Christensen and BYU-Idaho administrator Henry J. Eyring suggest that the widespread use of online education and other modern technological advancements are the key to making the future of higher education bright once more.

Background and Solutions

Both former BYU alumni, their collaborative book on the topic will be released this summer, giving both reasons for how the education system has reached it’s current status and suggestions on how to solve the problem.

The book, titled “The Innovative University: Changing the DNA of Higher Education From the Inside Out,” stresses one basic message throughout it’s pages: raise quality of learning, lower cost of tuition and serve students.

Christensen and Eyring make a case for online education as one way to raise the quality of learning, despite the stigma that Internet learning does not have the same standard of achievement as traditional universities.

In an interview with Salt Lake City’s Deseret News, Eyring explained that online education has the potential to increase the quality of student learning because viewers could pause, fast-forward and rewind lectures, allowing them to customize the learning experience to fit their needs.

Students also benefit from online learning because the most high quality, in-demand professors could expand their student base to a larger audience, rather than forcing students to choose a less effective professor once a popular class was filled to maximum capacity.

Christensen said in the same interview that students no longer will have to accept “mediocre teachers.”

A Disruptive Innovator

Online education is simply a disruptive innovator, Christensen said.

Like many modern inventions, online education is an idea that improves a product or service, but in an unexpected fashion.

Christensen said online education is a disruptive innovator that changes the education system by offering affordable prices to a completely new consumer, like parents and full-time professionals.

But Christensen also stresses that online education has the potential to serve a younger generation of students, without putting traditional universities out of enrollment.

Because young students are native to the digital world and even more comfortable with online communication than their older counterparts, online learning is ideal for the rising world of higher education.

Innovative Universities

“The Innovative University” also makes the point that online education does necessarily put traditional universities at risk of extinction. In the book, Christensen and Eyring embrace the Ghanaian proverb, “Look to your roots, in order to reclaim your future.”

Likewise, traditional schools of higher education can survive with strategic planning.

“The key is to understand and build upon past achievements while being forward-looking,” Christensen and Eyring said in the book. “The universities that survive today’s disruptive challenges will be those that recognize and honor their strengths while innovating with optimism.”

The 496-page book set for release in August also includes new ideas for dealing with curriculum, faculty issues, enrollment, retention, graduation rates and other issues in higher education, showing a need for breaking tradition in traditional universities.

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