Imagining the Internet Project


 Responses to this 2020 scenario were assembled from Internet stakeholders in the 2012 Pew Internet & American Life/Elon University Future of the Internet Survey. Some respondents chose to identify themselves; many did not. We share some—not all—of the responses here. Workplaces of respondents who shared their identity are attributed only for the purpose of indicating a level of expertise; statements reflect personal views. If you would like to participate in the next survey, mail andersj [at] elon dotedu; include information on your expertise.  

Credited responses
to a tension pair on
higher education and
the Internet in 2020 

This page includes a large sample of credited survey participants' contributions to the discussion of the future of the Internet and higher education by 2020. This is one of eight questions raised by the 2012 Elon University-Pew Internet survey of technology experts, stakeholders, and social analysts. Results on this question were released by Pew Internet Director Lee Rainie and Imagining the Internet Director Janna Quitney Anderson July 27, 2012.

In a recent survey about the likely future of the Internet, technology experts and stakeholders were fairly evenly split when it came to imagining what role the Internet will play in higher education by 2020. 

>To read the official study report, please click here.<

>To read the responses of anonymous participants, click here.<

>To download the full report PDF, click here or on the image on this page.<

Following is a large set of the responses from survey participants who took credit for their remarks when sharing their thoughts in the survey. Some are longer versions of responses that were edited to fit in the official report. About half of the respondents chose to remain anonymous and half took credit for their remarks (for-credit responses are published on a separate page).

Survey participants were asked, “What will universities look like in 2020? Explain your choice and share your view of any implications for the future of universities. What are the positives, negatives, and shades of grey in the likely future you anticipate?” They answered:

“There will always be early adopters, regardless of the field. In education, we have seen early adopters of new technologies. These early adopters were often driven more by economics than by education reform, but sometimes reform happens as a side effect. While more hybrid learning environments are definitely in the future of education, 2020 is too soon to expect it to happen. Schools generally move slowly when it comes to change on a large scale. Considerations of cost, skilled personnel, and time (e.g. to do feasibility and needs studies) all play a role in how quickly a rollout can be planned and implemented. There will be incremental changes, partly based on economic pressure to compete with early adopters who are successful and partly based on the demands of potential and current students and faculty. Part of the rate of new technology adoption will be predicated upon products and software that are easy to use—neither students nor faculty will utilize anything with any regularity if it requires more time to setup and use and if it does not create pleasure-inducing effects.” —Jon Cabiria, CEO of Teksylos Technology, a consulting company; psychologist and executive board member, American Psychological Association Media Psychology Division; based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

“It's not so much teleconferencing and distance learning, as that is framed in terms of classroom education. Ideally people will learn to educate themselves with teachers acting as mentors and guides. Learning to learn is more important than subject mastery but, again, most will seek training.” —Bob Frankston, computing pioneer, co-founder of Software Arts and co-developer and marketer of VisiCalc, created Lotus Express, ACM Fellow; based in Newton, Massachusetts

“Nine years may not be enough time for the change, but by 2020 we'll be well on our way toward much greater informal learning at all ages. Certification from top-notch universities will still be in vogue, but a vast majority of students will opt for more practical, less debt-creating alternatives that give them actual, valuable skills. Students who want to pursue academic or intellectual careers will rewire those fields as well. Universities as we know them today will definitely still exist, but their influence will have diminished substantially, and many citizens will no longer buy the dogma that every human must go through a dozen years of compulsory grade school, four years of undergraduate Rumspringa, and several years of an advanced degree in order to make it in life.” —Jerry Michalski, guide and founder, Relationship Economy Expedition (REXpedition); founder and president of Sociate; consultant for the Institute for the Future and corporate clients in many different industries; based in San Francisco, California

“Like any knowledge-based industry, higher education will be deeply changed by the Internet and network technologies. As communications technologies improve and we learn how to use them better, the requirement for people to meet face to face for effective teaching and learning will diminish. Some institutions will focus on facilitating virtual environments and may lose any physical aspect. Other institutions will focus on the most high-value, face-to-face interactions, such as group discussions and labs, and will shed commodity teaching activities like large lectures. Physical access to educators will become a premium experience reserved for the most advance, the wealthiest and (perhaps) the most needy students. Everyone else will move to virtual experiences, probably with more and more emphasis on just-in-time training instead of long courses of study.” —Peter Pinch, director of technology for WGBH, a public media company, including television, radio, and online programming, based in Boston, Massachusetts 

“Attendance at elite schools is so focused on children retaining the caste and class position of their parents that it is hard to see a customized outcome for what must be a certification of uniformity, namely that the graduate can predictably and interchangeably perform sets of tasks within large complex organizations. And if the elite schools take this approach, the next tier down cannot be far behind. Schooling is not so much about subject mastery as it is about certifying the capacity to master subjects. And in technical specialties such as law or engineering, and even in these fields, there is a fixed body of knowledge that must be acquired, leaving little room for customized outcomes.” —John Pike, director of, former director of cyber-strategy and other projects for the Federation of American Scientists; based in Alexandria, Virginia

“I have confidence in the positive option for the future in higher education because its students have more choices than in K-12 schools. Many powerful existing institutions will try to stay in the dark ages, however since higher education is funded by student choice—with money following the student—it is likely that both private and public universities will expand their use of technology and diminish their dependence on everything being based on “seat time.” The Advanced Placement model and others are showing us we can have more outcome accountability by distance assessments than by just giving grades for showing up to class. Distance learning in higher education was pushed by the for-profit sector, and, whether enthusiastic or not, the public and major private universities are now in the distance learning business. I have taught Internet courses for over a decade now. My interaction with students is often much more involved and significant with the online students than with the classroom students who avoid interaction. However, lurkers can get passed in either model unless the professor makes it a point to force students to get involved and expose their ideas to others.” —Ed Lyell, professor at Adams State College, consultant for using telecommunications to improve school effectiveness through the creation of 21st-century learning communities; host of a regional public radio show on the economy; based in Alamosa, Colorado

“It was difficult to choose either one, as I believe that the future will hold both outcomes. It depends on the course of study and the college. No matter how much the Internet allows distance learning, the social factor is very important in terms of sharing, participation, and brainstorming. Hybrid classes might work, depending on the subject matter, but intellect flourishes during social interaction, so it makes sense for students to be together. As for customization, some young people (the economically privileged) are accustomed to designing their own (fill in the blank), so it stands to reason that as consumers of education, they will design their education, too.” —Melinda Blau, freelance journalist and the author of 13 books, including “Consequential Strangers: The Power of People Who Don’t Seem to Matter But Really Do”; based in New York City

“Higher education will not change very fast, although it should. But what's at stake has nothing to do with the amount of technology being used. What's at stake has to do with the fact that universities are not structured to provide the skills that are needed for a rapidly changing labor, creative force.” —Danah Boyd, senior researcher with professional affiliations and work based at Microsoft Research, Harvard Law School, New York University, and the University of New South Wales; based in Cambridge, Massachusetts

“Higher education—and learning in general—will change, but not because of technology. The pressures will come from much larger changes—energy and resource scarcity, social breakdown, and hollowing-out of nation-states—and technology will be used as a way of coping with these.” —Glyn Moody, self-employed author, editor, and journalist; active voice in online social media networks; based in London, United Kingdom

“Under current and foreseeable economic conditions, traditional classroom instruction will become decreasingly viable financially. As high-speed networks become more widely accessible tele-education and hybrid instruction will become more widely employed (i.e. the University of California is already seriously considering large-scale deployment of online educational services to compensate for loss of operating funds and to democratize access to disadvantaged populations.)” —Mike Liebhold, senior researcher and distinguished fellow at The Institute for the Future; at one time or another, a consultant for the FCC, Congress, the White House, OSTP, NTIA, the Internet Society, IETF, Internet2, and other key organizations; based in Palo Alto, California

“Just-in-Time learning is a very important phenomenon that will have a big role to play in the future. It has been said that ‘youth is wasted on the young,’ but one could equally well say that ‘education is wasted on the young.’ Students often don't know what they need to know, and continuing education, in all forms, will grow in importance. Universities should, and I hope will, focus more on ‘how to learn’ rather than simply ‘learning.’” —Hal Varian, chief economist at Google; based in the San Francisco Bay area, California

“My choice is more wishful than predictive. To embrace hybrid forms of learning environments, we have to face the difficult task of dismantling the current structure of our educational system. It is frozen in time, based on assumptions that don't fit the current world. We need a broader vision of what it means to educate, not just how to integrate technology. This means we need to redefine what it means to both teach and learn. Technology can augment education where educators are technologically literate, but there is much evidence that technology isn't effective when it is just artificially layered over an already ineffective system. In real life, technology is integrated into everything we do. It must be the same for the learning process. Technology isn't an answer; it is a facilitator that can enhance more fundamental experiences of connection, curiosity, and learning and make those opportunities available to a broader population.” —Pamela Rutledge, director, Media Psychology Research Center, Fielding Graduate University, and instructor, UC Irvine Extension Business School; based in Palo Alto, California

“The high and growing cost of university education cannot be sustained, particularly in the light of the growing global demand for such education. Therefore, there is already a rush to utilize the new medium of the Internet as a means of delivering higher education experience and products in more economical and efficient modes. Already limited educational resources are being made available throughout the world as universities post selected teachers and teaching materials on the Internet. As schools learn more about how to access and utilize these resources, their impact will grow. While there will be some loss of one-on-one, informal relationships that typify traditional campus life, the future will see more one-on-one, formal/informal relationships developing on the Web. In addition, imaginative educational institutions (and companies) will do more to bring students/teachers together who live near each other or even far apart—through activities such as online projects and locally convened conferences/teaching-learning opportunities.” —Donald G. Barnes, visiting professor at Guangxi University in China; former director of the Science Advisory Board at the US Environmental Protection Agency; based in Alexandria, Virginia

“Higher education will be substantially unbundled by 2020, and the market will be fragmented. I imagine that many institutions, particularly large state institutions will have shifted to competency-driven credentialing, which may not require traditional class work at all, but rather the demonstration of competency. As an example, students might demonstrate competency in first-year courses through tools similar to the College Board's AP tests, which don't require coursework, only a demonstration of mastery.” —Rick Holmgren, chief information officer at Allegheny College; based in Meadville, Pennsylvania

“Dramatic changes in higher education delivery will occur in this decade, but the effectiveness and nature of the changes may be determined by the primary drivers of the changes. If universities are proactive in adapting new technologies, the result may be quite different than if those technologies are imposed in order primarily to reduce cost or impose political agendas. In addition to the political conflict in the United States (and the world), higher education is caught in the middle of social forces largely beyond our control. I have hopes but no predictions on which forces will prevail. Still, it is nearly inevitable that technologies that dynamically present, manipulate, organize, and extend access to information will become pervasive in higher education. Information is the raw material of education. How can we ignore new tools so close to our core mission? Can farmers ignore tractors and survive? Can a carpenter today make a decent living using only hand tools, as my grandfather did? However, we do need to remember the social role of traditional higher education. For young adults, college is a life ritual event, as well as one focused on learning outcomes. Paragraph two still seems to retain that premise, even as it changes many delivery variables. I expect the trend toward more lifelong learners and older adult students will continue and provide even more impetus to the variations described in paragraph two.” —Tom Franke, chief information officer for the University System of New Hampshire; based in Durham, New Hampshire

“If higher education wants to survive, we cannot stay the same. We are no longer meeting the needs of today's learner. Higher education needs to transform, and we need to start today.” —Veronica Longenecker, assistant vice president of information technologies, Millersville University, based in Millersville, Pennsylvania

“While there will be widespread use of individualized, remote, and multimedia learning facilities, the requirements for graduation and the mechanisms for evaluating achievement will persist. Individualized outcomes, while a fad, will be deemed unreliable due to the lack (or legality) of quality evaluation techniques. Thus an MBA from Wharton or Harvard will still require much what it does today to complete, while undergrad and secondary education diplomas will encompass more of the shifting-sands requirements and outcomes.” —Rob Scott, chief technology officer and intelligence liaison at Nokia; based in Sunnyvale, California

“By 2020, universities will be forced to move closer to non-traditional scenario than the first one simply because of customer or student/parent demand and the economics of faculty and administrative salaries. The current success of online higher education offerings in attracting more and more students makes this quite likely. But that outcome will be only a ‘hybrid’ solution, as you correctly identify it on the road to a completely restructured system of higher education. The deflection point for the more fundamental change will occur when universities no longer grant degrees, but rather certify knowledge and skill levels, in much more finite ways as your scenario envisions. Major university brands will offer such certificates based on their standards for certifying various competencies that employers will be identifying for their new hires. Most of the skills and knowledge, however, will not be acquired either on campus or even at a facility or class offered by the certifying authority. Instead, a variety of teaching platforms will vie in the marketplace to provide students with the competencies they need at the lowest possible cost. Having broken the academic monopoly on course delivery, real innovation and change will come to the world of higher education.” —Morley Winograd, co-author of Millennial Momentum: How a New Generation is Remaking America; senior fellow, USC's Annenberg Center for Communication Leadership and Policy; based in Arcadia, California

“2020 is only nine years away. Technology may be speeding ahead, but society overall is not moving nearly so quickly. Indeed, the most common complaint I hear from faculty is that they really don't want to have to learn a new version of their favorite tools, whether they are word processors or scientific modeling tools. Teaching has been part of society since the beginning, and it has mostly relied on language for transmission. I can appreciate that technology is offering us many new ways of connecting to each other and to different expressions of information, but we are still primarily interested in passing what we each personally understand over to young people, whom we hope will develop a similar understanding. That requires a personal connection. Those technologies that deepen those connections will flourish, but not quickly enough to completely remake the educational process in nine years.” —Nikki Reynolds, director of instructional technology services, Hamilton College; based in Clinton, New York

“For better or worse, higher education is about much more than the nominal class material itself. It's also about forming personal connections, social tracking, credentialing, and so on. Those can change, and maybe will, given soaring college costs and structural changes in the job market. But the technology of instruction itself is a very minor part of this story. Videocassettes didn't replace lectures, though sometimes one has to wonder if they should have. So online video is not going to replace classrooms. Perhaps it'll be talked-up as part of political propaganda, with hucksters ‘explaining’ that society doesn't need to fund higher education because students can just go read books, I mean, use ‘teleconferencing and distance learning to leverage expert resources.’ It's possible that universities will partially be replaced with some sort of more employment-focused vocational certification program (whether or not this is explicitly acknowledged). But that will be for social reasons, not technological ones.” —Seth Finkelstein, professional programmer and consultant; 2001 winner of a Pioneer of the Electronic Frontier Award from Electronic Frontier Foundation for groundbreaking work in analyzing content-blocking software; based in Cambridge, Massachusetts

“The disruption that has overtaken media will next take on education. It simply does not make sense for thousands of educators around the world to write and deliver the same lectures on, say, capillary action—most of them bad. The best can be shared and found. Then, I believe, in-person education becomes more a matter of tutoring. Think of the Oxbridge lecturer/tutor structure distributed via the Net. This quickly changes the economics of education: The marginal cost of another student learning from the finest lecturers in the world is zero. Teachers will need to see how they are needed and how they add value. In my book What Would Google Do? I looked at separating the functions of a university: teaching, certification, research, and socialization. These need not be accomplished all in the same space. Will there still be universities? Likely, but not certain. I also discussed the idea that our current educational system, start to end, is built for an industrial era, churning out students like widgets who are taught to churn out widgets themselves. That is a world where there is one right answer: We spew it from a lectern; we expect it to be spewed back in a test. That kind of education does not produce the innovators who would invent Google. The real need for education in the economy will be re-education. As industries go through disruption and jobs are lost forever, people will need to be retrained for new roles. Our present educational structure is not built for that, but in that I see great entrepreneurial opportunity.” —Jeff Jarvis, director of the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism; author of Public Parts and What Would Google Do? and blogger at; based in New York City

“Institutional inertia should not be underestimated, so whether 2020 will see ‘mass adoption’ of the features described above could depend on how one defines ‘mass.’ But it has, of course, already started to happen. There are three principal benefits of traditional universities: acquiring knowledge and skills through coursework, acquiring a credential, and acquiring social networking skills and a new social network. The first of these has been under pressure for some time—for example, as tuition cost rose in the California system, very good students began attending community colleges for two years to take basic courses and transferred to a UC campus for advanced coursework. It is easy to extrapolate from such examples. Credentialing will be an economic and political negotiation, won't it? Universities will expect to be paid for it, and may be tempted to hold on to residency requirements and the like, but will be threatened as the meaning of the credential comes under pressure from other increasingly digital, although also experiential, forms of assessing the skills and knowledge of a job candidate. We may have already seen some diminution in the status differential among university degrees, although that is an empirical question for which I have seen no data. Those are largely positive developments. Whether online social networking will provide mechanisms for youths to shed their high school personas and networks and try out new more mature personas and develop new more challenging and rewarding networks, I don't know. Universities inevitably brought almost all students into forced contact with sets of people they might or might not have chosen to mix with, but they and society generally benefited from it happening, most people might agree (and I certainly believe so). Many traditional cultures have designed ‘rites of passage’ into adulthood, a ceremony or accomplishment by which a youth who has assimilated what it means to be an adult in the culture is given license to shed his child persona and adopt an adult persona. These have largely disappeared. We may let people drive at 16, vote at 18, and drink at 21, but on the whole they don't mean that much. Universities were a place some of us could start over, and without it I do not see how to guarantee a perpetuation of adolescence, unless economic adversities between now and 2020 force many people to pull themselves together to survive. I'd like to be more optimistic that some social media development will come along, but it will only happen if we want it to, and the evidence seems to be that prolonged adolescence is something our species can be comfortable with. And maybe it isn't a bad thing, but I tend to think it isn't ideal. So there is a shade of grey for you.” —Jonathan Grudin, principal researcher at Microsoft; based in Redmond, Washington

“The timeline might be a bit rushed, but education, higher and K-12, has to change with the technology. The technology will allow for more individualized, passion-based learning by the student, greater access to master teaching, and more opportunities for students to connect to others—mentors, peers, sources—for enhanced learning experiences.” —Charlie Firestone, executive director of the Communications and Society program at the Aspen Institute, a nonprofit organization; based in Washington, DC

“As a fine arts studio instructor, I find it hard to imagine that there will ever be a ‘mass adoption’ of teleconferencing and distance learning in higher education in my field, which depends so much on nuanced social interaction (peer review) and mentorship. A market for such offerings will continue to grow, but will never gain the legitimacy or networking benefits of face-to-face education.” —Mark Callahan, artistic director for Ideas for Creative Exploration (ICE) at The University of Georgia; based in Athens, Georgia

“It makes sense that colleges and universities will have real-life, in-person components for the sheer focus and consolidation of social interaction that they provide. However, I've noticed the people who excel very well don't go to college to do it. They're those who have already been working on something in their free time such as learning design or programming. When they enter college, they use the college classes to amplify their capabilities, not learn them from the ground up. I have not encountered many people who have successfully learned something from school without a prior interest in it. I have known many successful people who routinely educate themselves online and from conferences and do very well without ever having gone to college. For me, college was a way to amplify my own interests. I still had a great deal of un-required work on my own outside of class. Those who took class with me and did not have an interest in doing outside work did not get jobs in their professions, or any desirable job at all. I greatly benefited from in-person lectures, and they are still a very important component of life and education. I've found that the most connected people online are the most likely to use the medium to connect to others in real life, and that those instances in real life provide for larger ‘living’ learning opportunities.” —Amber Case, CEO of Geoloqi, a company that creates location-based software for commercial and enterprise use; cyborg anthropologist and professional speaker; based in Portland, Oregon

“2020 is too soon for the learning model described in the new-options paragraph. I believe that eventually higher education will be very different from what is now, but in 2020 the present model will still largely be prevalent (though we probably will have much more blended or hybrid learning).” —Pertti Hurme, head of the department of communication at the University of Jyväskylä; based in Jyväskylä, Finland

“Universities change slowly. Teachers are expensive, so there will be a long-run trend to using fewer, but 2020 is just a decade away.” —Dave Burstein, editor of DSL Prime and Fast Net News; based in New York City

“It seems the evolution will be so. However, I am not sure that the effects will be what people expect. I remain convinced of the importance of analysis, rhetoric, and logic.” —Ken Friedman, dean of the faculty of design at Swinburne University of Technology; based in Melbourne, Australia

“Every student has a different way of learning for different subjects. Some learn best while interacting face-to-face with instructors and other students. While others comprehend ideas better through reading and interactive use of the Web. The Internet will now provide a wider choice of tools to enable and assist learning, but I don’t think it will displace traditional, proven techniques.” —Bill St. Arnaud, consultant at SURFnet, the national education and research network building The Netherlands’ next-generation Internet; research officer at CANARIE, working on Canada’s next-generation Internet; longtime Internet Society leader; based in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

“2020 is coming very soon for such a significant departure from this current model. It will evolve much more slowly, though there will be an increase in strategic uses of online learning.” —Alison A. Carr-Chellman, head of learning and performance systems, Penn State University; consultant with Design Solutions Consulting; based in State College, Pennsylvania

“The top 100 universities have already adopted Internet-enabled approaches in a big way. The next 500 are starting to do so. The next hurdle is the testing and assessment systems. If we can clear this hurdle, we will see the advent of personalised designer education, tailored to complement and compensate for the different profile of intelligences that an individual possesses by way of genetic predisposition, personality traits, and upbringing and experiences. This will create a divide between universities that embrace this change and those that lag behind. Meanwhile, in-person events will become all the more important. Not all subjects can be de-physicalised. Somebody has to be in physical contact as much as we want to believe in telesurgery and tele-remote research in the wet lab. Internet haptics and aromatics will take another few decades.” —Tan Tin Wee, based at the National University of Singapore, a participant and leader in many Internet engineering efforts, including NUS, TECHNET, IRDU, APNG, STARTAP, SINGAREN, ISOC, ICANN, MINC, CDNC, AINC, MEDINFO, AIMS, ICDRI, INFITT, TISC

“Where traditional bricks-and-mortar academic environments have predominated in the past, the adoption of the new methods is likely to reduce costs and enable greater individual choice with regard to avenues for inquiry and increased collaboration between academic institutions. While choices could increase, the point of tertiary academic institutions is that they standardize higher qualifications and methods for measuring virtuosity. Customized outcomes require a protocol agreed between institutions, and as such could enable greater intellectual freedom.” —Joseph Balbozar, anonymous “real life” identity, a Second Life (virtual world) resident and photographer/explorer of the virtual world

“The cost/benefit ratio of today's university education is grossly out of balance. A four-year degree today can cost upwards of a quarter of a million dollars and often leaves graduates without the skills needed to compete in the job market. In contrast, efforts like the Khan Academy ( show that high-quality lectures on undergraduate topics can be compiled and made accessible to everyone in the world for free. The Internet will change the face of higher education, especially in third-world countries where incomes are low but the motivation to learn is high. The experience of leaving home and living a university life for four or more years (dorm life, frat parties, etc.) will likely need to change. While many graduates may look back on this time in their social lives with nostalgia, it would be better to introduce young adults to lives of responsibility as early as possible after high school.” —Peter J. McCann, senior staff engineer for Futurewei Technologies; chair of the Mobile IPv4 Working Group of the IETF; based in Bridgewater, New Jersey

“There is already increasing pressure on universities to either show value or add value, with many questioning whether a college degree is worth the cost. Therefore, there is pressure to keep costs down. With personal costs being 80% or more of a college budget, online and alternative learning (at reduced personal cost) is attractive. Plus, there actually might be value to the student.” —Jim Jansen, associate professor in the College of Information Sciences and Technology at Penn State University; sits on the boards of eight international technology journals; serves on advisory boards for three Internet start-ups; based in Charlottesville, Virginia

“The institutions that control education are far too conservative to make radical changes at the core of their world view in the decade between 2011 and 2020. Given a longer time line, say twenty-five years, I would agree, but the people who will be attending colleges in 2020 are alive today and are attending extremely conventional elementary schools, for the most part. For a change of the sort sketched in the question, we would have to see a fragmenting of the consensus about higher education and a paradigm-based battle between revolutionaries and conservatives of the form that Thomas Kuhn outlined in The Structure Of Scientific Revolutions. Once we start to see some significant number of established universities actually rejecting conventional education and adopting an alternative approach, then we'll have a decade or so before it displaces the old model.” —Stowe Boyd, principal at Stowe Boyd and The Messengers, a research, consulting and media business based in New York City

“Here technological developments converge with other social forces, including shifts in the funding model for higher education and an increased demand for accountability on the part of those in higher education. Most of these trends are already well on their way to becoming dominant, with some of the most successful of those institutions that have chosen not to follow this path, highlighting that choice to create a niche environment attracting particular types of students. The one among the trends described here that may not be a part of the configuration towards which we are moving is evaluating graduation requirements on a customized basis. This is the least developed, most difficult and costly to achieve, and most likely to be questioned from the perspective of social needs as well as disciplinary expectations.” —Sandra Braman, professor, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; chair, Law Section, International Association of Media and Communication Research; editor, Information Policy Book Series, MIT Press

“From an economic standpoint, we cannot continue business as usual. Without online education, only the wealthy will receive an education. The traditional model is too expensive.” —John McNutt, professor of public policy and administration, University of Delaware; expert on electronic advocacy

“The key challenge of the next five years—I say ‘the’ because of the importance of education for the entire global labor force and the importance of reducing its crushing costs—will be developing ways of integrating distance learning with social networking. I am confident this challenge will be met.” —Fred Hapgood, technology author and consultant; moderator of the Nanosystems Interest Group at MIT in the 1990s; writes for Wired, Discover, and other tech and science publications; based in Boston, Massachusetts

“While I believe we are heading now toward the second, less optimistic, scenario, I think the speed at which academic institutions change may save us from that outcome. We can hope university administrations realize the ultimate value of social learning. That is in-person and in the lecture hall or classroom. On-screen learning is different, and while it may be suitable for certain types of learning, the traditional methods are better. On-screen learning is appropriate in some instances, particularly as a supplement to the classroom, but it will always be inferior in the quality of information exchange and interaction. In 2020 it is my hope that programs that employ instructors who are ‘in the room’ will be generally acknowledged to be in a separate tier. Certifications from schools that employ largely screen-based learning will continue to be confused with the other kind. Results will speak for themselves.” —Sam Punnett, president of FAD Research Inc.; analyst for public and private funds supporting media and tech development; contributing writer to the Canadian Internet Project a part of the World Internet project run through USC; based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

“The pace of change continues to accelerate and is driven primarily by technology changes. Given the continued evolution of the Internet, mobile, cloud, and even tablet computing, higher education cannot remain unchanged. These changes are already impacting professional education with a clear trend to shorter format, online, and most recently social and informal learning. I have already seen examples of changes in higher education with new schools built around collaboration and technology-enhanced education. This gives me hope that they are in the process of evolving. As Darwin said, it is not the strongest of the species that survives, it is the most adaptable. Should higher education refuse to adapt to the changing styles of this younger, tech-savvy generation and the needs of employers, it risks becoming irrelevant.” —Tom Hood, CEO of the Maryland Association of CPAs; named one of the Top 100 Most Influential CPAs by Accounting Today and one of the Top 25 Thought Leaders in Public Accounting Technology by CPA Technology Advisor; based in Towson, Maryland

“We are moving from the industrial age to the information age. As a result, those industries that deal with the flow of information will get hit first and hardest. It is not surprising then that newspapers have been going through so much turmoil. Universities are also an industry that deals with the flow of information. They are perhaps even more sanctified than newspapers in the role of a civil society, and so the change will be tough and may not happen by 2020—maybe even later—but I do strongly believe that universities in this country are a bubble and are still organized according to the needs of an industrial-age society.” —David Cohn, founder and director of journalism organization Spot.Us; lecturer at the University of California-Berkeley School of Journalism; based in Oakland, California

“Higher education will be much more personalized, with fewer educational experiences and credentials packaged in courses and degrees, and take place in a wide range of physical and virtual learning environments, signaling a return to forms of learning in performance contexts in apprenticeship models. Universities will join with workplaces and other organizations to assess learner entry levels and broker the experiences they need to reach a desired level of expertise. Universities will be assessment, counseling, library, and quality management centers that connect learners with digital and human instructors, many of whom work as consultants/contractors (almost troubadours).” —Cathy Cavanaugh, associate professor of educational technology at the University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida

“There is still room for the traditional university. Though distance education is on the rise, it is on the rise solely because it is perceived to save money (or to generate revenue). Distance education is rarely done well, and most of the time, especially in the for-profit distance institutions, it is much lower in quality than traditional higher education. In the near future, there will be a tremendous backlash against the distance education gold rush as people realize it is of terrible quality. Plus, existing university infrastructures are here to stay—we're not going to get rid of the buildings and campuses to make way for distance education. Customized outcomes for graduation are highly unlikely. Critics of higher education (think Tea Party) as a concept and as a state budget item will likely increase the standardization of learning outcomes, not atomize them.” —Daren C. Brabham, assistant professor in the School of Journalism & Mass Communication at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina

“In 2020, in-person education will be the premium vehicle for delivery. Costs will remain high for in-person attendance at universities as the nation and states continue to shift costs from the government-subsidized model to the individual-financed model. This will shift many prospective students to seek online education, which is of lower quality but likely sufficient to gain low-to-middle wage earning positions. The online delivery model is also amenable to students working full-time, which is a disadvantage compared to full-time students who benefit from direct and interpersonal engagement. That said, post-baccalaureate online courses that are tailored to students and companies' needs will increase in number as society and technology continue to evolve rapidly, requiring retraining to keep pace and accelerate one's personal professional advancement based on  industries’ trends and objectives.” —Travis Breaux, assistant professor, Carnegie Mellon University Institute for Defense Analyses, Software Engineering Institute; based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

“Innovation in teaching, long overdue, is happening and will continue through this decade. The Kahn Academy is an enormous achievement and provides a new model for learning that has and will continue to influence both K-12 and undergraduate teaching. The idea of having students watch the video lecture and/or read the material at home and then work on problems or case studies together in the classroom with other students and a teacher is a powerful model. Such collaborations will increasingly take place with participants who are not geographically co-located. Major universities will continue to provide the lectures themselves, but less prominent colleges will most likely use others' materials primarily. This also speaks to a trend in our culture generally favoring watching video and listening to audio over reading, and I think that trend will also continue growing in the university, albeit more slowly than in the rest of our society. I don't think the second half of this statement, which predicts customized outcomes, will happen soon, however, except in smaller universities and colleges.” —Marti Hearst, professor at the University of California-Berkeley; member of advisory boards for major search engine companies; consultant to high-tech startups; based in Berkeley, California

“While the precise date may be up for debate, I strongly believe education will shift to a more individually empowered model. Indeed, for those not requiring a formally documented qualification and with the intrinsic motivation, this latter scenario is already available. For example, you can watch the lectures of many courses offered by MIT via the Internet. Particularly for technologies of interest to the open-source/open-culture movements, there is ample tutorial-like material to enable aspiring practitioners to acquire the skills and knowledge they require, as well as connect with fellow practitioners and aspirants in their fields of interest.” —Paul Gardner-Stephen, rural, remote, and humanitarian telecommunications fellow at Flinders University; founder and director of the Serval Project; based in Adelaide, Australia

“The face-to-face model for instructional delivery is, of course, still important and absolutely will have a place in higher education, but hybrid and online modes of delivery will be increasingly—and already are increasingly—important. To restrict learning experiences to physical spaces severely limits what students and teachers can do, can learn, and can become.” —Heidi McKee, associate professor of English and affiliate on the faculty for interactive media studies at Miami University; based in Oxford, Ohio

“By 2020 we will see: 1) A split between teaching and research faculty. Teaching faculty will largely be part-time, ill-paid, and expected to do no research. Research professors will teach little (perhaps the occasional grad student) and focus on grant-funded research. 2) Distance learning will be normative. A majority of students have taken at least one online class by age 16. The default for learning is online at this point. 3) Number of college campuses will dwindle. Those that survive will emphasize: face-to-face experiences; campus grounds (beauty, history, charm); charismatic teachers; a sense of tradition (meaning mid-20th century, but aiming for an older time).” —Bryan Alexander, senior fellow, National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education (NITLE), a non-profit organization based in Ripton, Vermont

“I have already transitioned to teaching online. I design university courses for delivery via the Internet worldwide. I rarely give lectures and do not set examinations:” —Tom Worthington, adjunct senior lecturer, Research School of Computer Science, Australian National University; also active in CSIRO ICT Centre Telecommunications Board, Australian Computer Society; based in Canberra, Australia

“Although I don't think this will happen by 2020 (we're too close to that year already), I do think the business model of traditional universities is hopeless and has to change. Students aren't push buttons; lecturing them gives them, at most, a scaffolding for information while making life very easy for the professor. It's an awful situation. We've got to move to much more individual, hyperlinked learning experiences. At the same time, modeling good behavior and good thinking style remains something useful that teachers do for students. There's still a role for the in-person tutorial and the in-person interaction, so I'm all for hybrid learning models. Also, I remain a sucker for the value of a liberal arts education; I wish I had had a real one, instead of spending my college years in a practice room playing the violin. I'm still learning. I'm hopeful that we'll find a way of educating that inculcates the values a true liberal arts education was supposed to support—lifelong learning, lifelong foolishness (hymn to Stuart Brand), and lifelong awe.” —Susan Crawford, professor at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government; previously a leader on the ICANN board, President Obama's Special Assistant for Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy, and founder of OneWebDay; based in Cambridge, Massachusetts

“I see online learning already becoming a force in higher education, not for individualization of the course to students, but for budget cutting by the schools. What I've seen of this trend emphasizes mass processing by the instructors and the system. The best outcomes in our current system result from the passing on of experience and other subliminal kinds of mastery in addition to subject content. It's important for the human aspects of educational relationships to continue somehow, but I'm not sure this will be fostered.” —Allison Mankin, employed at a research organization in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area

“The university model will not change quickly. The basic premise on which academic teaching and research is founded is not undermined by the spread of digital communication. Modern tools may be used to reach a broader student audience more effectively, but the academic profession will not recognise any value in moving away from the traditional structures.” —Adrian Schofield, manager, applied research unit, Johannesburg Centre for Software Engineering; president, Computer Society South Africa; based in Johannesburg, South Africa

“Ten years is a very short time in the university life—living in Europe, we have universities founded in the Middle Ages—so I don't really think there will be big shift in the ways of higher education. I actually think the in-person, on-campus attendance is a very good thing, and I pity the students who have no contact with their co-students at all. The classes can give you the theory, but my experience is that you hone the theory when discussing and arguing with your schoolmates. Also I think that the social aspect of higher education is important, and it would be sad to cut it out. Now you don't talk to your neighbors, then you don't talk to your schoolmates, and the next step is oblivion.” —Ondrej Sury, chief scientist at the .CZ Internet registry, CZ.NIC; active leader in the IETF; based in Prague, Czech Republic

“Traditional cultures seem to change slowly. However, telecommunication technologies, when combined with the changing demands on resources, will enable greater efficiencies in the learning process. Learning will take place in a more diverse and multicultural environment as a result of telecommunication technologies. Local educational institutions may be slow to adapt to embrace these telecommunications tools due to cultural and bureaucratic traditions. But the demands of society and the work place will demand the adoption of telecommunication technologies to span great distances and to enable more global solutions to problems. Undergraduate teaching may be slower to adopt these tools than on the graduate and post-graduate levels of higher education.” —David Lowe, innovation and technology manager, National Telecommunications Cooperative Association, a non-profit organization based in Arlington, Virginia

“I think there is a tendency in the direction of the latter choice, but the likely outcome is not as stark as portrayed.” —Henry L. Judy, an attorney contracted for his expertise in corporate, commercial, technology, and financial law by Washington, DC, firm K&L Gates LLP; based in Asheville, North Carolina

“Unfortunately, I do not see the major changes in educational approaches that we know will increase learning and retention occurring within the next nine years. Research has provided us so much information on how people learn and what approaches to education are best to produce critical-thinking, lifelong learning graduates. Yet, we continue to describe as ‘innovative’ the different techniques and approaches that we've known about for much longer than ten years. Technology now provides new and exciting ways to incorporate these approaches into the classroom, but our education system structure is too mired in historical lecture and ‘brain dump’ methodology.” —Mary Starry, assistant professor at the College of Pharmacy of the University of Iowa; based in Iowa City, Iowa

“The university tends to move at a pace more suited to the medieval era than to the information age, but there will be far more extreme changes institutionally in the next few years, and the universities that survive will do so mainly by becoming highly adaptive…The most interesting shifts in post-secondary education may happen outside of universities, or at least on the periphery of traditional universities. There may be universities that remain focused on the traditional lecture and test, but there will be less demand for them.” —Alex Halavais, associate professor at Quinnipiac University; vice president of the Association of Internet Researchers; technical director of UCHRI Digital Media & Learning Hub; managing partner of Forward Memory; author of Search Engine Society; based in New York City

“The educational system is largely broken—it's too focused on the result of getting a degree rather than teaching people how to learn: how to digest huge amounts of information, craft a cogent argument in favor of or against a topic, and how to think for oneself. Individuals learn differently, and we are starting to finally have the technology to embrace that instead of catering to the lowest common denominator. We need to be able to encourage creativity and critical thinking, to engage people to do something other than cram for the test and then immediately jettison extraneous knowledge. A well-rounded education will be dramatically different—while it will still have focus on learning things not directly related to a chosen vocation, it won't be about grinding through unrelated material just to pass a class but about how this encourages personal growth.” —Wesley George, principal engineer for the Advanced Technology Group at Time Warner Cable; he also works with IETF; based in Herndon, Virginia

“While technology will be an ongoing significant changer of education, core interaction between educators and students will still be dominated by quality interactions in person. I base this not on my own experience in education (I do research only), but on meetings/conferences where in-person interaction is always very different from electronic interaction, except with those people who you know very well.” —Bruce Nordman, research scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; co-chair, EMAN, Internet Engineering Task Force; based at Berkeley, California

“As the revolution of micromanufacturing—garage factories equipped with a few thousand dollars worth of tabletop open-source CNC [end-to-end component design] tools—destroys the basis of the wage system and lowers the barriers to self-employment, we'll see the whole higher education-human resources complex wither away. All kinds of non-state-accredited, self-organized, do-it-yourself educational and apprenticeship programs will arise to train people to work in small-scale shops. The legacy higher education industry will probably try to co-opt networked teleconferencing and distance learning along lines quite similar to the ‘information superhighway’ vision of twenty years ago: lots of proprietary, walled-garden streaming content, etc., like the version of the Internet in the Starship Troopers movie. But it will fail—the real future of networked education will be open-source materials like MIT's Open Courseware, ‘pirated’ textbooks for torrent download, etc. It will do to most legacy universities what file sharing is doing to the record companies.” —Kevin A. Carson, research associate at the Center for a Stateless Society, the Alliance of the Libertarian Left, and the Foundation for Peer-to-Peer Alternatives; based in Springdale, Arkansas

“The vast majority of elite universities, such as the Russell Group in the United Kingdom, whilst making the best use of technology to augment and support learning, will ultimately continue to rely on the traditional on-campus lecture model, for the sake of tradition as well as the value of communal learning and face-to-face contact with lecturers. One of the biggest differences, already occurring, will be the redundancy of the traditional function of university libraries, as the majority of learning content migrates into an electronic format. Libraries will turn themselves much more into quiet study and communal learning spaces for students, making best use of the latest interactive whiteboard and conferencing technology to augment the learning and work experience. I believe there will always be a place for face-to-face tutorials and dusty bookcases, and they will, in fact, be seen as a mark of quality.  However, as the higher education market diversifies and lower-end or newer universities struggle to compete, I expect to see a greater utilisation of ‘hybrid’ and entirely virtual classes or courses, in an effort to cut costs on the part of the universities as well as students, who cannot afford to study in the traditional manner.” —David Saer, foresight researcher for Fast Future, a consulting business based in London, United Kingdom

“I feel the second statement is utopian and visionary—and I like it! It takes into account inclusion, access, and differences in human variation. Would that this will come to pass!” —Tina Passman, associate professor of classical languages and literature and director of peace and reconciliation studies at the University of Maine; based in Orono, Maine

“Formal higher education toward a degree will remain closer to what it is now than shift to something quite different. That said, hybrid approaches will become more common, particularly for non-degree studies or continuing education. The human relations created at the time of formal education will continue to be very important in the process of becoming a professional. A big issue is the relevance of the education to the professional future of a person. Universities need to strengthen the causality between an education and a professional future, and given the nature of the economic recovery we have seen in the previous years, professionals might need to become much more entrepreneurial than in the past.” —Miguel Alcaine, head of the International Telecommunication Union’s area office, Tegucigalpa, Honduras

“Many universities will be facing their demise in less than ten years. The demand for higher education will not lessen; however, the source of that knowledge will follow the Internet on a global basis. ‘Faculty’ will still be certified by some authentication source(s) and the smartest of faculty, regardless of institutional connection, will engage with the smartest of students. Freedom of action will shift from the university to the students and the faculty. Formal higher education will be significantly shortened from four or six years, and while shorter, it will extend for a lifetime of learning. Students will ‘earn’ a degree of some kind, but their learning will not stop, as it has not stopped for many of us over the decades. This is a warning to the university industry: Change with your market or lose them to the Internet.” —William L Schrader, independent consultant; founder of PSINet in 1989: largest independent publicly traded global ISP during the 1990s; lecturer on the future impact of the Internet on the global economic, technological, medical, political, and social world; based in Sterling, Virginia

“Higher education is one of the most change-resistant institutions in our culture.” —Jeff Eisenach, managing director and principal, Navigant Economics LLC, a consulting business; author of numerous books and articles on technology and economics; formerly a senior policy expert with the US Federal Trade Commission; based in Washington, DC

“The American system is unlikely to change to the degree expressed in the second scenario due to many practical reasons. The university is organized by departments, which are cumbersome decision making bodies, and filled with academics whose major interest is their own research and training students to explore aspects of their academic interests. Pay, tenure, and the ever-dwindling federal and state support for academic institutions will likely result in a shrinking of alternative instructional opportunities. Having said that, today, there are encouraging developments in the support of instruction, online testing, and grading. With the benefit of interleaved instructional explanations and modules allowing for the individual instructor to handle huge introductory classes in a discipline, the former fight to gain access to the stuff to be read is now available to all via the Web. It seems unlikely in our financial climate that graduation requirements will be significantly shifted to customized outcomes. Most academic departments are forced to one-size-fits-all, for no good reason other than they can't afford to innovate.” —Don Hausrath, retired from the US Information Agency; previously worked abroad installing information centers, providing information about the United States for policy makers in foreign governments, media, and related groups; based in Tucson, Arizona 

“Students working together in teams, contributing to class artifacts, and assessing one another's work could lead to a less stratified, more collective society where people will work together for the common good rather than individualistically for one's own goals at the expense of others. I believe that public education, funded by taxes collected from everyone, including the most wealthy, is the healthiest kind of education.” —Lisa Mertz, associate professor of healing arts at City University of New York; based in New York City

“While education is being, and has been already, profoundly influenced by technologies, nevertheless it is a deeply social and political institution in our cultures. Universities are not just portals where students access learning, they are places in which people develop as social beings, in some quite specifically institutional ways. Therefore technology will change the way learning occurs and the way it is assessed, and it definitely means there is more blending of learning activities on- and offline, but it will not—for the majority—change the fundamental locatedness of university education. More likely, we will see additional options and possibilities develop that complement one another.” —Matthew Allen, professor of Internet Studies, Curtin University, Perth, Australia; past president of the Association of Internet Researchers

“The economics of mass-education are likely to continue to drive the adoption of technology and practices that reduce unit costs. I think also that the ages of those who make up the largest proportion of university students means that they will adapt easily. It will be more difficult for older generations pursuing lifelong learning.” —Pete Cranston, digital media, knowledge sharing and ICT4D (information and communication technologies for development) consultant; based in Oxford, United Kingdom

“Already, the move to online learning is evident in a growing number of colleges and universities. However, as a recent Pew study showed, the biggest resistance is coming from private schools, four-year colleges, and from students themselves. Too many schools are looking to online learning as a way of building revenues and attracting non-traditional students. Far too little thought has been put into analyzing where online education is beneficial and where it undermines the educational mission of many institutions.” —Naomi S. Baron, professor of linguistics and executive director of the Center for Teaching, Research, and Learning at American University, Washington, DC

“The new possibilities of and the new global market in education-at-a-distance will greatly shift the educational powers. Pupils will be able to escape bad schools in bad neighborhoods. They can choose excellent education available via screen—provided the economics of scale are turned into lower costs for students and not into bonuses for managers. Learning and graduating will be like a game: personalized, but in globally standardized modules.” —Marcel Bullinga, futurist and author of Welcome to the Future Cloud - 2025 in 100 Predictions; based in Amsterdam, The Netherlands

“I don't think that nine years is enough time for such a radical shift unless additional externalities are brought to bear.” —Ross Rader, general manager at Hover, a service of Tucows; board member of the Canadian Internet Registration Authority; based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

“Based on existing trends, there will be a split between massive and quality education. While both will leverage technology, I doubt that prestigious higher education centers will provide access to massive populations as that may reduce the value of the credentials they provide.” —Enrique Piraces, senior online strategist for Human Rights Watch, a non-profit organization

“Interests and habits are evolving to suit the technology and environments that are available.” —Mack Reed, principal, Factoid Labs, a consultancy on content, social engineering, design, and business analysis; COO, F8 Interactive, developer of life-like, non-violent games; longtime member of the WELL and the Burning Man community; based in Los Angeles, California

“Although I have chosen the second, more optimistic, future scenario for higher education, I would be amazed if those changes occurred by 2020. Higher education is one of the most resistant social institutions ever created. Many of the innovations you mention are under way in universities around the globe, but it will take a long time before significant numbers of students in colleges and universities will have these advantages.” —Hugh F. Cline, adjunct professor of sociology and education at Columbia University; retired from a position as a senior research scientist and administrator in an educational testing company; lives in Princeton, New Jersey, and works in New York City

“Distance and virtual education will not supplant face-to-face, but like telecommuting will supplement the current experience.” —Larry Lannom, director of information management technology and vice president at the Corporation for National Research Initiatives (CNRI), a research organization based in the Washington, DC, metro area

“I wanted to choose 'neither.' What I fear will happen, although I may be unduly influenced by California's current budget woes, is that there will be more distance learning, it'll be a change for the worse, and by and large the evaluation of learning won't change. All that's needed is for some clever cryptographer to work out how the colleges can be sure the person taking the online final exam is really the putative student. There will be wonderful exceptions. Online learning as one component of a course that also includes plenty of face-to-face can be really beneficial, especially if it allows different students to learn at different speeds. I'm experimenting with such a course myself. But my university's current crash online course project leaves me skeptical; mostly it seems to be viewed as a way to serve more students at less cost. It's been a long time since people needed to come to a university to find knowledge or expertise; the Internet is just one step, although a big one, in the process that started with the printing press. What students find at a university is mainly each other—a culture of learning.” —Brian Harvey, lecturer at the University of California-Berkeley; based in Berkeley, California

“Powerful communication will naturally drive better consumer choice. If people have easy access to a great source of information, they will naturally gravitate towards it rather than towards a mediocre-but-nearby source. I already observe on-demand learning among many of my colleagues. When faced with a new problem, they will use the Internet to find summaries like Wikipedia, and then original sources from academic papers. It works. I have seen young engineers progress in a year from novice status in a field to being able to interact with researchers expertly on the matter. That ‘self-directed learning’ may or may not be intermediated by education professionals. There is definitely a value in coaching and guiding, but the traditional classroom is not necessarily the best setting for such coaching.” —Christian Huitema, distinguished engineer, Microsoft Corporation; active leader in the IETF; based in Redmond, Washington

“College will continue to be a place of advanced adolescence for many, and this requires face-to-face activities. People will pay a premium for this. Many students will combine location-based education with online and on-demand courses to account for their general education, as many of these classes are taught poorly and people get little of the potential value these topics might provide. Thus, education is blended, and course selection is also a decision about course delivery. Specialized courses will stay residential. This pressure is likely to lead to many colleges creating tuition swaps so that they can specialize in mass class delivery or in particular niche areas. The humanities, basic social sciences and general education, will be discounted to the point of being a commodity. For graduate education, and particularly professional graduate education, will have shifted to be more on-demand and online, with limited physical residencies and a huge variety of ways to offer courses.” —Steve Sawyer, professor and associate dean of research at Syracuse University; an expert of more than twenty years of research on the Internet, computing, and work; based in Syracuse, New York

“I don't believe higher education will change that much by 2020. I think choice two is much farther away. Think about the university as an institution. Think about ‘campus life’ and the ‘college experience.’ Those things are pretty well defined over the last, what, fifty years at least. It's a given. You graduate high school. You apply for colleges, get into one, move out of mom and dads’ house, live in the dorms for a year because you have to, then get an apartment off campus for the next three to four. That’s the norm for college students. Universities make a lot of money off kids living on campus. Universities are brands, not just places of formal learning. It's a whole lifestyle, going to university. I do think there will be a move to incorporate more technology into the learning experience, but again, it's pretty easy for a professor to just deliver a lecture. I think that, like many other of these ‘progressive’-type movements—I'll equate it to governments, corporations, universities ‘going green’—universities will play a mediating role between keeping things as they are to satisfy those who benefit from having it that way and those who push for university instruction to move past traditional lectures and PowerPoint slides.” —David Kirschner, PhD candidate and research assistant at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

“It's commonly and rightly believed that universities change slowly, and in a difficult economic environment, particularly for public institutions, change comes more slowly than usual. Simply put, few universities can afford to change from the way they are today. While a riposte is that they cannot afford not to change, inertia is powerful, and taking the long view is hard. By 2020 not much will have changed.” —Steve Jones, distinguished professor of communication, University of Illinois-Chicago; a founding leader of the Association of Internet Researchers

“Teachers and students will be termed as educators and learners. Learners will be able to learn when they want, what they want, and how they want. Educators will equip themselves to be able to compete in the world of a supply-and-demand chain of knowledge. Learning will not be limited by age or sex; it will not be discriminated by regions or religions; it will not be narrowed down due to culture or history. Learning will be like a homogenous fluid to elevate the knowledge content of each and every living human being on the planet.” —Hakikur Rahman, chairman of the SchoolNet Foundation of Bangladesh and post-doctoral researcher at the University of Minho, based in Portugal

“The current cost structure model for higher education is unsustainable. New products and services will fill needs.” —Mark Walsh, cofounder,; chairman, board of trustees, Union College, Schenectady, New York; board chairman, Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship, University of Maryland; board member of many start-ups, angel investor; based in Washington, DC area

“The future is a hybrid of both of the approaches. No one can disagree that higher education needs—no, requires—a complete rethink. Our current toolsets and thinking are over 400 years old and give little regard to the changes in society, resources, or access, which facilitate both greater specialization and broader access than at any time in the previous two centuries. Yet will the future be one of greater specialization, personalized learning, a sort of hyper-Montessori for almost-adults, or will as two startups I've seen in just the last week would propose, be one of distance learning, open access, a democratization of educational access perhaps not dissimilar to the affect of YouTube on video production or SoundCloud on DJ's allowing anyone access to the base rungs of the game and making it even harder to rise to the top. My gut is that neither answer is right, but my hope is that we will embrace technology as the enabler that it is, promoting greater access to students inside and outside of the United States while consistently promoting, enabling, and facilitating excellence, both personal and societal.” —Richard D. Titus, a seed-funding venture capitalist at his own fund, Octavian Ventures; producer of documentaries, including Who Killed the Electric Car?; chairman of the board for European video tech start-up Videoplaza; based in San Francisco, California, and London, United Kingdom

“The transition has already begun en masse to online and hybrid models for collaborative learning. Residential undergraduate and graduate education is a luxury good, hence the high prices. Parents and young adults will still prize the traditional undergraduate campus experience in 2020, but by the numbers, an increasing number will learn with and through technology, on and off campus. And assessment will take advantage of digital tools as well.” —Lee W. McKnight, professor of entrepreneurship and innovation, Syracuse University; founder of Wireless Grids; co-founder of Summerhill Biomass; president of Marengo Research; principal investigator of Wireless Grid Innovation Testbed (WiGiT); based in Syracuse, New York

“Universities move slowly and nine years is not enough to see the kind of changes outlined in the second scenario.” —Mark Watson, senior engineer for Netflix and a leading participant in various technology groups related to the Internet (IETF, W3C), specifically dealing with video standards; based in San Francisco, California

“90% of the value of a bachelor’s degree is and always will be about showing you can do something difficult. That requirement won't change. Leading online schools like Western Governors University let you do that for 50% of normal cost ($3,000/semester). This is harder to do, as you are doing it online, albeit with a weekly motivational call than brick-and-mortar college, but it is half the cost, and this method will massively advance over the next decade, as the double-digit increases in education costs (the ‘Education Bubble’) are unsustainable in a world with ever-increasing technological unemployment due to mass automation expansion (read The Lights in the Tunnel by Martin Ford for more on that). So primarily for the cost reason, we'll see far more kids taking online undergraduate degrees in coming years—a doubling rate of perhaps every two years, I would guess, with perhaps 8-10% of kids doing it by 2020. Still a long way from the majority, but significant by 2020. Far more common, and the primary driver of online, will be online for MS programs, certificate and technical programs, tutoring, and remediation. Another advantage of online is that you can do it faster than four years. In practice however, this means little, as few students are that foresighted or motivated. The vast majority will do online undergrad in the same time as traditionally. The other value of college, the social one, meeting others who you network with to do things like start businesses, is the one that is rapidly moving online as social networks, meet-ups, and Internet television advance. Read my 100-page article on the future of iTV at See also Dale Johnson, for more on that. Northeastern University’s co-ops (three internships before you graduate) are an example of a brick-and mortar-college providing best-in-class, real-world experience during undergrad, but these Montessori- and real-world-focused secondary tracks will remain the exception in brick and mortar. Look for some really great Online Internship Platforms to emerge in next ten years, affiliated with the main online jobs communities (Dice, Monster, LinkedIn, etc.). With Online Internships, you don't have to schlep the students to their internships, just bring them periodically to the brick-and-mortar companies (or to meet other team members in person occasionally for virtual companies). Increasingly, companies will work with their interns remotely, and due to online's low-marginal costs, they can work with them long enough (during three of the four college years, for example) to make the cost of training them worthwhile to employers. Again, expect most brick-and-mortar colleges to continue to graduate students who know little to nothing about the working world. The typical BS holder has just shown they can do something difficult, nothing more. This will remain 90% of the value of a college education (as I said, the social value will no longer be exclusive to brick and mortars by 2020) and will remain the primary requirement for entry-level work in 2020. With luck, perhaps 20% of online and brick-and-mortar BS students will be engaged in online (more than half) or in-person (less than half) internships at some point during or immediately after BS graduation. Again, MS, technical, certificate, and remediation education will be online both earlier and more extensively. The best daycare programs will be more connected to working parents via online by then as well.” —John Smart, professor of emerging technologies at the University of Advancing Technology; president and founder of the Acceleration Studies Foundation; based in Mountain View, California

“While our institutional research units have greater access to tools that can dissect and personalize nearly every aspect of our students' college experiences, I seriously doubt that requirements for graduation will be 'significantly shifted to customized outcomes.' Instead, the transition to ‘hybrid’ classes has led to expectations of more frequent on-campus, in-person experiences—just not necessarily those in a formal college classroom. Universities now measure attendance at more than just a scheduled lecture time—we measure such things as on-task activities in a learning management system, time to degree, number and frequency patterns of attending a group event with a trained peer mentor, number and types of co-curricular activities, to name just a few. We have not used this new information to adjust and individualize academic graduation requirements overseen by faculty. Instead we tend to use this information for adjusting and improving student support systems run by staff.” —Randolph Hollingsworth, assistant provost, University of Kentucky; webmaster for Central Kentucky Council for Peace and Justice and other organizations; member of H-Net (Humanities and Social Sciences Online) Council; Wikipedia editor; based in Lexington, Kentucky

“The higher education community is adapting to the opportunities and abilities the Internet has and continues to offer. Higher education was previously successful in being the source of all knowledge one could aspire to have. This knowledge was gained from classroom lectures and repetition of activities and memorization. The Internet has fundamentally changed the environment by making knowledge and information of any topic easily available to those who seek it. Interpretation of the available knowledge and information will become the space the higher education community excels in now and in the near future. As the Internet has evolved, roles, titles, and the like have also evolved. Classic education tracks, although still very relevant, will be changing in the next decade in response. This will promote the need for more higher education hybrid options, individualized outcomes, and responsiveness to a changing world. This will, however, create challenges in the business world related to measurement of applicants for available positions. Yesterday's degree programs specified requirements that all seeking the degree must take. An employee could expect the applicants to have had mostly similar exposure to the materials and subject matter. In the move to in-person oriented outcomes, the similarities may be less so and create challenges for those trying to measure and select the best resources.” —Kevin Novak, VP for integrated Web strategy, technology, American Institute of Architects; co-chair, eGov Working Group, World Wide Web Consortium; speaker, author on Web, electronic government; consultant to World Bank on the eTransform Initiative; based in Washington, DC

“Assuming universities will retain the basic characteristics we know today, it is most unlikely that they will radically change their business model. Pouring as much new technology into a system in order to look advanced will be good enough in their view. On the other hand the pressure toward increased financial autonomy and partnership with the private sector, and parallel reduction in public funding and dedication to long-term public service, is likely to result in considerable transformations of their role and operational model, if not an un-creative destruction. One may hope that at least marginally some segments of academia, if not entire universities, will move toward a more open system, allowing for independent learning tailored to the needs and cognition style of individuals, making effective use of distance and presence techniques.” —Michel J. Menou, visiting professor at the department of information studies at University College London; based in Les Rosiers sur Loire, France

“’College for all’ has been the mantra of education reform for decades. A report from Harvard Graduate School of Education argues that greater emphasis on vocational training, apprenticeships, and technical job training outside of a formal college setting would better serve America’s young people. It will encourage and enable that transition, and this will reshape higher education fundamentally. Behaving as though four-year college is the only acceptable route to success clearly still works well for many young adults, especially students fortunate enough to attend highly selective colleges and universities. It also works well for affluent students, who can often draw on family and social connections to find their way in the adult world. But it clearly does not work well for many, especially young men, say the researchers in their report, Pathways to Prosperity: Meeting the Challenge of Preparing Young Americans for the 21st Century…Structured programs that combine work and learning better enable adolescents to grasp how they’ll market and use their skills in the real world…So, as I see, future information technology advances will influence education and higher education in the following ways: ‘Vocational training’ will lose its rotten stigma in the United States, and more kids will do core course work online and via teleconference and devote their in-person time to their apprenticeship. This will work better for everyone. Thanks, Internet! Lesson plans will have an IT component and an in-person component, and this will raise education outcomes significantly. Both of these components will be customized to individual students. Sons and daughters of privilege will continue to attend in-person classes at the nation's top schools and will realize the attendant social rewards in doing so. The value of in-person schooling will decrease for everyone else, and most institutions will diversify their offerings and their business models. The future for teachers is still bright. Student performance rises when teachers can give more time to individual students. The medium for giving that attention is shifting away from schoolhouses toward online environments coupled with real-world working situations, but teacher insight and attention is still the critical factor to reaching better education outcomes.” —Patrick Tucker, deputy editor of The Futurist magazine and director of communications for the World Future Society; based in Baltimore and Bethesda, Maryland

“The biggest change will be between training and education. That is between meeting very specific learning goals and more abstract and creative work. Already we've seen that online asynchronous instruction works great for training people for specific tasks but less so for more complex tasks with no clear solutions. That said, more individual initiative in one's own learning and education will be necessary—and more experiential learning than just a classroom or even a computer conferencing situation. In short, more students will be getting their hands dirty—in a very good way.” —Paul Jones, clinical associate professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

“The ever-expanding quality of experience flowing through virtual reality will continue to blur the concepts of time and place. Education will be motivated by the needs and interests of each individual. The whole will be influenced by those who most profoundly find their calling and perfect their knowledge in chosen fields of study and take action to implement the insight and expertise acquired to create something of value. People will look to sources best able to feed this process. Traditional structures of education will melt away as new and better ways of learning reveal themselves. More sophisticated and accurate means of evaluating competence, expertise, wisdom, knowledge and more gratifying methods of rewarding action that produce attractive results will push advancement forward without regard to obsolete education structures.” —John Davis, independent distributor based in San Diego, California

“The technology drivers for change in higher education are now being compounded by budgetary considerations that will drive more and more institutions towards heavily online offerings. The budget crunch that is facing most public university systems, and an increasing number of private institutions, makes online learning not only tempting from a pedagogical perspective (after all, how better to reach a generation that has grown up on screen?), but also as a way of managing the otherwise irreconcilable demands to serve more students at a lower cost. At the same time, universities face competitive pressures in the form of informal, self-directed and alternatively accredited learning (think: badges) that make high-tuition, on-site, traditional education a relatively less attractive option to many people who can now get skills and credentials in other ways. Universities that use technologies to offer new kinds of educational alternatives with genuine advantages—instead of treating online education as a discount, second-tier market—will be the ones that actually grow and flourish in this new environment, rather than just barely holding on.” —Alexandra Samuel, director of the Social + Interactive Media Centre at Emily Carr University of Art + Design; based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

“Through the use of the Web, it becomes possible for students to customize their learning pace and learning materials. However, it might not be the same grading systems as we used today. The school system might also need to loosen up more in terms of grade, diploma, etc. The diploma might become less and less valuable. The divide between rich and poor will become wider unless free resources become available in many places.” —M.C. Liang, National University of Kaohsiung, Taiwan  

“The value equation for higher education is increasingly under pressure. Families are already making decisions that are redefining the educational experience. Selecting the local college over the away college. Selecting two years at a cheaper college and then going to a more expensive college. Placing more pressure on taking career-advancing courses. Someone is going to come up with a new model that is going to unleash this pressure. We already see the seeds of this with innovative ideas like the Kahn Academy, iTunes University, open universities, and others. If the classic notion of education at an isolated campus with poor dorms and bad food can no longer be justified, then someone will come up with a new model that implodes this. We have seen the information revolution attack business models premised on being information intermediaries—old business models where old businesses leveraged their position of simply holding information. This has radically changed the real estate market, the travel market, weather services, and more. Academic institutions are more than simply information intermediaries—they are information creators and trainers of minds. But where they do play simply the role of information holder, they can expect that model to be eroded. Where they play a role that is not cost effective, that too will be eroded. It is hard to say what education will look like in the future. It is easily conceivable that it will be dramatically different.” —Robert Cannon, founder and director of Cybertelecom; senior counsel for Internet law in the Federal Communication Commission's Office of Strategic Planning and Policy Analysis, Washington, DC

“Public universities are increasingly underfunded. In the state of Washington, the University of Washington now receives most of its money from sources other than taxes, effectively privatizing public higher education. Online courses are cheaply scalable and offer a higher return on investment to administrators. One of the consequences of increasing scale is a decrease in individualization and a very sharp increase in the number of group projects. Therefore, the individual's grade increasingly depends on the group's product. Individualization is expensive because it's very labor-intensive. My department can't even afford teaching assistants for a class of nearly 100 students. In sum, yes, higher education will be increasingly online, but decreasingly personalized.” —Natascha Karlova, PhD candidate in information science at the University of Washington; HASTAC Scholar; based in Seattle, Washington

“The best university learning experiences will still involve face-to-face tutorials. Traditional lectures may be a good candidate for distance learning. Students have always been skeptical of the value of the “biological photocopier” approach to learning. They now expect course material to be online, and many lecturers do this as a matter of course, in addition to things such as Khan Academy. The United Kingdom’s Open University has been doing distance learning for many years now. With the increasing costs of higher education, a two-tier system might evolve, with only the more expensive universities offering more personal teaching.” —Z. Sroczynski, software engineer at ION Geophysical; based in Edinburgh, United Kingdom

“We already see the second option. Individualized learning approaches where students are guided rather than directed do seem to be more effective. Costs will be a significant factor driving change. It can be more efficient to offer more instruction online and to allow students to be more self-directed. It will be increasingly difficult for students to travel to colleges and universities; it will probably be more effective to have distributed face-to-face learning clusters that receive some instruction locally and directly, and other instruction via network communication—consistent with the hybrid approach you mention.” —Jon Lebkowsky, Internet pioneer and principal at Polycot Associates LLC; consultant and developer for mission-driven nonprofits and socially responsible companies; president of the Electronic Frontier Foundation-Austin; based in Austin, Texas

“Already we can see the education system changing rapidly, and it will continue to do so. I do believe that a 'personalized education system' will help us develop some exceptional talent in the future. As it stands, I don't have much regard for assessing a potential employee solely on academic performance—over the years I have learned that ground realities are very different—the best student does not make the best employee. And this is where I see the value of a customized education system, which identifies and develops specific skills in a person. Of course, I would also want the system to be such that the person gets exposure to the world at large, as well, so balance is also key.” —Rajnesh Singh, regional director, Asia, for the Internet Society; founder or co-founder of multiple companies; based in Singapore

“Higher education in 2020 will be quite different than it was even ten years ago. As it is still in transition, there is a mélange of approaches being tried—some are already established, many others are experimental. The changes are starting to go far beyond mere communications adaptations. Leading institutions are becoming global, and many classes are not geographically based. Some are also moving beyond scheduled meeting times, thus making teleconferencing approaches somewhat dated. Some classes are becoming continuous in there content and teaching is divided among teachers, other students, and people already in the productive economy. Gaming technologies have also become important elements throughout all levels of education.” —Charles Perrottet, partner at the Futures Strategy Group; author, speaker, and a leader on the Millennium Project Planning Committee; based in Glastonbury, Connecticut

“Change in higher education, as they say, is like turning an aircraft carrier. In eight or nine years we will continue to see incremental changes in those directions, but not the more radical transformations described.” —Richard Holeton, director, academic computing services, Stanford University Libraries; co-leader, EDUCAUSE Learning Space Design Constituent Group; author of Cyberspace: Identity, Community, and Knowledge in the Electronic Age; based in Stanford, California

“The economic reasons will determine much of the destiny of higher education. Traditional face-to-face higher education will become a privilege of a few, and there will be demand for global standardization of some fields of education which also will lower the level in many cases.” —Tapio Varis, professor emeritus at the University of Tampere; principal research associate with UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); based in Helsinki, Finland

“Universities are already starting to move towards scenario number two. It is a competitive industry. If the university cannot provide the student with the courses/topics of their choice using real-world/real-time examples, that student will go elsewhere. This type of choice and up-to-date educational options can only be offered using the rich technologies that are now emerging.” —Darlene Thompson, program administrator at N-CAP, a non-profit corporation that encourages the use of ICTs in Canada's remote north; participant in ICANN secretariat, NARALO; based in Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada

“The evolution of higher education might best be measured along a geologic timeframe than mere years or decades. As a former college professor in Silicon Valley (before it was called that), I've seen new technologies emerge which promise to evolve higher education. In the 1970s, we talked about the exciting promises of distance learning and on-campus technology, only to meet the inertia of the administration and educators, as well as students. Certainly, education continues to evolve. However, expecting a dramatic change by 2020 may be bit sensationalistic.” —Dan Ness, principal research analyst at MetaFacts, producers of the Technology User Profile, now in its twenty-ninth year; based in Encinitas, California

“As an evangelist for technology for the last thirty-plus years (I got my first grant to write educational software from Apple in 1979), I hope fervently that this more positive scenario will happen. There are glimmers of hope. The iPad, for example, is so easy to use that teachers are actually tripping over better ways to use it in spite of themselves. While neither the iPad nor any device is the silver bullet that can save education, the technology is actually becoming just easy enough to use now that teachers can't deny it on all levels of education. They are actually seeing the proverbial handwriting on the digital device. As a parent of a child with dyslexia, this advance can't happen soon enough for our purposes.” —Diane Kendall, editor at Children's Software Press; primary columnist for Power to Learn, part of Cablevision; based in Houston, Texas

“When I began my master’s degree program, it was clear that there had been a dramatic shift in the process of higher education since I graduated from law school. Nearly all students take notes in class using a laptop. Our instructor's PowerPoint lecture notes are posted in an online message board. Exams are nearly always taken over the computer at any time during a five-day period. All assignments are submitted online. (My university, like many, uses Moodle.) During lectures, students will Google additional information on the topic (for example, the latest statistics on video gaming addition) and often will purchase the e-book version of a resource suggested by the teacher. Between Google Books and other online libraries, it is possible for any student to do the type of high-level research that could only be done at the major universities a decade ago. I can sit in my living room at 2 a.m. and access both the latest research and classic works in my field. In my profession, it's doubtful there will ever be ‘customized’ graduation outcomes because of the licensure requirements, but clearly the Internet makes it possible to design custom learning experiences.” —Marcia Richards Suelzer, senior writer and analyst at Wolters Kluwer, an international information provider; based in Riverwoods, Illinois

“It's really a mix. The main driver here—as is already apparent in Florida's schools—is not the quality of education, but the cost, and that's what makes this future frightening.” —Peter Mitchell, chief creative officer at Salter-Mitchell, a company that builds behavior-change programs, relying heavily on inventing digital products; based in Alexandria, Virginia

“While universities will increase the ability for students to participate electronically, there will still be a primary emphasis on physical, in-person attendance. The biggest change will be the enhancements to connect relevant peers from around the world to the discussions that are taking place in person. Technology will also push universities to become more open-source, have more public livestreaming (with comments) of many classes, offer the ability to enhance collaboration and enhance written work by crowdsourcing will become much more accepted. The work that New York University has done with the Free People's University, combined with its global network university (now with campuses in Abu Dhabi and soon in Shanghai), are perhaps the best manifestation of the future of higher education: seamlessly global in-person and online and constantly multiplatform.” —David D. Burstein, founder of Generation18, a youth-run voter-engagement organization; author of FastFuture: How the Millennial Generation is Remaking Our World; commentator on millennials, social innovation, and politics; a senior at New York University 

“Higher education is already heading for a crisis. Economic and social strains could pull it apart even if there were no communication and information revolution. Higher education is today where newspapers were in the late 1990s: overly optimistic about their ability to weather or benefit from a fundamental change in the way people learn. They'll do their best to change, but most current institutions of higher education are not going to be able to adapt.” —Barry Parr, owner and analyst for MediaSavvy; editor and publisher at; based in Montara, California

“Paragraph two describes a Leap Frog University, which is the trend.” —Janet D. Cohen, self-employed futurist, writer and Internet specialist; assignments include work for World Future Society publication, World Future Review; based in Minneapolis, Minnesota

“There is a need for speed, and fortunately we've got it. Universities are quickly adapting content delivery modes from all face-to-face to using free online modalities, like Facebook groups, Twitter hashtags and Google+ circles. Not only does it allow higher education to change from costly on-site installations of software (and subsequent upgrades), it allows students to use familiar tools to explore the unfamiliar. Individualized learner outcomes exist naturally within the cloud-computing atmosphere, as students choose their level of commitment and involvement in the group. Should they need to re-visit comments, webinars, etc., they are able to do so at their own time. Students will quickly self-select times they learn best, rather than artificial ‘class-times’ set by a rigid scheduling need. And really, isn't that what education is all about?” —Cyndy Woods-Wilson, high school teacher in Flagstaff, Arizona; adjunct faculty member at Rio Salado Community College in Tempe, Arizona; content manager for the LinkedIn group “Higher Education Teaching & Learning (HETL)”

“Universities move as fast as brontosauruses. Nine years time is insufficient for most universities to adopt the new technologies in sufficient scale to make much difference either way. In addition, since professors at leading universities are rewarded on research, not teaching, there is little incentive to learn new technologies and introduce them to the classroom.” —Glenn Omura, associate professor of marketing at Michigan State University, based in East Lansing, Michigan

“Requirements for graduation will be significantly shifted to customized (profitable) outcomes.” —Pat McKenna, president at MojoWeb Productions LLC; teacher of web design, principles of e-marketing, and social media for small businesses at Waukesha County Technical College in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

“It will boil down to economics. Online, hybrid classes are less expensive to produce, so they are inevitable.” —Ron Smith, bridge coordinator at Helen Bernstein High School in the Los Angeles Unified School District; based in Hollywood, California

“Additionally, there may be transitions to non-university education, which would be sponsored by industry groups on their own campuses and in their own learning environments.” —Jeanne Brittingham, principal at Brittingham Associates; former consultant for USDA, USEPA; based in Tryon, North Carolina

“Although the technology will advance and be available to most colleges and universities, in 2020, the on-campus learning experience will still dominate the higher education scene. Some courses and student populations—those with full-time jobs, for instance—lend themselves to taking the ‘hybrid’ classes. But on-campus living and learning experiences among undergraduates creates a bond with the university or college that smart administrators know will be valuable for future fundraising, if nothing else.” —Lisa E. Phillips, senior research analyst at eMarketer, Inc., based in New York City

“With the evolution and expansion of broadband connectivity, higher education options will expand greatly for people who will make use of distance learning at the collegiate level. This could well be a boon for expanding the choices for continuing education and provide specialized resources not currently available from first class institutions. I also think curricula will expand in dramatic ways. Hopefully the costs of tuition will become more affordable.” —Martha Adams, independent freelance writer, editor, journalist, poet, photographer, Internet activist and blogger, Toledo, Ohio

“Technology will continue to advance into the classroom setting. Major universities will offer more online programs, but there will remain a huge value to the education that continues to have a predominant in-person component. We may see a greater divide along the lines of people with money and people without. The wealthiest and brightest students will predominantly have the in-person education experience. The students with little money and/or less ability will increasingly opt for online programs. This will also be true for working adults and lifelong learners. In-person educational programs will continue to have a high value or status in the job market, although online-only degrees will gain some traction.” —Steven Swimmer, self-employed consultant; previously worked in digital leadership roles for a major broadcast TV network and a major museum; based in Los Angeles, California

“I work with, and there are professors, teachers, and industry people, and we work together to make change. It is not vendor city; it is ideas and thinking about new pedagogy. Punya Mistra of TPACK is a tremendous help in helping us to do the ideational scaffolding. A beginning way of finding out that there can be synergy was a project that united researchers, teachers, industry people and professors called CILT. It was amazing to learn with them, to get various perspectives and ideas, and to not be lost in the mix. There are other outreach groups who do this kind of thing, such as the EOT group, that is from Supercomputing. They create wonderful bridging activities and broadening engagement. We, for example, took teachers, students and professors to learn about computational thinking in a project. Think of a researcher from Supercomputing, a teacher, an online activist and other educators of note. We put together initiatives and come together in various conferences and venues. It is amazingly different from the old single silo. Higher education will change for the better. A good example is that a group I am working with in the same kind of mix is thinking about Digital Citizenship and wanting to involve pre-service, in-service teachers. Or digital fabrication is an effort in Virginia that comes from the universities and works with the learning communities in the state. Exciting things will happen.” —Bonnie Bracey Sutton, technology advocate at the PowerofUS Foundation; an international education consultant who has done work for the George Lucas Education Foundation and as a volunteer; based in Washington, DC

“People in education have been touting distance learning for many years, and we still don't see widespread adoption of the technology. Besides which, resources for massive changes in technology will be limited over the next three to five years, and higher education has unions, tenure, etc., to deal with. I believe that education will be enhanced by technology but that it will be difficult in the near future to replace the quality of interactive learning that comes from a live individual.” —Julia Takahashi, editor and publisher at; based in Santa Fe, New Mexico

“Higher education doesn't change that quickly. That type of massive paradigm change will require some serious thought and debate—it wouldn't happen before 2040 at the earliest.” —Tom Rule, an educator, technology consultant, and musician based in Macon, Georgia

“In 2020, higher education will likely adopt a hybrid classroom, but there will still be an option for people to take courses in brick-and-mortar facilities. As technology advances and the economy shifts, people will have access to a great education while gaining work experience that may otherwise be prevented due to a daily workload of courses. It will also make it even more convenient to access schools and professors from any where in the world and not isolate students to their campuses. I completed my undergrad in a traditional university, but I completed my master’s degree in a hybrid program. The hybrid program has provided me with more worldly education in a short period of time over that of the traditional undergraduate program.” —Elliot S. Volkman, online community manager and social media manager, Play This Media; a communications and marketing consultant; start-up founder at Bigfoot Careers; based in Falls Church, Virginia

“Learning and recall is enhanced by students communicating information out loud, according to educational psychology research. While some online students may talk aloud while they do online assignments, this does not seem likely because of social sanctions against talking ‘to oneself.’ Those students who take completely online courses will likely remember what they learn as well as hybrid or traditional class participants. Anecdotal information supports the notion that many students like the social contact of meeting face-to-face, so hybrid courses may be as far as most universities extend into online education. Universities current forays into hybrid formats suggest that meeting 50% in seat time is likely to be the dominant educational format. Traditional lectures, however, are not as likely to prevail as a higher proportion of in-class group work, complementing briefer lectures. This is because of the social needs of students coupled with the higher educational performance that results from collaborative learning, and the shift in the job market toward more collaboration. Requirements, however, for degree programs can be expected to be more similar to current standards than different from them.” —James A. Danowski, professor of communication, Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois; co-editor of Handbook of Communication and Technology; program planner for European Intelligence and Security Informatics 2011 and Open-Source Intelligence and Web Mining, 2011 

“Like Malraux's Museum Without Walls, universities must continue to break down their physical campuses into virtual classrooms. The notion of learning as training that prepares youth for an adult career, education as an endeavor to be pursued in the first quarter or third of one's life, will evolve by 2020 to the necessity of lifelong learning. Educational partnerships will make learning institutions look like multi-logo soccer uniforms, with Harvard-IBM classes or MIT-Apple seminars, as the demands of global competition ramp up the need to innovate and rapidly bring products and solutions to market.” —Barry Chudakov, principal at Metalife Consulting and a visiting research fellow in the McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology, University of Toronto; based in Winter Park, Florida

“Universities are incredibly conservative when it comes to teaching. The state-funded universities in my country, Denmark, are all trying to squeeze money out of their teaching efforts with methods such as less counseling, shorter semesters, bigger classes, cheaper exam forms, etc. The pathetic online learning environments we have at our disposal (Sitescape, Blackboard, etc.) only make matters worse. They are, in essence, merely multiple-trajectory hypodermic needles. Students embrace Facebook, Dropbox, and Google Docs to escape the grim boredom of our Web-based learning tools.” —Charlie Breindahl, part-time lecturer, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen Business School, Danish Centre for Design Research, Copenhagen, Denmark

“It would be absolutely ideal to determine the accomplishment of these rich goals, far-reaching in numbers of students and overall educational accomplishments. Currently in the decade of the 2010's there are many universities that offer distance learning through the doctoral level. There are now world conferences being held to share open-source online education software. Ghana, West Africa has become a passion of mine that is as yet an ‘unrequited love.’ While there are areas in the northern section of the country that are very underdeveloped that have no Internet infrastructure, there is in existence mobile phone service. With a teaching station anywhere in the world, I can utilize touch screen technology to teach the illiterates how to read and write. But even more so, I can build a curriculum that has picture apps that can teach them how to become self-employed with micro businesses and so forth. Assessments of learning can readily be adaptable to every culture, learning skill-set, language, age.” —Robert F. Lutes, founder and executive director the non-profit Valley Housing And Economic Development Corporation; its newest project is developing a distance-learning project in Ghana; based in Fresno, California

“The era of super-specialized education is upon us. All learning will soon be online. Guided learning by talented professionals will be part of this revolution. Universities will have to repackage themselves when all knowledge is available free or by subscription. Skill practicing or gaining mastery by repetition will be the new ‘school,’ whether tying thousands of operating room sutures, flicking in a hockey goal, or the 10,000 repetitions required for mastery in some disciplines. Online guidance and self-practice for many of these things will bring test centers to demonstrate mastery of the sequence of skills required for many work or, increasingly, leisure activities as the need for a job diminishes.” —Alan Bachers, director of the Neurofeedback Foundation, a non-profit organization based in Northampton, Massachusetts

“The private science and technology university in which I teach has been slow to embrace these technologies, primarily due to the outlays involved. Western teachers like myself do want to go forward on this, but too few of our Taiwanese peers are willing to do so, despite our being located within a few kilometers of Taiwan's Silicon Valley. Most homes of students do have computers, which students do use. Having taught Internet English, I do see students willing to use the Internet more, but they need to be led. Schools need to be willing to invest more in these technologies, and there needs to be more scrutiny of program capabilities prior to purchasing a yearly license.” —Stephen Hoover, lecturer at Minghsin University of Science and Technology, Taiwan; lives in Chunan, Taiwan, and works in Hsinchu, Taiwan

“Years ago I read a book titled The Greening of America and was impressed with possibilities. That time is now here, and it's for the good. The technology gives students access to the best educators and information. If the technology allows students to find others who are taking the same courses and who are in close proximity so they can meet and discuss subjects, it would be great. In my traditional college days meeting with fellow engineering students to kick concepts and ideas around was very helpful.” —Nickolas T. Fasciano, founder and principal, InfoTech Solutions LLC; previously worked with IBM; based in Atlanta, Georgia

“Universities offer two key conditions that mitigate the traditional model. First, young people much prefer to get away from their old environs while they finish their development. Finding your new self is always easier in a new place. Second, many fields of study are quite dependent on complicated equipment and supplies that are expensive to operate, store, and maintain. Only a setting like a college can realize the economies of scale that make education in engineering, medicine, chemistry, biology, and many other disciplines possible.” —Stephen Masiclat, associate professor of communications, Syracuse University; based in Syracuse, New York

“I foresee many of the changes offered above in the second scenario, in part because a number of those have developed already: technological innovations, hybrid and more active learning, etc. 2020 will be too soon for widespread changes such as the customization of requirements for graduation. Higher education institutions, as a whole, do not change their administrative structures that quickly, and education will not have recovered from the negative effects of a decade of No Child Left Behind policy in trying to reduce learning to being quantified and homogenized. The transitions to technological advances in the delivery of classes will continue, and I look forward eventually to a future that does value individually oriented outcomes.” —Emily Rogers, university reference and instruction librarian, based in Valdosta, Georgia

“Classes with no physical barriers will be a regular way to establish and maintain a more expansive and binding student-tutor relationship. More intercultural groups of students will work together on common projects and research. This will enliven the process of new-knowledge acquisition.” —Marta Lucía Restrepo, associate professor, University of Bergen, Norway

“This is where the Internet can really excel: the provision of targeted, self-paced instruction and interaction. In an era of rising energy and fuel costs, it makes great sense to shift certain activities online; the exciting thing is that efficiency here does not demand a cookie-cutter approach, but rather makes individualized education more possible.” —Karen Hilyard, assistant professor of health communication at the University of Georgia College of Public Health; based in Athens, Georgia

“Education in 2020 will probably migrate, and assessment of learning will take into account more individually oriented outcomes and capacities that are relevant to subject mastery. The positives are obvious in that students' educational experiences will be customized to their respective capacities and reachable outcomes. The negatives are that society does not function that way. In other words, most workplaces will probably function according to existing principles of required outcomes by a certain deadline, regardless of worker's preference and capacities. Hence, unless the principles organizing the workplace change radically to match those existing in the university of the future, graduating students will find it hard to adjust to the workplace—especially given the negative social psychological outcomes discussed in question one.” —Simon Gottschalk, professor in the department of sociology at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas

“By 2020, we will have witnessed the great shakeout of for-profit colleges—very few will survive. Non-profit colleges and universities will show that they are focused on more than profit and losses; they will focus on improving learning in a variety of ways at many locations to different learners. We have learned from the Great Recession that the unemployment problem will not go away with more stimulus money being pumped into the economy; it will take massive retraining of the unemployed, so they can meet the demands of the new 2020 world.” —Ed Kelly, retired community college teacher; based in Newton, Massachusetts

“Change is happening but at a slower pace than suggested. Still I picked the second alternative as more likely than the first.” —Richard N. Zare, professor in the department of chemistry at Stanford University; based in Stanford, California

“There will be at least two modes of higher education: the ‘traditional, smaller-community, face-to-face experience’ and the ‘distance, large/mass-market, self-paced, experience.’ The one will be personal and distinctly interactive, expensive, and tailored, the other more affordable and based on wide distribution of common-denominator content. Yes, there are going to be hybrids, but there will be two dominant models. Education in the traditional model is highly desirable for a number of reasons, not all related to course content. The primary constraint is that it is labor-intensive and expensive. Technology can help distribute content well beyond a single classroom, but individually oriented outcomes take time to develop, implement, and assess. Getting individually oriented outcomes in the distance/mass market model will be highly dependent on the individual, much more than a university and its faculty.” —Heywood Sloane, principal at CogniPower, a consulting business; based in Wayne, Pennsylvania

“As a university professor I am diligently working to support the possibilities of scenario two. I have been utilizing online Web 2.0 tools for my classes, and I am networked with the campus leaders who are developing the tools. However, change is excruciatingly slow in academe, and there are many professors who have no interest, incentive, or motivation to use the tools. Eight years is a very short cycle in academe, but as international competition heats up with countries like China and India building out universities without walls, university leaders may feel more pressure to put resources into developing new pedagogies and platforms to accelerate scenario two.” —Suzanne England, professor of social work, New York University, New York City

“Higher Education in 2020 will be highly Internet-based. The downside will be fewer brick-and-mortar schools and classroom teachers. Graduation requirements will be tailored, project-based learning, which includes educational institutions.” —Dwayne Thompson, content strategist, a respondent who chose not to share further identifying information

“I opted for the first choice because unfortunately I don't think educational institutions are capable of changing this fast—2020 is only nine years away, after all. However, we will see shifts to scenario two taking place, I just think the timeframes are too short. I agree a hybrid situation is the most likely outcome.” —Vanessa Clark, marketing director for Mobiflock and Twokats Communications and freelance journalist; Cape Town, South Africa

“Education will have to change because the technology will require that it do so. These changes will not only need to take place in higher education but all the way down to the elementary grades—kids are more sophisticated and more tech-oriented with each year. By 2020, if education is unchanged they will have a hard time filling seats. I am not saying that children should be expected to design their own education program as they will in higher education, and they need the social aspect of traditional education, but what and how they are taught will be much different.” —Greg Wilson, a marketing and public relations consultant who provides organizational change management and service/execution process development services; based in Los Angeles, California

“At a point undetermined in the future, technology and teaching will cross paths to where more customized, less linear learning will be probable, even though now it is possible. The probability depends on a number of factors being surmounted: One, the sheer size of the student population. With seven billion people worldwide now, and growing, and increasing emphasis on the perceived need for a university education, the magnitude of managing the learning process will be challenging. Second, universities, despite their reputation as centers of learning, are tradition-bound and risk-averse—two factors determined by funding needs and the interests providing that funding. Eventually, the irresistible force of technology will overcome the immovable object of tradition. Eventually. The troubling concern and the one that may prove the biggest question is the free associative, non-linear, unstructured approach to information gathering, which I cited in the previous response.” —Michael Castengera, senior lecturer at the Grady College of Journalism, 26 University of Georgia, and president at Media Strategies and Tactics, Inc.; based in Athens, Georgia

“The move to hybrid has already taken hold and will increase because it allows for greater access. Customized assessment is unlikely. There is still a general sense in most university faculties that there are certain foundational elements that must be addressed in a high-quality educational experience. There is more agreement about what must be learned than about modes of delivery. Faculty members are embracing new technology for teaching but have not fundamentally changed what they are teaching. Requirements for graduation will change more slowly.” —Joan Lorden, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, University of North Carolina-Charlotte

“The future lies somewhere between these two. Undergraduates are already moving away from paper-based sources to mostly Internet and “’working from home’—or from a cafe or wherever they can get Wi-Fi working. There will be mass adoption of one-to-one or one-to-few instant messaging or SNS-based distance learning. Always-on Web cams will enable people to act as if sharing the same space/place during lecture times. No doubt information about time spent online, attending online lectures, number and credibility of sources, and so on can be tracked (as today school children are tracked around their classroom attendance). The negative aspects of this are that it will disadvantage the digitally poor/illiterate and reduce group/team work opportunities. There may be some human rights/freedom of information issues from some sources.” —Jane Vincent, visiting faculty fellow, University of Surrey Digital World Research Centre; expert on emotions in social practices of ICT users; also an expert in mobile communications industry since 1984; based in Surrey, United Kingdom

“I will lean on the positive side of this, even though academe is very change-resistant. Resource pressures will force many of these changes. The issue is will these changes be based on expediency and poorly designed assessment practices forced down from above or a holistic bottom-up adoption based on current pedagogical research? It is ironic that ‘research’ institutions and researchers seem happy to ignore the research on teaching, learning, and the affordances of new technology.” —Ted M. Coopman, lecturer, department of communication studies, San Jose State University; member of the executive committee, Association of Internet Researchers; lives in Santa Cruz, California, and works in San Jose, California

“The way the US education system has performed thus far, it seems unlikely that such a huge shift will happen in just nine years.” —Lucretia Walker-Skinner, quality improvement associate with Project Hospitality, a non-profit organization based in Staten Island, New York

“We are already seeing this beginning to happen. Universities will need to cut costs significantly if middle-class kids will be able to afford it. Moving to a mix of in-person and mediated instruction is a trajectory we're already seeing.” —Valerie Bock, technical services lead at Q2Learning, LLC and VCB Consulting; based in Decatur, Illinois

“Higher education will not even need all the buildings they are constructing because it will all be Walmart University. The best professors, based on someone's criteria (I cannot yet specify) will be identified, recorded, perhaps have some enhancements, and then catalogued, and everyone can take those courses for their degree. I fear that everyone will get the same degree as this replaces high school, and perhaps the advanced education will eliminate courses such as liberal arts and focus on the technical aspects of a select few majors. I think most courses will be online with video/audio, and maybe writing will be minimal. It is possible that 2020 brings the move to hybrid and that my scenario is, say, 2040.” —Michel A. Coconis, assistant professor of social work at Wright State University; advocate and activist; lives in Columbus, Ohio, and works in Dayton, Ohio

“As a teacher in higher education, I see the benefits of technology, which I use in my classroom, but I have also noticed the importance of face-to-face interaction. While some classes might be held primarily online, there is something to be said for offline contact as well. I don't think that things will evolve to the point where teleconferencing and distance learning are the norm.” —Erica Johnson, assistant lecturer at the Universite Paris-Est Creteil; based in Creteil, France

“If the world's economy collapses, cost efficiency will become the model of choice, and 18-year-olds may have to work just to eat. Blended learning models will be prominent due to work schedules and learning preferences. No longer will families be able to afford the luxury of a four-year BA party. In addition, the generation will see that those who have success are those who work and learn on the job. My son is 27, owns his own programming business, and states he ‘will never hire anyone with a degree who's been within walls for four years.’ By the time universities get their programs planned, accredited, and approved, the industry has changed. Universities must learn to quickly adapt to the needs of the workforce, and in reality, Ivy walls are not quick to adapt.” —Paige Jaeger adjunct instructor at the State University of New York-Albany; based in Saratoga Springs, New York

“Most universities will not have the capacity to make the changes you envision in this scenario by 2020; however, I do see this as a future direction. I do think higher education will look different than it does today. It has to. And the change driver will not be demand or technology. It will be economics and diminishing pool of applicants.” —Rebecca Bernstein, digital strategist, University at Buffalo-The State University of New York.

“While new technologies will help create dynamic and interactive classes, the need to contact ‘teacher–student’ will not be replaced, but it will increase the bond obtained from better training of those who decide to make a college education.” —Daniel Farrari, system analyst, a respondent who chose not to share further identifying information

“As much as we might want to envision higher education in 2020 as grabbing hold of digital communications and social interaction to yield a new, more meaningful environment, it will not. The is a reason why higher education facilities are called ‘institutions.’ Like the marble on the steps of the Supreme Court, the process of higher education will never move away from the core elements that drive it, in-person, on-campus attendance of students in traditional or hybrid lectures. There is a real concern in higher education with the ability to truly assess the effectiveness of distance learning. Most studies suggest that in-person, on-campus education with faculty and student interaction is more effective.” —Stephen Schur, director of online communication at Ramapo College of New Jersey; co-founder of the New Jersey Higher Education Webmaster group; lives in Shawnee on Delaware, Pennsylvania, and works in Mahwah, New Jersey

“These are very interesting scenarios to me, as I teach as an adjunct instructor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The reality will fall somewhere in between the scenarios. I think there will still be in-person and on-campus attendance—but driven by the students as much as by the universities. The courses I teach are online courses for both residential grad students and working professionals getting an advanced degree. While class members like the convenience of studying when and where they want through technology, there is still a strong desire to be able to meet in person, at least occasionally. While there may be some trend toward more individually oriented outcomes, I think graduate and professional degree programs will still have ‘mass’ requirements because there are defined bodies of knowledge and experience that need to be conveyed to newly minted professionals.” —Mike Newton-Ward, social marketing consultant for the North Carolina Division of Public Health; based in Raleigh, North Carolina

“Money is driving the online education. Administrators are convinced that it is more cost-effective. However, little has been done to encourage a work-flow compensation for creating online courses, proctoring them, and supporting the students who are not learning in the same way. My teaching philosophy is that we all learn differently and it is the teacher who must figure out how the student learns to be able to teach the material, whether it is visual, audible, hands on, whatever. I give diagnostic tests at the beginning of a class to gather as much information on how my students learn. Then I apply a variety of teaching methods during the semester so that the outcome for each student will be closer to mastering the material. Some students need the face-to-face interaction to get the most out of the learning process. I use a lot of technology in my classroom, but I am not convinced that they can learn from online and from technology at the same rate.” —Leara Rhodes, associate professor of journalism and international communications at the University of Georgia; based in Athens, Georgia

“What happens to the experience of higher education will vary greatly depending on the discipline. While we have new media tools for learning about surgery, for example, this will not negate the need to actually practice in non-virtual ways. However, many other subjects lend themselves greatly to hybrid or fully online models and significantly increase the diversity of students that can be accommodated. When people can fit higher education into their working and personal lives in customized ways, we can all benefit from the participation of people with a more diverse range of life experiences related to our disciplines.  Museums, as institutions of lifelong learning, have been grappling with these issues for over a decade. What is the most appropriate way to further a museum's mission when it has traditionally been based on physical collections and buildings? Museums can be an interesting model for higher education in balancing real-world and online experiences to give people a wider range of contact points with an institution—incorporating webcasts, online chats, virtual tours, video and question-and-answer opportunities with experts, subscription models, etc. In fact, many new media tools allow museums to expand their educational opportunities in ways that would never be possible in non-virtual situations. For example, bringing the world behind the scenes in our conservation labs or providing super high-resolution images for viewing artifacts more closely than one ever could in an exhibition, with an artifact behind glass.” —Dana Allen-Greil, chief of digital outreach and engagement, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC

“While I would like to believe the alternative view of the future, unfortunately, I think that colleges will not adapt to more rapid, on-target learning that quickly. We don't all need a degree in one major when most of us will change professions many times in our lives. It makes more sense to train for the jobs that are in demand and adapt as it becomes necessary. Colleges have shown that they are slow to change the status quo.” —Lee Hurd, senior user-experience designer for the State of California; based in Sacramento, California

“In the best possible cases (in forward thinking schools), paragraph two will hold true. These places will show the potential for new ways of teaching and learning. I think the vision is correct, but the timeline is off. The real trick for the academy is how to instill the values, ways of thinking, and even ‘sense of humour’ into students so they reflect their institutions’ values as alumni.” —Cyprien Lomas, director at The Learning Centre for Land and Food Systems, University of British Columbia; on the advisory council for the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative “Seven Things You Should Know”; based in Vancouver, Canada

“Higher education is always adopting technology and using it. However, to date, the basic show-up-and-hear-a-lecture has not gone away. In eight years’ time there may be less of ‘traditional’ lectures, but for the most part technology will supplement it, not replace it. In the late 1980s a professor of mine could not attend a scheduled class. He, using a relatively new technology available to the public, he videotaped himself, and we watched at in the classroom at the designated time. Tele-courses have not replaced in-person lectures.” —John T. O'Farrell Jr., vice president for interactive marketing at Pershing LLC, a subsidiary of the Bank of New York Mellon Corporation; based in Jersey City, New Jersey

“Much as I embrace the concept of the distance learning scenario and believe it will happen eventually, the inherent conservatism of higher education will prevent it from being predominant in nine years.” —Nancy Brown, author, a respondent who chose not to share further identifying information

“My gut reaction is that in 2020 higher education is entrenched in its current format. I believe teachers and textbook companies will resist—and even now are resisting—modern technology that could be helping students. When I see iPads and Kindles in every student's backpack instead of fifty pounds worth of textbooks, I'll know there has been a change. When I see every campus completely and speedily wired—or providing wireless—for the Internet, I'll know things have changed. When I see computers in the libraries and assistants helping students navigate to computers and libraries around the globe, I'll know things have changed. I just don't think it will happen by 2020. Maybe 2050.” —Mark J. Franklin, director of computing services and software engineer, Thayer School of Engineering, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire

“Studies show that lectures don't help much. Students learn from engaging with material, and that can be done with a number of digital tools. Already very interesting teaching is done with digital aides, and I think this will spread.” —Anders Fagerjord, professor of media and communication, the University of Oslo; based in Oslo, Norway

“Teaching methods are sure to change, but I doubt assessment tools will follow as quickly. Institutions are eager to get more information at students in more, better ways, but they are hard set in the A-F (most of the time A-D+) grading scales.” —Phillip Herndon, communications strategist for New Media Strategies, a consulting business based in Arlington, Virginia

“It's well established that education is a great equalizer and elevates society has a whole, especially for women and girls. The only way to make education more widely available geographically and socioeconomically is to deliver university-level course work digitally.” —Debbie Donovan, managing partner and marketing in life sciences blogger for eGold Solutions; based in Mountain View, California

“The outcomes described in the second scenario are plausible in the long run, but many are unlikely to be commonplace in 2020. Large institutions evolve slowly, and it is more likely that technologies will be adapted to existing practices than the other way around. I would point out, however, that some of the transformations proposed in the second scenario are already here. Using teleconferencing to involve experts who would not otherwise participate in the classroom is a reality for many, and it is becoming increasingly common. And individualized learning has long been recognized as a hallmark of good pedagogy; many instructors strive to achieve it using whatever technologies are available. We haven't yet found technologies that fundamentally change our ability to do this. There are new tools and news strategies, and that variety is helpful, but they are evolutionary, not revolutionary. I think the hybrid model will be used to help keep the tuition costs down.” —R. Kelly Garrett, assistant professor at The Ohio State University School of Communication; based in Columbus, Ohio

“Forced into greater accountability at the same time as Baby Boomer retirements revitalize the faculties, universities will undergo widespread reformation. Some will refocus professorial metrics from running up publication counts to the profession of teaching and delivering strong educations. Others will engage the community in outreach efforts to make learning more accessible. More universities will follow the MIT and Stanford examples of serving the public with free access to course materials and courses. Expert AIs will assist distance education efforts. There will be increasing corporate involvement in universities, including better communication of the knowledge that is developed and housed there. Research will increasingly be driven out from behind the high-premium-pay walls of academic journals and into the open, where scholars and the public can more easily benefit from federally funded and grant-supported research projects.” —Sean Mead, director of solutions architecture, valuation, and analytics for Mead, Mead & Clark, Interbrand; member of the Internet and Electronic Commerce Committee, 1997-present; lecturer at Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum; based in Dayton, Ohio 

“I really wanted to choose the second option—that higher education will be transformed—but 2020 is too close to achieve massive transformation of the type described. Sadly, we are still in the stage of transferring education from face-to-face to online rather than transforming education. While there are increasing pockets of innovation, this is not pervasive.” —Caroline Haythornthwaite, director and professor at the School of Library, Archival, and Information Studies of the University of British Columbia, based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

“The question of whether higher education will move toward individualized, just-in-time learning is moot; it has already happened and will continue to develop. The question is whether these approaches will prove effective, and for whom. Extreme versions of individualized learning that eliminate the community of students and the effect of a culture of commitment to learning to substitute the lone individual interacting with a remote learning system will be effective for certain credential-based courses but will fail as a method to produce the high levels of creativity and achievement obtained in on-campus, in-person settings.” —Walter Dickie, executive vice president and managing partner, C+R Research; based in Chicago, Illinois

“This trend is well under way and is now impossible to stop. Graduate programs that were fully and only face-to-face classes with traditional teaching are already shifting to online in the majority, with face-to-face meetings as supplementary. Online education is already seen as a way to economize on overheads and expenses, and the overall classroom footprint in many graduate degree programs has already shrunk—and will continue to do so.” —Matt Minahan, consultant in organization design and development; adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University and American University; previously a senior management consultant with The World Bank; based in Silver Spring, Maryland

“I don't see this kind of change in higher education happening so quickly.” —Lawrence Kestenbaum, founder and owner of, a database of U.S. political history from the 1700s to the present; a pioneer in making historical data available online; based in Ann Arbor, Michigan

“I wish that higher education—and lower education!—would go through a revolution in the next ten years, but I don't see it happening. The market for it does not seem to be there. Parents don't want to pay for a university education that they don't recognize. Institutions have no incentive to change the ways they do things. Online education so far has been so full of scams and lies that the very idea of it is completely discredited.” —Tracy Rolling, product user experience evangelist for Nokia, based in Berlin, Germany

“By 2020, we'll see what results from the continuing pressure to contain costs at universities while catering to the career needs of students. Above all, learning will go more high-tech simply because so many people in education, government, and business believe that technology makes kids smarter. The fact that there's no good evidence to support this belief is unlikely to discourage investment in the coming years. Moreover, I am deeply skeptical of the idea that students should all be given tablets or other devices to work with, in the expectation they will be used to study rather than for entertainment or socializing. Of course, tech in the classroom is not the same thing as tech that supports distance learning. Nevertheless, extending a lecture to one or more adjacent rooms is not all that different from extending it to other cities or even countries. The greater cost of the latter will gradually be reduced as bandwidth becomes more plentiful and keeps falling in price, while residential broadband penetration rises. Other cost savings will be realized by moving education off-campus—especially the hard costs associated with facilities to hold classes, dorms, support services, etc. Still other ways to save money will be no less important in Canada, since universities here have to struggle for government funding and face serious barriers to raising tuition fees. For years now, many students in humanities and social sciences have looked on their undergrad degree less as part of a learning cycle than as a step toward finding a job, which was not the case in the good old days. These students tend to have little interest in the idea of scholarship, in reading scholarly articles or interacting with full-time faculty. The divide between research and teaching is undoubtedly reflected in the continuing long-term rise at North American schools in the use of adjunct professors—to save money as well as have instructors available who can adapt more readily to student needs, like teaching evening courses. But whatever their status, instructors who give great lectures will be in demand far and wide, a good outcome for all concerned. On the other hand, I don't believe for a moment that moving some teaching off-campus will result in more individually oriented or customized outcomes. Customizing education is too complicated for large institutions. And if outcomes are made too personal, a perception of bias or unfairness is likely to arise. Universities will have their hands full just trying to confirm that off-campus learners have done the required work, without cheating or relying on third-party assistance.” —David Ellis, director of communication studies, York University, Toronto, and author of the first Canadian book on the roots of the Internet; his blog is titled Life on the Broadband Internet; based in Toronto, Canada

“The human connection in face-to-face settings, where teachers and students can interact in the same physical space and time, will remain primary.” —Linda Keegan, social worker with a mental health concentration in the correctional field who works for a government agency

“Although the spirit of innovation regarding distance learning is willing in 2011, the Net infrastructure, operating systems compatibility, and information-technology talent to make it happen are weak. Can these obvious roadblocks be removed in eight years? The optimist sees long-simmering ideas and initiatives regarding E-learning become commonplace as the university classroom is transformed from a bricks-and-mortar box, fixed and inflexible, into an unbounded virtual universe attuned to learning from all points along a virtual compass. E-content delivery systems are capable and swift, audio and video delivery is vibrant and rich, and instructors are net savvy and responsive to the unique dynamics of virtual classrooms and avatar students. The pessimist surveys the campuses of universities in 2011 and sees aggressive building programs that raise up dormitories, lecture auditoriums, science labs, and the same old not-so-‘smart’ classrooms while ignoring the hiring of local IT talent, significant investments in hard-wired infrastructure, and the development of robust software-hardware systems, all of which are necessary for reliable distance learning. In this scenario, having ever-increasing numbers of students and professors tied to costly campus fixtures remains the more prestigious and most profitable model. Eight years to overcome an entrenched model of higher education procedures and outcomes based primarily on bricks and mortar? Not. Instead, an E-learning model standing outside the established university system shall continue to develop momentum. The degrees and certificates it confers shall become more and more credible to small business and corporate decision makers, who become open to hiring new employees and recruiting young talent trained and educated on the virtual campus. Gradually, mainline bricks-and-mortar institutions will recognize successful E-learning institutions as competitors and seek to co-opt, copy, and perhaps even emulate the virtual system.” —Ebenezer Baldwin Bowles, owner and managing editor of, committed to the non-commercial roots of the Internet and World Wide Web; based in rural Washington County, Arkansas

“Higher education will be a hybrid due mainly to economics and the privileging of ‘science’ over liberal arts, rather than just the role of technology. I see higher education becoming more trade-school-like, with shorter times to graduation and more of an emphasis on ‘how to’ as opposed to theory. (Is this what you mean by 'subject mastery'?) We already see this in graduate schools where executive education programs are financially supporting and often supplanting other programs.” —Anita Salem, human systems researcher at the Naval Postgraduate School; consultant with SalemSystems; based in Santa Cruz, California

“Although I think that the second scenario is most likely, I also think that higher education in 2020 will be considerably more fragmented than it is today, with a small number of high-end institutions providing largely face-to-face, campus-based programs, while a larger number of students will be served by hybrid approaches.” —Robert Renaud, vice president for library and information services and CIO at Dickinson College; member, EDUCAUSE Advanced Core Technologies Initiative Design Group; based in Carlisle, Pennsylvania

“The answer is in-between the binaries. Going to university is more than just taking classes—it is the experience of meeting new people (often a more diverse group than you went to high school with), trying out new clubs/sports/spaces, and generally entering a new environment/space created to provide for learning and exploration. To say that this can happen totally online is very difficult—and I actually did my MS online through video streaming. That said, assessment is constantly evolving, as are requirements for graduation. I cannot imagine universities staying the same—they certainly are not what they were ten years ago. However, the value is still there.” —Liza Potts, assistant professor of digital humanities, Michigan State University; a leader of ACM's SIGDOC; formerly worked as a user-interface program manager for Microsoft in the early 2000s building early web apps for them; based in East Lansing, Michigan

“Today's universities should grow to fulfill their original role as ‘communities of learning’ and, in developing relationships with rural and urban lifelong networked learning, might become new ‘universe-cities.’ There is no university in the United States that is yet teaching/presenting an understanding of the evolving ‘information environment’ within a whole systems ecological framework. Without such an understanding, the digital divide will widen, universities will be contentious and elitist, technology development will be overly stimulated by unsustainable consumerism, and our economic systems will continue to be referred to as ‘the dismal science.’ Universities are critical microcosms and potential leaders for reconsideration of increased corporate and military support for education, especially as mediated by networked technologies and processes. We have a long way to go to more appropriately advocate for use of the word ‘smart.’” —Richard Lowenberg, director, broadband planner 1st-Mile Institute; network activist since early 1970s; prepared State of New Mexico’s Integrated Strategic Broadband Initiative; integrates rural community planning with network initiatives globally; based in Santa Fe, New Mexico

“Higher education's destination by 2020 will remain what it is now, except for the facilities. This will be more apparent in the universities moving in that direction. In-person and on-campus attendance of students will continue to be required. The scenario will not be significantly different from what is available now. However, students’ behavior in terms of their expectations and use of technology in the classrooms will change. They will use more of their own gadgets and technologies. The lecturers will have to be more careful in their delivery.” —G.C. Gupta, professor of cognition and psychology at the University of Delhi; based in Delhi, India

“I doubt education will change much in ten years. Teachers and those with experience will still be a mixture of people who grew up with the Internet and those who learned it as it developed. There will be more resources, and students will likely incorporate Internet devices into classroom settings—like looking up the name of a drug or disease on a smart phone while standing in front of my professor when he asks a question rather than going home and presenting what I learned from a textbook the next day. Tolerance will increase for using computers and other devices in the classroom, but there will likely be some sort of requirement to look things up in books, and lectures can be easily thrown together despite not being an overly effective teaching method. I'd like to see more interactive learning develop through the use of Internet devices and capabilities, but I don't see people being overly creative and suddenly switching the entire educational culture in less than ten years.” —Dana Levin, student specializing in emergency medicine at Drexel University College of Medicine; based in Philadelphia and New York

“Regrettably, higher education, at least in traditional universities, will not change significantly in regard to how classes are taught. I do see them placing more emphasis on unpaid internships that expose them to real-world jobs, and connecting those job experiences in a meaningful way to their education. I see businesses taking on more and more responsibility for lifelong education of workers.” —Prudence Runyan, vice president and group account director for the Agency Inside Harte-Hanks; based in Yardley, Pennsylvania

“The outcome on this is not clear and depends upon the political struggles that are developing today. Will education become atomized and dispersed, or will it retain its connection to the social network it has depended upon? I am optimistic that the university will still need a critical mass of students to achieve its intellectual and social goals. The mission of an education is still to develop well-informed citizens, a task that cannot happen without social interaction.” —Jesse Drew, associate professor of technocultural studies, at the University of California-Davis; based in Davis, California

“2020 is not that far away in terms of the pace at which most existing universities change. The trick in this question is the meaning of ‘most.’ I am at a very selective and traditional university, which is not like most US universities. In this category, face-to-face interaction will continue to be valued and will be treated as a competitive advantage or differentiator, even as technology becomes more common and its uses evolve. Traditional lectures, therefore, will not be as common; they will continue to diminish overall, although for some kinds of classes they will still be in evidence in 2020. Changing requirements for graduation is a collective action problem, so while there may be differentiation among categories, within at least the top-tier categories of university, significant change is not likely. Assessment of learning, while a vexed topic at selective universities, will continue to evolve, and technology will facilitate the assimilation of new approaches, making it easier and more appealing for faculty who start out confident of their abilities to assess to adopt new techniques. Pedagogy that supports more independent learning and more collaboration in learning between students and faculty will grow.” —Marjory S. Blumenthal, associate provost at Georgetown University; adjunct staff officer at RAND Corporation; previously director of the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board of the National Academies; based in Washington, DC

“Students are already using online resources to aid their classroom learning; students of higher education and post-graduates are becoming more and more comfortable with online courses for specialized subjects, if not as a total substitute for classroom learning. Acceptance and adoption of technology would be in a pace as fast as the pace of advances in technology. In a span of nine years, we will find the world of education digitized to such an extent that digital learning components would inextricably merge with the conventional classrooms. There would be greater collaboration in learning across ‘inter-networked classrooms,’ if I may call it so.” —Sivasubramanian Muthusamy, president of the Internet Society-India Chennai; founder and CEO of InternetStudio, a Web development and IT services company; based in Erode, Tamilnadu, India

“It will be closer to the second one, but it will be more diverse than the picture here suggests. Teleconferencing still suggests a fairly traditional structure in a lot of ways and a degree of rigidity. It will evolve along with other technologies. I do not expect teleconferencing nor hybrid classes to look much like they do today.” —Guy Wilson, a history PhD and educational technology specialist at the University of Missouri-Columbia

“Higher education will be quite different from the way it is today, as it was transformed at each emergence of new ideas and technologies—from the invention of language, to the written word, to the book, to the idea of the mind, invention of consumer writing tools, emergence of disciplines. Technology gives us an opportunity to think more deeply and differently about what we do. The best of the colleges and universities can already be described as above in the 2020 scenario. And I think Hal Abelson's original idea of ‘blown to bits’ is entirely relevant here—technologies cut out the middleman. The university is the middleman in many areas, and the provisioning of each of higher education services is becoming distributed, in many cases out of formal education entirely. Higher education needs to transform to take advantage of places where higher education has competitive strength (railroads to communication industries because of right of way—different media for ‘travel’). And technology is a key way to enable those changes. But the major barrier is not technology; it is faculty practice. Technology is a key way to enable transformation—but not without profound changes in institutional and faculty practice. So there is a kind of ‘lip service’ to transformation—as if adding a layer of bolt-on ‘online’ technology to existing practice is really any change. There is something important about deeply traditional institutions in a time of such profound change. We should be talking about this. We need to be thoughtful. The ritual of graduation, with all of the medieval, Renaissance and Reformation trappings and ceremony is an example of where tradition is valuable.” —Vicki Suter, EdD in Educational Technology (Pepperdine University), MBA in MIS and Management Accounting (University of California-Davis)

“The development of the Internet, distance learning, and globalization will affect the structure of the ‘University of the Future.’ Face-to-face teaching will survive, but perhaps closer to where individuals live rather than in a residential university. Distance learning may be an add-on or comprise the whole course. Academic terms will probably disappear, and students will start their courses when and where they wish, sometimes only taking one part of them. Failure in an examination will be an incitement to try again. Most of the educational information will be held electronically, and the learning media will include the Internet, interactive educational software, and electronic communication between student and teacher. Print on paper, though surviving, will not be the major part of the information base. Lecturers will need to change their ways and develop team working to include other professionals in, for example, software development and even project management. This team working will provide a critical analysis of the learning materials at each stage. Quality assurance will become even more demanding than at present. Continuous assessment of the learning process will be the norm and accreditation degrees will be based on competencies. Increasingly, degrees will be self-accredited.” —Ikechukwu John, director of Internet Cyber Café in Abuja, Nigeria

“By 2020, higher education will be quite different from the way it is today. With the development of the new technology, there exist online schools, which you can learn through the Internet, without going to the actual campus or attending in-person meetings. So in the future, people will further more depend on the Internet to finish school and learn things effectively. As some students are faster learners, they don't need spend as much time in the classroom, listening to professors’ lectures as their peers do. Internet schools allow them to make studying more individually oriented and use the time more effectively.” —Anqi Lu, a respondent based in Valparaiso, Indiana, who preferred not to share additional personal information

“A combination of new skill sets among students and pressure to reduce the cost of education will likely lead to these technological innovations. The challenge will be to ensure all students have access to these new educational technologies, both in terms of cost/access, as well as possessing the skill sets to take advantage.” —Michael Zimmer, assistant professor in the school of information studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

“Most universities are painfully slow to change and they hang on to traditional approaches for as long as possible. I think the alternative vision will come to pass, but it's further into the future as a combination of economic forces and the aging out of the older generations brings the current ‘digital natives’ into positions of power in academia.” —Heather Blair, director of curricular technology for Viewpoint School (an independent K-12 school) based in Calabasas, California

“Nine years isn't very long for institutions that run on generational time scales. The continuation of traditional pedagogies has more to do with economics than education. The most rapid learners on the planet these days are software engineers. They've built an environment that facilitates incredibly fast learning. It's characterized by the emergence of pragmatic truths via social filters, a culture of collaboration, and a sense that learning is a public act. I'm guessing that other fields will move in that direction. But that doesn't mean that traditional classrooms fall away. I don't know.” —David Weinberger, senior researcher, Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society and Harvard Library Innovation Lab; based in Cambridge, Massachusetts

“The very concept of what a university is, what academia is, what adult learning is, all of these are changing profoundly. If you think back to the original purposes of universities, what they have been doing recently has pivoted roughly 180 degrees. As with so many other cultural contexts, the online and extended social environments are making it possible to return to earlier priorities. Lawrence Lessig spent a lot of time explaining how this has worked with popular culture, music, and entertainment, but the same factors are at play with education. Degrees are becoming less meaningful than actual demonstrable learning and reputation, much as was true before 1900. Higher education is a misnomer. Adult learning needs to shift away from physical centers of learning such as current university structures and more toward distributed learning nodes based on either geographic accessibility (e.g. community colleges or localized learning networks) or topical shared interests (such as FQXi, the social network for advanced particle physics, which has proven influential in the field).” —P.F. Anderson, emerging technologies librarian, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Michigan

“As our population understands more about the possibilities of online communication and the richness of it, it will catch more and more. The early adopters of this learning medium discover the richness of having instructors, guest and students from all over the world at a very reasonable enrollment cost. In the future, the students will be older and bring experience from their life into the classrooms, and through this experience (culture), the subjects are covered from many more angles than a PowerPoint slide can depict.” —Keith Davis, team lead for the S6 Community of Purpose - working on a knowledge management initiative for the Signal Center of Excellence - RLM Communications - Military Communications Expert Organization, US Army; based in Grovetown, Georgia

“I am not an educator, but I sense that the higher education system will become more bifurcated. Traditional, in-person colleges and universities provide many benefits beyond the classroom, but these institutions are expensive to operate.  Therefore, these experiences will become less available over time, contributing to elite communities whose members still have access to the traditional university setting. The hybrid model will explode for those who cannot gain access to traditional higher education and for those seeking to continue education throughout their work life. Given the entrenched systems that govern most higher education, change will be more gradual than the technology would otherwise allow.” —Nancy Callahan, senior director, mobility, for a SAAS enterprise solutions provider; 25 years experience in business management, product development, risk management of information services; certified information privacy professional; based in New York City

“Because mobile and digital technology allows for so many different educational approaches, it makes sense that education will fragment further to reflect people's needs and the bottom line. While a bulk of students may still opt for in-person, synchronized learning, returning and working students will continue to push the envelope in terms of demanding and utilizing asynchronous learning platforms. Such platforms are also tailor-made for an era in which higher education is increasingly being defunded or privatized. Whether this is to the detriment of students remains to be seen.” —Jessica Clark, media strategist, for the Association of Independents in Radio; senior fellow, Center for Social Media, American University; media policy fellow, New America Foundation; based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

“What will be interesting to watch, primarily in the context of undergraduate education, is the potential for change in pedagogical focus, which reflects the role of physical/interpersonal education and fact-centered learning vs. process-centered learning. The increasing availability of ‘rote’ topical learning online is likely to simply rebalance the existing relationship in educational systems between learning subjects, learning ‘how to learn’ and think, and/or participating in socializing constructs as students transition from children to adults. Among adult learners and returning students, we may finally see the long-awaited rise of the more custom-tailored learning experience, where each individual's experience and learning needs are able to be targeted through more granular, less prescriptive learning content.” —Duane Degler, principal consultant, Design for Context; designer of large-scale search facilities and interactive applications for clients such as the National Archives, the Social Security Administration, and Verisign; based in Washington, DC

“The future will look more like scenario two, which has been put forward often and articulately by John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid, and by Richard Lanham, in his Economics of Attention (particularly in the chapter carrying out a ‘virtual audit’ of the bricks-and-mortar university). Elite global universities like Oxford, Cambridge, MIT, Princeton, McGill, ETH Zurich, University of Edinburgh will continue to draw students to their campuses for the experience, the facilities, and the access to top-flight researchers and peers. But largely due to costs, the trend toward on-campus college attendance is likely to stall and then reverse, as people see greater economic value in online alternatives (or, put another way, as conventional colleges and universities price themselves out of the market). The old pedagogical approaches cannot simply be grafted onto the new, online arena. For example, I am currently taking the Stanford University AI course, which has drawn 130,000 or so students. I also have explored the MIT Open Course offerings, and have subjected myself to occasional online lectures. None of these experiences even begins to tap into the potential afforded by the Internet; instead, they graft the old ‘stand-and-deliver’ pedagogy onto a new medium. In my graduate teaching practicum for English Composition this semester, we read Lanham's virtual audit and the piece elicited the most heated blog posts and discussions of the semester so far. Some students had experience working for online universities and excoriated them for being profit-driven and unconcerned about ‘true’ education. A couple, hailing from rural backgrounds, had themselves taken distance classes that gave them access to material and teachers whose quality far surpassed what was accessible to them in their ‘real’ schools; accordingly, they had may good things to say about online education. Others lamented the loss of one-on-one or face-to-face interactions with teachers and peers; others pointed to their own experience in our course, where it was easier to engage in the group discussion via a blog post, because they were nervous to speak out in our sometimes-raucous class sessions. These conversations led to extensive contemplation of the ‘point’ of education, and what was clear was that old paradigms about the humanistic enterprise are simultaneously upended and bolstered by the Internet and social media. Indeed, it is possible to broaden the higher educational brief significantly—to enhance so-called professional or vocational training at the same time as one enhances humanistic preparation. In effect, I would make a different argument from Matthew Crawford in Shop Class as Soulcraft: More people who seek vocational training could find it in online settings, at a higher level than currently available, were universities to expand their mission, and more people could be exposed to humanistic traditions were the conventional general education requirements to go by the boards (and nowadays, frankly, such requirements are more about ensuring that tenured faculty have sufficient students to merit their presence on campus than about any genuine commitment to the enkyklios paideia).” —Gina Maranto, co-director for ecosystem science and policy and coordinator, graduate program in environmental science and policy at the University of Miami; based in Miami Beach and Coral Gables, Florida

“The cost of on-campus learning is increasing past the point of affordability for many potential students. Students are rethinking the wisdom of taking on loans that will add huge financial burdens after graduation. At the same time, more universities are offering online courses. Making the transition to teleconferencing as a standard offering cannot be far off—while people enjoy the availability and flexibility of online course work, they also benefit greatly from the ability to learn with other students. Combining online individualized instruction with teleconferencing lectures and Q&A would be more affordable and more targeted at student learning needs. The only question is: Is the teaching workforce ready for this transition—and how can we help?” —Laura Lee Dooley, online engagement architect and strategist for the World Resources Institute, a non-profit organization based in Washington, DC

“We are already seeing this trend in many masters degree programs for librarians. It seems highly probable that this trend will become the norm for undergraduate education.” —Cathleen Bourdon, associate executive director, American Library Association; based in Chicago, Illinois

“Even the concept of ‘universities’ as traditional places of higher learning may have to radically change. Education is the key to the future, and those countries and organizations that are able to engage people at the point of their learning needs and reform their pedagogical models to align with a world where ‘post-secondary’ education will occur in numerous short iterative bursts in online community; these will succeed and be rewarded by the marketplace and employers.” —David A.H. Brown, executive director, Brown Governance Inc., a consulting business based in Toronto, Canada

“‘The future is here. It just isn't highly distributed yet’ is a quote by William Gibson. I would imagine the roll out of distance learning will be highly uneven—uneven among individuals, colleges, geography, class, and more. And no matter how progressive the technology, there is a social experience of higher education that will never be replaced by distance learning.” —Tim Olson, vice president for digital media and education at KQED, a public media company, including television, radio, and online programming; based in San Francisco, California

“I believe higher education must retain its in-person component. While students will continue to benefit from technology and its use on campus will be more pervasive, the underlying principles of college education will remain grounded in physical, not virtual, participation. Classes will change the least, given that many professors already use a variety of technology in the classroom. Other aspects of college will change more radically, from the trivial (apps that tell you how much time is remaining in your laundry's wash cycle) to the serious (ultra-wired building security and emergency alert systems).” —Eric Geller, social media director for TheForce.Net, a fan-run Star Wars website based in Washington, DC

“Academia moves very slowly, as most people working on a college or university campus can attest. While it's true that distance education is becoming more prevalent and will continue to do so, I doubt it will become more prevalent than traditional face-to-face courses. Many faculty members wouldn't be happy about such a change, and even many students prefer face-to-face courses. The very merits of completely online degrees are still under debate. Considering that the higher education system in America has changed very little over the past hundred years, I find it hard to believe that such a massive change to primarily online education is possible by 2020.” —Starr Hoffman, librarian for digital collections for the University of North Texas; based in Frisco, Texas

“There will be more hybrid learning, more individualized approaches, and more distance learning in 2020. However, I don't think those strategies will transform higher education by 2020—maybe in another few decades. Institutions take decades to change, not years. The weaknesses of traditional instruction have been apparent for a long time, yet finding solutions to those problems through technology is a chimera. Good education happens because good people are trying hard to educate people who want to learn, not because teachers use a device or don't use a device. Most of the push toward distance learning is because of its cheaper costs, not because of its superior learning outcomes.” —Cynthia Meyers, associate professor at the College of Mount Saint Vincent in Bronx, New York

“Higher education is on the road to change, but 2020 is much to soon to see the drastic changes projected in the second scenario, in my opinion. Many of the suggested technologies aren't mature enough for broad use, and limited university funds and departments/instructors/colleges that are slow to change for any number of reasons will stretch this timeline. I don't think teleconferencing and telepresence create an optimal learning environment—at least not in its current forms—because they are too anonymous. Being present in a classroom, seeing other students around you, listening to their responses and having to speak in that public setting all help students get more skin in the game. Sure, some students would rather not speak up, but that's part of what teachers should do: call on students, and get everyone more involved. There's room for a lot more technology in the classroom, but its goal should be to unify that group of students, get them onto the same page, and engage them in the same task. Technologies that easily allow distractions, even if that is simply an open window to a social networking site, are massive roadblocks to learning, whatever the student's physical setting may be.” —Nathan Swartzendruber, technology education at SWON Libraries Consortium; based in Cincinnati, Ohio

“Many lectures will be video, i.e. podcasts. Lecturers will be selected for excellence in communication skills, and these will be high-paid jobs with national/international competition. Lecturers might be celebrities, actors, etc. Their skill is communicating and entreating over video. Traditional instructors will develop curricula and script the lectures. Lectures will be available via the Net. Maybe schools using the videos will pay a fee or the student will. Face-to-face classroom time will be devoted to discussion and team projects. There might also be one-on-one time available. Anything that can be communicated through a video or e-book (paper based textbooks will all but vanish) will be removed from the classroom. Some on-campus time will be peer-based learning and discussion, sometimes without an instructor. Leading schools will have well-developed prior-learning assessment programs to accredit life experience and self-teaching, primarily via the Net. All students will carry a tablet such as the iPad. This will be used to watch videos, research, and communicate with peers and faculty via video, voice, and writing. Eventually students will receive tablets early, somewhere in the kindergarten to twelfth-grade years. All textbooks, completed assignments, instructor feedback, etc. will be a continually growing library on the tablet. At any time, the student can search for this material to aid in current learning work. The norm will become being lifelong learners rather than the typical K-12 and then college of today. Many times, certifications will replace degrees or at least enhance them. Most certifications will require CEUs, which will become an increasing percentage of university revenues.” —Mike McNellis, project coordinator at Saint Mary's University of Minnesota; based in Minneapolis, Minnesota

“We will continue to adopt advances in technology that will increasingly make our educational and work environments more mobile, virtual, and real-time. I agree with a statement that Bill Gates made several decades ago that said, ‘We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten.’ I believe that technologies like smartphones, tablet computers, and wireless bandwidth will advance significantly over the next ten years and have a dramatic impact on how we educate our children as well as our workforce.” —Jack Spain, principal at Spain Business Advisors; based in Cary, North Carolina

“The growth in distance education will start to erode the traditional university model, though not perhaps as far as is suggested—at least not by 2020. In the UK in particular, the introduction of large fees and the fact that these fees can differ across institutions has already created the template for a more class-driven educational system, where the rich can afford to attend a university full-time, but others may well not have the resources to. That creates a stronger market for distance learning degrees for those who need to stay nearer to their homes, parents, and/or jobs in order to undertake this level of study. Oddly enough, though, I think the real benefit may well be to those institutions who are already considered amongst the best in the world, and instead of seeing smaller institutions do well under this, they will either go out of business or be swallowed by the larger universities. After all, students who cannot afford to leave home, but can afford to spend time and some money to study, would still wish to choose from the best available—and given that on a distance-learning playing field things may be much more level, it may be better for someone to choose a prestigious university from far away than choose a local one with far less prestige, yet charging similar fees.” —Rich Osborne, senior IT innovator at the University of Exeter, based in Exeter, United Kingdom

“I just don't think that the majority of universities will have transitioned quickly enough for scenario two. Also, they will really need to justify their current model of bricks-and-mortar learning environments and re-tool the pay model, so that will take time. I doubt parents will want to pay $50,000 a year to have their kids sit in Starbucks and teleconference in to class every day.” —Kelly Richmond, self-described “occasional dilettante, sometime educator”; worked in marketing at America Online from 1992-1998; based in Washington, DC

“Education has to change in the future, otherwise it will be unaffordable. We have to take account of what is already known or easily acquired information and focus on principles, thinking, and communications skills.” —Stephen Murphy, senior vice president for business development and digital strategy at IQ Solutions; based in Rockville, Maryland

“The shift from today's environment to the vision presented in the second option is not going to happen by 2020. I do believe we will get there, but two factors will slow this shift: 1) Going to college is a rite of passage that is a deep part of our American persona. Unless the current recession/depression has an even greater effect on society than I expect and people just cannot afford to send kids away to college and start living in multigenerational homes, the demand for an on-campus college experience will continue to be strong. 2) Universities just cannot shift that quickly, culturally. They are ocean liners that take a long time to alter their course to avoid obstacles. Smaller, less prestigious universities and colleges may be more nimble in the water, like a ferry, and embrace technology to support less on-campus time.” —Ann Mosher, communications officer at a US government agency whose specialty is public education; based in Washington, DC

“The university system has proven to be an organizational form which has the greatest resistance to change. Many of the norms of university culture and behavior are still holdovers from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Expanding the domain of ‘higher education’ to include all post-secondary education changes the equation dramatically. Already, we see an increasing emphasis on certifications as opposed to degrees as a signal for employability, and private-sector education (online universities) are becoming more widely accepted. This is especially significant outside of the industrialized nations, since universities in emerging economies simply lack the capacity and flexibility to deliver post-secondary education to growing populations. The implication is that there will be more value placed on ‘lifelong learning’ and ‘nontraditional’ higher education, both in the workplace and in personal development. While universities may become less relevant, higher education in general will be more important in the future economy. Universities will begin to adapt to the new environment (as some have, e.g. MIT and Stanford with their online courseware offerings), and those that do not will be eliminated more rapidly from the market.” —Jeffrey Alexander, senior science and technology policy analyst, Center for Science, Technology & Economic Development, SRI International; member, governing council, DC chapter of the Internet Society; based in Arlington, Virginia

“As online classes and schools are being used more then ever, people have been finding new and inexpensive ways to earn the college credits they need. Emphasis on saving time, working from home online, and an all-out sense of individualistic methods for students will steer the university to the ‘cloud.’ Online ways of assigning homework, checking grades, and even viewing lectures are being widely embraced, and while there still remains a percentile of individuals who do not prefer using the Net for their schooling, more universities are implementing integration with the Web.” —David Kimball, student at Northwest University in Kirkland, Washington

“I'm not sure that ‘universities’ will be the centers of learning that they are today. The rise of unconferences, co-working, and other informally organized learning opportunities signal a viable alternative to the relatively inefficient and expensive university system. Some disciplines require face-to-face interaction for effective learning to occur; many do not. For example, it's hard to learn glass blowing or papermaking without being in the same studio as the instructor. I see a need for learning institutions to collaborate and share their facilities much more than they do today, both with each other and with public and private institutions. Lifelong learning is a necessity; universities must master distance learning quickly and have an opportunity to occupy a new, very needed niche, as education providers to the corporate and public sectors.” —Susan Price, CEO and chief Web strategist at Firecat Studio LLC; TEDxSanAntonio organizer; Austin FreeNet cofounder; Knowbility board member; based in San Antonio, Texas

“Much of the future of education is riding on how our government decides to fund it between now and the upcoming presidential elections. Technology will grow, and that's a great thing, particularly for colleges and universities. But our public schools need money, and our teachers need to be treated better and be rewarded for doing a good job—otherwise how can we tempt the ‘best and the brightest’ to teach our children? What would be their incentive? Losing tenure? Having to buy their student's school supplies? Constantly facing larger class sizes and fewer resources for them? For now, education could go either way, but I'm certainly not pleased with the direction it's currently heading in. I can only hope that the government starts to legislate and govern as though education is in fact something that should be valued and revered—because it will ultimately shape our country's future.” —Chelsea Foster, a copywriter based in Sleepy Hollow, New York

“Eventually, higher education will be quite different than it is today; however, I don't think it will happen by 2020. It makes sense to expand the use of technology in the classroom where it enhances the educational experience, and future generations may become more and more comfortable with this idea. There is a ‘loneliness factor’ involved in depending on technology to the point that it replaces natural discussions. I think it will be a long time before universities can be flexible enough to allow for the requirements for graduation to be significantly shifted to customized outcomes.” —Christine Schwerin, communications and marketing (government), a respondent who chose not to share further identifying information

“I hope that there will be a revolution in higher education that moves students to work at different paces—not take 'filler' classes, but engage in actual research and use hybrid learning to access the best educators. Most students would benefit from at least a portion of their classes as residents, but perhaps after a first year the options could broaden.” —Jean Westcott, co-author of Digitally Daunted: The Consumer’s Guide to Taking Control of the Technology in Your Life; based in Washington, DC

“It’s not necessarily a bad thing at all. Times are changing, students are changing, and the old model doesn't fit—although many things should only be taught face-to-face, and I hope that the face-to-face, discussion-oriented method is always seen for the true value that it has. That interaction can't be replaced. This could possibly be negative if it is used as a method to cut costs or increase revenues more so than alternative access to education. If ‘canned courses’ are allowed to continue to infiltrate this arena, however, there is a great risk that the quality of alternative courses will suffer, and due to online faculty possible teaching twenty courses at a time and high enrollments in each course, there could be a significant influence on faculty hiring, etc overall.” —Jeniece Lusk, assistant research director with a PhD in applied sociology at an Atlanta, Georgia, information technology company

“I obtained my bachelor's degree in a traditional collegiate setting; however, my MBA was obtained through all online classes. I believe that due to the practical application of theories and methods learned, which was required of me in my online MBA program, educational programs will continue toward this trend.” —Katrina Griffin, e-marketing strategist for Medseek; based in Peoria, Illinois

“Universities will be smaller with much smaller facilities and in higher numbers. Reference University of Phoenix and other schools coming on stream now. Universities become less social in their nature, leaving students with far fewer social skills.” —Stan Stark, consultant at Heuroes Consulting; based in Houston, Texas

“In the Pacific, there is a need for students to have access to a wider range of educational opportunities than are available on our isolated islands. Higher education is a necessity for ensuring the sustainability of our small island-based economies, and the opportunities are somewhat limited if we expect students to remove themselves from their homes and families and pay exorbitant fares and living costs, as well as educational fees, to attend universities in other countries. Students in the Pacific should be able to attend courses at any university in the world without leaving home. More virtual lectures and tutorials need to be made available to students in isolated parts of the world. Being exposed to a variety of courses and qualifications would allow students to choose more appropriate future careers for themselves and would better meet their career objectives and interests, as well as those of their countries. Governments could also seek out educational and training courses that better meet their country's objectives for the futures of their countries, and it would cost less for governments to sponsor tertiary training locally by assisting students to undertake their studies at home rather than sponsoring the major expense of their study overseas. Universities could be more flexible about what they offer and how they present their courses to distant students. To be truly effective, distance learning must be a mix of online face-to-face and video-conferencing. This would require higher broadband accessibility within the Pacific, but as well as being able to have ‘Just in Time’ learning with their tutors, more access to video-conferencing would also enable students to interact more regularly with other students from other countries, just as in a normal classroom. A hybrid approach offering more flexibility among the universities themselves would be helpful, allowing students to mix and match courses from different universities depending on what courses are available at the time within each of the universities. Sometimes students find that the course they want to take at the university that they are attending is not being offered in the year they need to take it—perhaps as a pre-requisite for another later-level course. It would be helpful for the student to be able to maintain a proper study progression and be able to take the subject when it is required, perhaps virtually through another university.” —Maureen Hilyard, development programme coordinator for the New Zealand High Commission; vice chair of the board of the Pacific Chapter of the Internet Society; based in Rarotonga, Cook Islands

“Education must be modified to meet the changing landscape. Education shouldn't utilize technology for technology’s sake. It should look at what it wants to achieve then determine what types of technologies help facilitate the desired end in the most effective manor. The role of our educational institutions is to teach members of society how to contribute to society in a productive manner. Technology is creating branches off of every major profession and creating very highly specialized functions. These functions require rigorous specific types of training. If one were to look at the sciences in the days of Newton and compare them to the state of science today, one would quickly see that there are hundreds of different specialty sciences available today that are all so specialized that it would take multiple lifetimes to master them. Not to mention that ones’ lives would revolve around moving from one campus to another to gain the information, which is both expensive and time consuming. Education as a business, that makes money and spends money, should be doing what it can to deliver the best product (education) for the best price. Using technology and distance learning is a fantastic way to achieve that. I don't necessarily think that using technology and distance learning means that we will be thrust towards an individualistic type of experience.” —Kris Davis, user-experience designer for Webvisible; based in Costa Mesa, California

“I don't think nine years is long enough to see such a transformation. To change requirements for graduation will require a major shift in the accreditation system. In my thirty years in higher education, I have seen few changes in what counts for college credit. From my experience at a physical university with online classes, I have seen that some students prefer each experience and will seek out what best suits them. Whenever I broach a scenario like the second one with my traditional freshman, they are appalled. They specifically chose a university with small class size and interaction with faculty and their peers. They want the experience of moving away from home. I think that there will always be students like this.” —Diane Dowdey, associate professor of English at Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, Texas

“Across all industries where the Internet is making a presence, people (staff) are being removed from the equation. One of these places is education. The Internet is a cost saver/time saver—it can connect and unite faster and more economically. Hopefully the upside of this is that education programs are more customized.” —Adrianne Bockhorst, interactive marketing manager, Johnson Financial Group, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

“The adoption of widespread distance-learning technologies will make it easier for more people to gain advanced degrees, but the quality of those degrees, at least initially, will devolve from previous attainments owing to the lack of dialog, interaction, and community-based learning that universities afford. There are things learned in the community setting that are harder to acquire virtually. That said, if the lower cost of distance education (is it lower?) yields more people seeking advanced degrees, the losses of quality may be off-set by the greater number of people seeking greater knowledge mastery.” —Rich Tatum, research analyst for Zondervan, a religious publishing house; based in Grand Rapids, Michigan

“I strongly believe in the second statement and feel that, for the most part, this is a very good direction for higher education. It vastly improves the reach of educational resources and makes the most highly qualified teachers available to wider audiences.” —David Morris, managing director of research for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation; based in Lansing, Michigan

“Education certainly should change more, but I am skeptical about whether major institutions will make anything more than cosmetic changes.” —Ruby Sinreich, director of new media strategy and the Digital Media & Learning Competition at the Humanities, Arts, Sciences, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory based in Durham, North Carolina; lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

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>> Click here to read the full report on the future of higher education


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