Have it your way. Customization has become integral to more institutions as the escalation of digital technology branches out to all aspects of our lives.
Jeff Selingo, editorial director for The Chronicle of Higher Education, applied the “people-centered vision” of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg to higher education in a recent article. Selingo describes many aspects of the disrupted higher education system that offer cheaper alternatives to sitting in the classroom that are geared to a generation of non-traditional students. He highlights three new programs that embody a modern disturbance in the trend of individualized college experiences.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology has offered a self-service learning system in which students download free course materials, take online tests and earn a certificate — all within a matter of hours. Independent startups such as StraighterLine and Udacity, which was started by former Stanford University Professor Sebastian Thrun after he turned down a tenured position, offer introductory courses in a variety of subjects. iTunes U allows students to download textbooks and lesson plans for little to no cost.
With these aspects of education shifting to free digital formats, will we enter a new world of pay walls that resembles the controversial direction some media outlets are taking when disseminating information? Faculty and administrators at for-profit colleges and universities will soon face challenges of balancing the needs for the individual student and the collective benefit of the institution.