Why Higher Education Must Transform Itself to Meet the Challenges of the 21st Century

Special Focus : Imagining the Future of Education
Higher Education February 20, 2017

On any given day, in college classrooms across the globe, a unique group of millennial students is putting to the test the true effectiveness of universities responsible for producing the next generation of world leaders. But their expectations are unlike those of their predecessors —these students are technologically savvy, socially engaged and forward-thinking individuals who continuously seek new and innovative opportunities to grow and be challenged. As a result, those of us responsible for their academic success face our own challenge —to create innovative and cutting-edge programs and initiatives that engage millennials while exposing them to in-demand skills and abilities for the modern workforce. 
Whether it’s through the integration of technology to facilitate learning, the implementation of innovative methods such as flipped classrooms or an inspirational lesson in art and culture, we must figure out how best to reach these students where they are. The future of higher education, and that of our global economy, is dependent on the ability of colleges and universities around the world to produce a competitive workforce prepared to succeed in the global economy.
Most students sitting in college classrooms today have never envisioned life without technology. Devices they hold in the palm of their hands and store in their pockets connect them to the world at incredible speeds, and obtaining information is as easy as clicking a touchscreen. In the 21st century global knowledge economy, technology has redefined how people communicate and do business, and on our university campuses, it’s turned conventional teaching and learning methods upside down. 
Gone is the centuries-old pedagogy of 50-minute lectures and exams to prove proficiency. Lectures are now available on podcasts and streaming platforms. Modern-day courses must go beyond the physical boundaries of a classroom and offer students face-to-face contact with leaders, business owners and community stakeholders. Project-based learning and partnerships with companies that lead to paid internships and even employment offers, along with apprenticeships that expose students early-on to the realities of a job, are just a few of the ways colleges c