College Instruction In Year 2020: Get Ready For Future Shock, Says Texas A&M Prof

March 11, 2002

Forget those No.2 pencils, notebook paper and chalkboards. The college classroom in the year 2020 – and the way students get taught – may be far different than today, says a Texas A&M University education professor who specializes in forecasting trends.

      Dr. John Hoyle, professor of educational administration, says developing technology will change the way students learn, how professors teach and the methods they use for instruction. The key question, he believes: will this changing technology erase what the college experience is supposed to be like?

      “We have just begun to enter the greatest technological change in world history,” said Hoyle, speaking at the inaugural Quasquicentennial Lecture Series Thursday night. His lecture, “Transitioning to the Global University: The Human Dimension,” is the first in a series examining the future of education.

      “But even before considering technology, just look at the projections for higher education,” Hoyle added. “Higher education enrollment today is about 15 million, with a projection of 18 million by 2011 for a 20 percent increase.

      “In Texas, we have about 490,000 college-aged students and that is expected to grow to 568,000 by 2020.” Hoyle said future enrollments will have a major impact on Texas colleges and in the 4,000 two-and four-year institutions in the U.S.

      Hoyle said the biggest question is what does all of this mean for today’s universities, and will the college of today be tomorrow’s ghost town?

     The emerging trend of distance education is the answer for many colleges and students, Hoyle explained. He cited the University of Phoenix, which currently has more than 90,000 students taking on-line courses in 13 urban settings.

      “But when we can surf for a degree on the Internet, what does that mean for us?” Hoyle asked. “For a school like Texas A&M and its deep traditions, how do we develop Aggies by wire? If we take away the human dimension of education, we may be doing a great disservice to our students.”

      Regarding on-line courses, Hoyle said some studies, such as one conducted by Columbia University, show that today’s college student wants easy access to courses via computer. “The study says that students want higher education to be fast and convenient like their banks and other agencies that supply quality service,” he said.

      “But if we allow “technological presbyopia” – farsightedness – to blind us to the rigors and joys of the classroom, then we will lose the soul of our university.

      “And if a student is educated on-line, will he or she be lifelong learners, or just receptacles of meaningless facts?”

      Hoyle also said studies show that large classrooms full of hundreds of students may be more dehumanizing than the Internet. “We need to take a look at the way we herd students into large lecture halls and use the same teaching methods since the Middle Ages,” he said.

      To solve some of these problems, Hoyle suggests forming stronger links with the K-12 school systems. “A school like Texas A&M is only as good as the public schools that supply us with future Aggies,” he said.

      “We need to enlarge our campus learning experiences to K-12 students in remote rural schools and struggling urban centers. We need to build learning communities guided by love, and learning assisted by student and faculty-friendly technologies.”