In previous articles I have discussed the changes that online learning options such as MOOCs and MOOPs (Massive Open Online Programs) will eventually generate to transform higher education. But most of my observations related to future curriculum, program, and award/certification changes. In this article, I’d like to address a more fundamental change, one that I believe will be the eventual transformation of the very form of what a university is in the future: the metaversity (or “Meta U”, for short).
My basic premise is that the historical and current construct of the university is no longer sustainable. And I use the term “sustainable” both to mean economically viable and environmentally sensitive.
Whether one is talking about large, multi-campus systems, or multiple independent institutions in proximity to one another, there is a fundamental flaw to the model that will lead to an inevitable transformation. Simply stated, the replication at each site of physical plant, research and instructional delivery infrastructure, administrative staff, faculty expertise, program offerings, and degrees awarded is unnecessarily duplicative and inefficient. Such redundancy and inefficiency is also increasingly expensive and wasteful of natural resources.
So what will replace, or at least challenge, this model (i.e., the geographically fixed campuses, with full replication of all components)? I believe it will be the Meta U. And I have already seen the beginning – the 1.0 version – of it.
At present, the exemplar I have seen isn’t an academic institution at all, but rather a highly innovative corporation originating in the technology sector. This entity employs several hundred thousand employees, and it is committed to the education and “talent optimization” of those employees on a continuous basis. To facilitate this staff development, they have both an internal “university,” which offers more than 20,000 courses, and collaborative arrangements with academic institutions for “multi-sourced learning.”
In effect, this entity has dozens of “campuses” spread around the globe. It faces the challenge of offering a highly diverse curriculum without having to replicate facilities, instructor expertise at multiple locations, administrative staff, etc., or, alternatively, having to absorb tremendously expensive travel costs of specialist instructors or student groups.
The solution they have implemented is, I believe, an early model of the Meta U. It includes the following:
- A technology-mediated learning delivery infrastructure called IVL (Integrated Video Learning) that provides:
- An instructor “stage” at each campus
- Interactive classrooms and labs for students at each campus
- A central broadcast control center that can transmit the course to any/all classrooms 24×7 and provide face-to-face, student-to-instructor interaction across all classrooms, or alternatively to individual student laptops or tablets
- Student controls to annotate and markup/copy/playback each lesson
- Multi-sourced programs and awards/certifications (including advanced academic degrees) in collaboration with multiple academic institutions
- A subsequent phase, wherein plans are under discussion to develop:
- A comprehensive “curriculum hub” containing online course offerings of partner academic institutions, the MOOC providers, and various commercial learning websites, and
- A “universal learning record store” for their employees to store “badges” (digital certifications of competency) from all such sources, and controlled by the employee
I believe that this metaversity / Meta U model will, in fact, be ultimately adopted and adapted by major academic institutions and entire academic systems in the future, including direct curricular collaboration and facility/infrastructure-sharing with corporate learning partners. The massive reductions in cost and waste of natural resources will make Meta U a compelling model for sustainable education.
George Tamas, Geo Chronicles author, is recognized as a leading innovator in government and educational uses of technology, and particularly in the design and development of Web-based, multi-entity networks and databases. Since 2000, Mr. Tamas has served as Chief Executive Officer/Chairman of the Board of Governet, innovators of Web-based technology solutions for higher education and creators of CurricUNET, the award-winning curriculum management and reporting system. Mr. Tamas has more than three decades of experience in top management positions for computer software/service organizations ranging in size from start up to publicly traded companies with more than $150,000,000 in annual revenues. After receiving his degree in Mathematics from UCLA, he taught Mathematics and Computer Science for several years before starting his first company. He has since led multiple companies that engaged in such areas as technology management consulting, software development, networking, and outsourcing. Mr. Tamas has been a featured speaker at numerous state, national, and international conferences and is member of the esteemed Gilfus Advisors Network.