Advances in technology will almost certainly change the face of higher education in Oklahoma over the next 20 years, the state’s top higher education official said.
Despite that change, the mission of Oklahoma’s colleges and universities will stay the same, he said.
Oklahoma higher education Chancellor Glen Johnson said he expects to see technology play a greater role in higher education over the next 20 years, both in online courses and in traditional, classroom-based classes.
As new technology becomes available, the model for delivering information to students will change, Johnson said. That change is already taking place, with colleges and universities across the state offering online-only classes and the growing popularity of massive open online courses, or MOOCs.
Johnson said he expects the same technology to be integrated into classroom-based courses in the coming decades.
Professors may incorporate content from MOOCs into their courses, he said, or they may use holographic imaging as a part of their lectures.
“It’s going to be a much different learning model,” he said.
Online courses also will play an important role, he said. Such courses allow students who aren’t able to travel to a college campus for work or family reasons to pursue a college degree, he said.
Those classes help the state’s higher education system reach so-called nontraditional students, or college students who don’t go directly from high school to college, he said. Those students make up a growing share of the overall student population, he said, and that share will continue to grow as the state’s college completion initiative progresses.
In 2010, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin called for an additional 20,400 degrees and certificates awarded in Oklahoma by the end of 2023. That goal is a part of Complete College America, a nationwide initiative designed to boost college completion.
That figure includes not only degrees awarded at public colleges and universities, but also degrees granted at private institutions and professional certifications from CareerTech centers.
Last year, officials announced public colleges and universities alone had awarded more than 1,900 more graduates during the 2011-12 academic year than during the previous year, surpassing the goal of 1,700 new degrees and certificates for public and private colleges and CareerTech centers.
Although the current initiative ends in 2023, Johnson said he expects degree completion will be an ongoing priority even after that date. As Oklahoma’s economy progresses, the need for workers with college degrees will continue to grow, particularly in areas like allied health, engineering, aerospace and engineering, he said.
For Oklahoma’s economy to be able to compete in those fields, Johnson said, it’s important that the state has a well-qualified work force. And that means graduating more of its students from college — an area in which the state currently lags behind the nation overall.
“Our goal is not just to reach the national average. We want to exceed the national average,” he said. “I see degree completion being a major issue.”