Future & Opportunities in Education

Updated: 6 days ago

The educational landscape continues to shift as educators have adjusted to ongoing changes related to the global pandemic. Many institutions of higher education (IHE) have been greatly impacted by the pandemic seeing decreases in enrollments, particularly on campus. Although many IHEs have returned to offering courses face-to-face, many faculty and students have elected to continue with online, hybrid, and Hy-Flex options. With so much uncertainty, one of the greatest challenges that has emerged, as indicated by University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA, 2021), is that “past predictions and forecasts are no longer relevant.”


In the article, “The Domino Effect: Pandemic Impacts to Higher Education that will Ultimately Reach PCO,” Jim Fong, the founding Director of UPCEA’s Center for Research and Strategy, highlights seven predictions within higher education ranging from enrollments to content:

  1. We are likely to see an enrollment rollercoaster.

  2. We are likely to see a surge in demand for online adoption as an alternative.

  3. We are seeing widespread financial instability.

  4. We will need a more fluid, frictionless, and engaging student experience.

  5. We are going to have IT as a critical mission partner and not just an afterthought.

  6. We will need to prepare graduates for migration to an elastic workforce.

  7. Content will change, but so will the credential and dependence on degrees. (Fong, 2021, para. 8)

These predictions, which stem from what has occurred during 2020 and 2021, will have a profound effect on IHEs going into 2022 and beyond. Returning to the “new normal” may not be realistic. Enrollment will most likely not go back to where it was prior to the pandemic for many IHES. Many traditional institutions may not reach prior on-campus enrollment targets requiring more diversified format offerings to support long-term sustainability. Furthermore, changes in the workforce due to the pandemic, are requiring institutions to re-examine curricula for alignment.


Within PK-12 education, the pandemic is predicted to have many long-term effects. According to a report by McKinsey & Company:


The fallout from the pandemic threatens to depress this generation’s prospects and constrict their opportunities far into adulthood. The ripple effects may undermine their chances of attending college and ultimately finding a fulfilling job that enables them to support a family. (Dorn et al., 2021, para. 3)


One of the areas of most affected has been mental health with “more than 35 percent of parents very or extremely concerned about their children’s mental health” (Dorn et al., 2021, para. 2). Headlines throughout 2021 continued to bring national attention to learning loss and “unfinished learning” due to the pandemic, which only adds to the anxiety and stress that many students already experience.


Disruption brings opportunity. According to Fong (2021), “As the pandemic caused many of us to pause and reevaluate, millions of students across all levels began to question the value of their education. Students began to consider other options” (para. ). Examining the value of education and other options is critical to how education moves forward in providing programs and courses across formats (face-to-face, hybrid, Hy-Flex, online). These are questions that all educators should be asking annually. Educators, within PK-12 education and higher education, have been creative, innovative, and resilient throughout the pandemic. There are new opportunities for deeper collaboration between PK-12 education, higher education, and the workforce. There is opportunity to examine the effects of content, curriculum, and cognitive load on academic performance as it relates to learning, memory, and transfer of learning.


A comprehensive overview of educational shifts in higher education covering course formats and pedagogical practices is provided in the article “Historical Review of Distance and Online Education from 1700s to 2021 in the United States: Instructional Design and Pivotal Pedagogy in Higher Education” (Betts et al., 2021). While reading the article and reviewing the infographic timeline (see Figure 8), it is important to reflect on the future of education and the many opportunities for innovation and change that can positively impact students and learning in the future.


Figure 1.

Distance and Online Education in the United States 1700 to 2021 (Betts et al., 2021)


Distance & Online Education Timeline

As we move into 2022, there are unique opportunities to transform education across all learning formats and to be part of history moving forward.


Author: Dr. Kristen Betts


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