Are our universities becoming museum pieces, antiquated and irrelevant?
In this month’s issue of the Literary Review of Canada, McGill Provost Anthony Masi tackles how institutions are adapting to technology and the students who understand it—or rather, how they’re stumbling to keep up.
An outspoken voice in Canadian higher education, Masi is one of the exceptional Canadians presenting the The 40th Anniversary Max Bell Essays and Lectures.
In his essay, “Are Universities Obsolete?” Masi describes a generation of young students who grew up with technology all around them. But now they’re walking onto campuses around the country that have more history than digital savvy.
“How have universities prepared themselves for the arrival on campuses of this exigent digital generation? Not well, I am afraid,” he writes.
And the concern with this mismatch stems from the buzzing information that surrounds these students’ daily lives, because more than any generation before them, they must learn to manage knowledge with a critical eye.
“How can today’s students know which information is valuable and correct, and which is questionable on both counts?” Masi writes.
He points to developments such as Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)—offered free to anyone, anywhere—with the potential to change the education landscape.
“Will they allow universities to make the necessary accommodations more quickly, or force them to make room for new education providers who can? I hope for, and I am working to encourage, the former; but right now, I am not sure that I would bet against the latter.”
In his role as Provost, Masi has called on academic staff to propose ideas for MOOCs that McGill will offer starting in January 2014. The program is in partnership with the non-profit edX, which, by its own account, is revolutionizing learning
But the question remains: is technology barreling forward faster than colleges and universities can follow?