WASHINGTON, D.C. — Economic and social forces have churned up a perfect storm for higher education. Consequently, the university of the future may bear little resemblance to education today, panelists told attendees at the New Knowledge Economy summit July 10.

Education will need to adapt to meet the needs of a changing society, higher education experts from organizations such as the New America Foundation and California Competes told an audience at the Wednesday morning summit. Those needs include increased access to higher education (the number of jobs that require education beyond high school is expected to account for two-thirds of the job market by 2020) and greater flexibility to accommodate nontraditional students, who already account for 75 percent of today's degree seekers.

The future, they concluded, is online.

Panelists predicted a hybrid online classroom model will replace general education courses and other introductory classes, which are often taught in large lecture halls with hundreds of students. Students will read and watch basic materials that would be covered in a lecture on their own time via online course materials. Classroom time will be dedicated to working with teams of students on joint projects.

Additionally, software is capable of adapting to students' individual learning styles and schedules without hiring more faculty to work one-on-one with students, said Kevin Carey, director of the Education Policy Program at the New America Foundation.

Assessments, likewise, will adapt to each student, and will focus on competence and achievement, rather than knowledge of a specific curriculum.

The National Journal featured a summary of the panel's discussion, which was underwritten by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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