This describes what has been obvious for over twenty years. The factors that prevented this from being fully realized is, as stated here, the incredible ossification of higher education and, counter-intuitively, the transformation of all human organizations to IT structures.
The ossification of higher ed is a product of the elite educational hierarchy that has been increasingly removed from teaching by replacing itself with gig workers. More specifically that removal from teaching has allowed them to avoid learning how to each online which is a very different world.
Having struggled with moving campuses online for twenty years, I’m faced with the uncomfortable irony of not telling aging faculty who refused to listen to me for the last ten year, in my current campus, ‘I told you so’ as they fail in building online courses amidst COVID. They justify that failure with the assumption that it will all ‘get back to normal’ in a few months.
One full academic year of forced to teach online excuses will kill enrollment and complete this transformation. But the administrators are committed to pretending that the old ways will be recovered and are unwilling to admit the reality that is staring them in the face.
The complete conversion of the economy to IT-based infrastructure and services with traditional production, services, and retail digitizing and automating at blinding speeds, broke the links between enterprise and higher education. Tech companies have for twenty years, as I noted above, been dealing with retraining college graduates who had to be detrained first.
It has been easier to train people with no preconceptions that they are ‘trained’ than to struggle with the telling newly graduated engineers that they need to start for the bottom in OJT. But the break between the tech corporate titans and the old form of higher education meant that higher education was just left to molder on its own. The students were the losers but what else was there to do?
We have the boot camp path to technical jobs and the university path to jobs coexisting. The higher education path just ended. While it will take another year for the train wreck to finish, I suspect that many college campuses will be simply abandoned.
As several people noted university education is cultural, liberal arts, and a specialized community with a lifetime set of links and connections if you have the money, privilege, and opportunity. I was privileged to have that back in the late 1960s when it was still unchallenged. While I have spent my life in technology and management I also taught history for twenty years as an adjunct because I loved teaching in the old way and tried to teach the value of critical thinking with historical knowledge as a means to learn those critical skills.
Much of that has been replaced by art and media. Let’s just say there is more than one way to skin a (metaphorical) cat but it has also been long recognized that those kinds of education are a lifetime project. We need to become seriously efficient and clearly define our goals and needs. Almost all of this is within our individual grasp with online knowledge. It can’t all be put in one place anyway. So the world changes.