Reimagining Higher Education in the Changing World

What could the higher education landscape look like in 2030?

What were you doing in 2005? There was no iPhone or iPad, so you weren’t scrolling through this blog because your feed caught it. Facebook was not open to the public, so you weren’t simultaneously reading this and looking at pictures of your cousin’s college roommate’s kids. Uber was a German word for “over” and “Don’t let a stranger drive you home” seemed like good advice. A few forward-thinking institutions had started putting courses and materials online, but participating in a discussion online with thousands of classmates from around the world was not common.

Think about the change and innovation that has occurred since 2005. There is tremendous vibrancy and innovation in our society today. Technology has enabled transformations in all aspects of how we live, learn, and work. Many of us are working in entirely new jobs that have emerged, as other jobs have been lost to automation. We are living longer, learning new skills, and switching jobs regularly based on interests and need.

Now let’s think 12 years in the future: what will you be doing in 2030? How will you interact, learn, and work? The dramatic changes we have already seen are a taste of the technology-driven shifts that are coming. In order for us to adapt to a changing economic landscape, we must prepare for this future of work and life by reimagining how we learn new skills and apply them in our lives. Although many of these changes have the potential to significantly improve our quality of life and reduce persistent societal inequities, they are equally likely to exacerbate them.

Today we are launching a challenge, seeking the best ideas worldwide for how to align our postsecondary educational ecosystem to the future of work and life. We are looking for bold ideas that reimagine how we learn across our lifetimes, ideas that expand opportunity for all members of our society and foster equity. We hope to uncover ideas and seed the development of tools that will ensure that all learners, especially low-income students, can draw on a diverse array of educational opportunities that provide them the skills they need to find the opportunities to work and live meaningful and economically stable lives.

While this challenge is about envisioning the future of postsecondary education, it is also about spurring action today. We are asking you to submit ideas for reimagining the educational ecosystem in 2030, and the concrete steps that can be taken in 2018 to move us toward that future.

We want to collectively take the first steps toward making the future a reality in three main areas.

First, we want to provide learners the ability to curate learning pathways over a lifetime of learning and working. In particular, we are interested in exploring new education-to-work pathways and credentials that support low-income and other underserved populations in obtaining meaningful and rewarding work.

Second, we want to foster an active marketplace for learning that allows individuals to readily access resources based on their needs. What are ideas and tools that enable learners to effectively track and share the skills they have earned through multiple sources?

Finally, we are interested in ideas for leveraging emerging technology to improve individual learning and allow learners to own their digital identities.

None of us can make these bold changes alone, so we have partnered with Georgia Institute of Technology’s Center for 21st Century Universities. In a recently published report, Georgia Tech identified several possibilities for how a university can reimagine its future, from artificial intelligence and personalized learning to blockchain and new kinds of credentials. At the same time, Georgia Tech has taken concrete steps to change its offerings today, such as its new master’s in computer science delivered online as a MOOC.

We know that the best ideas rely on the collective wisdom of educators and entrepreneurs, individuals and families, and institutions and community groups. We are seeking to draw people with great ideas into conversation with us and with one another.

Over the next two months, during this first phase of the challenge, we hope to catalyze conversations by connecting participants to each other and to thought leaders, experts, individuals, and organizations with whom ideas can be piloted or scaled. In September, the top ideas generated from this challenge will be featured at a national convening on education and innovation that will be attended by policymakers and funders interested in identifying the most transformative and impactful ideas for opportunities to invest.

To participate, visit edu2030.agorize.com and follow our conversation at #edu2030. We hope you will join us as we reimagine the higher education ecosystem of the future.


David Soo and Sharon Leu are Senior Policy Advisers at the US Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology