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Tech-Led Communities and Real-Time Virtual Learning

Kylie Walker

The egalitarian, come-all universities of today may in many respects be unrecognisable to the undergraduates of 30 years ago. Go even further back, and 50 years ago universities were the exclusive preserve of the educational elite, research and academia. While modern-day tertiary education still features theoretical physics on many an Australian curriculum, you’ll also find classes and research on everything from wine-making to the geography of surfing. Today’s universities provide many thousands of people with education, while still playing a leading role in shaping thinking and solutions for the world’s most wicked problems. Increasingly, they’re also connecting across communities and sectors, integrating truly multi-dimensional experiences and ideas to shape thinking for the future.

The next steps for universities are still in evolution, as the digital world becomes an increasing force in both shaping and threatening the institution of higher education. It is very likely that universities will continue to maintain their vital roles in education and research long into the future, but the way in which these functions will change and adapt to the digital age will determine the extent of their success. I see digital evolution as the key to reaching vastly greater potential new student bodies, deeply enhancing student engagement, exponentially accelerating research, and providing exciting new pathways to collaboration with other sectors and the community at large.

This is an extract from “Future of Teaching Report – Australian Edition”

The evolving workforce

The needs of the future workforce are changing very quickly. In the next three decades, this vast and inexorable pulling force will demand that universities provide access to education for a higher volume and a greater diversity of people. Universities will not only train the next generation workforce, they will be required to help retrain a many-perspective workforce for the digital age, and keep up with the latest technologies to ensure this education is engaging, effective, and cost-efficient.

This shift also brings potential for tertiary institutions to more meaningfully embed themselves into Australians’ everyday lives; informing and empowering citizens to fully participate in their democratic society. With so many more alumni, universities could become places for people to return regularly as their career and role in society morphs and matures. Alumni, through the filters of their experience in diverse sectors and jobs could be contributing, learning new skills and interacting as members of the university community well beyond their degree. This could become a powerful new tool to reach beyond academia and engage more meaningfully with industry, government, the arts, the caring economy, and other spheres of society.

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