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Globalization of Higher Education Conference: A Success!

Submitted by on March 26, 2014 – 8:59 amNo Comment

Globalization of Higher Education Conference

The Globalization of Higher Education Conference took place on March 24th & 25th in Dallas, Texas – and it was a huge success! For those who could not attend, we have posted videos of the speakers here and provided a recap of both days below.

Thank you to all who presented, attended, and played a part in making the Globalization of Higher Education Conference a success!

Recap, Day 1: Rapid Change in Technology Sparks New Environment for Higher Education

recapDay1Technology has been as revolutionary to higher education as Guttenberg’s printed press. This was one of the common themes among speakers during the first day of the Globalization of Higher Education Conference held in Dallas, Texas. Former Governors Jeb Bush (FL) and Jim Hunt (NC) co-hosted this first-of-its-kind event at which former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton urged attendees to continue to invest in higher education and share it globally.

The rapid transformation of technology has created a sense of urgency—and opportunity—among leaders in academia, according to Dr. Clayton Christensen, Harvard Business School professor.

It has only been since 2007 that the world has come to know Skype, Google, Twitter, cloud computing, and a social media landscape that has transformed the way people interact and organizations operate, noted numerous speakers, including New York Times columnist and bestselling author Thomas Friedman. For higher education, as with the rest of the world, this has resulted in rapid change.

“Today, we are faced with the most radical change in distance learning, technology, and logistics since the invention of the printed book,” said Lord Eatwell, President of Queens’ College, University of Cambridge, which co-sponsored the conference with Academic Partnerships. “For the potential globalization of knowledge, only the invention of printing has been more important.”

Change Demands Collaboration

It is this important shift in information delivery that is opening the doors for universities to bridge the gap in affordability and accessibility by exporting higher education from the Western world to emerging economies.

This means finding creative solutions and forming collaborative partnerships, explained Naledi Pandor, Minister of Home Affairs of the Republic of South Africa. In South Africa, she explained, this transformation began in 1995 when the late Nelson Mandela established the first higher education commission. Today, South Africa has seen marked increases in the numbers of students accessing higher education, with approximately one out of eight students coming from outside of South Africa.

“When one looks at our statistics there is much to celebrate, but South Africa still lags behind other regions,” Pandor said. “Our progress has been overshadowed by the rapid progression of the developing world. There is a massive gap and there is massive opportunity.”

Quality Even More Important

With this expansion of online opportunities also comes increased responsibility to ensure the quality of learning matches that of traditional classroom environments. The consensus among speakers was that the traditional campus environment would not be replaced by online learning, but rather enhanced by it.

Yet, the speakers encouraged the more than 250 conference attendees, primarily higher education leaders from the U.S. and abroad, to focus on providing a high-quality experience. And for today’s younger learners this means creating an integrated experience that meets them where they are: in the digital space.

“What should our goal be as we open ourselves up in digital spaces?” asked Martin Bean, Vice Chancellor of The Open University, which has been providing distance learning for more than 40 years. “Quite simply, it’s as it always should be—it has to be about great teaching. Those students have never known a world without digital being part of their lives. And shame on us if we think we can sit still, put our head in the sands, and deliver a teaching experience that not only doesn’t map to the world they live in—but it also doesn’t map to the jobs and prosperity that we wish for them and their families for generations ahead.”

While each institution must determine how to best extend online learning to meet the needs of students, whether at home or abroad, the consensus is that making higher education more accessible and affordable benefits everyone—and will require leaders to think as critically and be as curious as the students they serve.

“We need to continue to experiment with new programs and models,” said John Wilton, Vice Chancellor of the University of California at Berkley. “It’s important to take risks, try things, and be willing to fail. This is largely foreign to the traditional academic approach, but these issues we are dealing with are very different. They lend themselves to experimentation, and the pace of change is so rapid, that I think it is foolish to think any of us know where this revolution will end.”

Recap, Day 2: Exporting American Higher Education Around the World

While the first day of the conference focused largely on the disruptive technologies that are transforming higher education, the second day concentrated on the exporting of online learning to better serve students around the world.

U.S. colleges and universities are far younger than many European universities—including conference co-sponsor, Queens’ College, University of Cambridge, which was founded in 1448. Yet, the U.S. higher education system and its many brands have established themselves as the gold standard for delivering exceptional education worldwide.

day2In his remarks, Dr. Fareed Zakaria, CNN host and TIME magazine editor-at-Large, echoed this idea by recounting his own experience of being a young boy in India in the 1970s determined to attend college in the U.S. While many like Zakaria have the opportunity to come to America to participate in the U.S. higher education system, there are millions more who lack access.

Higher Education Drives Economic Growth

Former President of Colombia Álvaro Uribe discussed how the path to education, or lack thereof, affects young students seeking advanced degrees. In Colombia, however, the challenge extends beyond getting a degree. “It’s very common to see lawyers as taxi drivers and medical doctors working in hotels,” Uribe said. “We need to tackle this problem.”

Today’s noted leaders from academia, business, and government emphasized that it is the middle class that helps drive economic growth and education is the gateway to open doors to better opportunities.

Robert Zoellick , former President of The World Bank, spoke of the way this connection (or the lack thereof) impacts the middle class, and in turn, influences a country’s economic growth. “Tertiary education leads to higher employment rates and earnings,” explained Zoellick. “Social mobility is enhanced, and the children of these graduates have better prospects, too.”

New Models of Learning

Online learning has become a viable path to educating the middle class, whether that Is extending skills and training in specific areas or in attaining educational degrees. According to a panel of higher education leaders, the world turns to U.S. universities for creating these models of learning.

Moderated by Inside Higher Ed founder and editor Scott Jaschik, the panelists included David Leebron, president of Rice University; Nicholas Dirks, chancellor of the University of California at Berkley; and James Ryan, dean of Harvard Graduate School of Education.

The world is looking to the U.S. for the game-changing technologies that have emerged in the digital information space. According to Leebron, however, U.S. universities must also be prepared to look beyond the technological changes to also address the cultural, institutional, and organizational changes as well.

Looking ahead, international partnerships will continue to be the catalyst in fostering cross-border education, noted speakers Sir John Daniel and Stamenka Uvalić-Trumbić. Sir John is the former CEO of the Commonwealth of Learning and is a world-renowned expert on distance learning, while Uvalić-Trumbić is the former chief of higher education at UNESCO.

“Partnerships are right in principle and effective in practice,” said Sir John. “The combination of an international brand and a credible local partner is very powerful.”

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