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Communications of the ACM

The profession of IT

Automated Education and the Professional

Automated Education and the Professional, illustrative photo

Credit: Wavebreak Media

Three new books proclaim a coming disruption for higher education: The End of College by Kevin Carey,1 College Disrupted by Ryan Craig,2 and Hire Education by Michelle Weise and Clayton Christensen.8 They tell variations of the following story. The common model for a university encompasses three purposes: practical training, research, and liberal education. Trying to serve all three well has driven up costs, tuitions, employer dissatisfaction, student debt, and student disillusionment to unsustainable levels. Intense competition among universities for ranking and prestige further exacerbates these issues. The new technologies of massive open online courses (MOOCs) and online competency-based modules (OCBMs) provide numerous online alternates at much lower cost. They will draw students away and cause many university bankruptcies in the next decade. A highly automated, low-cost, global, virtual "University of Everywhere" will emerge from the disruption.

Lew Perelman, who first foresaw competency-based learning technologies in his book School's Out,7 recently commented: "What will really disrupt academia is not mass production of impersonal teaching but mass access to personalized learning, plus employment selection based on demonstrated competencies, not academic credentials. That is the fate that now faces academia."a


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