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Re-Inventing Post-Secondary Education for the Information Age

presented by

David Pearce Snyder

Life-Styles Editor, The Futurist



            America is now passing through the mid-point of its 50-year transition from labor-intensive to information-intensive production and management. After a quarter-century of largely unproductive applications of immature computer technology, the "high-impact" half of the Information Revolution has begun. We have learned from experience that 90% of the cost for effectively computerizing an institution is for up-skilling employees and restructuring the organization so that all workers are able to make continuous use of information to improve their performance. In this context, employee training and post-secondary education will be even more crucial to organizational success in the information age than it was in the industrial era. During the 1990’s, U.S. employers have doubled their expenditures on training from $30 billion to $60 billion-a-year, but a dwindling share of that money has been going to traditional post-secondary educational institutions.

            Specifically, as new technology suddenly requires expanded levels and ranges of competency from all workers, employers are being forced to use innovative methods — i.e. expert systems, computer simulations, intra-nets and distance learning — to rapidly upgrade the capabilities of their existing human resources, while adopting internships, co-operative learning and other practicum as the most effective proven means to screen, develop and certify new recruits. In the process, America's progressive employers and educational entrepreneurs are creating new and highly competitive alternatives to traditional colleges as a means for acquiring the higher-order workplace skills that will be required of essentially all workers in the 21st Century.

            Meanwhile, America’s colleges and universities are not only faced with aggressive competition from marketplace enterprises, but with essentially flat projections of traditional student populations (16 to 24 year-olds), soaring numbers of non-traditional, older, working students (25 to 50 year-olds), and a growing gap between the costs of virtual classrooms vs. brick and mortar campuses. Futurist David Pearce Snyder assesses the impending challenge to traditional higher education and details what our existing post-secondary institutions will have to do in order to survive and prosper in these revolutionary times.

© 2000 David Pearce Snyder

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