Higher Ed Leaders Reflect on the Challenges of the Next 20 Years of Higher Education


On a new white paper, higher education leaders reflect on the possibilities and challenges of the next 20 years in education technology. 

Twenty years ago, Blackboard was born. In 1997, when the educational technology company was founded, digital learning was still in its infancy and the internet was just being introduced into homes. Since then, the world has changed dramatically.

Now more than ever, we access the internet through our smartphones. According to data from Strategy Analytics and Statista, by the end of 2017, an estimated 44% of the world will own a smartphone, and 59% will own one by 2022. In 2020 an estimate of 2.87 billion users will own a smartphone. This explosive growth of mobile technologies has the potential to broadening educational access to every user who owns a mobile device. 

But access to an education is not enough. “Higher education leaders must do a better job of helping students everywhere succeed,” says Katie Bolt, Blackboard Chief Strategy Officer. 

To celebrate its 20th anniversary, Blackboard has released a new white paper exploring the future of higher education. The paper, Future Forward: The Next Twenty Years of Higher Education, presents a series of interviews with American higher education leaders including Susan Aldridge, President of Drexel University Online; Mike Abbiatti, Executive Director at WCET; Justin Louder, Associate Vice Provost at Texas Tech University; and Erin Smith, Executive Director, Online Experiential Learning at Northeastern University, among others. 

The company asked them to reflect on the last 20 years of higher education and share their insights into what the higher education institution of the future will look like in the next two decades; how other industries will influence higher education; how technology will enable change in the way learning is delivered and assessed; and other topics.

Their reflections had several key themes in common, including: 

  • The current higher education system is unsustainable and ill-suited for a globally connected world that is constantly changing.
  • Colleges and universities will have to change their current business model to continue to thrive, boost revenue, and drive enrollment.
  • The “sage on the stage” isn’t sustainable. New technologies will allow faculty to shift their focus to the application of learning rather than the acquisition of knowledge.
  • Data and the ability to transform that data into action will be the new lifeblood of the institution.

"Blackboard is committed to innovating for an even brighter, more informed future of education. As part of our 20th anniversary, we're proud to provide the public with this collection of interviews with U.S. higher education leaders on the future of higher education," said Bill Ballhaus, Chairman, President and CEO of Blackboard. "We hope these interviews will spark conversation, learning, and the exchange of ideas about the future of higher education that is so necessary for its advancement."