by Stephen Smith

How Technology is Revolutionizing Higher Education

Digital technologies and the Internet are changing how many Americans go to college. From online learning to simulation programs to smart-machine mentors, the 21st-century student will be taught in fundamentally new ways. In this documentary, Stephen Smith asks whether these innovations can help more people get access to higher education and bring down the cost of college without sacrificing learning.

Some of America's most prestigious schools are putting their courses online for free. Anyone in the world can attend, and millions of students have already signed up. Advocates say these new, online programs will revolutionize higher education both in cyberspace and in the face-to-face classroom.

Computer-based college classes designed by Carnegie Mellon University use a sophisticated "learning dashboard" to track each student. The instructor in these face-to-face courses uses data to focus class sessions on areas where students need the most help. Researchers say students learn more and faster while demanding less of the professor's time.

A group of western state governors created a non-profit, entirely online university to meet a growing demand for higher education at a time of shrinking state budgets. Western Governors University is a low-cost school that awards degrees based on what a student knows, not how much time has been spent in class. WGU enrolls students in all 50 states and is growing fast.

More than half of the students at America's public colleges and universities arrive on campus without the basic skills they need to succeed. Math is a particular problem. A community college in Chattanooga, Tenn. has created a model program using computer-assisted instruction to dramatically cut the time -- and the cost -- of remedial math education.

Education innovators at the University of Minnesota are using online social networks to teach college courses. Rather than using conventional video lectures and online quizzes, these classes look more like Facebook than a textbook. Researchers say the approach can be more engaging and effective than other methods of teaching online.


  ◊ Download MP3



One knowledge-based industry and information-intensive institution has seemed relatively immune to the potent forces of digital alchemy: America's colleges and universities. More



Does online education work as well as in-classroom education? We enlisted the Public Insight Network to query people who had enrolled in or taught an online course. More


Transcript | Resources | Credits
Published Fall 2012

The Tomorrow's College series is funded by a grant from Lumina Foundation, which is committed to enrolling and graduating more students from college, and by a grant from the Spencer Foundation, which is dedicated to the belief that research is necessary to the improvement of education.

American Public Media © |   Terms and Conditions   |   Privacy Policy


Support American RadioWorks with your purchases