School 2.0: teachers will be liberated from the classroom

Somewhere, this year, a university hired its last tenured professor. That’s because of the economic pressures on higher education. Next year, a university will hire its last faculty member expected to teach in a classroom. And that’s because of the technological pressures on higher education.
Technology won’t kill university education any more than television killed radio, but it will transform it. While your kids will still go to college, and it will still cost a fortune, their study time will look radically different than it does today. Even though our university classroom teachers may be replaced with robots, websites or direct-to-brain Ethernet jacks, on-campus higher education will still have a place that no Massive Open Online Course will supplant in our lifetime.
To understand why the future won’t kill college, it helps to remember how technology has already transformed education.
In the middle ages, getting “access to content” was a physical ordeal. Books had to be copied by hand and gathering knowledge required physically getting your hands on one of those precious tomes. Then came the printing press, broadcast media, and then the Internet. With each wave, creating and distributing content has gotten cheaper and more democratic.
The first European universities were created in those same middle-ages and still act as physical repositories of knowledge. I remember a time when even a textbook was hard to get your hands on outside of a University Bookstore. One way professors contributed to learning was simply to curate their syllabi and point students at the right books. There was no path to one of those syllabi with out buying a semester of tuition.
Now you can combine a course list with a couple of searches for syllabi and assemble your own do-it-yourself Biomedical Engineering curriculum at home.
The signs came slowly at first: mail order classes that moved to email, YouTube videos of every cooking technique imaginable, community college and online schools experimenting with distance learning for busy professionals.