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A University for the Future

My vision of a University of the future would focus on being both a producer of knowledge (as the result of rigorous research) and the skills to evaluate, acquire and leverage that knowledge. The University would have a balanced focus across these two major activities and will provide services in a world that recognises minimal constraints imposed by distance, politics and the need for physical presence.

This lack of constraint would be facilitated by technologies that enable interaction between people with minimal effort and without regard to their location. Students would have the ability to video conference one on one or one to many with subject matter experts in their chosen disciplines or with general subject matter experts like Librarians who could provide support in accessing resources, evaluating these, and using them appropriately to support study. There would also be experts available to support safe use of social networking tools and appropriate sharing and development of intellectual property. These people would interact with students using technologies like Second Life, chat, Skype, Facebook and Twitter. Of course, with students working from all points of the compass and in different timezones there would be some multi-language support available and support for their work would be provided on a 24 hour basis.

If students chose they could attend lectures or tutorials on one of the University’s dispersed campuses and avail themselves of access to people and resources that they could not obtain elsewhere. These would include video editing resources, music laboratories, and other expensive specialist facilities which are provided by the University for its students.

All lectures and videos would be recorded and available in high quality video podcast format as well as on Yotube. these would be branded to reflect their provenance. Lecturers and tutors would be recognised for their work and supported through the expertise of Librarians and other professionals to improve upon the finished quality and use-ability of their video.

Researchers at my university would have the ability to publish their own work, supported by experts in the field who would advise on how and where to publish to obtain the maximum return in terms of money, academic recognition or simply circulation. All materials published by academics in my university would be branded to recognise the authors’ affiliation with the organisation and to showcase the quality of the organisation’s endeavors to prospective students.

These are just some ideas. I am not sure of the implications for space, I suspect that physical portals will give ways to information portals. Instead of an edifice called “the Library” I think there will be electronic access to all resources from anywhere. This will of course mean that students who may be studying part time or undertaking work placements would not have to borrow and carry physical tomes (nor lose or have them stolen).

Students will have access to all their reading materials on line and will be bale to carry multiple books on tablet-like devices which are light and easy to use. These devices will allow annotation of the books and lookup of words and concepts against approved Internet resources such as on-line dictionary and thesaurus. Ideas will be able to be shared and explored simply by touching a paragraph or sentence and using social networking tools. Clearly an implication of this is that all space currently occupied by physical books, videos and CDs could be used instead to provide silent study or group study facilities and of course we could use the resources we currently expend on maintaining books and re-stacking shelves to providing that subject matter expertise I talked about earlier.

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