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VI. Learning from Recent Literature on 21st Century Living & Learning

To develop actionable and valuable insights from those studies of Millennial Learners requires a selected review of literature on 21st century living and learning (8). The following examples suggest a prevailing mode of mobile, multi-tasked activity that enables individuals to seamlessly and amenably combine learning, contemplation, research, problem-solving, work, recreation, and personal management and at the same time to access a perpetual stream of information, conversations, and engagement:

  • Mobile everything. Most of today's entering students come out of high school already habituated to using smart phones as their communication and organization device for all aspects of their lives. Most institutions are experimenting with iPod, iPad, or other gizmo-based learning and problem solving. Many employers are clamoring for graduates with digital environment soft skills and the ability to operate "on the fly." Some people refer to this as the "e-Lifestyle."


    These developments are evident at University of the Pacific in both the habits of arriving undergraduates and professional/graduate students and in the use of technologies to reflect the state-of-the-art in professional practice.


    There is an opportunity to run courses or parallel learning experiences to help students to use those devices far more effectively in their learning and in their time management. Such courses could be grounded in research and professional practice, and could be industry-sponsored and industry-recognized.

  • Transforming learning for the zeitgeist of the digital age. Recent articles in The Chronicle of Higher Education by Virginia Heffernan and Cathy Davidson discussed the mismatch between 20th and 21st century approaches to learning and work. The 20th century focus on regular, systematic tasks that we take to completion is seemingly at odds with the 21st century's model of multi-tasking, continuous links to everything, and perpetual reinvention.

    These authors discuss examples of learning reinventions that reflect the reality of "This is what your mind looks like on the Internet." The authors also discuss the implications of the new modes for traditional forms and rhythms of learning, contemplation and written expression.

  • Perpetual learning and refreshment resources for the masses. Salman Khan has created a repository of effective, 8-12 minute learning nuggets on hundreds (soon to be thousands) of topics. These are being used by individual learners and in organized ways by K-12 teachers to reinvent their teaching and the learning experience, accelerating progress for both gifted and typical students.

    What will be the implications for K-12 learning, transitions to higher education, remediation and self-paced learning in the not-too-distant future when collections of such resources and the know-how to use them are available in all basic subjects?

  • Responsive, personalized, open learning environments. In the United States, Europe, China, Korea, and elsewhere across the globe, educators are experimenting with new, responsive learning environments that are responsive to the needs of individuals and operate at scale.

    As an example, Dr. Sebastian Thrun, renowned Research Professor at Stanford University and Peter Norvig, Director of Research at Google, are offering an open, online course, "Introduction to Artificial Intelligence" under the auspices of Stanford University. In additional to several hundred Stanford undergraduates, nearly 200,000 off-campus students have responded to the open call and will be participating. There will be graded homework assignments and the faculty will respond to questions that will be assessed and culled using AI tools. Other courses are planning to prototype this approach. Earlier traditional efforts to launch the course to off-campus learners through academic conferences yielded 80 potential students.

  • Ability to enrich, enhance and extend learning beyond existing curriculum design. Open, social-network-based feedback loops in professional fields have the potential to provide the opportunities for faculty and learners to discover continuously what's happening in the field.

    This will greatly accelerate the pace, scope, and consistency of learners having access to insights on new approaches to existing skills and new problem areas that are arising. The leader here is the multi-nation TEL-MAP Project in the European Union which is systematically providing visioning and scanning on new developments in a variety of disciplines, and developing road maps of the implications for teaching and learning (http://telmap.org/).

  • Filling in knowledge gaps. Most certificate and degree programs focus on fully developed knowledge pathways, based on existing knowledge stocks. However, in the current realigning professional and practice environment, many learners and practitioners need to fill specific, significant knowledge gaps. The emerging learning experiences - open, social-network-based - have the potential to enable campus-based learners to fill knowledge gaps and find ways to extend the coverage of institutional curricula.

    Successful institutions will find ways to encourage vibrant, dynamic mechanisms that exist in parallel to and complement their existing knowledge pathways. These complementary experiences need to be more responsive and nimble if they are to compete.

Put simply, over the next five years, the rhythms and practices of 21st Century learning will be progressively more affected by the mobile, digital culture and practices. Parallel and complementary experiences can be used to substantially augment traditional learning and knowledge-building pathways.

These new learning practices for the 21st Century will influence the needs for physical facilities for learning, collaboration, research, and other activities. The vision and strategies emerging from this Strategic Planning Process will re-align the facilities planning activities of the University of the Pacific. To support these activities we provide several other repositories of resources, 21st Century Learningspaces" (9) and 21st Century Spaces for Research and Collaboration." (10)

Implications for University of the Pacific

Students selecting the University of the Pacific, today, are not likely to consider existing online and self-directed educational experiences as equivalent to the combination of learning, personal development, community service and networking experiences provided by Pacific.

But this is the wrong comparison. The real questions for our strategic thinking requires our making a leap 5-10 years into the future to ask several penetrating questions that require honest answers:

  • Over the next 5-10 years, how will mobile, digital learning experiences develop? Will open, DIY approaches enable learners to take personal responsibility for their perpetual learning? Will these approaches be seen by prospective entrants to higher education as viable options that successfully enrich and "unbundle" traditional university offerings and experiences? What value propositions will these new approaches be fulfilling for learners and employers?

  • Will these answers vary significantly for different students with different career interests, backgrounds, ages and responsibilities?

  • In 5-10 years how might University of the Pacific be able to utilize these new tools and practices to extend, enhance and enrich the personal learning and developmental experiences it provides for its students? How can it use these approaches to attract and improve the readiness of students and accelerate successful completion? To better link learning and employability?

  • In 5-10 years how can University of the Pacific utilize these new tools and practices to reach student populations it has not reached in the past? Can it use these tools and approaches to offer new program areas, even those that are not yet invented - anywhere?

To successfully engage in such question and answering, our Strategic Planning Process will need both to be forward looking and to "plan from the future, backwards."

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