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Education 3.0: The University of the Future is Now

Updated: Jun 5, 2023

Just what is Education 3.0? As a complete vision, Education 3.0 includes a virtual campus community network that delivers greater engagement, deeper and more reflective learning, higher persistence and completion rates, greater faculty satisfaction and effectiveness, and cradle-to-grave support services for all involved.

Today, happily, we have the technological tools and the knowledge to create Education 3.0. At Yellowdig, our technology opens the door to higher impact teaching and student support not only in small groups but at large scale. This is good news both educationally and economically. And all this can happen without requiring a “one size fits all” approach where everyone is expected to do the same thing the same way at the same time.

Exploring the future of education by analyzing the status quo

Let’s face the fact that the dominant model employed by most colleges historically lacked consistency and deep engagement.

There was a random quality to the student-teacher experience based on the faculty member’s attention to the course content and teaching style. And the rest of college life was, well, what you made of it – from career advice to alumni support.

We all remember those few outstanding faculty members who went beyond the “facts” of the course to engage in serious conversation about their implications, possible alternatives, and opposing versions or theories when pertinent. They also understood there would be a diversity of impact, suggesting that a particular poem or novel might have a different meaning for different people, depending on their background and current situation. In a nutshell, that's why small classes and discussion groups were far more popular and valuable (and effective!) than lectures to hundreds of people. And some would argue that discussions among peers in the student union were equally valuable.

In those days, the tapestry of teaching and learning had a distinctive woof and warp to it. The woof was the format employed by colleges – usually lectures coupled with smaller sections for further discussion. The warp was how those sections were taught. This “tapestry” was based on the assumption that the faculty member was king (or queen) of the section once the door was closed. No one was going to tell them how to teach! As a result, the experiences were random: some exceptionally valuable, as noted above, while many others were tedious and two dimensional: question and answer, right or wrong, do you understand the material or do you not? But due to tradition and the lack of technology, it was impossible to move beyond this reality and create consistently immersive and powerful experiences. Today, these qualities are totally achievable.

Why are learner engagement and community-building important pedagogically? And how can we support it at scale for learners of all ages and backgrounds in higher education, workforce training, and lifelong learning programs?

I have come to understand that reflection is the process of extracting meaning from experience. When we ask learners to move beyond the facts, to discuss and understand the implications of the facts or the portent of a particular historical period, incident, short story or poem, we are asking them to develop their capacity to reflect, not just in a particular course, but across their life experiences.

When we bring their life experience into play, we are respecting them.

I would submit that active ongoing, and conscious reflection is the key to being an active lifelong learner. And, as such, developing the capacity for reflection in learners not only deepens their learnings and new knowledge in courses, but it is as important an objective as subject matter mastery.

Deep learner engagement is a powerful enhancement and support service to all other aspects of student life. The term for this kind of engagement is Regular and Substantive Interaction (RSI), whatever the focus of the service being offered. Although RSI is a mouthful, it lies at the heart of Education 3.0.

Whether we are focused on online learning communities, or non-curricular communities such as orientation, career planning, student advising, club activities, or alumni services, the platform is essentially the same, capable of supporting a virtual campus community network.

Classroom communities are gamified and based on pedagogical and community-building practices that underpin the design of the platform. In the other use cases, such as orientation and career planning, however, the key to success is effective and scalable management strategies that drive dynamic interaction and community building.

Hear from The University of Michigan, who uses Yellowdig for orientation below:

Education 3.0 is a comprehensive suite of services that can be adapted to the particular needs of your institution. And it is a new universe beyond discussion boards because it brings coherence and consistency across all aspects of the student’s life through engagement and accessibility to the services learners need when they need them. There is also significant ROI due to scalability and higher student retention rates.

The costs of not moving in this direction far outweigh those of doing so. Given the changing demographics of the post-secondary student body (age, ethnicity, and motivation) and the trend towards learning that is workforce-related and lifelong, hanging on to the traditional practices will render college less relevant to many learners going forward.

Education 3.0 opens the door to a future in which consistency, higher quality, and personalization are combined in a DNA that redefines high-quality learning through a virtual campus community network. And at Yellowdig, our solutions are the ground floor of Education 3.0. Take a look and come join us!


About the Author, Dr. Peter Smith:

Dr. Peter Smith is currently the Chief Academic Advisor for Yellowdig.

Just two years after earning his Bachelor of Arts from Princeton University in

1968, Peter Smith led the effort to design and establish The Community

College of Vermont, now entering its 53 rd year of operations.

He also served as founding president of California State University Monterey

Bay from 1995 to 2005. Smith was responsible for building the university

and guiding it through all stages of accreditation while raising nearly $100

million externally to academic buildings and programs.

After leaving Cal State Monterey Bay in 2005, Smith served as Assistant

Director General for Education for the United Nations Educational,

Scientific, and Cultural Organization in Paris, France where he was

responsible for more than 700 staff located in 30 countries.

Smith also served as Dean of the George Washington University Graduate

School of Education and Human Development from 1991 to 1994 after

serving his home state of Vermont as a state senator (1980-82), Lt. Governor

(1982-86) and Congressman-at-Large. (1989-1990)

Smith currently serves on the following Boards

  • National Center for Higher Education Management Systems

  • National Council - State Authorization and Regulatory Authority

  • DEAC National Board

  • Association of Governing Boards – Senior Fellow

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