If access to higher education is a necessary element in expanding economic prosperity and improving the quality of life, then we need to address the problem of the growing global demand for education. Compounding this challenge of demand from college-age students is the fact that the world is changing at an ever-faster pace. Few of us today will have a fixed, single career; instead, we are likely to follow a trajectory that encompasses multiple careers. As we move from career to career, much of what we will need to know will not be what we learned in school decades earlier. We are entering a world in which we all will have to acquire new knowledge and skills on an almost continuous basis.
It is unlikely that sufficient resources will be available to build enough new campuses to meet the growing global demand for higher education - at least not the sort of campuses that we have traditionally built for colleges and universities. Nor is it likely that the current methods of teaching and learning will suffice to prepare students for the lives that they will lead in the twenty-first century.
Fortunately, various initiatives launched over the past few years have created a series of building blocks that could provide the means for transforming the ways in which we provide education and support learning. Much of this activity has been enabled and inspired by the growth and evolution of the Internet, which has created a global "platform" that has vastly expanded access to all sorts of resources, including formal and informal educational materials. The Internet has also fostered a new culture of sharing, one in which content is freely contributed and distributed with few restrictions or costs.
Minds on Fire: Open Education, the Long Tail, and Learning 2.0. John Seely Brown and Richard P. Adler. EDUCAUSE Review 2008, 43: 16-32