Automation and artificial intelligence technologies are transforming manufacturing, corporate work and the retail business, providing new opportunities for companies to explore and posing major threats to those that don’t adapt to the times. Equally daunting challenges confront colleges and universities, but they’ve been slower to acknowledge them.
At present, colleges and universities are most worried about competition from schools or training systems using online learning technology. But that is just one aspect of the technological changes already under way. For example, some companies are moving toward requiring workers have specific skills trainings and certifications – as opposed to college degrees.
As a professor who researches artificial intelligence and offers distance learning courses, I can say that online education is a disruptive challenge for which colleges are ill-prepared. Lack of student demand is already closing 800 out of roughly 10,000 engineering colleges in India. And online learning has put as many as half the colleges and universities in the U.S. at risk of shutting down in the next couple decades as remote students get comparable educations over the internet – without living on campus or taking classes in person. Unless universities move quickly to transform themselves into educational institutions for a technology-assisted future, they risk becoming obsolete.