While “traditional” may once have been synonymous with “academic excellence”, this is no longer the case. Tertiary institutions have embraced innovation, cultural and technological change to a point. However, the way in which universities are structured hasn’t changed much since their inception in the Middle Ages. In a world where knowledge is rapidly becoming a cheap, easy to obtain commodity, universities are struggling to keep up. Traditional models no longer suit the needs of students today. Efficiency, flexibility, and affordability fall high on the student’s hierarchy of needs. Below are four current educational problems, along with their possible solutions.


With time as their most precious commodity, today’s students are demanding more flexible ways of learning. This is a large concern for leaders of tertiary institutions. Under the traditional university structure, flexibility is hard to attain without sacrificing integrity. But the option of flexible learning is crucial to the evolution of higher education. Although many academics fear online education will replace the university campus and professor, this is unlikely. Students will always see value in being exposed to new people and ideas in a real-world environment.

The solution is the “hybrid degree”, an integration between online and offline learning. Introductory courses can be covered quickly and cheaply by Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), from anywhere in the world. Once the abstract information has been digested, students will still want the collaborative, hands-on, experiential learning that can’t be taught online.


The future of the lecture hall will look something like a preschool/kindergarten class with small groups and a teacher who acts as a guide. A growing amount of research suggests that lecture-based learning does not appear to be an efficient educational model. The pedagogic approach shows limited retention of learned concepts, and an inability to effectively apply knowledge in a problem-solving situation. The focus of this model is on the lecturer and the knowledge being imparted, rather than on the students.

To embrace the future of education, the role of the professor will have to transform – no longer a teacher, but a highly trained mentor, there to facilitate classes in a way that optimizes learning. Split into small groups, students are assessed not on their ability to reproduce facts, but on their ability to apply the facts to real-world situations, to debate and to communicate these ideas in an efficient, informed manner. Technology will also come into play. As Virtual Reality becomes increasingly available, real-world situations could be easily simulated in the lecture hall.


The new academic degree will resemble a portfolio of micro-credentials. This doesn’t mean that people will no longer be able to specialize. But they would have the option to combine subjects that previously were impossible to combine – for example, music and neuroscience, or robotics and philosophy.

This interdisciplinary way of learning ensures a well-rounded education that embraces the process of learning. Comprising of abstract knowledge, practical problem solving, interpersonal skills, and the ability to think critically, this holistic approach is essential to success in today’s world. This interdisciplinary approach to education produces adaptable individuals who understand the importance of collaboration between fields, and realize that no person or subject is an island.


Like any disruptive technology, online learning is still evolving. It’s far from perfect, but it is more accessible and less expensive compared to brick-and-mortar university courses. MOOCs are gaining a lot of traction among adult learners in remote locations and third-world countries where the quality of education is questionable. They are also a viable option for those with learning difficulties such as dyslexia, as classes can be watched as often as needed. Across the globe, high university fees are creating debts for students and their families. The current environment is fertile for MOOCs to grow and disrupt education.