Late last year we worked with the Australian Veterinary Board Council and the Deans of all the Veterinary Schools in Australia and New Zealand looking at what the future of veterinary education and regulation might look like in 2031. The date was chosen to be the time when a 12 year old just starting secondary school now would be a graduate of 2-3 years standing. We looked at a whole range of issues including availability of smart phone based diagnostic kits for pet owners, artificial intelligence systems for diagnosis, urban densification and its effects on pet ownership, veterinary practice corporatisation, international trade requirements, and the need for wide or narrow scope veterinary degrees.
One of the ideas that emerged from the process has stuck in my head and I think has great scope to revolutionise how we provide a much wider range of education at universities and for education post graduation.
Essentially the is one where the veterinary school acts as the primary site of education for those subject areas that need face to face contact and technical expertise that cannot be achieved in an online, video, or virtual reality environment.
All other subjects/modules are accessed by the students via the school platform and the teaching material and processes that form the basis of those modules can be supplied by any accredited service across the globe. The model looks like the following diagram if we just look at one module, in this case cat medicine at the vet school at the University of Melbourne:
On the supply side of the platform (above the line in the diagram) cat medicine courses are supplied by all the possible services globally that wish to provide that service and who are able to meet the curriculum needs. The platform would be agnostic on delivery systems as long as outcomes where met.
On the demand side (below the line in this diagram) each student in this model can choose who their supplier of education in cat medicine is. In the picture above Isabelle has chosen Sydney University because they have a great reputation but also provide face to face services at the school in Melbourne. Ivy and Anne have chosen Seoul National University because they have a great reputation and their virtual reality applications suit their learning style and they have been offered lifetime professional development at a low cost as part of the deal.
The school accredits multiple providers from interstate and/or overseas for each module (the school itself can provide modules in competition with these modules if it desires). Students can choose the best provider for the module or subject they wish to complete.
Competition on the platform fosters innovation in teaching content, support and methodologies that best meet the student’s needs.
Collaboration may occur between schools with centres of excellence formed to compete with international providers. E.g. Sydney University could be the cat medicine centre of excellence that allows economies of scale to be achieve on content creation and methodologies (for example virtual reality technology is still quite expensive but spread over 1000 students the costs come down).
Uncertainty about the future education and information needs is dealt with by the system working as “plug and play” with new subject matter being able to be added as flexibly as possible, and many providers producing a much larger resource base. This should allow more rapid adoption of new content as the world changes (e.g. big data systems/network facilitation for clients with home diagnostic tests).
On top of the pre-registration process it could also be used for post registration professional development with or without limited degrees. Currently vets have to learn and qualify across a massive range of animal species but many go into small animal practice and never see a cow, sheep, or pig again. Shorter narrow species based degrees could be supplemented by post graduation systems that allow vets to qualify in other areas if they wish to change careers or specialties.
By taking advantage of education technologies to improve the efficiency and quality of education a school as a platform system. There are multiple advantages to this beyond what has been discussed above:
- The time and costs of delivering some content can be reduced.
- Greater value can be created in other areas by increasing the time and resources applied to the teaching of those areas.
- Self paced degree systems could be put in place where the pace of learning is determined by the student rather than the needs of the lecturers or the school.
Regulatory/Accreditation issues could be relatively straightforward if the existing schools are accredited and the content partners are required to meet content and/or competency based assessments. Combined with limited degrees, intern models, etc. the issues can become quite complex. The accreditation process itself may need to become more flexible and capable of responding faster to changes in technology.
Technology in delivery of course and maximising flexibility in systems is rapidly advancing. For example the University of Texas has a major collaborative project going on with Salesforce:
UT System partners with tech industry leader to develop next-generation learning platform
The future is coming faster than we think and it has the potential to radically change education models.