6. The Future of the Campus

6.4. Re-thinking the Role of the Campus

If we accept the principle of equal substitution for many academic purposes, then this brings us back to the student on the bus question. If students can learn most things equally well (and more conveniently) online, what can we offer them on campus that will make the bus journey worthwhile? This is the real challenge that online learning presents.

It is not just a question of what teaching activities need to be done in a face-to-face class or lab, but the whole cultural and social purpose of a school, college, or university. Students in many of our large, urban universities have become commuters, coming in just for their lectures, maybe using the learning commons between lectures, getting a bite to eat, then heading home. As we have ‘massified’ our universities, the broader cultural aspects have been lost.

Online and hybrid learning provides a chance to re-think the role and purpose of the whole campus, as well as what we should be doing in classrooms when students have online learning available anytime and anywhere. Of course, we could just close up shop and move everything online (and save a great deal of money), but we should at least explore what would be lost before doing that.