Bill Gates Predicts Future of Higher Education

Dennis Faas's picture

Microsoft co-founder and billionaire Bill Gates says he believes the Internet is phasing out the traditional college experience.

According to Gates, in this new educational environment downloading lessons and lectures -- just as one would download a song or movie -- will replace attending in-person lectures.

Gates made the prediction during his keynote address at Microsoft's recent Research Faculty Summit 2013.

Future Students to Download Courses, Gates Suggests

The change, which Gates called "profound," could result in students using the Internet to download lessons or even entire courses from universities like MIT and the University of California.

Obviously, such a transition would have a profound effect on how colleges and universities function -- as well as the administrators and professors who run them.

Gates also says he believes students in the future will be "polymaths" -- meaning they successfully integrate knowledge from several different areas. Being able to easily access lessons and courses through a central distribution center could push young people in that direction.

Nevertheless, Gates says he's still "a big believer that there should be one or two subjects that you should know something about in a pretty deep way."

But while Gates has clearly given a lot of thought to the way future students will access their lessons, he seemed baffled when asked about the role wearable technology -- such as Google Glass or the rumored Surface Watch -- might play in the educational environment of tomorrow.

"Well, it will help you cheat, I guess," Gates said.

Smart Assistant Software to Make Learning Easier

While skirting the topic of wearable technology, Gates did spend some time talking about "smart assistant software" -- or software that can assist in the learning experience.

For example, such software could be used to track a user's education and interests and make recommendations for suitable university courses. Eventually, Gates suggested, such an assistant could be used for helping young people choose a career path.

But Microsoft's former chief executive officer also believes such technology could prove useful outside of the classroom. Such an assistant "can help us get things done ... [and] give us deep insights," Gates said.

Clearly, Gates sees much promise in the idea of having software act as a virtual life coach.

"As everybody gets essentially what we've called the personal agent -- where we see where you're going, we see your calendar, we see your communications -- I think we'll be more connected," Gates said.

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