Education Leadership Conference

Technology and globalization will continue to transform teaching and training in psychology from here on out. And that means the field had better be ready, said speakers at a conference panel on the future of psychology education.

As more coursework goes online, particularly in undergraduate education, students will be less tied to campus and more inclined to break up their university education, said panelist and Alliant University President Judith Albino, PhD. "Students will move in and out of education," she said. "I'm not predicting the demise of the standard residential college as we know it, but I think we'll see many more modules and people achieving their undergraduate goals in different ways."

Fellow panelist Edward Sheridan, PhD, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost at the University of Houston, agreed that traditional universities are not endangered, but that undergraduates will have new expectations of them.

"Most students will continue to want to go to campus," said Sheridan, "but they will want courses online...because it's convenient for them, because they've learned that modality."

As a result, graduate psychology education needs to better prepare students to teach using technology, said Sheridan. "We will be teaching people how to teach courses online," he said. "Anyone who graduates today who doesn't develop that skill will not be nearly as marketable."

Economic advantages of online education will also propel the e-learning trend, predicted Sheridan. But another panelist Wilbert McKeachie, PhD, a past president of APA, disagreed, noting the expense and time it requires to develop online courses. He called on psychology faculty to develop and teach more efficient, effective uses of educational technology "rather than assuming that something new and technological is necessarily going to be better."

As part of this effort--and also in response to growing economic pressures in higher education--more universities will likely experiment with "unbundling" the teaching functions of content preparation, content delivery and assessment of student performance, said Albino. The notion originated in online education, but Albino predicts it will find increased use beyond distance education because "there's no reason why one person has to do all those things."

Among the panelists' other recommendations:

  • Introduce psychology earlier in the grade school curriculum--in middle or even elementary school--and spell out official learning goals for each level.

  • Integrate the master's and bachelor's levels of psychology more and offer more specialization at the doctoral level.

  • Shorten the time to receiving the doctoral degree.

  • Explore and adopt new models of faculty responsibilities that emphasize and reward good teaching more.

A major aspect of good teaching is effective use of technology, panelists agreed, noting that this is more salient now than ever. "What we came face-to-face with...on Sept. 11 is that all the technology in the world can be used for good or it can be used for evil," said Albino. "[Unless we use it to] work with one another, to understand one another, then all of this is for naught."