Towards a Magic Cube Framework in Understanding Higher Education 4.0 Imperative for the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Towards a Magic Cube Framework in Understanding Higher Education 4.0 Imperative for the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Bo Xing (University of Johannesburg, South Africa)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-6255-9.ch007


Higher Education in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, or HE 4.0, is an umbrella term for accommodating different manner of teaching and learning, research and innovation, service, and infrastructure that are often portrayed as key elements of a university. Despite the imperative of HE 4.0, the truly transformed HE environment is still far from reality. This discrepancy raises many questions such as (1) What makes HE4.0 so special? and (2) How could the potential good of HE 4.0 be unlocked? This chapter seeks to add to the literature by offering a “magic cube” framework, which includes diverse axes, faces, and layers/slices, in understanding various inter-related factors. The result of this study (i.e., the magic cube framework for HE 4.0) is developed to support all stakeholders of higher education system to fully grasp the strengths of HE 4.0 in response to the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
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The fourth industrial revolution is fast approaching us. On the one hand, the news is good for higher education (HE) institutions. With the increase in the income level, the numbers of enrollments are up. There’s a continuing specialized talent shortage, creating excellent opportunity for research-driven public- and private-sector relationships (Lee & Miozzo, 2015; Salleh & Omar, 2013; The Economist, 2008). And more important, the current technological trend in digitalization has a profound effect on institutions’ performance, academic achievements, and students’ satisfaction (Castañeda & Selwyn, 2018; Hedberg, 2006; HEFCE, 2010; Kukulska-Hulme, 2012; Marshall, 2010; Ng, 2015; Potkonjak et al., 2016; Xing, 2015). On the other hand, despite the fast pace of change in the digital technology landscape for today’s HE system, the press (Dickson, 2017; C. A. Frey & Osborne, 2015; Mezied, 2016; West, 2018), academic papers (Krueger, 2018; Lamprini & Bröchler, 2018; Peters, 2017; Xing, Marwala, & Marwala, 2018; Xing & Marwala, 2017), government/consultant reports (Brown-Martin, 2017; Mulgan & Joshi, 2016; National Research Council, 2002), and books (Gleason, 2018; Jung, Horta, & Yonezawa, 2018; Maasse, Nerland, & Yates, 2018; Porter, 2015; van der Zwaan, 2017) keep raising imperative questions around the future of HE, such as how HE institutions would be affected by the fourth industrial revolution, how to use various advanced technologies in the educational environment as effectively as possible, and how the delivery of HE could be transformed?

The author believes in the era of fourth industrial revolution, altering HE is more necessary than ever before, since breakthrough technological inventions alone are not sufficient, diffusion of new technologies is critical (Peters & Besley, 2013). Therefore, this chapter intends to highlight multiple aspects that this grand conversion (HE 4.0), is taking or going to take place. Reviving an ancient system will be by no means easy. But it does promise a better and universal higher education. Rarely have demand and occasion so neatly come together. Rather than bolstering up the old model, governments should follow this sweeping tendency, adapt to and concentrate on making it work better.

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