Jack Kroll is ready for the future

Tech and education are colliding

Jack Kroll sat down at a long, wooden table lined with an assortment of rolling chairs that make up the centerpiece of The Sentry’s office—the same table he used to work at as a Sentry employee. With a cup of coffee in hand and a smile on his face, he leaned in and asked, “What is education in a sense?”

Photo courtesy of colorado.edu

That question is something that Kroll has been contemplating in the back of his mind his entire professional career. As a member of the Board of Regents, the former President of the Alumni Association, and the Assistant Director of Admissions at CU Boulder, Kroll has dedicated his life to improving higher education. This was due, in part, to his own rocky experience when applying for college. Having made the mistake of only applying to two colleges and subsequently being rejected by one, Kroll found himself filling out a paper application to CU Denver on his 18th birthday. Poor and deliberative planning has become something he strongly recommends against.

Since then, Kroll has made it his duty to improve access to higher education. As the brother and son of military veterans, Kroll has done work throughout his career to help put more veterans in college. He even founded CU Boulder Military Student Day in the hopes of stirring more interest in the collegiate experience among veterans.

“I think to some extent we should do, and have done, a great job of serving that population that’s going to go to college no matter what. Where we have a long way to go is taking that group of students that think they might not be capable of going to college, that might not have the resources financially,” Kroll said. “Those are the students where we can have the biggest impact in the grand sense of leaving the world better than where we found it.”

In Kroll’s mind, part of this change is more than just convincing students to apply to college and have a plan after high school; much of the change must come from within the universities themselves. Parts of this change comes in the form of online classes, which have been debated numerous times over their efficiency in teaching students.

Kroll predicts a shift upward in the number of students who will become “hybrid,” taking both in person and online courses.

“If you can watch a YouTube video of your professor’s lecture, why are you spending an hour to take the train to school to sit in class to do something you could do at home?” Kroll said. “Now what we have to think about is instead of your homework being these 10 problems and come to class tomorrow [to attend a lecture]; perhaps it’s the other way around: go home, listen to what [the teacher has] to say on the subject matter, come back tomorrow and as a group work through some problems.”

Kroll is eager to embrace technology in new ways within the university system. Though there is a large group of educators who are luddites, Kroll sees the reality of the intersectionality between technology and traditional education.

“[We aren’t] going to go overnight from a model of everybody living on campus to everyone in this virtual space,” Kroll said. “There is a significant element to higher education that is the social aspect. This other element of higher education is that you’re getting to rub shoulders with the elites of America and of the world. You’re getting access to a different social network.”

This aspect of education is crucial, according to Kroll, and he knows there will never come a time when it’s not vital. However, Kroll knows that while the future of education is swiftly approaching, it’s not as scary as many see it, nor will it be here in the blink of an eye.

“It’s about thinking of innovative ways in which to leverage technologies that are going to allow higher education to be more adaptable to what the students want,” said Kroll. “We may never get to a world where students do everything online because we have this big social element that is required. Until we figure out a way to adapt the online or virtual environment to allow those social connections in a truly meaningful way, it will be held back, to some extent, from its full potential.”

Kroll is ready for the future of higher education, whatever form that education presents itself as because he understands that “education in a grand sense is a socialization into our culture and into our communities.”

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