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Exploring Higher Education Futures

Exploring Higher Education Futures



Exploring four major trends that will shape the future of higher education as we know it today.

Exploring four major trends that will shape the future of higher education as we know it today.



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  • Good afternoon.This session is about alternative futures for higher education. What will our sector, institutions and our work look like in 20 years time? What will learning look like, and how and where will students learn? What part will educational technology play? AND, most importantly: What can we do today to shape that future and be ready for it?Think about this:MOST young Americans entering university this year can't write in cursive, think email is too slow, that Beethoven's a dog and Michelangelo a computer virus. Czechoslovakia has never existed, Fergie is a pop singer, not a duchess; Clint Eastwood is a sensitive movie director, not Dirty Harry; and John McEnroe stars in TV ads, not on the tennis court, Beloit College's “Mindset” list says.For US students who got their bachelor's degrees this year, Germany was never divided, professional athletes have always competed in the Olympics, there have always been reality shows on television and smoking has never been allowed on US airlines.The world changes quickly, in ways that we can’t really imagine today. We need to be ready for those possible futures.
  • But why bother thinking about the future of higher education, or in fact, the future in general?Thinking and planning for the future is an innate human activity – it’s called foresight. It goes on inside our heads, and has a lot to do with the ways in which we see the world – our mental models.Unless we activate our foresight capacity, all ourplanning about the future is based on what we know about the past and the presentBut…The future will not be like the past.
  • The degree to which we integrate and plan for the future in our everyday lives – both personal and work - depends on how we view the future.This is from Frederick Polak’s book Images of the Future. Essence is about the unchangeable course of events – history and the future is a book already written. Influence is the degree we think we can intervene and shape the future.So we have four approaches to the future.Let’s party – nothing we do will make a difference anyway – the future will take care of itself, so let’s have a good time today.We can make it even better if we work togetherIt will be a challenge and it probably won’t work, but we have to try – existing reality is precarious and awful in places, but it is possible to imagine a better future and work towards it.The end of the world is near, so just get ready!HANDS UP WHO IS IN THE TOP LEFT HAND QUADRANT?THE TOP RIGHT HAND QUADRANT?THE BOTTOM LEFT HAND QUADRANT?AND THE BOTTOM RIGHT HAND QUADRANT?This is about our worldview and our assumptions about the world and how it operates. It’s about what’s in here, and it’s something we need to recognise if we are to be able to plan for the future of higher education.
  • In our societies and organisations today, we tend to work within existing paradigms and tweak them to make them better and more efficient. Think quality improvement and benchmarking.If the future is going to be nothing like today, then the current paradigm won’t be good enough. We need to start building a new paradigm today, one that takes the uncertainty of the future, and uses it to understand what our options are.But to do that, we have to move beyond busy, and deadlines, and activate our foresight capacities. Saying that you are too busy to think about the future is a pretty amazing statement really – but I hear it all the time. It’s like saying I’m going to ignore what’s going on out there even though it will change my work in the future, because I’m so busy dealing with my work today.
  • There are no future facts though, and so in our data driven organisations today, seemingly obsessed with benchmarking, quantitative analysis and data driven decision making at the expense of all else, the future is not worth spending time on because we can’t quantify it.All we have are images and ideas about the future, underpinned by our assumptions about how we think the world works now, and will work into the future.
  • Challenge your assumptions about what’s possible and how you think your organisation will operate into the future.It’s won’t be business as usual, it won’t look anything like today.
  • And we do that to avoid looking like this – when all our best laid plans based on today’s paradigm fall apart when they collide with the future.We must spend time today exploring the shape and form of the future.
  • QUESTION – when you think about the future of higher education, what images spring to mind?We all have images about the future in our heads – futures work seeks to surface them, share them, challenge them, and discuss them as the basis for building a shared view about the future of your organisation.
  • There are many possible futures.No one can predict the future, except by luck. No one.But we can understand the shape of possible futures, and this activity – thinking about alternative futures – needs to be a pre-requisite for strategy development – right now!
  • There are many drivers of change out there affecting higher education, and you are all living the impact of these every day in your work.Let’s explore some of them..
  • These three pieces of technology have the potential to change how work is done in universities. They are already changing the way content is delivered.The mobile device….The ebook reader…replacing hard copy textbooksThe ipad and other tablet computers – using now in class, allowing communication and collaboration.Their exact impact is still unknown, but they will have an impact.
  • Internet of thingsConnects real and virtual worldEvery sort of sensor provides real time information about the physical world to the digital landscapeLonger than the next decade.We must be sure to keep our humanity top of mind as we move into our hyper-connected future, and strive to ensure that the developing network of connected machines is focus on serving humanity, rather than the other way around.Gigaom Research Brief, July 2010.Technology that imbues ordinary objects with the ability to recognise their physical location and respond appropriately, or to connect with other objects or information. The things know where they are, who owns it and something about its environment. The underlying technologies – RFID, smartcards, touch and motion sensors – are not new, we are seeing new forms of sensors, identifiers and applications with a more generalised set of functionalities.
  • The Internet of Things: where physical things have RFID chips in them and are connected and communicate with each other.Charge Cindy was wired to the web by a team at the University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, which is communicating the movements – the meals, milk yields, hatches, matches and dispatches – of 12 favourite cows on Buttermine. Each has a radio-frequency identification (RFID) tag embedded in it, and the farm is equipped with sensors able to read them. As the cows move around the farm, their actions are translated into predefined tweets, generating a stream of data. What could you do if you knew where all your suppliers (or customers) were right now and how they were feeling?
  • Cloud computing is here – large clusters of networked servers bringing huge amounts of processing power and storage capacity to individuals. Inexpensive, simple solutions to offsite storage, hosting and multi-user applications are generating new ways of thinking about computers, software and files.
  • The Singularity – or technological creation of self-improving intelligence – is a trend based on the long term pattern of accelerating change that is projected to result in machines surpassing human intelligence and then improving own designs and augmenting their intelligence. When this happens, when artificial intelligence surpasses human intelligence, what sort of world will we live in? Will the knowledge brain chip or maybe the Star Trek Borg become a reality?There is now a Singularity University which aims to assemble, educate and inspire a cadre of leaders who strive to understand and facilitate the development of exponentially advancing technologies in order to address humanity’s grand challenges. One of its partners is Google.http://singularity.com/http://singinst.org/http://singularityu.org/
  • The rise of open source has significant implications for education – for teaching, research and service delivery. For example, will journal companies continue to dominate the research publication field into the future? There are signs that open source will be a key driver.Open educational resources are more and more common – the sharing of digital learning resources over the internet openly and without charge.If our institutions are not open to ways to connect with people and what they need to learn, they will be locked in providing one version of education. They will need to open to the change that is involved in shifting the educational experience, and what is means to learn.And, if content is freely available online, what is the future of the qualification and accreditation? And, what is the future of academic work?This trend is changing the role of the academic staff member from content creator to facilitator of learning, interpreter of knowledge (what really matters), and student experience generator.
  • The quality is there too. Academic Earth provides videos of lectures from leading academics at leading institutions – for free. More and more content will be freely available in the future.
  • New forms of education delivery are emerging….http://www.unclasses.org.
  • The University of the People, a UN initiative, with no tuition fees. There’s an application fee, and an exam admin fee.
  • Some examples of knowledge readily accessible outside the walls of institutions.Itunes University – already populated with content from many universities worldwide.
  • This is a new company that offers college courses for $99US. It has partnerships with accredited institutions and you get your qualification – if you need it – through them.
  • And open study is a big online study group, driven by the students themselves.
  • Increasing globalisation continues to affect the way we work, collaborate and communicate. The delivery of services is increasingly global. Our networks are increasingly global. We are told that people with global connections are more likely to advance in their careers, while those who do not will find themselves on the sidelines. Access to online collaborative workspaces, social networking tools, mobiles and VOIP are seeing teaching and scholarship transcending traditional borders more and more all the time.Globalisation is also increasing the diversity of the student population, the population in communities with which universities work, and the make-up of staff working in universities.Globalisation drives much of the change we experience at work, and we need to understand it.
  • Automation is increasing. More and more jobs will be automated, with a differentiation perhaps being whether you need to be present to do the job, or whether it can be done remotely.Robots doing surgery is not uncommon today, and that’s pretty specialised stuff. Is your job that specialised that it can’t be done by a robot?This is Robo-Boy - he's the Child-robot with Bio-mimetic Body - he watches your mood and learns from it.The inventors are trying to get Robo Boy to think like a baby who evaluates its mother's countless facial expressions and "clusters" them into basic categories, such as happiness and sadness.With 197 film-like pressure sensors under its light grey rubbery skin, CB2 can also recognise human touch, such as stroking of its head.The robot can record emotional expressions using eye-cameras, then memorise and match them with physical sensations, and cluster them on its circuit boards.Since CB2 was first presented to the world in 2007, it has taught itself how to walk with the aid of a human and can now move its body through a room quite smoothly, using 51 "muscles" driven by air pressure.In coming decades, they expect science will come up with a "robo species" that has learning abilities somewhere between those of a human and other primate species such as the chimpanzee.And their goal to is to have the robo-kid speaking in basic sentences within about two years, matching the intelligence of a two-year-old child.They are not far away.Read more: http://www.news.com.au/technology/robo-boy-is-here-and-ready-to-learn/story-e6frfro0-1225699643342#ixzz0x6YWY2wz
  • Flexible working in the sense that, like students, we can work when, where and at times we choose, hasn’t really taken off yet. If robots and automation become more of a reality though, what are the options then?As an example, Jason Fried of 37 signals, an online company providing project management and customer relationship management software, writes about how he and his staff work like this:I try not to grab my phone and check e-mails first thing. I used to do that, and it's just not good for you. Instead, I'll go and brew some tea and try and relax a little bit. But the computer's always kind of pulling me toward it, so I end up looking at e-mail sooner than I'd like to.Then sometimes I head in to the office. I might work from home for a week and then get bored of that, so I will spend the next week at the office. I usually get to work between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. Of the 16 people at the company, eight of us live here in Chicago. Employees come to the office if and when they feel like it, or else they work from home. I don't believe in the 40-hour workweek, so we cut all that BS about being somewhere for a certain number of hours. I have no idea how many hours my employees work -- I just know they get the work done.Does this describe your work environment?It’s not really a fair question, because his business is online, but how do you start to prepare today for a university that delivers its services totally online? Or the possibility that it might happen?
  • And the way we view leadership will continue to change.New leadership paradigms that focus around being aware, present and mindful, around intellectual rather than functional leadership are emerging. The industrial era concepts of command and control, certainty and micro-management are – or should be – dead. Leaders of the future will need to nurture and cultivate: resilience, personal mastery, integrity, authenticity, intuition and foresight.I think we often forget that our leaders are just people trying to do a good job as best they can. Some leaders are promoted beyond their capacity – either or both of their knowledge or people capacities, and they eventually get found out. No one is perfect, but we still expect our leaders to be perfect. I worked with someone once who was scathing of the Vice-Chancellor, and she said ‘well, she’s lost me now!!’. I was quite perplexed by the remark at the time, and have never really been able to work out why, but I suspect it’s because we expect our leaders to be all things to all people and that’s just impossible. So, the leader of the future will be….what?
  • We talk now about work life balance, and most organisations are moving towards having strategies to promote work life balance. But it’s a bit like corporate social responsibility – it’s done because we think it’s expected of us. What trends are showing is that people want work that means something to them, and that allows them to integrate their work and personal lives in ways that are authentic to them – and flexi-time just doesn’t cut it!
  • From where you sit, have I missed anything that you think will be an important driver of higher education futures?
  • So given these drivers, what might be some possible futures for higher education?Scenarios are a proven way to help people think in a systematic and information rich way beyond today.
  • This is the process you follow to build scenarios. It’s the topic for another presentation, but it is a method being used now by business, non-profits, government and universities across the globe to get a better handle on what their future might be like – so they can start preparing for it today.Let’s look at some examples of scenarios.
  • Swinburne University developed a set of scenarios that focused on a shift in societal culture
  • These scenarios were developed for a conference plenary session around the question will globalisation turn universities into a theme park.
  • Will universities as we know them today be the dinosaurs of the future? Maybe. What might cause this?Inability to respond to changing societal values around education and learningMissing the opportunity that educational technology can provide to make delivery of learning more cost effective.Protecting content and not sharing it Will they be leading change or playing catch-up?
  • Will governments still be regulating education to death?Or will the ties of regulation be cut?Will the market and the needs of the national and global economy still be driving government policy or will institutions be allowed to determine their niche and go after it?
  • Will it be about serving communities and the rebirth of a new sense of public responsibility and more civic engagement?Or will it be about education as a business, and competition and growth as the driver of strategy?
  • Will the student become the arbiter of what knowledge is required, when and where?Will education content and delivery be consumer driven?Or will the sheer amount and knowledge of information out there cause us to surrender to an institution that promises it will work with us to give us what we need?
  • Will our institutions continue to look likethis, or will they be more like Disneyland – Both offer opportunities to try new things, some safe, some scary and some just plain boring. The difference would be about who chooses what ride to take – the student or the academic? And whether the ride is because they want the experience now, or because it’s part of a planned qualification?
  • These are some of the trends and drivers of change you need to be paying attention to – today.
  • One thing is for certain – the world into which we are heading looks like this.Elements of all the previous slides might eventuate, or might not. It’s complex, it’s interconnected and we don’t know what the outcomes will be.
  • But the future for higher education is NOT going to be like this. It isn’t business as usual with a few tweaks. It isn’t the same old paradigm. It won’t evolve in a linear fashion. It’s going to be a totally different ballgame.And we have to be ready for it.
  • How do you get ready for the possible futures that might emerge for higher education?
  • One of your challenges is to find the time to think strategically – we are all so busy that we get caught up in the here and now and dismiss any time out of the office as unproductive.But…thinking is work too.So just as we schedule planning workshops, we have to schedule time for strategic thinking.
  • Look out beyond your job, your industry, your organisation – see what’s going on out there
  • Then think about(i) How what you are seeing might evolve over time – what’s certain, what’s not, and(ii) what it all means for you, your work and your organisation – do this collaboratively – it’s not a solitary activity. What needs to change? What can stay the same?
  • And then do some planning, but do this only after you have explored possible future operating environments.
  • But most importantly, activate your foresight capacity …..
  • So that you can shape your future and get to the destination you want,
  • Rather than ending up as a bit player in someone else’s future.
  • Don’t face the future like this, or it will bite you on the proverbial. By the way, this is what you look like when you say you are too busy to think about the future.
  • Face it like this – calm and ready for whatever the future brings.
  • Thank you coming today, and I hope it’s been useful.
  • Here are my contact details.I am very happy for you to get in touch after today if you have any questions – email is probably the best way – but please do get in touch. Thank you.

Exploring Higher Education Futures Exploring Higher Education Futures Presentation Transcript