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Wellbeing, inclusion,
and
digital dystopias
Prof. Kate Lister, Arden University
Interesting times
• Further and higher education communities
are caught between conflicting pressures
(e.g. technology, politics, financial, social
responsibility… Please name more in the
chat!)
• In this creative workshop, we build on the
speculative approach by Higher Education
Futures, exploring near-future scenarios,
and considering the opportunities and
challenges these may create
• This is intended to be light-hearted, Black
Mirror-style, thumbing our noses at the
future. Please don’t take anything too
Near-future scenarios
Listen to the following
fifteen dystopian
scenarios, and make a
note of any that
particularly resonate
with you
1. Hypercompetition
Technological innovation and
global instability have
substantially reduced the
number of jobs available,
leading to hypercompetition
between job applicants and
mass upskilling. Digital
learning students compete for
high grades and awards,
increasingly fetishising
assignment scores and seeking
other means of recognition,
while juggling work and family
2. Wellness embedded
In an attempt to tackle the
student suicide crisis, new duty
of care legislation means
universities are legally obliged
to consider student mental
wellbeing in every aspect of
study. For part-time, digital
and distance learning
providers, with the added
complication of student
isolation, this means potentially
severe penalties if any aspect of
study is deemed distressing or
3. Tribalised
Increasingly polarised
arguments and beliefs have led
to societal division. New
freedom of speech and
academic freedom legislation
states that students and staff
have the right to argue and
research anything they believe,
while equality legislation
affords them the right to be
protected from hearing beliefs
that threaten or distress them.
Students and staff must be
4. Inclusive by law
Multiculturalism, accessibility,
belonging, inclusivity and
respect are now legislated, and
universities are expected to
ensure their entire student
experiences (from curriculum
and pedagogy to student
support and peer interactions)
are compliant. However, there
is a lack of clear shared
definition around these terms,
and particular challenges for
digital providers working in
5. International
Distance and online learning
providers in resource-rich
countries are now the primary
form of global higher
education. Megascale online
teaching models, advancements
in virtual and augmented
realities and educational
simulations are used to give
globally distributed students
equitable learning experiences,
while dynamic community-
building is used as a method
6. Deglobalised
The post-pandemic shift
towards stricter borders,
deteriorating international
relations, nationalism and
protectionism has led to a need
for deglobalized distance
learning provision. The
prospect of a less open world
means local students’ needs
and career aspirations may
change rapidly, even in the life
cycle of a programme, requiring
adaptive content supported by
7. Technology-enhanced
Technology is ubiquitous in
higher education, and digital
learning is under pressure to be
at the forefront of innovation.
In an increasingly crowded and
competitive market, there is the
expectation that artificial
intelligence, virtual and
augmented realities should be
utilised in every aspect of
learning, to enhance the
student experience and ensure
systems and practices are
8. Offline & alt formats
Increasing use of technology in
work and daily life has led to
screen aversion in learners.
Students are increasingly
calling for printed or offline
versions of learning materials,
including boxes of course
books being sent to their
houses and the option to hand-
write and post assignments.
Some students have secured
legal right to offline and
alternative formats of learning
9. Flexible by choice
There is increasing pressure
from sector bodies and
lobbyists on universities to
deliver flexible learning that
supports student choice and
autonomy. Small, in-person
providers welcome this as a
chance to demonstrate pastoral
care, but it presents difficulties
for providers who operate at
scale, and universities who
serve a widening participation
market, whose students may
10. Personalised
Significant enhancements in
learning analytics mean that
learning can now be highly
personalised and optimised for
all learners, based on a black
box algorithm of
demographics, circumstances
and behaviours. The system
ensures that no two students
should have the same learning
experience. Much of it is
automated, but delivery is still a
burden on providers, and there
11. Industry-focused
Higher education and
businesses are working in
partnership, and digital
learning is leading the way in
industry-relevant learning.
Courses are closely aligned to
industry, with most
programmes offering bespoke
apprenticeships, courses
endorsed by and/or co-written
with global industry partners,
international virtual internships
and visa agreements. There are
12. Justice-driven
Unrest from uneven wealth
distribution means that
addressing societal challenges
has become a primary mission
for universities. Programmes
move towards radical
transdisciplinarity, focused on
social challenge areas. There is
a mass move away from
capitalised infrastructure, and
programmes partner with
community and activist groups,
adopting social justice
13. Ubiquitous
Students are increasingly
focused on completing their
degrees quickly while managing
busy lives. In response,
distance learning providers
move to an ‘education
everywhere’ model.
Programmes consist of
podcasts they can listen to
while driving, bite-sized course
texts delivered through social
media, case studies as Netflix
documentaries and real-life
14. Time-poor
An increasingly hectic pace of
life, with more and more
demands on students’ time and
resources, means that their
learning is becoming
increasingly sidelined by other
priorities. Digital learning
students are showing high
numbers of deferrals,
extenuating circumstances and
extension requests. Providers
are moving towards micro-
credentials and short,
15. Wildcard
Add your choice of challenge,
opportunity, dystopia, crisis or
global event here
Opportunities and challenges
Pick a card that particularly resonated
with you.
Discuss in your group:
• What (if any) elements of this dystopia
do you already see happening in your
current context?
• How can we provide quality learning
experiences for diverse students in
this scenario?
• How can we enhance accessibility,
inclusion and wellbeing for both
students and staff in this scenario?
Thank you!
Kate Lister
@KateMarburg
klister@arden.ac.uk

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Wellbeing inclusion and digital dystopias.pptx

  • 2. Interesting times • Further and higher education communities are caught between conflicting pressures (e.g. technology, politics, financial, social responsibility… Please name more in the chat!) • In this creative workshop, we build on the speculative approach by Higher Education Futures, exploring near-future scenarios, and considering the opportunities and challenges these may create • This is intended to be light-hearted, Black Mirror-style, thumbing our noses at the future. Please don’t take anything too
  • 3. Near-future scenarios Listen to the following fifteen dystopian scenarios, and make a note of any that particularly resonate with you
  • 4. 1. Hypercompetition Technological innovation and global instability have substantially reduced the number of jobs available, leading to hypercompetition between job applicants and mass upskilling. Digital learning students compete for high grades and awards, increasingly fetishising assignment scores and seeking other means of recognition, while juggling work and family
  • 5. 2. Wellness embedded In an attempt to tackle the student suicide crisis, new duty of care legislation means universities are legally obliged to consider student mental wellbeing in every aspect of study. For part-time, digital and distance learning providers, with the added complication of student isolation, this means potentially severe penalties if any aspect of study is deemed distressing or
  • 6. 3. Tribalised Increasingly polarised arguments and beliefs have led to societal division. New freedom of speech and academic freedom legislation states that students and staff have the right to argue and research anything they believe, while equality legislation affords them the right to be protected from hearing beliefs that threaten or distress them. Students and staff must be
  • 7. 4. Inclusive by law Multiculturalism, accessibility, belonging, inclusivity and respect are now legislated, and universities are expected to ensure their entire student experiences (from curriculum and pedagogy to student support and peer interactions) are compliant. However, there is a lack of clear shared definition around these terms, and particular challenges for digital providers working in
  • 8. 5. International Distance and online learning providers in resource-rich countries are now the primary form of global higher education. Megascale online teaching models, advancements in virtual and augmented realities and educational simulations are used to give globally distributed students equitable learning experiences, while dynamic community- building is used as a method
  • 9. 6. Deglobalised The post-pandemic shift towards stricter borders, deteriorating international relations, nationalism and protectionism has led to a need for deglobalized distance learning provision. The prospect of a less open world means local students’ needs and career aspirations may change rapidly, even in the life cycle of a programme, requiring adaptive content supported by
  • 10. 7. Technology-enhanced Technology is ubiquitous in higher education, and digital learning is under pressure to be at the forefront of innovation. In an increasingly crowded and competitive market, there is the expectation that artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented realities should be utilised in every aspect of learning, to enhance the student experience and ensure systems and practices are
  • 11. 8. Offline & alt formats Increasing use of technology in work and daily life has led to screen aversion in learners. Students are increasingly calling for printed or offline versions of learning materials, including boxes of course books being sent to their houses and the option to hand- write and post assignments. Some students have secured legal right to offline and alternative formats of learning
  • 12. 9. Flexible by choice There is increasing pressure from sector bodies and lobbyists on universities to deliver flexible learning that supports student choice and autonomy. Small, in-person providers welcome this as a chance to demonstrate pastoral care, but it presents difficulties for providers who operate at scale, and universities who serve a widening participation market, whose students may
  • 13. 10. Personalised Significant enhancements in learning analytics mean that learning can now be highly personalised and optimised for all learners, based on a black box algorithm of demographics, circumstances and behaviours. The system ensures that no two students should have the same learning experience. Much of it is automated, but delivery is still a burden on providers, and there
  • 14. 11. Industry-focused Higher education and businesses are working in partnership, and digital learning is leading the way in industry-relevant learning. Courses are closely aligned to industry, with most programmes offering bespoke apprenticeships, courses endorsed by and/or co-written with global industry partners, international virtual internships and visa agreements. There are
  • 15. 12. Justice-driven Unrest from uneven wealth distribution means that addressing societal challenges has become a primary mission for universities. Programmes move towards radical transdisciplinarity, focused on social challenge areas. There is a mass move away from capitalised infrastructure, and programmes partner with community and activist groups, adopting social justice
  • 16. 13. Ubiquitous Students are increasingly focused on completing their degrees quickly while managing busy lives. In response, distance learning providers move to an ‘education everywhere’ model. Programmes consist of podcasts they can listen to while driving, bite-sized course texts delivered through social media, case studies as Netflix documentaries and real-life
  • 17. 14. Time-poor An increasingly hectic pace of life, with more and more demands on students’ time and resources, means that their learning is becoming increasingly sidelined by other priorities. Digital learning students are showing high numbers of deferrals, extenuating circumstances and extension requests. Providers are moving towards micro- credentials and short,
  • 18. 15. Wildcard Add your choice of challenge, opportunity, dystopia, crisis or global event here
  • 19. Opportunities and challenges Pick a card that particularly resonated with you. Discuss in your group: • What (if any) elements of this dystopia do you already see happening in your current context? • How can we provide quality learning experiences for diverse students in this scenario? • How can we enhance accessibility, inclusion and wellbeing for both students and staff in this scenario?