2020 visionTaking the long view

Doug Saunders in the Globe and Mail on  January 4 wrote an interesting piece on prediction, entitled: “Gadgets alone don’t make the future.” Having shown how amazingly accurate technologists in 1961 were in predicting what technologies would roll out in the future, he also showed how poorly they predicted how these gadgets would impact on our lives. In summary:

‘We are very good at guessing where our inventions might lead. We are very poor in understanding how humans might change their lives….the decision of what kind of life to live between the screens remains a political one, shaped not by our inventions but by our own decisions.’

Last year I spent some time discussing the value of predictions. One point I didn’t mention is the limitation of predicting just one year ahead, because you can’t identify the long term directions, and so often you’re driven by what happened in the very recent past, i.e. last year, because that’s the latest and often only data you have. More importantly, though, looking one year ahead assumes that there is no choice in what technologies we will use and how we will use them, because they are already entering our society. Also, this is likely to be the last year in which I make predictions for the future. I will be 75 in April, and I plan to stop all paid professional activities at that point (although I will keep my blog, but more as a journalist than as a practitioner).

So this seems to be a good point to look not just at 2014, but where we might be going five to ten years from now, and in doing this, I want to include choice or human decision-making as well as technological determinism. In other words, what kind of online learning do I expect in the future, given what I know so far?

The disappearance of online learning as a separate construct

In 2020, people won’t be talking about online learning as such. It will be so integrated with teaching and learning that it will be like talking today about whether we should use classrooms. In fact, we may be talking much more about classrooms or the campus experience in 2020, because of online learning, and how it is changing the whole way that students are learning. There is likely to be heated discussions about the role and purpose of campuses and school buildings, the design of classrooms, and who needs to be there (teachers and students) and more importantly what for, when students can do so much of their learning online – and generally prefer to, because of the flexibility, and of their control over their own learning. The big changes then are likely to be on-campus, rather than on-line.

Steelcase Node Classroom
Steelcase Node Classroom

Multi-mode delivery concentrated in fewer institutions – but more diversity

Quite a few public and smaller private post-secondary institutions will be gone or radically transformed by 2020. Particularly at risk are smaller, low status state or provincial universities and colleges or their campuses in metropolitan areas, where there is local and regional competition for students. They will have lost students to more prestigious universities and high status vocationally oriented institutions using online and flexible learning to boost their numbers. Government will be increasingly reluctant to build new campuses, looking to more flexible and more cost effective online delivery options to accommodate increasing demand. Nevertheless, politics will occasionally trump economics, with small new universities and colleges still being created in smaller towns away from the larger urban areas. Even these though will have much smaller campuses than today and probably as much as 50% of all course enrollments online, often in partnership with more established and prestigious universities through course sharing and credit transfer.

Those institutions that have survived will be offering students a range of choices of how they can access learning. Courses or programs will be deliberately designed to accommodate flexibility of access. Thus students will be able to decide whether to do all their studying on campus, all of it online, or a mix of both, although courses or programs are likely to have a common assessment strategy (see below). This will not be driven so much by academic or even political decisions, but by students voting with their feet (or mouses) to study at those institutions that provide such flexibility.

Multi-purpose, open delivery, with multiple levels of service and fees

Content will be multi-purposed, depending on a learner’s goals. Thus the same content can be part of a credit-based degree-level course, program or competency, part of a non-credit certificate or diploma, or available as open access. Learners will also be able to choose from a range of different course or program components, dependent on their needs and interests. Because most content will be open and modular, in the form of open textbooks, open multimedia resources, and open research, institutions will offer a variety of templates for courses and programs built around open content. For example, for a degree in physics, certain topics must be covered, with a strong recommendation for the sequence of study, but within those core levels of competency, there will be a variety of routes or electives towards a final degree, where broadly based learning outcomes are set, but multiple routes are offered for progress to these outcomes. Those content components can be accessed from a wide range of approved sources. It is the competency and academic performance of the learner that the institution will accredit.

Most institutions will have an open education portal, that contains not only a wide range of open educational resources, but also a range of open services, such as program templates or free academic guidance for specific target groups, as part of their enrollment strategy. Although such portals are likely to include materials from a wide range of sources from around the world, special emphasis will be given to open content developed by their own faculty, based on their latest research or scholarship, as a way of branding their institution. iTunesU, MIT’s Opencourseware, OpenLearn, and MOOCs are early prototypes, but content quality in the future will be greatly improved in terms of pedagogical and media design to accommodate online learners. Also states and provinces will also establish system-wide portals of open educational resources, particularly at the k-12 and two year college level (see eLearnPunjab and open.bccampus.ca as prototype models).

Because academic content is almost all open, free and easily accessible over the Internet, students will not pay tuition fees for content delivery, but for services such as academic guidance and learning support, and these fees will vary depending on the level of service required. Thus students who want a traditional course that covers guidance on and access to content, tutorial help, access to campus facilities, feedback and assessment will pay full fee (some of which may still be government subsidized in the public system). Students who want just open access will pay nothing, but will get few if any support services, and if they need a formal assessment, they will need to pay for this (although again this may be subsidized in a public system). Other students may want feedback and some form of continuous assessment, but will not want to pay for full tutorial support.

There are several consequences of this increased flexibility. Some institutions will specialize in small-class, on-campus education at high cost. Others will focus on high quality delivery through a variety of delivery modes, with a particular emphasis on course design and learner support. Some institutions will focus on low cost, competency-based open access programs, supported by businesses requiring specific skilled labour, and a few institutions will be specialists in fully online distance delivery operating on a national or international basis, at a lower cost but equally high quality as campus-based institutions. The majority of institutions though will become multi-purpose, multiple delivery institutions because of the economies of scale and scope possible.

Goodbye to the lecture-based course

In most institutions, courses based on three lectures a week over 13 weeks will have disappeared. There are several reasons for this. The first is that all content can be easily digitalized and made available on demand at very low cost. Second, institutions will be making greater use of dynamic video (not talking heads) for demonstration, simulations, animations, etc. Thus most content modules will be multi-media. Third, open textbooks incorporating multi media components and student activities will provide the content, organization and interpretation that are the rationale for most lectures. Lastly, and most significantly, the priority for teaching will have changed from information transmission and organization to knowledge management, where students have the responsibility for finding, analyzing, evaluating, sharing and applying knowledge, under the direction of a skilled subject expert. Project-based learning, collaborative learning and situated or experiential learning will become much more widely prevalent. Also many instructors will prefer to use the time they would have spent on a series of  lectures in providing more direct, individual and group learner support, thus bringing them into closer contact with learners.

This does not mean that lectures will disappear altogether, but they will be special events, and probably multi-media, synchronously and asynchronously delivered. Special events might include a professor’s summary of his latest research, the introduction to a course, a point mid-way through a course for taking stock and dealing with common difficulties, or the wrap-up to a course. It will provide a chance for an instructor to makes themselves known, to impart their interests and enthusiasm, and to motivate learners, but this will be just one, relatively small, but important component of a much broader learning experience for students.


Goodbye to the written exam – and welcome to the final implementation of lifelong learning

For most post-secondary qualifications, written exams will have been replaced by assessment through multimedia portfolios of student work. These will show not only students’ current knowledge and competencies, but also their progression over time, and a range of equally important skills, such as their ability to work collaboratively, self-management of learning, and general communication skills. Assessment will be mainly on a continuous, on-going basis.

As well as change in the method of assessing learning there will be greater variety in the range of accredited qualifications. Degrees, certificates and diplomas will still be important, but these will be complemented with a wide range of assessments of informal or non-formal learning, such as badges, some offered by post-secondary institutions, others offered by employers’ organizations or co-operatives of professionals. University and college diplomas and degrees will increasingly be seen as milestones on the journey to lifelong learning, and for demographic and economic reasons, the lifelong learning market will become a much larger market than the high school leaver market.

This means academic departments will need to develop programs and courses that range from introductory or foundational through undergraduate degrees to professional masters to lifelong learning, again using similar content modules adapted to different markets, as well as creating or adapting new content, based on the latest research in a field, for these newer markets. Much of the lifelong market will lend itself to online and hybrid learning, but in different structures (short modules, for instance) than the undergraduate and higher degree market. Universities and colleges will increasingly compete with the corporate training industry for these post-postgraduate learners, who will be able and willing to afford top dollar for top-level lifelong learning opportunities, based on the latest research coming out of universities, government and businesses.

However, a large part of the lifelong learning market will become occupied by communities of practice and self-learning, through collaborative learning, sharing of knowledge and experience, and crowd-sourcing new ideas and development, particularly assisted by an evolution of what are now known as cMOOCs. Such informal learning provision will be particularly valuable for non-governmental or charitable organizations, such as the Red Cross, Greenpeace or UNICEF, or local government, looking for ways to engage communities in their areas of operation. These communities of learners will be open and free, and hence will provide a competitive alternative to the high priced lifelong learning programs being offered by research universities. This will put pressure on universities and colleges to provide more flexible arrangements for recognition of informal learning, in order to hold on to their current monopoly of post-secondary accreditation.

Image: © Etienne Wenger, 2010
Image: © Etienne Wenger, 2010

New financial models

Because most content will be freely accessible, and because students will pay incrementally for a wide variety of services, new financial models will need to be developed, to support the flexibility and range of services that students will increasingly demand and require. The biggest move is likely to be away from block funding or enrollment-driven funding by government towards pay-for-service through student fees for teaching. There will be further separation of the funding for research and teaching (this has already happened in some countries, such as in England and Wales.) As a result government financing may well change, so that students are given a post-secondary grant at the age of 17, and have the right to decide how to spend that grant on post-secondary education, rather than funding institutions directly for teaching.

This may have some unexpected benefits for academic departments. Under this model it makes much more sense to fund programs directly from fees for the program, than to pool grants and fees centrally then break out money for teaching and filter it down through the departments. Thus program fees or service fees  would come to academic departments (or more accurately the program areas) directly, then the programs would pay for university services such as registration and financial services on a direct cost basis, plus a percentage for general overheads. This is already happening in some public universities at post-graduate levels, where tuition fees for online professional masters more than cover all the costs, direct and indirect, of a program, including the cost of full-time research professors who teach on the program.

This model would also have two other benefits. It would put pressure on service departments, such as HR, financial services, the Registry, etc., to become more cost-efficient, because direct costs to programs become more transparent. Second, since online students do not need a range of campus services such as campus building maintenance, lighting, and heating, it would lead to the different costs of online vs campus-teaching becoming more transparent and comparable, with an economic incentive to move more towards the most cost-efficient delivery model.

There are also disadvantages. Some model would be needed to support more expensive programs to deliver, or programs that are specialized but important in a university community. However, a program-based financial model may help save small departments who are struggling for minimal enrolments from their local market. Online courses can open the market to regional or international students and offer the chance of collaboration and partnership with other institutions, through course and student sharing.

The disaggregation of institutional activities required for the flexible delivery of programs in a world where content is free offers opportunities for rethinking how teaching and learning is funded.

Systematic faculty development and training

Since content will be freely accessible, institutions’ reputation and branding will increasingly depend on the way they support learners. This will put much greater emphasis on instructors having good teaching skills as well as subject expertise. Thus most universities and colleges will require faculty to have assessed teaching skills before tenure or permanent appointment, and equal attention will be given to teaching expertise as research in promotion. This will mean incorporating teaching practice and methods within most post-graduate subject areas, college instructors having compulsory pre-service teacher training, and regular faculty having systematic ongoing professional development as new technologies and new teaching approaches develop over time. The immediate benefit of this will be better student retention rates and higher quality learning outcomes.

Devolved decision-making and organizational models

A move to program-based funding, the need for effective course designs to attract students, the differentiation of services, the increased professionalism in teaching, and freely available open content will result in a move to systematic program planning and team teaching. A typical team will consist of a senior research professor, several junior or adjunct professors, an instructional designer/project manager and a media/web designer. The senior faculty member, in collaboration with the other team members, will be responsible for decisions about curriculum content, methods of learner support, and assessment standards. The team will develop assessment criteria and rubrics, and where necessary hire additional instructors for learner support and marking of assessments , under the supervision of the senior faculty members.

One consequence will be the disappearance of central centres for teaching and technology, except in small institutions. Instructional design staff will be located in program areas and will be responsible with academic faculty for faculty development activities, as well as with overall course design input. There will be increased demand for media designers, while instructional designers will be in less demand in the future, but still necessary to support faculty, especially as new learning technologies develop.

Student privacy, data security and student online behaviour will become more difficult

Learning will increasingly be delivered through student-owned devices, and learners will increasingly integrate social life, work and study in a seamless manner. Services will increasingly be delivered through the cloud. Security agencies, Internet-based companies and knowledge-based companies will constantly be seeking access to student data, especially student learning performance and online behaviour, as this information will be increasingly valuable for state security and commercial reasons. As a result it will become increasingly difficult for institutions to protect student data and their privacy. This may turn out to be the biggest challenge for students, institutions, and government in the next 20 years and could seriously inhibit the development of online learning in the future, if students or faculty lose trust in the system.

The future is about choices

This is my view about where we could be going with online learning in the next five to ten years. However, I will not be making the decisions, as I am retiring in April. If you do not like this vision, then you are in a position to influence a different kind of vision. Although as McLuhan says, we are shaped by our devices, we also shape the world around these devices. The worst thing we could do is to leave it to computer scientists to decide our future.

The value such a vision lies not in its detail, but in identifying some of the key choices or decisions that will need to be made. So here are the decisions that are thrown up by this vision for the future, for students, faculty, institutions and government (and some of these, such as those about campus facilities, should be being made right now):

Students and learners

  • at this point in my life, what are my learning goals? What is the best way to meet these? Where can I get advice for this?
  • do I need a qualification and if so, what kind?
  • what is the best way for me to access this learning? On-campus; online; or a mix of both?
  • what kind of learning support do I need?
  • how much do I want to – or must I – pay for these services?
  • what institution or other method of delivery will provide what I want? Where can I get independent advice on this?
  • how can I protect my privacy when I am online studying?

Faculty and instructors

  • why do students need to come to campus? What am I offering on-campus that they couldn’t get online? Have I looked up the research on this?
  • what teaching methods will lead to the kind of learning outcomes that students will need in life?
  • what should be my role if content is freely available online?
  • what kind of teaching spaces do I need for what I want to offer on campus?
  • how should I best use my time in teaching? In what kind of teaching activities can I really make a difference for students?
  • if I create new or original content for my teaching, should I make it openly available to anyone to use?
  • what methods of assessment should I use in a digital age? How do I assess prior or informal learning?
  • what kind of courses or programs should we be offering for lifelong learners?
  • what do I need to know about student data, and the protection of student privacy?
  • what training or professional development do I need to ensure that I can meet the learning needs of my students?


  • what kind of campus will we need in 10 years time?
  • what proportion of course enrollments are likely to be accessed off-campus?
  • what will be the best way to accommodate more students – online learning or more buildings?
  • what kind and number of teaching spaces will we need?
  • what partnerships or strategies should we adopt to protect our enrollment base?
  • what are our strategies and policies regarding open educational resources?
  • what is our strategy for lifelong learning?
  • what financial models should we put in place to encourage innovation in teaching and to attract students?
  • how do we ensure that faculty have the skills necessary for teaching in a digital age?
  • how can we best reward innovation and high quality teaching?
  • what kind of organization and staff do we need to support faculty in their teaching?
  • how do we best protect student data and privacy (as well as our staff’s) in a digital age?


  • what kind of post-secondary system, in terms of institutional differentiation, program delivery and innovations in teaching, do we need in a digital age?
  • how many, and what kind of, campuses do we need when students are also studying online? What is the best way to accommodate expansion in the system?
  • how can we best support system-wide open education, to reduce costs and increase quality?
  • how should we fund post-secondary education in a digital age? How much and what should ‘first-time’ students pay for themselves? What should lifelong learners who have already been through the system pay? What funding models would encourage innovation in teaching and help improve quality?
  • how can online learning help to increase the productivity of the post-secondary educational system? What can we do to encourage this?
  • what does government need to do to protect student data and student privacy?

What’s YOUR vision?

I won’t be around to make or influence these decisions, but most of you will. Are there decisions I’ve missed? What decisions would you make? What’s your vision for the future?

If you are willing to share just one response to any of these questions or decisions, this will be very much appreciated. Because the future will be increasingly about sharing knowledge.


  1. We’re at that stage of `in-between’.
    The on-line technology has not matured to the point where virtual worlds can take a learner into the virtual environment and supply that practical experience aspect that provides the knowledge underpinning aspect for knowledge retention. It will come, but it won’t be here for some considerable time.

    In the interim, we have many within the brick and mortar establishment, and I’m not just referring to the academic element, but predominantly to the administrative aspect, who literally can’t see outside the conditioned view of their little box. The thing is, they don’t have to. There are many learners who can’t afford their own chem/bio/physics labs, for example. Many of these institutions have facilities such as dormitories and catering, along with other utility sevices they could apply outside the conventional, within a blended context and, in so doing, expand their student intake at least three-fold, without any appreciation in real estate or any other overhead. But because they know they are so intelligent, they persist in playing the dullard. “The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance;
    it is the illusion of knowledge.” – Boorstein, I think?

    And, of course, many of these secondary school and tertiary institutions have other assets, such as sporting facilities to farm out in the same way, combining the biological/biochem/physics aspects in sports science/physiotherapy and many other added curriculum activities, along with the IT aspect to add in. There really is no excuse for underuse or any fear of the potential of it. No child left behind? You’ve got to be kidding! We could catch up on all the adults also.

    Right now, the blended aspect is the one that should be exercised to it’s fullest potential. It will always have a market. The only required key to survival, as it invariably is, is adaptability. Just ask the next dinosaur you meet.

    • Hi, David
      I fully agree with you that there are huge opportunities for leveraging the already massive investment in campuses and facilities, and that blended or hybrid learning enables such developments.
      However, it is precisely this investment in unique facilities that makes more radical thinking difficult for administrators – there is much to lose if they get it wrong.
      For instance, let’s just say the Director of facilities agrees with my post, and now commits to not building any more lecture theatres or classrooms, but instead moves to more informal learning spaces to accommodate what is known to be a steady increase in enrollments over time, but then the academics don’t move in this direction. There is of course the alternative argument of build it and they will come: merely by creating such spaces, academics will change their teaching methods.
      My point is that if institutions are to change, everybody has to share the same vision: academics, administrators, government/funding agencies and of course students (and in k-12, parents as well). This is why change is so difficult in the education system.
      What I do really appreciate, David, is your engagement in this discussion, because I really do believe that there are great opportunities for changes that will improve the public education system, but it won’t happen without a lot of prior argument and discussion

      • Oh, agreed!
        Even with the on-line factor, you are still involved in a blended scenario, so a more definitive vision of what your audience is will be required. They still have to be able to travel to the static facility, even if it might be only two, three, or four times a year. Again, depending on your audience and material. If you are looking at a younger set, it might be for a week, every six weeks.

        Getting everybody engaged is more a matter of project management, involving all your stakeholders and taking in all ideas: employing your social capital. This brings everybody onboard before the project takes off. Other required facilities are minimal: an own cloud, along with content writers and web design, all of which can be incorporated into the curriculum, in order to carry any addition to the bottom line so that it doesn’t eat into a three-fold increase in profit potential.

        Identifying stakeholders is a much underrated activity. It gives you the oportunity to meet up with everybody involved and make assessments as to how productive (or otherwise) they have the potential to be in the context.
        If we have a staid, psychopathic, bureaucratic control factor that believes in retarding the social context (and, let’s face it, we all know they exist) approach the corporations that make the chemicals and equipment for the labs, the sporting goods companies, along with any other moneyed potentials, and teach them a lesson.

        When modern scientific findings endorse the fact that executives that have a musical or other artistic influence in their lives out-perform paradigmed thinkers, moneyed interests will finance an arts education, and skills councils will happily come on board to assist with advice in maintaining relevancy in programme.

  2. Mr. Bates,

    Thanks for this excellent vision of education.

    I see another dimension to the section on “Devolved decision-making and organizational models”, one that involves employers. As students begin to customize their learning, choose the learning paths to achieve their personal and career goals, I see the need for employers [businesses, non-profits, start-ups, etc] involvement in program/curriculum design, even assessment practices of student’s work and/or competencies. Internships too could become embedded within the curriculum strategy.

    I too see the need in the future (and now) for effective course designs to attract students, and differentiation of services for students that will support students in achieving their education goals, that may be provided either by the education institution, or independent organization. An example of a program illustrates the beginning of such differentiated services, is a program at CUNY–ASAP, that provides individual support to get students to graduation, http://www.cuny.edu/academics/programs/notable/asap.html.

    Thanks again for a very good overview of what we might expect in education in 2020.


    • Thanks, Debbie – great points.
      I agree that in the future, there will be increased competition, or at least alternatives for learners, between academic and employer-based accreditation. I also see more synergy between the two. This already exists in a small way with continuing medical education, and other areas where professional associations are involved with continuing education. The key factor will be removal of the sharp distinction between degrees offered through full-time study and lifelong learning in informal or non-formal ways – it will become much less sharp a distinction.
      Really appreciate your comments – thanks

  3. Thanks Tony for your thoughtful post!

    In our K-12 district, we are working to help our teachers move into blended and flipped learning environments. Fortunately, we are in the process of deploying laptops to our teachers so they will have a way to digitize their content. Not having the tools has been a hindrance. We also need to better address the tools for students. It sure would be nice to be able to help some of our student invest in their own devices. Wish we could use taxpayer money in such a way but currently we don’t. Additionally, while K-12 may feel a little “burned” over the open concept schools of the 70s, we do need to be considering alternatives to our current structure and spaces, creating more flexible schedules and spaces for learning. Shifting our mindset seems to be a slow process. Thanks again. Lots of great food for thought!

  4. Dear Dr. Bates: As a 80 years lifelong medical educator I agree with your paper. Nevertheless I would like to remember that Humboldt in 1808, creating the Berlin University, established the concepts that student could learn in any university, following his motivation and personal interests, and the teacher could offer any course, depending on his research interest. The German State would offer examinations to certificate the stiudent in a profession.
    I do believe in self-learning and organized self-intructional courses of basic sciences for medical students back in 1975. A computer based formative evaluation, that included clinical cases simmulation – appud Christine McGuire – would orient students on his learning and would inform the teacher on the efficiency of his course.
    Now, as a consultant of UNA-SUS (National Health Service Open University), using a network of 16 public universities, we are offering self-instructional courses for thousands of MDs working in family health clinics troughout the country (our mission is to offer modular sel-paced corses that the student/doctor would elect in accordance with his needs and interests (would build his own complementary learning as mounting legos or building blocks). But if we can offer self learning opportunities in basic sciences (integrating basic and clinical sciences in order to assure the motivation of students), the learning of clinical subjects must be done in a community and its health services (the student will have a clerkship formation integrating knowledge – the theory will emerge from practice – and as a member of the local health team will apply in the real world, under supervision, what he has learned The role of universities wil be in the future: research, production of new knowledge, professiional certification of students ( they may learn in self-instructional courses), and student orientation, mainly in clinical years.
    The MOOCs is functioning as a disruptive technology and will force the universities to rethink his mission in the society.

  5. I dislike the focus on predictions for all the reasons you cite Tony, and they also engender a sense of certainty about the future for us, when the future is inherently uncertain. That said, the issues you’ve raised here are in the realm of what I’d call ‘predetermined elements’, where the momentum of the trend is so strong now that we can generally assume that these factors will shape our future in ways that we can begin to see today. The point is to consider all the issues you raise as a whole, rather than just picking one out to focus on, because it’s the impact of the whole that we need to be thinking about.

    That said, I had a previous career as a university manager. The type of ‘learning world’ you are describing here is very different to what we have today. Your question – what kind of organization and staff do we need to support faculty in their teaching? – is a starting point I think. We also need to be thinking about how we want to manage that organisation, and whether or not it will need managing in the sense that we understand it today. What sort of management culture do we want? One that’s based on supporting learning or one that’s designed according to a generic management model that could be applied in any organisation? We have a tension today between managerial and collegial values/culture in our universities, and that’s arisen, in my view, because the way we manage isn’t what I call ‘fit for purpose’ – designed for an academic environment.

    The shape of the future university must determine how we manage, but there’s not much thinking going on at the moment in this area. Yet, the degree to which all the changes you are discussing here will be implemented successfully will depend on the worldviews of those who are charged with implementing them – whoever they may be in the future.

    This is the topic of my PhD, so I do have a bias here – I want to see the way we manage universities as part of its DNA, not as something that’s viewed as an add-on, not connected to academic work and not valuable. These statements are of course broad generalisations, but implementing new learning modes, approaches, structures and systems will require some form of management, so we need to start thinking about how to do that now so that it’s integrated into the future of learning.

    • Great comments, Maree. You’re right, what actually happens will depend a great deal on how these developments are managed. Unfortunately, because of the managerial tradition, there is a great deal of understandable resistance to talking about how to manage our institutions, but it has to be collegial, and at the same time done well, in the sense that decisions get made, and such decisions are fully supported by the great majority of the key stakeholders.Also decision-making must respect the diversity of views within a university.
      This is a tough challenge but not impossible. I look forward to your thesis on how to do this!

      • I thought I’d share our scenarios for the future of education in our region in BC. Each of the four scenarios focusses heavily on the future of technologies and how post-secondary institutions are organized around the use of those technologies. Keeping a number of possible and plausible futures in mind may help us be more aware of changes in our external environment and may help us develop organizational resilience.


        • Hi, Jane
          Many thanks for sharing this – having alternative scenarios is really useful for highlighting the kinds of decisions that need to be made, but also for heightening awareness among faculty, instructors and administrators about issues that will need to be addressed sooner or later.
          I hope others will be willing to share their institutions’ scenarios

          • Excellent discussion piece!

            I agree that the value of a vision does not lie in the details; however, having read vision after vision on online learning or e-learning over the past two decades I find myself contemplating the reasons as to why we are not closer to this vision. The conclusion that experience has taught me is that everyone has an investment to protect that often runs counter to progress; it may be a credibility investment, a financial investment, a social investment, etc., however, all originating on the individual level. Thus, the questions listed vary largely not only by group of stakeholder but by the subgroup within the stakeholders. For example, “student and learner” is often an “and/or” scenario, as is faculty and instructor. The questions vary greatly depending on the subgroup; i.e., a tenured professor might ask the question of how it impacts his/her publishing endeavors. From this question we could draw a flow-chart to the impact it has on all the other groups and sub-groups. In fact, connecting the dots between the questions is crucial in the decision-making process. The communities of practice are similarly far more linearly structured from the individual viewpoint rather than the community viewpoint, thus, it only holds value on the surface if the dots are not connected.

          • Fascinating comment, Susan. Certainly this explains(or describes?) the inertia in the higher education system. However, one would hope (naively?) that there is more to higher education than ‘What’s in it for me?’ That may be though the best way to bring about change: to show how moving to the vision can bring benefits to all the key stakeholders. The problem of course is that while it’s not a zero sum game, there are inevitably some losses as well as gains for individuals in changing behaviour, and in games theory people are generally less willing to risk losses than to obtain gains. But the inter-connectivity of these issues is of course crucial. Great comment.

  6. Nice article. The future learners will be designing their own courses. Their preferred guides, peers and sometimes families may even join this creation of individualized learning options focusing on their particular targets, interests and morals.

  7. Thank you, Tony, for this thorough forward view.

    May I ask, from what Wenger publication is the image embedded in your post? I have been looking and just cannot find it.

    Many thanks indeed!
    Terese Bird
    Educational Designer, Leicester Medical School


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