Trendlines towards the end of 2013

Future Trends in Technology and EducationToday I sent off the latest Future Trends in Technology and Education (FTTE) report.  Reflecting back on the past year of these reports, I’d like to share some thoughts about selected trends, and what they might mean for 2014.

Distance learning: a battle over online learning shaped up this year.  On the one side multiple forces urged MOOCs and other forms of distance learning, including campus leaders, institutional boards, policymakers, and some faculty.  Opposed to them were tenured professors, who criticized MOOCs as threatening academic positions.  We should expect more of this labor vs technology struggle, plus continued growth of online learning.

Adjuncts: speaking of labor, the adjunctification of the professoriate continues, with no significant countervailing force.  Adjuncts have started organizing into unions, which might improve conditions for these instructors.

College costs: published tuition and other fees have continued to rise, amid public dismay.  Experiments in cutting or freezing tuition are ongoing, but I’m not sure how widely they’ll spread, given the establishment of the discount model.  Further, since so many campus costs are either sunk and/or have suffered cuts, I can’t imagine shrinking budgets much further.  Here’s a bet: the published costs of American colleges and universities will keep going up through 2014.

At the same time the American public doesn’t seem likely to be enjoying an economic boom next year, given this year’s trends (cf this book).  If that’s the case, we’ll be even more angry about college costs, and might adopt more cost-saving measures, like shifting enrollment to less expensive institutions, and more students living at home.

On the technology side,

  • We continue migrating our computing usage to devices other than desktops.  The rate of this migration may slow down (most notably for smartphones, which seem to be reaching a peak, and maybe ditto for ebooks), but the device ecosystem explosion should continue.  Especially with a spike of new machine ownership apparent by the first week of January.
  • The MOOC bubble might burst, given the journalism turn from boosterism to critique, and continued (tenured) faculty resistance.
  • 3d printing keeps moving forward, getting both cheaper and more powerful.  My mantra here is “3d printing across the curriculum”.
  • Automation also expanded in 2013.  Perhaps its continued expansion, combined with an unpleasant economy, will elicit neoLuddite* reaction.
  • Social media continues to devour the world, and grow in education.

Our dog Hestia, restingDogs that didn’t bark: here are some trends I tracked, but which didn’t leap into action for various reasons.  Will any of these explode in 2014?

Generation tensions. Deep gaps between generations have yet to erupt into “don’t trust anyone over 30” strife.  Within academe older faculty tend to have tenure and hold on to their jobs longer than expected, while younger professors and grad students see few t-track positions.  In the broader world people in their 20s and 30s are experiencing an awful employment situation, quite unlike the experience of their Baby Boom elders.  Yet Americans remain peaceful on this front, accepting intergenerational inequity.

Athletic budgets. Despite a national economy in malaise, despite widespread outrage against college costs, despite turning more profs into low-cost adjuncts, despite recent horror stories about college athletics… we aren’t cutting expenses for those programs.

Gaming in education. While the gaming industry leaps ahead every month (cf the Grand Theft Auto V blowout), gaming as an educational tool/practice/platform has been slow to grow.  There isn’t much publicity to projects.

Executive compensation. Most academics I speak with complain about highly paid campus leaders.  This opinion is no secret, being widely aired online and in trade journals.  Yet despite some notorious stories (i.e., NYU) presidents and other C-suiters continue to rake in the big bucks.  There is no meaningful opposition to this, nor signs of boards changing their minds about compensation.

What do you think of these 2013 trends, looking ahead?  And which other FTTE trends caught your eye?

*I have a short rant about people who call themselves Luddites in our era.  I will post this at some point.

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