Friends, I’ve signed a contract with Johns Hopkins University Press for a book tentatively titled Transforming the University in the Twenty-First Century: The Next Generation of Higher Education.
I will be doing some of this writing online, and am exploring options for that. At the very least I’ll share ideas, passages, and research here in this very blog.
Table of Contents/Outline
Part I: Approaching the future
- Introduction. Why the future of higher education is of vital importance. Accomplishments and limitations of recent work in the field.
- Methods: How to Best Anticipate What’s Coming Next. A description of the book’s methods, including trends analysis, scenario construction, and horizon scanning.
Part II: Trends
- Education: these trends include changes in enrollment, financing, the composition of the professoriate, racial participation, degree programs, sexual assault policies, remediation, and institutional strategy.
- Contexts: these are non-technological forces from outside of higher education per se, and that have powerful influences upon it, including demographics, national politics, international higher education, certain cultural tendencies, and several macroeconomics indicators.
- Technology: this chapter offers a top-level overview of major developments. These include mobile computing, the new device ecosystem, new creativity forms, automation (robotics and artificial intelligence), ebooks, 3d printing, the internet of things, a balkanized internet, the web’s limits, social media, digital video, and copyright struggles.
- Education and Technology: here we isolate trends at the intersection of teaching, learning, and technology. They include changes to the learning management system (LMS), the open education and open access movements, distance learning, the flipped classroom, the digital humanities movement, educational entrepreneurship, and massively open online classes (MOOCs), in addition to the use of digital video, social media, computer gaming, ebooks, mobile devices, and virtual reality in education.
- Metatrends: this chapter examines what we can extrapolate by bringing together multiple trends. As such it serves as a bridge between the book’s first and second sections. The chapter begins by discussing the higher education bubble theory, which suggests that post-secondary education may be about to suffer a major downturn or crash along the lines of the 2008 housing bubble and financial crisis.
Part III. Scenarios
Each of these chapters posits a different future for higher education, based on one, two, or three present trends exerting a strong shaping influence. Each imagines a distinct set of possibilities for higher education based on separate driving forces, although there are some commonalities and points of productive connection. At the close of each scenario we imagine the mental world of an eighteen-year-old arriving on that campus, as a proxy for traditional-age undergraduates.
- Peak Higher Education. American colleges and universities reached maximum enrollment in 2013, and that population declined through the subsequent generation. Demographic forces combined with student debt anxiety and competitive forces to create this situation. As a result American higher education is smaller than it once was, with fewer campuses employing a shrunken professoriate and staff.
- Health Care Nation. As mid-century approaches health care has become the leading sector of the American economy, thanks to demographic, technological, and medical finance forces. Preparing students for the full spectrum of health care is now the leading function of education, from pre-med programs to radiology, administration, eldercare, and robotics.
- Open Education Triumphant. The open paradigm has won over most of the world. In education open source software, open educational resources, open teaching, and open access in scholarly publishing are the order of the day. How do universities change as a result of this revolution?
- Renaissance. This scenario posits that scholars a generation hence will reconsider the 1995-2035 era as a time of creative rebirth, when ordinary people increasingly won access to powerful storytelling and publishing tools. This new understanding views the digital revolution as democratizing the arts and adding greatly to the shared human record. Education changed as a result, becoming focused on students as creators, themselves immersed since childhood in powerful multimedia technologies. Curricula, pedagogies, and institutional strategies all changed as a result.
- Alt. Residential. The residential campus experience rebooted itself. As demographics, finances, and competition from online learning marginalized the traditional-age, residential, undergraduate function, colleges and universities had to rethink their unique value offering. As a result classrooms are social and multimedia zones, libraries are media production sites, and campus grounds are carefully curated and accessible through augmented reality technology.
- Tutor Me, Siri. This scenario sees automation continuing to develop rapidly. Artificial intelligence and robotics continue on their present growth curves, without any post-human breakthroughs. This revolutionizes the labor market, leading either to widespread underemployment or the proliferation of “cyborg jobs”, positions where humans work very closely with algorithms and/or robotic assistants.
- Retro Campus. Could American colleges and universities return to the status quo of 1990? Certain campuses and policies could strive mightily to recreate that model. A disillusionment with online education leads administrations to block distance learning from their population, while reducing support for on-site digital practices, including accessing and producing digital content.
Part IV: Coda
- Beyond 2040. How might education change under the impact of long-term trends? Unmitigated climate change could alter university structure, collaboration, and curriculum at a global level. Technologies only at the initial steps now could change learning radically, from artificial intelligence that emulates or exceeds human understanding to devices that can directly alter the mind’s contents. Social transformations as a result of technological shocks could also lead to new educational dimensions, from extended lifespans to genetically designed children.
- Back to the present. This conclusion is a practical one, shifting from description to prescription. It offers the reader steps they can take to continue thinking about the future of higher education, and also ways to influence the shape of the next university.
What do you think?
And what’s a good way to use the internet to improve the writing of this book?
The ms. is due next September.