Starting my future of higher education seminar at Georgetown

Today I’m holding the first class for my Georgetown University Learning, Design, and Technology future of higher education class.  It’s one I created from scratch and am enormously fond of.

I’ve taught it several times, and am keeping the majority of the syllabus this time.  Yet I’m also adding some twists and would like to share the whole thing here, in my usual spirit of transparency and openness around teaching.

The goal remains to teach students three things: the best thinking about the future of higher education; how to do futures work; interdisciplinary study.  We do this work through a bunch of tasks and exercises: reading articles, stories, and books; minilectures from me; discussions driven by them; weekly responses; weekly horizon scanning; two mid-term projects. As ever, the final project involves them creating a new higher education institution and portraying it creatively.

Also as ever, this is a student driven class to a substantial degree.  The class shapes “rules of the road” on the first day. They determine one week’s topic and readings for two weeks. Their horizon scanning findings feed into discussions (and this time we record them on a running Google Doc).

One change is that I’m adding AI material throughout the term. It’s a mix of hands-on and critical work. They will do AI exercises and hold discussions about them nearly every week, tied to that week’s topics.

Another change is that I’m increasing the amount of time aimed at the climate crisis.  They’ll read Universities on Fire at the course’s end but precede that with horizon scanning for the topic.  And there are two points where students connect AI and climate change.

Several things are still in the design process now, starting with my Matrix University game.  I haven’t had a chance during the past year to revise it further, so hopefully can carve out some time over the next month to do so.  (If you haven’t seen the game, it’s a kind of tabletop/role playing game hybrid, a simulation of a campus over the next decades.)

I’d also like to make a deliberate effort to include Georgetown’s fine Maker Hub and Gelardin multimedia support center in giving the students more opportunities for creative work. Typically I urge – well, harangue – the class about these awesome campus resources. This time I should loop them in.

Here’s the syllabus.  I’ve deactivated some links which only the logged-in students can access.

Future University in Egypt

Thursday, August 24, 2023 – Introductions

Designing the class: technologies, community, practices, pathways

Forecasting methods: introduction to futuring

Exercise: introduction Canvas thread

Stewart Brand, “Pace Layering: How Complex Systems Learn and Keep Learning”

Exercise: assemble academic systems, 1

Exercise: futures wheel

Thursday, August 31, 2023 – Futures and Systems

Gidley, The Future: A Very Short Introduction, chapters 1-4

How To Run a College, chapters 1-6

Exercise: assemble academic systems, 2

AI exercise: how AI imagines higher education

Thursday, September 7, 2023Systems and scanning

Forecasting methods: horizon scanning, higher education (share notes here)

How To Run a College, chapters 7-9

Stanford 2025 

Exercise: set up digital scanning practice

AI exercise: how can AI help with horizon scanning?

Thursday, September 14, 2023 – Trend Analysis

Exercise: horizon scanning (share notes here)

Forecasting methods: trend analysis, STEEP

Exercise: turn this week’s horizon scanning into trends

Academia Next, chapters 1-6

AI exercise: turn horizon scan results into trends

Thursday, September 21, 2023 – Scenarios

Exercise: horizon scanning (share notes here)

Academia Next, chapters 7-15

Forecasting methods: scenarios

AI exercise: use AI to create scenario text and images (some extra thoughts here)

Thursday, September 28, 2023 – Speculative Fiction as Futures Tool

Exercise: horizon scanning (share notes here)

Forecasting methods: fiction


AI exercise: ask AIs to create future stories

Friday, September 29, 2022 – TRENDS ANALYSIS DUE

Thursday, October 5, 2023 – Delphi Method: Educational Technology

Exercise: horizon scanning  (share notes here)

EDUCAUSE Horizon Report 2023 

Forecasting methods: the Delphi Method

AI exercise: explore for Delphi process

Thursday, October 12, 2023 – Educational Technology 

Exercise: horizon scanning (share notes here)

Readings: selected by students

  • (items here)

AI exercise: TBD

Thursday, October 19, 2023 – Gaming the Future

Forecasting methods: simulation gaming

Exercise: horizon scanning (share notes here)


  1. Alexander, “A Web Game for Predicting Some Futures: Exploring the Wisdom of Crowds” 
  2. Practice games

Matrix University game materials (link tk)

  • Individual role briefings (in email)
  • Game board

Role assignments:  TK

Matrix game, 1

Thursday, October 26, 2023 – Student Determined Topics

Exercise: horizon scanning (share notes here)

Matrix game, 2

AI exercise: getting an AI to manage a simulation game (some thoughts here)

Friday, October 27, 2022 – STRATEGY MEMO DUE

Thursday, November 2, 2023 – Decolonizing the University

Exercise: horizon scanning (share notes here)

la paperson, A Third University Is Possible

AI exercise: to what extent does the technology reflect colonialism?

Thursday, November 9, 2023 – Higher Education and the Climate Crisis, I

Exercise: horizon scanning (share notes here)

Universities on Fire (to 111)

AI exercise: use text and image generators to imagine academic futures in the Anthropocene

Thursday, November 16, 2023 – Higher Education and the Climate Crisis, II

Exercise: horizon scanning (share notes here)

Universities on Fire (115-to end)

AI exercise: consider AI’s academic role in the climate crisis

(no class November 23, 2022 – Fall Recess)

Thursday, November 30, 2023 – Student Futures


AI exercise: envisioning the rest of the century

Tuesday, December 12, 2023 – FINAL PROJECT DUE



  • Bryan Alexander, Academia Next.
  • ____, Universities on Fire.
  • Jennifer Gidley, The Future: A Very Short Introduction.
  • Brian C. Mitchell and W. Joseph King, How to Run a College A Practical Guide for Trustees, Faculty, Administrators, and Policymakers.
  • la paperson, A Third University Is Possible.

Recommended readings

  • Adrianna Kezar, How Colleges Change.
  • David Edgerton, The Shock of the Old.
  • David Staley, Alternative Universities: Speculative Design for Innovation in Higher Education.
  • Tressie McMillan Cottom, Lower Ed: The Troubling Rise of For-Profit Colleges in the New Economy.
  • Joshua R. Eyler, How Humans Learn: The Science and Stories behind Effective College Teaching.
  • Charles Fadel, Wayne Holmes, Maya Bialik, Artificial Intelligence In Education: Promises and Implications for Teaching and Learning.
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6 Responses to Starting my future of higher education seminar at Georgetown

  1. Charmayne says:

    Amazing~ thanks for sharing Bryan. I like the inclusion of AI activities and discussions, documenting of considerations about the horizon, and including the student’s in some of the curriculum design

  2. Dahn Shaulis says:


    Ask your class what they think about about the future of US higher ed enrollment up to 2031. In 2013, the US Department of Education projected total enrollment to be 23,844,000 by 2023. But the actual number by 2021 had already declined to 18,659,851–more than 5 million fewer than expected. And now we have an enrollment cliff just ahead.

  3. Thanks for sharing the syllabus, Bryan. We NEED to make this an open course! Is there such a thing? I’d have my whole team take it!

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