What participants think of the Future Trends Forum

Last month I fired up a survey for people who’ve participated in the Future Trends Forum.  I did this to get a better sense of what participants value, and to collaboratively develop the Forum into its third (!) year.  In the spirit of transparency, I share the results here.

If you’re a Forum fan, or are interested more broadly in how online communities and networks function, this might be useful to you.

tl:dr – overall, people are very positive about the Forum as it currently functions, and generally open to some new ideas.

Forty-seven (47) people responded to the survey, which is only 2.5% of the 1800+ people on the Forum’s email registry.  So although the responses are good, they might not be representative.  In fact, this might be more like a quick focus group than a representative survey.

Respondents were positive about the Forum overall.  38.30% thought it “excellent” and 53.19% considered it “useful”.  A scant 8.51% were neutral, and nobody was negative.

When asked “What is the most important benefit you get from the Forum?”, respondents offered an interesting variety of answers, including:

  • Connections with interesting people (I think this means both guests and fellow participants)
  • Keeping up with emerging thoughts, technologies, and practices
  • Some going beyond one’s comfort zone: “stimulation and mind stretching”, “Getting pushed to think about things that might be slightly off of my radar but should be on it”, “Although the content often doesn’t directly relate to me and/or my position, I find the discussions informative!”
  • Interacting and learning without travel (for example: “hearing real voices of people in my field w/o having to physically travel”)
  • Global reach (“Direct real time engagement internationally”)

Which of those topics and ideas were most meaningful to participants?  Reshaping higher education, emerging technologies,  technology-enabled pedagogies, and student-centered learning and technology were at the list’s top.  Here’s more (apologies for some text slightly truncated):

Forum favorite topics

Asked about which topics we should explore next, responses included

  • “How Rich Communications Services (RCS) could impact education”
  • “Scalable EdTech (how to do the most good for the most people), and the evolving business model/value proposition/role in society of higher education”
  • AR / VR / MR
  • “AI and Robots, future of medical education , financial education in higher ed – emerging professionals, millennial professors professionals”
  • game design
  • “Higher ed’s emerging role as credentials aggregators, continuing to improve on digital literacy education across the spectrum of K-16, the evolving state of adaptive learning tech, eportfolios for assessment and establishing students digital footprint, learning analytics, and where teaching coding fits into the larger educational picture”

Turning from topics to how we structure the Forum, our first question asked about our reliance on conversation rather than presentation.  Most respondents liked that:

Awesome.  Death to slides!
It’s ok.
I’d like to see more video.
I prefer slides and want to avoid talking heads.

I was very surprised by responses to the next question, which addressed how people prefer to interact with guests, myself, and each other.  Using the Shindig software we can communicate through video, text chat, or structured text questions.  Beyond Shindig folks can tweet through the #FTTE hashtag. The leader was… the chat box?

Another surprise came from a question about preferred communication channel for learning about upcoming Forum sessions.  Email?

communication preferences

We asked what people thought of Mingle sessions (small group conversations during the Forum).  Responses leaned to the positive, but without much enthusiasm:

Very good.
It’s just ok.
Not so good.

Asked about other modalities, we received a range of responses. For example, my irregular FTTE presentations were viewed positively and neutrally:

Similarly, folks were positive and neutral about guest-less special topic sessions:

People had a similar approach to collective futuring, although with more neutrality:

For a new and as yet untried idea, there was some interest:

We record each session and upload to YouTube.  People seem to value that:


So, some reflections.

  1. While we use an advanced technology to conduct each session (the Shindig videoconferencing tool), people preferred retro tech for communicating within and especially about it.
  2. People like most of what we’re doing with the Forum. Still, I can’t be complacent.
  3. Continuing to experiment with structure and modalities is a good thing.
  4. We’ll need more feedback.
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One Response to What participants think of the Future Trends Forum

  1. I wonder if the preference for the “retro tech” is its functionality? I’ve had no problems text chatting, for example, but repeated challenges with the other more advanced capabilities? Is the preference for retro masking a preference for reliability? Just a thought…

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