Getting ready for my fall seminar on the future of higher education

Next week I will start teaching two graduate seminars in Georgetown University’s Learning, Design, and Technology program.  I’d like to share my plans with you all as part of my commitment to transparency in practice.

Last week I introduced the technology and innovation seminar.  Today I’ll describe the other classes, Studies in Higher Education: the future of higher education (LDES 703 – 01).

Now, it’s not the first time I’ve taught this topic.  Last fall I taught the first version. This year’s version builds on that one, based on student feedback and what I’ve learned by teaching other classes in the LDT program.

Here’s the introduction from my syllabus:

What is the future of higher education?

In this seminar we explore that deep question through a range of approaches.  To begin with, the class introduces futures thinking in multiple forms: environmental scanning, scenario design, and the Delphi process.  We also draw on a variety of academic disciplines to explore the full range of academia’s possibilities, including design thinking, critical higher education studies, demographics, sociology, technology studies, and imaginative literature.

The class will explore the varied and complex forces reshaping higher education. We start with change drivers outside of academia, including demographic, macroeconomic, and policy trends. We then address forces within higher education, such as new credentials, enrollment changes, the role of the library, tuition, and access. Next we dig into digital technologies and their impact on colleges and universities. For final projects students will produce scenarios for possible future campuses.

Our goals:

-To introduce futures thinking and methods

-To develop a range of possibilities for postsecondary learning

-To expand your interdisciplinary knowledge

What work will students conduct?

  • Seminar discussion. The focus of each class period is thoughtful reflection and conversation about that week’s topic and materials.  We expect each student to contribute to the discussion, participating in a way that advances our collective understanding.
  • Horizon scanning. We will scan for relevant, future-oriented stories and signals throughout the semester.  Each week you should look both for general items, as well as for content germane to that class topic.
  • Online discussion. Each week students will respond to our topic and materials through an asynchronous technology, such as Georgetown University’s learning management system or through class blogs.  (We will decide which technology during our first class session, and may well adjust things during the term.)
  • Selecting several readings and a topic.
  • Mid-term project: this is analysis of two future trends. You can draw them from any domain, but the two should not be closely related (i.e., don’t pick open education resources and open access in scholarly publication).  Length: aim for 700-1000 words.  You may compose this as an essay, or in another medium, such as a video, an audio file, or an augmented reality document.
  • Mid-term project: here you write a strategy recommendation to a college or university of your creation. Consider and address your audience carefully.  Length: aim for 700-1000 words. You may compose this as an essay, or in another medium, such as a video, an audio file, or an augmented reality document.
  • Final project: based on your class work, model a future university or college. Please be creative with your choice of presentational platform – i.e., consider creating a game, video, audio file, etc. At the same time this must be academically rigorous.  You can use several objects to combine these goals, such as publishing a website for a hypothetical campus, in addition to a pdf reflection.

Here’s the schedule for the semester:

August 29

Topic: Introductions: you, class

Designing the class: technology, community

September 5

Topic: higher education and the future

Readings:

  1. Tressie McMillan Cottom, “The Education Gospel” (introduction to Lower Ed: The Troubling Rise of For-Profit Colleges in the New Economy)
  2. Alexander, “Apprehending the Future: Emerging Technologies, from Science Fiction to Campus Reality” (https://er.educause.edu/articles/2009/5/apprehending-the-future-emerging-technologies–from-science-fiction-to-campus-reality)
  3. AAC&U, “Misconceptions about Today’s College Students” (https://www.aacu.org/aacu-news/newsletter/2018/november/facts-figures)
  4. “Horizon Report: 2018 Higher Education Edition” (https://library.educause.edu/resources/2018/8/2018-nmc-horizon-report)

Forecasting method: Delphi

September 12

Topic: how colleges and universities work

Readings:

  1. Brian C. Mitchell and W. Joseph King, How to Run a College A Practical Guide for Trustees, Faculty, Administrators, and Policymakers, Introduction, chapters 1-6
  2. The past week from Inside Higher Ed, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and selected blogs and Twitter feeds

Forecasting method: horizon scanning

September 19

Topic: signals on higher ed’s horizon

Readings:

  1. Brian C. Mitchell and W. Joseph King, How to Run a College A Practical Guide for Trustees, Faculty, Administrators, and Policymakers, chapters 7-9
  2. horizon scanning: the past week from Inside Higher Ed, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and selected blogs and Twitter feeds
  3. Vernor Vinge, “Fast Times at Fairmont High”

September 26

Topic: narrating the future

Readings:

  1. Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, “Scenarios for the Future of Schooling” (https://www.oecd.org/site/schoolingfortomorrowknowledgebase/futuresthinking/scenarios/38967594.pdf)
  2. World Economic Forum, “Eight Futures of Work Scenarios and their Implications” http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_FOW_Eight_Futures.pdf
  3. Nathan D. Grawe, Demographics and the Demand for Higher Education, chapters 1-3
  4. horizon scanning

Forecasting method: scenarios

October 3

Topic: demographics and education

Readings:

  1. Nathan D. Grawe, Demographics and the Demand for Higher Education, chapters 4-11
  2. horizon scanning

October 4

MID-TERM PROJECT DUE: Trends analysis, 700-1000 words

October 10

Topic: education and technology, 1

Readings:

  1. Isaac Asimov, “The Fun They Had”
  2. Maria Sachiko Cecire, “Massively Open”
  3. Martin Weller, 25 Years of EdTech (http://blog.edtechie.net/category/25yearsedtech/)
  4. World Economic Forum, “The Future of Jobs Report 2018” (http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_Future_of_Jobs_2018.pdf)
  5. horizon scanning

October 17

Topic: education and technology, 2

Readings:

  1. Karl Schroeder, “Noon in the Antilibrary” (https://www.technologyreview.com/s/611829/noon-in-the-antilibrary/)
  2. Student-selected readings
  3. horizon scanning

October 24

Topic: race, gender, and profit in higher education

Readings:

  1. Tressie McMillan Cottom, the rest of Lower Ed: The Troubling Rise of For-Profit Colleges in the New Economy
  2. horizon scanning

October 31

Topic: the uses of imagination

Readings:

  1. Hernan Ortiz, “The Punishment Room” (https://www.edsurge.com/news/2016-07-07-fiction-the-punishment-room)
  2. Padgett, “Mimsy Were The Borogoves.”
  3. Suzette Haden Elgin, “For The Sake Of Grace”
  4. Saxey, “Not Smart, Not Clever” (https://www.apex-magazine.com/not-smart-not-clever/)
  5. Stanford 2025 (http://www.stanford2025.com/; scroll down)
  6. horizon scanning

November 7

Topic: the uses of imagination

Readings: student selected readings and other media

November 8

MID-TERM PROJECT DUE: A strategy recommendation to a college or university of your creation, 700-1000 words

November 14

Topic: AI

Readings:

  1. Charles Fadel, Wayne Holmes, Maya Bialik, Artificial Intelligence In Education: Promises and Implications for Teaching and Learning
  2. AI-related horizon scanning

November 21

Topic: determined by the class

Readings: “ “ “ “

November 28: THANKSGIVING. BREAK

December 5

Presentations and feedback for final projects

December X

FINAL PROJECT DUE

It’s an ambitious, hard-charging class.  I’m really looking forward to it.

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9 Responses to Getting ready for my fall seminar on the future of higher education

  1. mkt42 says:

    Of the SF stories, I’d only read Asimov’s “The Fun They Had” and Padgett/Kuttner/Moore’s “Mimsy Were the Borogoves”. “The Fun They Had” is an amazingly far-sighted short story about schooling and has managed to become more relevant as time has passed. I was initially puzzled by the inclusion of “Mimsy Were the Borogoves” but then I saw that it’s in the Imagination section of your course. Two classic SF short stories.

  2. Janelle says:

    Your reading list skews heavily male…

    • Bryan Alexander says:

      Thank you for your comment, Janelle. The statistical majority of assigned reading is by men, which is a problem, yes.

      One problem is that in some of the key areas – demographics, introducing colleges as a system, economics of higher ed – male writers tend to dominate, historically. And the ones I picked are both excellent and well regarded by students. The AI in education book (co-authored by two men and one woman) is the best one out there.

      Science fiction stories are nearly balanced by gender, but, again, there aren’t that many on edu; I really wanted to assign Joan Slonczewski’s _The Highest Frontier_, but am worried about some students who oppose having sf in the class. Short stories are easier to handle on this score.

  3. Vahid says:

    “Conceptualising the digital university” might be relevant here. https://www.palgrave.com/gp/book/9783319991597#aboutBook Sheila MacNeill, Bill Johnston, Keith Smyth

  4. The Association of American Medical College’s (AAMC) “Aspiring Docs” is especially useful, covering such topics as how to prepare for your future in medicine while in high school, what’s it’s like to be a med school student today, how to get ready for the MCAT exam.

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