The Future Isn't What It Used To Be

John Daniel
Open Education in a Closing World

The end of WWII marked the emergence of a new world order maked by the universal declaration of human rights. By the end of the 20th century they were more deeply embedded than ever. But today this consensus is breaking down in ‘the post-truth era’. And post-truth societies tend to become post-trust societies. But the success of nations depends directly on the trust of people in each other and their institutions.

The turbulence reflects a loss of belief in progress, but education is founded on a belief in progress. Across the world there is cause for hope. Eg. Johann Norberg. The trends are consistently positive. How can education contribute, and what is the role of open education in this process?

First, we need to see that the left-right political spectrum has shifted to one between open and closed. Second, we want people to find their place on the continuum between inclusiveness and exclusiveness; create societies that are deliberately diverse, and exploit this diversity to create trust.

Ole Peter Otterson: the lack of confidence in academia is a great challenge. Universities have to establish a respect for truth, and create arenas for debate, including aa voice for those left behind. Universities should be trust-building as well as truth-seeking.

Nothing is more responsible for ‘the good old days’ than a bad memory. People should graduate with an understanding of the broad sweep of history. As well, the fundamental driver of progress has always been education. So higher education should challenge students to position themselves on the spectrum between open and closed.

Lester Pearson: how can there be peace without people understanding each other, and how can they understand each other if they don’t get to know each other. (Plug for UWC program)

How can education help students position themselves on these continua? First, recruit diverse students, and exploit that diversity. Second, less teaching, and more debate. Graduates should leave with an ingrained attitude of systematic skepticism. All this can be done online.

Truth, trust and knowledge are the foundations of successful societies, which means less didactic teaching and more debating between students. We can aspire to OU’s slogan: open to people, places, methods and ideas.

Michael Rostek
Making Sense of the Future of Post-Secondary Education

Or: confessions of a failed foresight practitioner.
This is a summary of a recent project.

Why foresight? It’s gard to predict the future accurately. The future can’t be predicted - this is about understanding. We create the future; the decisions we make will lead down a path. Post-Secondary education is not a simple topic. So I’m up to pro-active adaptation to this environment.

In the PSE environment there have been studies, eg. Conference Board fo Canada 2016. It says Canada’s performance is slipping in PSE.

What is strategic foresight. It’s not scenarios, it is not prediction. It’s the ability to see developments before they become trends, to recognize patterns before they emerge, and grasp the fatures of social currents likely to have an impact (Rohrbeck & Schwartz). There are various foresignt processes, exg. Oxford, JISC, etc.

The process: exploring the external world. The contextual environment is where you have no impact, the transactional environment is where you have impact, and then your organizational environment is internal. Contextual includes: geo-political, energy prices, social values, etc.

At UOIT we had some successes, some future 20-year looks. We brought in a diverse group of professionals to determine where we are going.

Eg. The future of mental health and wellness. It was a success because we paired it with online learning, a mini-MOOC.

Jeff De Cagna: the board’s duty of foresight. They have a duty to develop a clear-eyed look at the future.

Fred de Vries and Mark Brown
Wicked Scenarios for the Future: Developing Strategic Leadership for New Times

(Fred de Vries presenting). The big question is: how to translate those development to your own institution. The key could be the people who are not leaders yet, the ones preparing for the posts where they really are in charge. So we set up an online leadership academy (EOLLA). The point is, let’s focus on the professional development of ourselves.

Three assumptions:
  • The job of the leader is to grow more leaders. This only works in an institute where the leader gives his people room to grow.
  • We don’t need people who are lone rangers we need leaders who can connect
  • Developing and implementing desired change is not an event, but an ongoing process.
We had a workshop (old-fashioned but looking in the eye is good). We looked at what are the major changes, what are the uncertainties? Different business models, different courses: create scenarios. The new ask what the preferred future scenario is for the institution (from well-known scenarios). Then, the transformation process.

Adnan Qayyum
Vhallenges and opportunities for Open and Distance Education in 12 Countries

Not so much research at the macro-level of open and distance learning. So we wanted to look at what ODE is doing in various countries. Rory McGreal: ODE was the ugly duckling, now it’s the belle of the ball. (Plug for a couple of books)

Some of the major challenges we saw:

Growth - actual enrolment numbers are increasing. Percentages range from 7 to 50% in ODE. But the quality of statistics varies across countries. In Russia, nearly half the population is involved with ODE, while in Germany it’s as low as 6%. Growth varies: in some countries is consistent, in others it’s rapid, in others fluctuating or even in design.

Competition is also increasing. There are more providers, eg. Residential institutions. There’s a large number of private sector offerings. Eg. In Brazil, the entire growth in ODE is private sector.

Note that online and distance education are not the same thing. Online education is accepted in Russia, for example, but correspondence education isn’t.

Private good vs public good: in Europe, higher education is a public good (exception: UK). In other countries, it’s a private good. If you benefit, you pay. But online education is becoming a vehicle for the idea of education as a private good.

Opportunities: ODE leads innovation in improvements in time-to-completion and cost-to-completion (eg., credit transfers, funding).

Comments

Question: diminishment of faculty role in education? Response (Adnan) is related to privatization, lowering cost of online education. (John) It need not diminish faculty role, if it’s done properly.
Question: what are the characteristics of the future.  Response: uncertainty and complexity, and bhow you learn to function within that.

Question: Impact of Purdue buying Kaplan. Part of the debate over education being public vs private good. There continues to be interesting relationships. Even in China, Ali Baba is getting involved with Peking University.

Questions: comments on the impact of global digital companies in education. Will they privatize the sector, wipe out public institutions? Response: UOIT - we ran some scenarios. One was exactly this. The question is, who is aggregating the competencies for that degree? Answer (John). A lot depends on the future demand for credentials. Discussion of the value of degrees. But we went down this road before - in the dot com bust.

Question: (Response) logarithmic segregation. We are getting funneled information. We are being blocked from each other.

Question: how do we ensure private sector serves the poor? Or misuse their trust? How do we prevent online being used as a vehicle for privatization? (Response) we said: Education is a public good. But doesn’t mean it has to be provided by the public sector. Response: the argument is that the government is not able to provide spaces, so the private sector does it. What are the models we set up for access, inclusion, etc. Answer: in Europe - education is mainly public - but there is the influence of the private sector forcing institutions to adapt.

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