Doom to college as we know it

One commentator looks at the San Jose MOOC decision and forecasts the fall of American higher education.

Ferenstein presents this timeline:

  1. Pilot succeeds, expands to more universities and classes
  2. Part-time faculty get laid off, more community colleges are shuttered, extracurricular college services are closed, and humanities and arts departments are dissolved for lack of enrollment (science enrollment increases–yay!?)
  3. Graduate programs dry up, once master’s and PhD students realize there are no teaching jobs. Fewer graduate students means fewer teaching assistants and, therefore, fewer classes
  4. Competency-based measures begin to find the online students perform on par with, if not better than, campus-based students. Major accredited state college systems offer fully online university degrees, then shutter more and more college campuses
  5. A few Ivy League universities begin to control most of the online content, as universities all over the world converge toward the classes that produce the highest success rates
  6. In the near future, learning on a college campus returns to its elite roots, where a much smaller percentage of students are personally mentored by research and expert faculty

A big-picture scenario

Here’s a classic scenario process, presented by Jamais Cascio.  Very useful example of the form.

Start with two drivers:

Right now, the overriding challenge facing us is the global environment, especially the climate. We’re seeing climate disruption-linked events happening faster and harder than was expected, even while the world’s moving backwards in terms of carbon controls (e.g., Canada filed the paperwork to withdraw from Kyoto in order to be able to exploit the tar sands, Germany’s carbon emissions are increasingly rapidly as they replace nuclear plants with coal, China is being China, etc.). The only place that’s seeing any real improvement is (believe it or not) the United States, and that’s because fracking is allowing us to swap natural gas in for coal. 

There’s also the state of the global economy. A mild improvement in the US as well as fear fatigue has allowed us to think that the worst is over, that everything will be okay in Europe, etc. That’s not necessarily so, and it wouldn’t really take much to tip us back into the “it’s all about to fall apart” anxiety of a year or so ago.

Next, make a continuum out of the two – nice twist: (more…)

Scanning the horizon: one case

Ford’s in-house futurist describes her environmental scanning method.

First, she emphasizes trend identification:

Q: So how do you track trends? Are you constantly on Twitter or how do you do it?

A: Well, I’ve been doing it for nine years, so it’s gotten a little easier over time, but it’s really about pattern recognition — looking for recurring themes, and seeing things that re-emerge and starting to have an eye for something, what are the drivers behind this, why does this seem like it’s going to be important, and will it have staying power?

Next, environmental scanning:

I have this title of Futurist, and people think it sounds so exotic, and I have to explain, it means 95% of my time is spent reading. And I read anything and everything. Now, the things that I read when I first started out are quite different from the things that I read today. It’s a little bit easier for me to spot trends. But I have an informal database of over 200 trends, and I go, well that’s an example of information addiction, or information overload. And I just start to save those, and keep those running. But I enjoy reading things like the New York Times, the Guardian, the Economist, Wired magazine has really interesting examples. But I also like long-form books. I’m particularly fond of the inspiration I get from the TED conferences, which feature technology, entertainment, and design, showcasing thought leadership from around the world. You just never know. So I just read anything that crosses my desk. (emphases added)