Thoughts on the Future Forum

So recently we had the First Future Forum at CSU. I get to take some credit (or blame) as it was my original idea – and it’s great feeling to see one of your ideas enacted and released into the wild.

The idea for the forum came from a desire to share and collaborate outside the normal means. I wanted to get together a range of different staff as a way to stimulate thinking outside the square. So the objectives were to:

  • Get out of our silos and share the ideas from staff across different divisions/faculty/positions
  • To expose ourselves to different visions and ways of seeing what the future holds
  • Level the playing field and creating a space for executives and ground staff to meet at the same table.
  • Stimulate new thinking and ways of seeing CSU.

I can’t speak for everyone but my objectives were met and I came away happy and with a head full of thoughts.

The theme of the day was: “What would distance and on-campus learning and teaching with educational technologies at CSU be like in 2020?”

So here are some of the things I got out of the day:

  • There seems to be a general expectation of quite radical change over the next 7.5 years. Not necessarily doomsday or apocalyptic – but quite radical change is on the horizon. There are many outside factors that higher education needs to respond to and prepare for. But there seems little doubt that there is a storm on the horizon and change is a comin’.
  • I thought it was quite interesting that despite technology being the dominant discussion point, many of the points raised were related to people. There were a lot of discussions around the idea of connectedness – how the university connects with our community and quite importantly the relationships we have. A word that came up quite often that is uniquely human (rather than technological) was culture. What is our culture and how that can affect our ability to respond to the impending change?

As the day progressed it was clear a number of themes were developing.

Connectedness

– from a technical perspective in terms of devices, NBN and developing Always On culture

Adaptability

– the need for our content, teaching, environments and contexts to be adaptive and responsive. That this is done seamlessly and allow the flow between spaces to be permeable.

Design

As a designer I love to hear this word, but it is so apt in terms of placing the university in a context of the future. I love the definition of design on Wikipedia:

a specification manifested by an agent, intended to accomplish goals, in a particular environment, using a set of primitive components, satisfying a set of requirements, subject to constraints;

Design sums up the thinking required by the university into the future and defines in many ways the application and process that needs to be implemented.

Intelligent Design vs Evolution

“Intelligent Design” came up in reference to subjects and courses – but it’s link to the Creationist/Evolution clash of ideas was interesting. While not on quite the same scale one of the new ideas I picked up was that relating to direction vs autonomy. Many of the disruptive movements in education push the autonomous learner model… but is that really what we want? Can you self teach a profession? Can I teach myself to be a teacher, and then can I get qualified? To me this comes back to the Design idea… and specifically the line “subject to constraints”, because in many ways thats what defines the design. It’s what distinguishes great design, the ability to create and deliver within a set of constraints.

But where do we go?

I think many people expected solid outcomes from the day …. but I think they missed the point of a forum – “a meeting or medium where ideas and views on a particular issue can be exchanged”.

I think that’s exactly what happened! We exchanged ideas and views.

The forum served its purpose – it’s now up to us to see them through. Our Vice Chancellor bought up the the idea of ownership – that’s the institution isn’t something separate – it’s us – we are CSU.

We should take the information, the views and the ideas from today and feed them back to our jobs and back to our practice. There was something for everyone in attendance to take back and apply, to influence, to question and to inform.

For those from the executive its up to them to try and influence strategy and planning (and $$$$). For those teaching, it’s about applying those ideas to your practice. For those in support, it’s up to us to help direct and shape those we support. It’s up to us all to share that vision and disseminate.

Personally I got a lot out of today. My thoughts and ideas are shaped by my environment and practice, which can be quite insular and act as an echo chamber. The exposure to new and different perspectives was invaluable and has helped to expand my horizons.

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