In Focus | The Future of Higher Education
Articles,  Blog

In Focus | The Future of Higher Education

– Hello, I’m Stephanie Kim, coming to you from the LG Digital Studio at the Georgetown University
School of Continuing Studies. In focus today, the future
of higher education. I’m joined by Dr. Bryan Alexander, senior scholar at the
Center for New Design in Learning and Scholarship
here at Georgetown University. He’s also the author of a new book, “Academia Next: The Futures
of Higher Education.” Welcome, Bryan. – Thank you, welcome, I’m glad to be here. – Oh, well it’s a pleasure to have you. – Thanks. – So, Bryan, you call yourself a futurist in higher education. – [Bryan] Correct. – What exactly does that mean? What does your work entail? – Well, a futurist helps
people think more carefully, more creatively and more
realistically about the future. And so I do this with higher education. That means in part, I consult
with colleges, universities, governments, non-profits and businesses, and I also make a lot of media. I do weekly video conference, I publish monthly trends analysis, and I write books, chapters,
articles, all kinds of stuff, trying to help people in higher education, or adjacent to higher education, think more creatively, more effectively, about what’s to come. – So, I mean, just thinking about these trends that you write about, what would you say are
the most important ones that colleges and
universities can anticipate? – There’s several. In fact, I have a map of about 90, so let me just hit a
couple of the major ones. And one of them is demographics, where the population is getting older and we’re generating fewer
and fewer younger people, which has all kinds of impacts on how we think about enrollment and traditionally in
the graduate education. There are developments in technology, which are both daunting and very exciting. We think about, for example, the huge open revolution where people have access to more open content from teaching to scholarship. But there’s also new technologies, everything from artificial intelligence, to the mixture of virtual
reality and augmented reality, or some call extended reality. Then on top of that, we have changes in economics. So as our economy keeps
moving away from manufacturing and towards service, that means higher education
has to prepare students for a different labor force. And on top of that, we have to worry about political and cultural tension, as there’s more and more
anxiety about higher education for everything from republicans
worried about politics, to many, many people
worried about student debt. I mean, taken together, we also have an additional problem
with higher education is increasingly running into financial sustainability problems. I put all these together, and sometimes I call it crunch
time for higher education. There’s so much pressure. And yet we have so much opportunity. And in a sense, this is the
best time in human history to be a learner. But it’s one of the weirdest
times to be a university. – Wow, well, the future
sounds incredibly complex and even volatile.
– Yes. – So, what can higher
education professionals do to prepare for this? – They can do a few things. One of them is to cultivate a
futurist strategy or stance. So they take the future seriously, and that involves doing everything from horizon scanning to trends analysis to creating scenarios,
to simply doing research. And having a mindset that the future just might be different than the present, which is difficult for some people to do. A second is to listen to students, especially younger ones. Because in many ways, that’s why we’re here in our education. But also they come from a slightly different world sociologically, and we don’t empower them
enough in many places. And a third is to just
work outside the box, work with as many colleagues and co-conspirators as
possible across domains. So to work with people
from other countries, to work with people in
the non-profit space, to work with different
parts of higher education, from community colleges, to state schools, to try to craft a new
world of higher education. All of that is, in a sense, to think in terms of science fiction. You know, to imagine a world where things are different and challenging, but with enough intelligence
and enough creativity, we can succeed. – So, one last question for you, Bryan. – Please. – What inspired you to write this book? – Well, quite a few things, and one of them was teaching, and just looking at my students and trying to imagine ways that universities and colleges could better meet their needs
in the world that changes. Partly it was working with so many different
colleges and universities, you know, hundreds of them, trying to think about where
they’re going to be going. Partly it was my hope in
the digital revolution and the promises and
potentials that it affords. And partly it was just thinking about the 21st century being an
incredibly challenging place, and how of all sectors of society, from business, to the
military, to the government, higher education is this
extraordinary actor, stuffed filled with
intellectual firepower, so much creativity, and so much heart, so much care. I wanted to see how this
sector could best thrive in the rest of the century. – Awesome, wonderful words
to part with, thank you. – Thank you. – It’s been a pleasure. – It’s been my pleasure. – And I very much look
forward to reading the book. As should everyone out there, and thank you, everyone
out there, for watching. Stay tuned for more from the LG Digital
Studio at Georgetown SCS.

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