The Ghosts of Christmas Past

A year ago, on 29 December 2011, I gave My Predictions for 2012. The post began “How will the technology environment develop during 2012? I’m willing to set myself up for a fall my outlining my predictions for 2012 🙂” To be honest the predictions were fairly predictable:

Tablet Computers …

After a couple of years in which use of smart phones, whether based on Apple’s iOS or Goole’s Android operating system), became mainstream for many when away from the office, 2012 will see use of Tablets becoming mainstream, with the competition provided by vendors of Android continue to bring the prices for those reluctant to pay a premium for an iPad.

Once the new term starts we’ll see increased numbers of students who received a Tablet PC for Christmas making use of them, not only for watching videos and listening to music in their accommodation, but also in lectures. As well as note-taking the devices, together with smart phones, will be used for recording lectures. In some cases this will lead to concerns regarding ownership and privacy infringements but students will argue that they are paying for their education and they should be entitled to time-shift their lecturers. Since it will be difficult to prevent students from making such recordings lecturers will start to encourage such practices and will seek to develop an understanding of when comments made during lecturers and tutorials should be treated as ‘off-the-record’.

Open Practices …

Such lecturers will be providing one example of an ‘open practice’. Such encouragement of recording or broadcasting lecturers will become the norm in several research areas, with organisers of research conferences acknowledging that they will need to provide an event amplification infrastructure (including free WiFi for participants, an event hashtag, live streaming or recording of key talks) in order to satisfy the expectations of those who are active in participation in research events.

Such open practices will complement more well-established examples of openness including open access and open content, such as open educational resources. We’ll see much greater use of Creative Commons licences, especially licence which minimise barriers to reuse.

Social Applications …

Social applications will become ubiquitous, although the term may be rebranded in order to avoid the barrier to use faced by those who regard the term ‘social’ as meaning ‘personal’ or ‘trivial’. Just as Web 2.0 became rebranded as the Social Web and the Semantic Web as Linked Data, we shall see such applications being marked as collaborative or interactive services.

Social networking services will continue to grow in importance across the higher education sector. However the view that the popularity of such services will be dependent on conformance with a particular set of development (open source and distributed) or ownership criteria (must not be owned by a successful multi-national company) will be seen to be of little significance. Rather than a growth in services such as or Diaspora, we will see Facebook continue to develop (with its use by organisations helped by mandatory legal requirements regarding conformance with EU privacy legislation described in a post on 45 Privacy Changes Facebook Will Make To Comply With Data Protection Law). In addition to Facebook, Twitter and Google+ will continue to be of importance across the sector.

Learning and Knowledge Analytics ….

The ubiquity of mobile devices coupled with greater use of social applications as part of a developing cultural of open practices will lead to an awareness of the importance of learning and knowledge analytics. Just as in the sporting arena we have seen huge developments in using analytic tools to understand and maximise sporting performances, we will see similar approaches being taken to understand and maximise intellectual performance, in both teaching and learning and research areas.

With just one of the predictions being more speculative:

Collective Intelligence

Just as the combination of developments will help us to have a better understanding of intellectual performance, so too will these development help to in the growth of Collective Intelligence, described in Wikipedia as the “shared or group intelligence that emerges from the collaboration and competition of many individuals and appears in consensus decision making in bacteria, animals, humans and computer networks“. The driving forces behind Collective Intelligence will be the global players which have access to large volumes of data and the computational resources (processing power and storage) to analyse the data.

However rather than simply presenting a list of predictions the post went on to describe how “a greater challenge is being able to demonstrate that such predictions have come true. How might we go about deciding, in December 2012, whether these predictions reflect reality?“.

The methodology used to support the predictions of technological developments was one used to support the JISC Observatory and described in more detail in a paper on “What Next for Libraries? Making Sense of the Future” which was presented at EMTACL12, an international conference on Emerging Technologies in Academic Libraries held in Trondheim, Norway on 1-3 October 2012.

The Ghosts of Christmas Present

In this post I will not go into details on the validity of the predictions. The importance of tablet computers and social applications should be self-evident whilst, as described in a post on Institutional Readiness for Analytics – practice and policy, CETIS have been pro-active in the areas os learnig and knowledge analytics, having recently published a series of briefing paper on analytics. The prediction on collective intelligence was intended to be more speculative, so perhaps discussion would be best focussed on open practices.

However in retrospect all of the predictions were based on an assumption that evidence would demonstrate the value of technological developments for high education. Although the paper “What Next for Libraries? Making Sense of the Future” highlighted the need to distinguish between invention, innovation and improvements, there was an assumption that technological developments would continue to enhance the value of higher education. But is this a valid assumption? And what if other other developments – economic, political, demographic, etc. – undermine the relevance of technical developments?

The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come

These questions came to mind earlier today when I saw the following tweet from @phil_batty, the editor at large for Times Higher Education (@timeshighered) & editor of the World University Rankings (@THEWorldUniRank):

Current monopoly of HE will be lost & just few universities will survive RT @Lennie_SW: The Perfect Storm for Unis:

The post on The Perfect Storm for Universities was published on 3 December 2012 by Dr Stefan Popenici, an academic, public speaker, author and international consultant with extensive experience in leadership in the global higher education arena including the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Israel, Austria, Canada, the People’s Republic of China, France, Italy, Hungary, Philippines, Serbia, the Republic of Moldova, Portugal, Spain, Poland, Romania, Belgium, Georgia.

The post begins:

Even if universities may look well on the surface there is an increasing (and justified) concern that all will change soon. New data and analysis increase the anxiety that the current monopoly of higher education will be lost and just few universities will survive. No one knows which, how many or even if any university will have the chance to celebrate the middle of this century. Deafened by the noise of various bureaucrats and mediocre academics interested to say only what their masters like to hear, some universities and academic groups struggle to see beyond fads and slogans what is shaping the future that will change their existence. This hidden uneasiness is justified. An increasing number of disruptive factors – adding to the obvious and massive impact of Internet and online education – already are changing the landscape for higher education: the significant increase of youth isolation and marginalization, graduate unemployment and persistent underemployment, a concerning economic forecast of a constant slowdown of global growth (with implications for numbers of international students) and issues evolving from the global ageing population (and implications on lifelong learning strategies and numbers of local students). There is even more on the horizon and – while teaching and learning are still organized within university walls by models designed in early 1960s – the pace of change is accelerating.

I’d recommend that those who have an interest in the future of higher education should read this post. The (rather long) post concludes:

In the middle of this storm, universities that continue to glorify mediocrity and impose compliant thinking are condemned to perish. These victims of the storm may still consider that is safer to shut their eyes and stay comfortable within the limits of the status quo. After all, this is what has worked well for the last century. However, on the day after the storm, higher education will be anything but comfortable. The era of compliance and contentment is over!

It’s interesting to see how the damning conclusions are targetted at institutions which “glorify mediocrity and impose compliant thinking“. If that reflects the current culture within your organisation, I’d be worried.

It will be interesting to start observing signals of a future for higher education in which the “current monopoly of HE will be lost & just a few universities will survive”. As it’s Christmas Eve I’ll not comment on such signals today, but may revisit this post in a year’s time. To update the comment I made last year “a greater challenge is being able to demonstrate that such predictions have come true. How might we go about deciding, in December 2013, whether these predictions reflect reality?“.

Merry Christmas!

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