As part of the Near Future Teaching project we have developed two short reviews which attempt to summarise what we see as the key trends and influences likely to be shaping digital education in universities over the short to medium term. In writing them, we have focused on aligning the analysis of key trends with the insights coming out of our work with the students and staff who constitute the university. While there are plenty of megatrend reports, horizon scanning documents, key trends barometers, policy documents and foresight analyses out there which have helped us, we have focused on maintaining a critical edge which looks at what the impact of current technological and educational trends might be on students, staff, communities and the universities in which we work.
The opinion cards are thematic distillations of the opinions being expressed in the vox pop interviews, focus groups, and related events conducted at the University of Edinburgh from 2017-2018 as part of the Near Future Teaching project. These opinion cards are the result of a thematic analysis of all data collected as part of the project. Each opinion card has theme on one side and a sample of quotes direct from the students and staff of the University of Edinburgh on the back.
The value cards are the result of a further analysis of the opinion cards into broader thematic groupings representing the core values being expressed in the data. The 19 opinion cards that were created from the interviews and insights from staff and students over 2017-2018 were grouped into indicative values central to the University of Edinburgh. These value cards are critical to the Near Future Teaching project as it is designed to co-design a future for digital education at Edinburgh based in the values of our students and staff.
These four future worlds were crafted based largely in the research (the Future Reviews). They are four future worlds that moved on one axis between open and closed systems, and human-led and technology-led on another. These four future worlds were outputs distilling a large amount of HE futures research, implicitly a challenge to the misconception that “there is an inevitable future to which we must simply adapt or resist” (Facer & Sandford, 2010). They were used in design workshops as thought experiments to identify how the values of the University of Edinburgh would render in the future using these future world constraints.
A series of diverse, yet possible futures for the University of Edinburgh emerged from the first workshop. These future Universities will function within this project as thought experiments; instead of serving as any kind of ‘preferable vision,’ they will be used as source material to inform a discussion around various probable futures and their respective risks and opportunities. In addition, we can use the aforementioned values as a way to qualify what ‘preferable’ looks like to the staff and students at the University. Cross referencing these values with the material captured in these future versions of the University of Edinburgh helped us develop a rich understanding of what a ‘preferable’ future vision of digital education at the University might look like.