What is Future Happens?

Future Happens offers four high level responses which frame the influence and potential of digital technologies and the Web in higher education.

Background

Within many higher education institutions, the patterns and responses of resistance to change make anything different from the norm forced into the position that has to justify ‘why?’  Debates about the potential of technology, the tensions of techno-determinism and the fears of replacement and redundancy have centred the discourse on service rather than pedagogy or research.  The problem is that the genie is already out the bottle.  There is no going back to chalkboards and overheads and we won’t be shutting off the internet any time soon.  Technology and the digital are already integral to what we do but the presence of technology does not automatically equate to a shift in practice.

These responses are the result of a collaborative ‘hack’ process which took place online and face-to-face. Participants in the hack included a wide range of roles within the higher education sector at many different levels. The aim of the hack was to design collectively a response to a the following:

  • How do we change the discourse and empower people like us to actively shape teaching and learning at our institutions?  
  • What are the key messages, tools and strategies available that put the digital in the heart of the conversation and not as a freak show, an uncritical duplication of institutional norms or a fringe activity of the tech savvy?  

The output from this process is four key ‘responses’ which include edited quotes from participants of the face-to-face element of the Future Happens hack. These responses have been written in a form which can be edited to use within your own institution and are offered here under a Creative Commons Attribution licence (Future Happens, 2017).

Framing

We chose five scenarios which are often the catalyst for change in institutions. The hack took these scenarios and asked people to craft the 100 words they would use if they were in the room with the Vice Chancellor in order to make their case and effectively position what they do as a core part of the institution.

  • Why is this going to make our institutional more successful/deliver our objectives?
  • How do we demonstrate what we do will position the organisation effectively?
  • How do we make sure we (staff and students) stay in the conversation and not be relegated to simply providing services aligned with other people’s strategies?

The process

We started this process by setting a Loomio site that was used to provide a platform for open, constructive and engaged debate.  People on the platform could put forwards ideas, discuss the issues underlying the broad problem and get to know each other.  We also held a face-to-face hack at the LSE, where 25 people from across the sector (ranging from sector coordination bodies, academics, technologists, IT specialists and researchers) came together to hack their version of the 100 words to say to the VC.  The face-to-face hack had the following rules:

  • Rule 1: We are teaching and learning focused and institutionally committed
  • Rule 2: What we talk about here is institutionally/nationally agnostic
  • Rule 3: You are in the room with the decision makers. What we decide is critical to the future of our institutions. You are the institution
  • Rule 4: Despite the chatter, all the tech ‘works’ – the digital is here, we are digital institutions. Digital is not the innovation
  • Rule 5: We are here to build not smash
  • Rule 6: There is no moaning (rehearse systemic reasons why you can’t effect change – see Rule 3)

Over four hours they delivered 25 ideas which were then put back to the larger Loomio community online, for further discussion and voting.  Over the next three weeks there were hundreds of contributions, edits, votes and refinements. This work was then edited by Peter Bryant (Head of Learning Technology and Innovation, London School of Economics and Political Science) and David White (Head of Digital Learning, University of the Arts, London) into the headlines, which are written in a manner suitable for institutional engagement.  

The quotes in the responses are from participants in the face-to-face hack.

 

You can download the responses with the “What is Future Happens?” text as a PDF. Feel free to copy and paste, edit and generally modify any of the text to your needs. Simply cite “Future Happens, 2017”.