I have to laugh when I think of the times I watched the television program, “Flash Gordon,” as he putted through outer space in his make-believe space ship, talking on his make-believe wireless radio, and dressed in his make-believe space suit. Well, I’m not laughing anymore. Today we have shuttled astronauts into outer space, have men living in a Space Station, have space suites that take your temperature and gauge your heart rate, and wireless communication devices that send pictures to Planet Earth. Far fetched from reality? Not anymore. As we speak, the future is starring us in the face, waiting to see how we will promote her in the next 5-10 years.
How did science-fiction become reality over the past 50 years? Let’s consider one aspect of innovation: the learning environment – post secondary education. Why post secondary education, you may ask? As post secondary education population increases, programs to accommodate students will develop into curriculum that affords students the freedom to create and design systems they toy with on a daily basis. Are there risks involved in this adaptation process? There are risks involved when change occurs, and leadership should be aware of how to diplomatically confront the risk areas that could slow down progress. Some of the risks that could be encountered due to change are:
o Systems risks
o Subsystem risks
o Financial/economic risks
o Societal/Cultural risks
If communication between systems, subsystems, people, and cultures within the organizational environment has established a strong communication system, risks factors will be at a minimum as long as the creative teams are honest and upfront about their reservations to change.
Let’s look into the future through ‘futureoculers’ and see how the universe of learning can be brought into the present. I want to introduce to you five (5) key trends that I believe affect the current learning environment, can create change, and renovate the perspective of learners and educators for students of the future. These trends could be the key in creating a new perspective in post secondary education for an institution. The key trends are:
o Competitive classroom learning environments – campus on-site/online/distant
o Increase in technological tools
o Teaching/learning environments-more hands on
o Global expansion capability-internal and external
o Student input in the creative learning process
Before the five (5) key trends are defined, there needs to be an acknowledgement of how the trends will be supported and regulated through a changing environment. According to de Kluyver, and Pearce, II, having the right systems and processes/subsystems enhances organizational effectiveness and facilitates coping with change. Misaligned systems and processes can be a powerful drag on an organization’s ability to adapt. Therefore, check what effect, if any, current systems and processes are likely to have on a company’s ability to implement a particular strategy is well advised. Support systems such as a company’s planning, budgeting, accounting, information and reward and incentive systems can be critical to successful strategy implementation. Although they do not by themselves define a sustainable competitive advantage, superior support systems help a company adapt more quickly and effectively to changing requirements. A well-designed planning system ensures that planning is an orderly process, gets the right amount of attention by the right executives, and has a balanced external and internal focus. Budgeting and accounting systems are valuable in providing accurate historical data, setting benchmarks and targets, and defining measures of performance. A state-of-the-art information system supports all other corporate systems, and it facilitates analysis as well as internal and external communications. Finally, a properly designed reward and incentive system is key to creating energy through motivation and commitment. A process (or subsystem) is a systematic way of doing things. Processes can be formal or informal; they define organization roles and relationships, and they can facilitate or obstruct change. Some processes or subsystems look beyond immediate issues of implementation to an explicit focus on developing a stronger capacity for adapting to change. Processes/subsystems aimed at creating a learning organization and at fostering continuous improvement are good examples. As an example, processes or subsystems are functional and maintain the operation of the system; the system may be Student Services and the subsystem may be the Financial Aid office or Admissions. Subsystems can be more in depth in relation to office operations, which involves employee positions and their culture; financial advisors, academic advisors, guidance counselors. These operations are functions performed on the human level and could have a positive or negative impact in the development of key trends. If employees are valued and rewarded for their dedication and service, the outcome will be responsible, committed employees for the success of their subsystem.
Every navigator needs a map, a plan, a driver to give direction to for a successful trip. In this case, the driver is several elements:
o Service integrity, reputation
o Affordability with an open door concept
Hughes and Beatty relate drivers as Strategic drivers; those relatively few determinants of sustainable competitive advantage for a particular organization in a particular industry or competitive environment (also called factors of competitive success, key success factors, key value propositions). The reason for identifying a relatively small number of strategic drivers for an organization is primarily to ensure that people become focused about what pattern of inherently limited investments will give the greatest strategic leverage and competitive advantage. Drivers can change over time, or the relative emphasis on those drivers can change, as an organization satisfies its key driver. In the case of post secondary education, drivers help measure success rates in the area of course completion ratio, student retention, and transfer acceptance into a university and/or the successful employment of students. Because change is so rampant in education, it is wise for leadership to anticipate change and develop a spirit of foresight to keep up with global trends.
Drivers can help identify the integrity of internal and external functions of systems and subsystems, as mentioned previously, by identifying entity types that feed the drivers’ success. They are:
o Clientele Industry – external Market – feeder high schools, cultural and socio-economic demographic and geographic populations
– Competitors – local and online educational systems
– Nature of Industry – promote a learning community
– Governmental influences – licensed curriculum programs supported by local, state, and federal funds
– Economic and social influences – job market, employers, outreach programs
o College Planning and Environment – internal
– Capacity – Open door environment
– Products and services – high demand curriculum programs that meet, local, state, and federal high demand employment needs
– Market position – Promote on and off-campus activities that attract clientele
– Customers – traditional and non-traditional credit and non-credit students
– Systems, processes, and structures – trained staff and state-of-the art technical systems
– Leadership – integrity-driven, compassionate leadership teams
– Organizational culture – promote on-campus activities promoting a proactive environment for students
According to Hughes and Beatty, these functions can assimilate into the Vision, Mission, and Values statements to define the key strategic drivers for developing successful environments.