“Internationally known futurist” Bryan Alexander surveys the intersecting worlds of technology and education through monthly digests in which he checks new ideas “against previously-identified trendlines.” In an end-of-year summary for Campus Technology magazine, Alexander recently offered readers a glimpse into his educated voodoo to enumerate the trends he believes to be of most impact today and for the next year.
As a result, a vast collection of trends appears in Alexander’s forecasts divided into four sections. On top, “The Higher Education Crisis” lists the following trends:
- Student debt
- Campus mergers and closures
- Graduate school shrinkage
- Partisan and bipartisan political pressure
The other sections are: “Education and Contexts,” where racial inequality, sexual assault, and athletics show the highest priority; “Education and Technology” giving “the LMS world” priority over MOOCs and gamification; and “Technology,” topped with IoT. Uncategorized trends are also included and count automation, blockchain, and crowdfunding in their ranks, among many others.
Alexander weighs three separate methodologies in his trend-hunting business. First, a top-down “Trends Analysis” of social forces as they affect education, accounting for present-day events as well as those in recent years. Then, an “Environmental Scanning” exercise where he digs into technological and specialized journals and sources that might hint at future innovations. Finally, a “Scenario” building where narratives about the future are elaborated on and tested for its realism and consistency and, perhaps paradoxically, science fiction is one of the tradesman’s staple.