Ideas on the Future of Higher Education in Canada

In preparation for my paper covering the possible futures of education by the year 2030, I am writing this article to explore my preliminary thoughts on the subject. In no way is this article a definitive demonstration on my current perspective on the future of education, as I simply have not yet had the time to sufficiently explore the literature to formulate a valid perspective. Rather, I will use this article as a means to brainstorm my ideas on the subject. Therefore, the following article depicts my current inquires pertaining to the possible futures of education in Canada.

When we attempt to conceptualize the possible futures of education in Canada we must first look into the current state of society, as well as the socioeconomic trends from decades past. By “current state of society” I mean (1) what truly drives the Canadian economy and social decisions, and (2) what aspects of society might underpin or dictate institutional change. For example, the article “What might the school of 2030 be like? An exercise in social science fiction”, by authors Selwyn et al. (2020) demonstrate the need to view education from the sociological perspective to formulate realistic ideas about what the future of education might look like; I agree with this perspective. In my opinion, it will be societal expectations and norms, not EdTech, that will influence nation-wide educational and institutional change, for better or worse.

For example, I believe that Canadian socioeconomic trends of the past two decades will likely continue (to some extent) over the next ten years. Predicting what the consumer (a.k.a. students, or “educational consumers” (Antony et al., 2017) in my full article) will want out of education, how they will want it delivered, and what they will be able to afford are all influenced by socioeconomic status. When you consider Canada’s socioeconomical divide (e.g. heavy lower class, dissipating middle class, and powerful upper class) is it realistic to assume fully immersive educational experiences (e.g. virtual reality and augmented reality technologies) will become widely available and affordable for students by 2030? Perhaps, but there would need to be a real paradigm shift in the way the economy is run for this to occur. Perhaps institutional change will be more subtle than the complete overhaul promised by certain tech giants. On the other hand, the Canadian economy is currently driven by a capitalist, democratic, and neoliberal agenda; in other words, profit and freedom are at the forefront of decision making, which includes the corporatization of educational institutions (Antony et al. 2017).

So, what am I getting at with all of this? Well, in theory, societal trends can be aggregated to make sense of the future of education (Sewlyn et al.). The following are questions I am currently exploring to generate direction for my final paper:

• What societal trends have emerged from the past two decades? E.g. 2000’s and 2010’s
• What type of society do we live in today and how has it evolved over the past couple of decades?
• What will the future hold for Canadian socioeconomics?
• What truly drives/dictates public and private education in Canada?
• Who will have access to education technology? And what will educational consumers ultimately want out of their education?
• Will education conform to certain populations (e.g. digital generation learning preferences? And why?
• What role will technology play in the delivery of education with the corporate agenda in mind?

Next, here are some central themes that may underpin my futures of education vision:

The Current and Future Canadian Society

This part analyzes how we, as Canadians, currently live in a capitalist, democratic, and neoliberal society that emphasizes individualism and freedom (e.g. private troubles, individual choice and opportunity) (Antony et al. 2017), how this may affect education in Canada, and which direction our society and economy is likely to take in the next ten years. I propose understanding this information may reveal key insights into how Canadian higher education organizations may evolve to meet the demands of a dynamic society.

The Socioeconomical Divide and Education

This section explores how social inequality, capitalist power and influence, poverty, and socioeconomic classes may influence or dictate the evolution of education and technology adoption.

The Corporatization of Public Universities

Using evidence from the past two decades, this section explores the possibility of widespread privatisation of universities and its potential impact on higher education. I look into students as “educational consumers” and what this might mean for things like course offerings, research funding, and more. Does managing education institutions like businesses take away from the learning experience? Will the corporatization of educational institutions continue through the 2020’s? Will our evolving society embrace or resist this movement? And will schools conform to the demands of the consumer to maximize profit?

The Impact of Digital Education Technologies

There is no question technology plays a critical role in the future of education, but will everyone have equal access? Immersive technologies will likely be at the forefront of disruptive technology (e.g. VR and AR), but will such innovative technologies get to the homes of the consumer when there is a clear divide in socioeconomical classes? Or, will such technologies be long forgotten, similar to Weller’s report (Weller, 2020) of the histories of EdTech? Also, if society continues down this neoliberal capitalist path, to what extent will convenience and affordability impact the implementation of EdTech (Clarke, 1994)?

Personal Privacy, Identity, and Data Surveillance

In this section, I explore personal privacy and the likelihood that our Canadian society will demand personal data protection. I will also look into which technologies may be used to prevent academic dishonesty.

Taking all of the above into consideration, and after verifying my ideas through extensive research, I will then formulate a realistic future of the Canadian higher education system. I intend to compare my ideas and research to the visions depicted by Macgilchrist et al. (2020), Selwyn et al. (2020), and a few other articles or publications that have yet to be determined.

 

References

Antony, W., Antony, J., & Samuelson, L. (2017). Power and resistance (6th edition). Fernwood Publishing. Blackpoint, NS, Winnipeg, MB.

Clark, R. E. (1994). Media will never influence learning. Educational Technology Research and Development, 42(2), 21–29. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02299088

Felicitas Macgilchrist, Heidrun Allert & Anne Bruch (2020) Students and society in the 2020s. Three future ‘histories’ of education and technology,Learning, Media and Technology, 45:1, 76-89, DOI: 10.1080/17439884.2019.1656235

Selwyn, N., Pangrazio, L., Nemorin, S., & Perrotta, C. (2020). What might the school of 2030 be like? An exercise in social science fiction. Learning, Media and Technology, 45(1), 90-106.

Weller, M. (2020). 25 years of ed tech. Athabasca University Press. https://doi.org/10.15215/aupress/9781771993050.01

One thought on “Ideas on the Future of Higher Education in Canada

  1. Jonathan: this is on an excellent path! Thinking through the socioeconomic and sociopolitical forces that shape institutions is necessary. Though universities slowly change over time, they nonetheless constantly change, reflecting and impacting the societies that house them. Good luck with the paper!

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