Internet / Online

How Will Students Live and Learn in the Future? #HEFutures

Last week, I attended the launch of “Living and Learning in 2034” [PDF] about the future of higher education. I was part of the project team, so I didn’t want to miss the event!

The report looks at how the student experience could change in coming years and considers the future wants and needs of students under a number of scenarios.

Visions of the future. Not quite like this... (photo by seemann)

Visions of the future. Not quite like this… (photo by seemann)

There was loads of great discussion on the night, including a great question and answer session that you can see highlights from below.

Student Living

Mark Allan, Chief Executive of UNITE Group, kicked off the evening by explaining why student living is at the heart of HE. Why not simply the student, as the government’s 2011 White Paper suggested? Because the experience is broad and all-embracing. Allan said that it’s important to try to understand and interpret future student interests, especially since students are not all the same.

While there is a current trend of seeing university as a necessity for employability and future success, that doesn’t mean everyone looks to higher education in this way. It also doesn’t mean the future will play out this way. However, this document does recognise current trends coming into play and uses them as a base (ten key trends are described in the report).

Study Patterns and Ethos

Paul Harris, Group Strategy and Commercial Director at UNITE, then talked about the prospect of new stakeholders making a huge impact on the higher education sector in coming years. It is not clear where that will take matters, he explained, because there are already fundamental uncertainties that will make an impact on HE futures.

He also questioned whether shorter and more intensive study patterns were on the horizon. Three year degrees may be the norm now, but shifting needs may speed development of 18-month and two-year courses.

Harris concluded with a strong point on ethos. While general attitudes within society are not always the most obvious consideration, they are a key issue that can make a huge impact, both nationally and globally.

We respond to each other and are aware of opinions that are forming. As such, a local economy could be booming or busting, but the final say on how that is perceived could be down to how the public react and respond to the circumstances. Even a bleak economic outlook can be played positively, so it would be wrong to ignore the ethos in society.

Ruled by Technology

One highlight from the event was one student’s dystopian vision of what could occur if technology pushed our minds (and our time) further away from our control. Does technology drive people or do people drive technology?

An abridged version of the student story can be found in the report. I told Cameron, the author, that I found his portrayal vivid and amusing. However, I continued, I’d stop laughing if his story became a reality.

Continue the Discussion

The end of the evening saw some brilliant questions from the floor. It helped the idea that the document is very much a living discussion. Among the questions and subsequent answers on the night were:

Might students in the future want to study in more than one place in the world?
Climate change may force people to stay closer to home in the future, forcing the hand on this one. But if travel continues to happen as it is, some students may prefer to get a range of experiences nationally and even around the globe. What we see as modular today may expand to single modules in several different institutions, but all part of a particular qualification.

Which scenario is currently most likely to play out?
We have no reliable crystal ball. Even as the report was being researched, opinions on the most likely scenario seemed to be changing. In addition, there’s nothing to say that different parts of the country could see different scenarios based on local circumstances.

These scenarios each impact attitudes to education and lifelong learning. Will universities plot out possibilities based on each scenario?
The hope is that the conversation will continue and expand. We must be prepared for many outcomes and it would not be sensible to assume a single course, no matter how obvious it appears to someone. Ignoring possible risks is a risk in itself.

Students discussing accommodation on TheStudentRoom focus very much on value for money and location. How will this change in the future, if at all?
If environment can bring more success, value will be drawn out and noticed. Success means different things and that can be drawn out from a person’s environment. That hasn’t been cracked yet in this country and there are many opportunities.
With £9k fees, students are now looking much more closely at what type of experience they want. Is it employer based, international, lifelong and learning focused, or something deliberately unique to a person? Universities in the United States are focusing on the student experience a great deal at the moment and some pointers could be taken from there. However, with spiralling costs, it is important to also be careful.

Your Thoughts?

A blog has been set up for the report, which will feature more ideas and content, over at hefutures.wordpress.com. There is already a graphic showcasing four of the possible students of the future.

What is your vision of the future? Leave a comment here or tweet your thoughts with the hashtag #HEFutures.

The Best Places for News Overviews and In-Depth Writing

News and current events can get in the way of your learning, your spare time, and even the bigger issues. But that doesn’t mean you want to keep away from an entertaining read on what’s going on around the world.

(photo by Entrer dans le rêve) (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

(photo by Entrer dans le rêve) (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Whether you want to sink your teeth into some beefy journalism, or you simply wish to catch up as quickly as possible on what’s hot in the press, here are the sites and services I use for in-depth articles and brief overviews:

In Depth

Longreadshttp://longreads.com/ – Extensive articles on all manner of topics. A daily feed of writing that goes into several thousand words a time.

Arts & Letters Dailyhttp://www.aldaily.com/ – Three articles a day with searching articles and interesting ideas. Under the headings “Articles of Note”, “New Books” and “Essays and Opinion”.

Longformhttp://longform.org/ – More choices of lengthy articles. There are lots of ‘best of’ lists from 2013 picked for you to enjoy.

The Browserhttp://thebrowser.com/ – The website that brings you “writing worth reading”. Enjoy the main feed, or drill down on the Literary and Tech sections.

Overviews

Top 5 Newshttp://top5news.co.uk/ – Dedicated to showing you the most read articles on various UK news sites. An easy way to see what’s top of the tree all in one go.

AllTophttp://alltop.com/ – With a broad range of subjects on offer, AllTop allows you to find out what news agencies and blogs are writing about on a single page. Simple to use.

Popurlshttp://popurls.com/ – News sites, videos, bloggers, specialist subjects…Popurls covers all sorts of feeds on most things you can think of. Equally good for catching up and finding inspiration.

Feedlyhttp://www.feedly.com/ – A slight cheat, this one. You’ll still have to find the RSS feeds that suit you. But once you subscribe to the relevant feeds in your areas of interest, the articles come to you. No more time wasted seeking stuff out.

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As a bonus, get reading quickly by pushing your articles through Spreeder or Readfa.st and watch your reading speed grow as you go. In no time you’ll be reading lengthy journalism in the time it used to take just to catch up on the headlines!

Where do you go for in-depth stories? How do you catch up on recent news? Let us know in the comments.

Self-Motivation and Mountain Moving

Self-motivation is great. It helps you take those online courses and pass with aplomb. It gets you connecting with amazing people. It inspires you to write about your chosen profession,  your hobbies, and anything on your mind. It lets you present videos, go to talks and conferences.

Self-motivation takes you to a place where you can create stuff, argue stuff, make stuff happen.

But how often is this happening?

It’s easy to forget how useful a dose of self-motivation can be.

So it’s time to remember. Self-motivation is a big deal.

Nothing is guaranteed in life, but you have to reach out to get it.

When you don’t, nothing happens.

converse-fields

The more self-motivated you are to show up and take action, the more likely you’ll find the good stuff. And you see those people who seem to get asked to do absolutely everything? They usually got to that place by asking a lot before all this happened. It took a lot of asking to get a lot of asking back at them.

Choices and Making Things Happen

When you take action, you need to make choices.

Choices are tough. What do you give up? What do you prioritise above everything else? There are only so many hours in the day. And when you do have the time, do you worry about every last detail before committing to something?

First, consider if your actions somehow make a difference to you or someone else. What value does it have? Even if that value is personal, that’s fine.

Second, think useful, not polished. For example, when I write, I don’t edit much until later. Editing as you write is a pain and it limits your output. If your brilliant idea can only be expressed in a few bullet points for now, so be it. You’re better off making a couple of notes than not writing anything at all.

Another example is through Gary Vaynerchuk. When he gets a great idea in his head that he wants to tell the world, he doesn’t care about production values. He’ll take out his phone and, no matter where he is, he’ll shoot a quick piece and post it online. When the message is more important than a fancy presentation or high definition video, push it out.

All you need to do is flip your phone around and shoot a video. Get an idea out there, make something happen. When you’ve got something great to impart, you can move mountains. Keep communicating, keep creating, keep connecting. Don’t wait for someone–including yourself–to tell you you’re good enough, to tell you you’ve made it. That’ll never happen. And if people do tell you you’ve made it, don’t stop learning on account of that.

Don’t stop creating either. There’s always more to do.

So get out there and instead of trying to do something good, try doing something new, learning as you go. Some stuff will be grainy and useful. Some stuff will be polished and rubbish. You’ll even have perfect days and terrible days.

But that’s only if you do it. If you just play it safe and do nothing at all, there’s nothing to show and you get no further forward.

You have to make choices because you can’t do everything. But when you say you really want to do something and it’s perfectly possible to do it, why would you still not do it?

I had an email the other day from someone who wanted to write a guest post for the blog. They said they wanted to get into blogging and were looking for a way in. I asked them what their own blog was and they didn’t have one.

Let me repeat that once more…A person who really wanted to blog, but didn’t have a blog yet and were looking for a way in.

A way in to what? Just sign up and start publishing stuff!

Now, I’m pretty sure their real aim was to promote another website. But imagine if that person really did want to blog. Nothing would be stopping them so long as they had an Internet connection.

If you’re reading this, you can be writing it too.

Taking Life Seriously

As you can tell from this site, I still find university fascinating. I understand that there are other routes and that uni isn’t for everyone. But I’ve found something that speaks to me and that I want to be a part of. It may bore the socks off you, yet it works for me. I want to help students make the most of their time at university and learn about their experiences because I feel in a good position to do that. I like the academic side, the social side, the admin side. It’s a strange position to be in, but a wonderful one.

I moved away from academia after I graduated. It seemed like the only thing I could do at the time.

I was wrong. And I’ve been wrong about a lot of things throughout my life.

We’re all wrong about a lot of things.

Luckily, we get a lot right too.

One thing I was right to do was return to the world of higher education. Not only did I work to my strengths, I also worked on my weaknesses. I didn’t know enough about the administration side of academia, so I made it my business to do so. I took it seriously.

The first step of the process was self-motivation.

If I didn’t want to do this, the outcomes would be different. I wouldn’t have been asked to do many of the things I’ve done. I wouldn’t have found people wanting to consume the content I’ve produced. I wouldn’t have participated in the activities that have helped along the way.

I wouldn’t have taken this seriously.

How seriously do you take the things you’re aiming for?

I’m writing at the time of year when new university students are starting a journey toward a degree while applicants are at school or college writing personal statements so the whole process can begin again next year.

When I was writing my personal statement, I was only half-hearted about it. I wasn’t looking at the bigger picture. Nobody had explained what any of this meant and I hadn’t done enough research of my own either.

That wasn’t the best attitude to have. Yet it’s an attitude repeated time and again for far too many people, year after year.

I had a chance to turn things around and I took it. If I hadn’t, my university experience might have been pretty poor. I may not have gone to university at all.

Yet here I am, writing stuff like this, trying to help others win. Among other things, that needs a regular dose of self-motivation.

None of this is about finding your passion at an early age. Neither is it about ignoring what you believe in. At the core of this is taking what you do seriously. Even the fun stuff. Make every action count and find motivation in what you do.

This Post Is For YOU

I write this as an inspired ramble. I’m posting it here without (much) editing.

This post is for you to chew on as is. If it speaks to you, that’s awesome. Let me know what you’re inspired to do. Keep in touch. Even if it’s just a quick tweet (@universityboy) I’d love to hear what you’re doing and how you’re self-motivated.

And if you think I’m crazy, that’s fine. Do your thing and be inspired by what makes you tick. The point is to find what makes you want to wake up in the morning (or night!) and do amazing work. I’m only trying to help with that. If someone else is helping you achieve that in a completely different way, brilliant.

I’m talking to each and every student out there who gets what I’m saying and who feels like I’m helping them. If I’m not helping you, I’m comfortable with that. If I’m not helping anyone, I need to reconsider.

From where I am, I feel comfortable at the moment. So while I’m self-motivated, I can’t do it all by myself. This is a two-way process.

Thank you for that. Thanks for reading and I hope you get a spark of inspiration from this post or anything I’ve created over the years. May your own self-motivation (along with the help of others) take you to wonderful places.

Not long ago, I referred to a Dr. Seuss book, “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!“. The book’s message is that you can move mountains.

I believe you can move mountains. It’s time to get motivated. Are you ready?

Let me know what your personal mountains are and how far you’ll move them.

move mountains (Dr. Seuss image from Oh! the Places You'll Go) (photo by Curtis Gregory Perry)

“Kid, you’ll move mountains” – Dr. Seuss image from ‘Oh! the Places You’ll Go’ (photo by Curtis Gregory Perry)

A New Medium: Great Links Worth Reading

I recently started writing over at Medium. It’s a convenient place to post anything not quite so student related. And more stuff that is!

Medium

I thought I’d link to a few posts of mine and others that you should take a look at.

You can keep track of my latest posts and recommendations at my profile page.

Check out some of my first posts to Medium:

Writing on Distraction-Free Writing – 7 tips to help you concentrate on just the words.

What ‘Preparation’ Really Is – Getting to finish means getting through start. This is an updated version of an old TUB post.

Dead Is Dead – When you stop using a service, that doesn’t mean it should stop existing.

And here are a few great posts from other awesome peeps:

How to College – Some great, down to earth advice on making the most of your time at university. By @EricJorgenson

Take Your Ideas For a Walk – Sometimes the creative process needs you to take a journey. By @IanSanders

I Never Win Because I’m a Girl – “The piano doesn’t care who you are. Neither does the ground when you run.” By @luckyshirt

Dear Dumbphone: A Millennial’s Declaration of Love – Not all of us are so quick to embrace smartphones. And when we do, how does it change us? By @steffiexplores

The top reasons people tell me they aren’t able to write online are:

  • I don’t have enough time;
  • I can’t think of anything useful to say;
  • I can’t write.

First, it doesn’t have to take a long time. Second, you have more useful stuff to say than you realise. Third, you can’t write if you don’t write, so get writing!

Considering how many millions of people are now writing prolifically online, I’m still surprised to see so many people still not creating their own content. If text isn’t right for you, try audio and video. Go beyond status updates and sharing stuff with friends. Push your words out to the world.