We are being bombarded by
tumultuous forces for change as we enter the next decade: Virtual classrooms, global
communications, global economies, telecourses, distance learning, corporate classrooms,
increased competition among social agencies for scarce resources, pressure for
institutional mergers, state-wide program review and so on. In order to plan effectively
in this environment, college leaders must be able to anticipate new developments that will
affect their institutions and curricular programs.
This workshop is designed to assist college leaders to systematically factor the external
environment into the strategic planning process. The specific objectives are to:
- identify potential events that could affect the future
of colleges and universities
- derive implications and recommend actions vis-à-vis
these potential events
The following articles help provide the context for our deliberations. It is not essential
that you read them prior to the workshop; you may want to read them after the workshop.
They will remail available at this URL, which you can also reach through the conference section of the Horizon server in
the past conferences section. (Note: On the Horizon articles
are reproduced here with the permission of Jossey-Bass
- Snyder, D. P. "High Tech and Higher
Education: A Wave of Creative Destruction is Rolling Toward the Halls of Academe."
On the Horizon, 1996, 4(5), 1, 3-7.
- O'Banion, T. "Schooling is
Out--Learning is In." On the Horizon, 1996, 3(5),
- Morrison, J. L. "Anticipating the Future."
On the Horizon, 1996, 4(3), 2-3.
- Morrison, J. L. "Transforming
Educational Organizations." On the Horizon, 1997, 5(1), 2-3.
- Boggs, G. R. "Focus on Learning."
On the Horizon, 1998, 6(1), 1, 5-6.
- Norris, D. M. "Perpetual Learning as a
Revolutionary Creation." On the Horizon, 1996, 4(6), 1, 3-6.
- Boyett, J. & Snyder, D. P. "Twenty-First Century Workplace Trends."
On the Horizon, 1998, 6(2), 1,4-9.
We will begin the workshop with observations on how
we can anticipate the future, which serves as an introduction to linking potential
external developments to internal decision-making. Scanning the external environment for
signals of change is a major step in a strategic management/planning process. For more
information about this process, read "Strategic
Management in the Context of Global Change" (Morrison & Wilson, 1996) and
"Analyzing Environments and Developing
Scenarios for Uncertain Times" (Morrison & Wilson, 1997).
We only have three hours for this workshop. However,
this is sufficient time for you to gain experience in external analysis to the point that
you will be able to replicate the workshop on your campus.
Agenda for Thursday, May 18
scanning to anticipate the future
Identifying potential events that would affect the future of colleges and universities
Defining signals of most critical events
Deriving implications of most critical event
Formulate recommended actions for college and university leaders to consider now
Potential Events That Can Change the Future of Colleges and Universities
Events are unambiguous and confirmable. When they occur, the future is different. External
event identification and analysis is critical in planning.
It is important that an event statement be unambiguous; otherwise, it is not helpful in
the planning process because (a) it is unclear what may be meant by the statement (i.e.,
different people may understand the statement differently) and (b) we have no clear target
that allows us to derive implications and action steps. For example, consider the
following event statement: There will be significant changes in political, social, and
economic systems in the U.S. Each person on a planning team may agree with this statement,
but may also interpret it differently. It would be far more useful in analysis for a
statement like: "In the next election, the political right gains control of
Congress." Or "Minorities become the majority in 10 states" Or "The
European Community incorporates Eastern Europe in a free trade zone." The latter
statements are concrete, unambiguous, and signal significant change that could impact
colleges and universities.
We will conduct this exercise in small groups using the Nominal
Task 1 (30 minutes). The first task is to
identify those potential external events in the social, technological, economic,
environmental, and political sectors, local through global, that would change the
future of higher education if they occurred.
Task 2 (15 minutes). When I call time, you
will prioritize the events by using paste-on dots. Vote for five of the most critical events
that affect colleges and universities that have some probability of
occurrence within the next decade.
- Do not be concerned about the event being high or low
probability; be concerned only about the severity of the impact (positive or negative).
- Do not put more than one dot on one event statement.
- Put all dots by the beginning of the event statement
(so that we can quickly see the frequency distribution of dots)
Task 3 (30 minutes). The next part of
the exercise is to identify the signals that your three top events (as indicated by the
frequency distribution of votes) could occur.
Task 4 (30 minutes). When you have completed Task 3, derive the implications of your
most critical event for the higher education. In other words, assume that this event
occurs. What would happen to higher education as a result of its occurrence?
Task 5 (15 minutes). The final task is to develop recommendations as to what higher
education leaders should consider doing now in anticipation of this event occurring.
Again, do not be concerned about the probability of occurrence of the event. Let's see
what recommendations you invent, and then examine the recommendations to see if they make
sense to implement regardless of whether the event occurs or not. One outcome of this
exercise is the creation of plans that we could not have conceived without going through
the process, but, when we examine the plans, make sense to begin implementing now.
Reportbacks and Wrap-up
We have 45 minutes for reportbacks. Each group reporter will report the three most
critical events his/her group identified, the signals that support the occurrence of the
top event, the implications of the event for higher education, and recommendations as to
what higher education leaders should do now. We will use the remaining 15 minutes of the
workshop to address what questions you have.
Group chairs were asked to submit the
notes of the proceedings of their groups. One group chaired by Joe Boyd (firstname.lastname@example.org)
responded to this request. The three most important events that they
identified as having a significant effect on colleges and universities in
the next five years were as follows:
taxing entities reduce funding for higher education by 50%
- Business / Industry no longer use
degrees and other certifications for gatekeeping purposes
- The economy sinks into a depression
The signals that underlie each of these events are:
1. All taxing entities reduce funding for
higher education by 50%
- Trends toward reduced state funding as
a percentage of the total cost of
educating each student
- Election of candidates favoring more
- Taxpayer discontent regarding the
costs of public services
- Universities move toward private fund
raising, corporate funding
- Elimination or reduction of student
aid-increase in loans
- Business / Industry engaging in more
training and education
- Aging population less inclined to fund
2. Business / Industry no longer uses
degrees and other certification for
- Decline in demand for degree programs
- Increase in hiring those without
degrees / certifications
- Decline in business-education
- Business dissatisfaction with higher
- Increase in business / corporate
- High school guidance counselors are
telling students to go straight to
work, not to
- Decline in average age of first time
- Reduction in hiring of college
- Decline in accreditation entities
3. Economic depression
- Decline in GNP
- Housing market declines
- Decline in discretionary income
- Higher prices
- Increased enrollments in higher
- Emotional depression on the increase
- Stock market drops
- Increase in petroleum prices
- High unemployment rate
The most critical potential event
identified by this group was "Taxing entities reduce funding for
higher ed by 50%." If this event were to occur, the following
implications may also occur:
- Students pay a greater portion of
their higher education costs than previously
- Fewer people will go to college
- College's infrastructures will suffer;
the number of deteriorating buildings will
- Increased competition among colleges for
- Greater divide between haves and
- Colleges and universities will have
increased flexibility after getting out from under state requirements
- Creative modes of instructional delivery increase
- Loss of minority enrollment
- More business / education partnerships
- Loss of federal aid grants
- Accreditation jeopardized
- Partnerships / consortia between /
among colleges and universities
- Reduced academic offerings (courses
and programs) - possible greater
impact on hard sciences and technology
- Increase of concerned
- Decline in theoretical research
- Increase in ADA lawsuits
- Increase in adjuncts, decrease in full
- Short-term, short-sighted, less
visionary enterprises undertaken by institutions
- Loss of cultural conservation /
Given this analysis, this group
recommended that college and university leaders should consider:
- Teaching about the potential event, so
that students are aware of the implications
- Increasing fundraising for student
- Conducting a comprehensive analysis of
constituents' (voters, students) needs and expectations
- Creating a plan for addressing constituent
- Forming a networking / lobbying /
- Working with the business community
- Emphasizing minority recruitment