Moore’s Law (1965) states that computer processing power will double every year. Technology is influencing other spheres in similar ways, for instance in gene sequencing, ‘It took us 15 years to sequence HIV […] now we can sequence Sars in 31 days’ (Kurzweil in Sutherland, 2005). Exponential growth implies an accelerating rate of change and we now appear to be entering a period of unprecedented technological transformation. ‘The Velocity of Innovation has increased dramatically [and] is itself a key variable in the velocity of obsolescence’ (Jensen, 2014). Development and product lifecycles have reduced significantly in recent years. For instance, vinyl records remained the primary medium for listening to music for over fifty years, CDs were dominant for just twenty years and digital downloads of music – sales of which only recently overtook CDs, are already in decline. The development-to-obsolescence lifespan of technological innovation is shortening, as is the speed of adoption. CDs took ten years to establish themselves, iTunes just two. The adoption of new technologies is becoming viral in nature; difficult to predict and impossible to control.
Kurzweil (2005), forecast that by 2014 technological innovation would be in the ‘knee of the exponential curve’ and thus, at a point of ‘explosive growth’ (ibid). Ironically, despite housing departments which are the seedbeds of research and development, Higher Education Institutions are ill-equipped to deal with rapid change. Institutional infrastructures and procedures lack agility and may struggle to respond to technologies which come and go in less than five years.
In this presentation we will explore some of the challenges facing HEIs and offer alternative visions. There are a huge, and rapidly increasing, quantity of educational tools and resources available online. Academics are often prevented from interacting with them on institutional equipment as they are not trusted to download software. The current situation of a homogenous, one-size-fits-all institutional software offering is not sustainable.
Hiding behind the ‘walled garden’ will not protect universities from a tidal-wave of technological change. Whilst it may not be possible to predict exactly which software or hardware we will be using in five years’ time, there are underlying trends such as geo-location, big data, voice-recognition and wearable technology which are likely to form part of that future; additionally, emerging phenomena such as citizen science could transform entire disciplines. The challenge therefore, is to avoid the mire of redundancy while facilitating a porous infrastructure, allowing future innovation to permeate and flourish.
Goodyear, P. & Retalis, S. (2010) Technology-enhanced learning: design patterns and pattern languages. Rotterdam; Boston, Sense Publishers.
Jensen (2014) Positive Rate of Climb – A Blog by Troy Jensen. [Online]. Available from: http://positiverateofclimb.blogspot.co.uk/ [Accessed: 12 March 2015].
Kurzweil, R. (2005) The singularity is near: when humans transcend biology. New York, Viking.
Sutherland, J. (2005) The ideas interview: Ray Kurzweil. [Online]. 2005. the Guardian. Available from: http://www.theguardian.com/science/2005/nov/21/academicexperts.elearning [Accessed: 12 March 2015].