March 3, 2011

Change expert will start the discussion on preparing for higher ed's next era

by Diana Pounds

It's just a one-hour presentation late in the afternoon. But university officials see "The Future of Learning, Research and Collaboration – Implications for Facilities" event on March 9 as an important first step in preparing Iowa State for dramatic changes in higher education in the coming decades.

The presentation

March 9, 4:30-5:30 p.m., 1148 Gerdin Business Building.

"New technologies have changed universities in profound ways in only a few years and it appears we're just getting started," said Elizabeth Hoffman, executive vice president and provost. "If we're to keep pace, we must start anticipating the change that lies ahead and fashioning a campus environment that will be flexible enough to accommodate it."

Donald Norris, a national expert on navigating change in universities, will help start the discussion with a presentation from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. in 1148 Gerdin Business Building. Norris is president and chief scientist of Strategic Initiatives Inc., a Herndon, Va., consulting firm.

Planning a future -- physical and virtual

Norris said his presentation will set the stage for the university's ongoing conversation about planning for the university environments of the future, both physical and virtual. He'll touch on the:

  • Rapid acceleration in the creation of new knowledge and the connectivity that gives scholars (both professionals and amateurs) easy access to it
  • Ubiquitous networks that have blurred or erased campus boundaries and the increasingly pervasive mobile devices that are changing the way people learn and do research
  • Student demands for open and free-ranging learning options, inside and outside of traditional universities
  • Need for flexible campus structures with mixed-use, technology-rich facilities and new kinds of research space
  • Emergence of global research universities focused on improving economies and preparing graduates for employment

These topics are more broadly covered in a report Norris developed for Iowa State. The paper is available on the "Future of Learning, Research, Collaboration" website.

"The universities most likely to succeed," Norris said, "are those that can prove they are success makers and prepare graduates for the serious work facing the U.S. -- innovating and creating real value, not the illusory value of real estate and financial booms."

Task forces to focus on ISU's future, needs

In the weeks following Norris' presentation, Hoffman said several ISU task forces will take an in-depth look at the changes that are likely to occur in learning and research and ways Iowa State can prepare for the transitions.