California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) hosted a two-day online discussion to ask their community one question: What should the campus look like in 2030?
Responses poured in. Students, administrators, faculty, and others submitted 24,000 suggestions, reports Jeffrey Young at EdSurge.
The online discussion, called Imagine Beach 2030, was designed to “get community input on what are the big ideas for the future,” says Dhushy Sathianathan, vice provost for academic planning for the university.
CSULB partnered with the Institute for the Future (IFTF), an education nonprofit, to design and lead the online discussion. IFTF gamified the online discussion by asking people to submit ideas in the form of 280-character cards. Players won points when other users added links or suggestions to the original idea.
“Everything’s meant to incentivize and inspire you to talk to other people and try to look at a problem from other people’s point of view,” says Jane McGonigal, the director of games research and development at IFTF.
To submit an idea, users had to set up an account or log in through Twitter or Facebook, which helped keep the discussion free of anonymous trolls, writes Young.
About 98% of the 3,600 people who chimed in had some direct connection to campus, says Sathianathan. And no comments were deleted or modified. “We didn’t want any kind of editing on this,” he adds.
In the overall discussion, climate change emerged as one of the most popular topics.
“Climate change kept bubbling up as an issue, whether they were talking about how should the majors change and what students are learning to what housing should be like or the future of athletics,” says McGonigal.
Users worried about rising sea levels, fires, floods, and supporting climate refugees. One user wrote, “Climate change-induced wildfires force many of our students to drop out due to lack of funds and housing.”
And user Elena Jiminez predicted, “In 2030 LBSU & our region faces a mental health crisis due to climate crises, displacement, and an unstable employment landscape.” Another wrote, “I wonder if online learning will be an important piece of university resilience in this future?”
There were also disagreements. One involved employer partnerships. A user in favor of partnerships suggested, “Maybe we could get more buy-in from other companies who would hire our students and possibly lower the cost to students.” Another supporter wrote, “By creating research partnerships with corporations, we can build better on-site research facilities, acquire more supplemental grants, and serve our students better with highly applicable training.”
But other users warned against corporate influence on campus. “Becoming corporatized is a clear concern,” reads one suggestion. “Even if it’s not Amazon, other corporations may have greater influence in the future. Let’s be proactive to determine other sources of revenue.”
Another disagreement focused on whether AI would—or should—replace faculty in the next decade, notes Young. Some users suggested that AI could help faculty spend more time on research and communicating with students.
But others worried that the quality of learning would slip if AI replaced qualified teachers. One user wrote, “I’m afraid of losing actual communication with professors and classmates” (Young, EdSurge, 11/21; Imagine Beach 2030, 11/15).