Using a Futures Approach in Organizational and Instructional Development

James L. Morrison, Facilitator

Employers are expressing increasing dissatisfaction with the competency of college graduates that they employ right out of school. For example, in a recent survey of human resource professionals, more than half of the respondents stated that their recent hires were lacking in their ability to communicate and to work independently. A change of instructional paradigms--from passive to active (authentic) learning strategies, such as project-based learning, problem-based learning, or inquiry-based learning--is clearly needed. These strategies enable students to step into the world of work fully prepared to do that work because throughout their course of study they will have actively practiced accessing, evaluating, and communicating information using technology tools; working in teams (hopefully across cultural lines); thinking creatively; and solving problems, all while developing a perspective that learning is a life-long activity.

However, changing instructional paradigms is difficult. Faculty members are busy, many are not comfortable with using information technology (IT) tools, and most cling to the traditional model of the professor as subject matter expert/authority. Although most professors now use one or more IT tools in their teaching, these tools too often serve only to support a traditional lecture method (e.g., PowerPoint, automatic class rolls, email, discussion forums). In a large survey in the United States, for example, Finkelstein, Seal, and Shuster, 1998, found that 76% of faculty across disciplines, institutions, and age cohorts use the lecture as their primary instructional method. A 2007-2008 UCLA Higher Education Research Institute study of some 22,562 faculty members at 372 four-year colleges and universities in the United States statistically adjusted to represent the total population of full-time faculty members at four-year institutions, found that the percentage of faculty members who extensively use lecturing had declined from 55% in 2005 to 46% in 2008. The authors speculate that this trend may continue as full professors retire (i.e., assistant professors were more likely to use small group instruction whereas full professors were more likely to lecture.) Although this trend is in the right direction, it is important to accelerate it as much as we can.

Current approaches to broaden the instructional repertoires of faculty members include faculty workshops, summer leave, and individual consultations, but these approaches work only for those relatively few early adopter faculty members who seek out opportunities to broaden their instructional methods. The major problem is how to affect organizational culture as a whole so that most professors will be receptive to adopting technology-enabactive learning methods and using IT tools to enhance these methods in their classes.

One approach to this complex issue is to engage faculty members at the departmental level by using elementary futures tools in thinking about the future and its implications for their institution, their curriculum, their students, and their careers. The underlying rationale for this argument stems from an experience that faculty and administrators at Lincoln University in Christ Church New Zealand had when they implemented a campus-wide futures program. Lincoln was facing a 25% reduction in public funding over a four-year period; the trustees were concerned that Lincoln’s Oxbridge culture would not support a sufficiently entrepreneurial effort to make up the deficit. However, by implementing a program whereby faculty members in all departments were heavily engaged in environmental scanning, issues analysis, vulnerability assessments, and scenario planning, Lincoln’s organizational culture was literally transformed (see "Using the Futures Program as a Tool for Transformation at This experience illustrates how using these tools with departmental faculty members harnesses their intellectual power to identify signals of change, analyze the implications of these signals, and develop plans that have their active support (since they made them).


The purpose of this workshop is to demonstrate how institutional leaders can use futures tools in their schools/departments to increase faculty receptivity to expanding their repertoire of instructional strategies to meet the future needs of their students, themselves, and their institution. Specifically, this workshop will (1) demonstrate a procedure that encourages participants to be open to new ideas and (2) allow participants to experience a set of exercises that they can use to engage faculty members in planning for their and their students' future. In addition, participants will explore what is meant by technology-enabled active learning strategies, how these strategies relate to student success, what the barriers are to implementing these strategies, and what approaches can be used to assist faculty members implement authentic instructional strategies to prepare their students to be more successful when they enter the workforce. The ultimate objective is that participants be able to replicate this workshop's methods in working with faculty colleagues in their schools and departments to consider using technology-enabled active learning strategies in their instruction.


Please review the following publications prior to the workshop:

  1. Mack, T. "An Interview with a Futurist." Futures Research Quarterly, 2003, 19 (1), 61-69
  2. Morrison, J. L. (1996). "Teaching in the Twenty-First Century." On the Horizon, 4(5).
  3. Dori, Y. J. and Belcher, J. "How Does Technology-Enabled Active Learning Affect Undergraduate Students' Understanding of Electromagnetism Concepts?" The Journal of the Learning Sciences, (2004), 14 (2), preprint.
  4. Morrison, J. L. (2005). "Experiencing the Online Revolution." In G. Kearsley (ed.), Online learning: Personal Reflections on the Transformation of Education. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Educational Technology Publications.
  5. Morrison, J. L. and Long, P. "The iCampus technology-enabled active learning project at MIT: An Interview with Phillip Long. Innovate 5 (5). Available online at
  6. Morrison, J. L. and Long, P. "Technology-Enhanced Active Learning at MIT." Higher Education Teaching and Learning Portal. Available online at
  7. Brown, M., Auslander, M., Gredone, K., Green, D., Hull, B., and Jacobs, W. (2010) ." A Dialogue for Engagement." EDUCAUSE Review, 45 (5), 38-56.
  8. Lombardi, M. M. (2007). Approaches That Work: How Authentic Learning is Transforming Higher Education. [Download PDF file from "View this resource:"
  9. Lombardi, M. M. (2008). Making the Grade: The Role of Assessment in Authentic Learning. [Download PDF file from "View this resource:"]
  10. Woo, Y., Herrington,J., Agostinho, S., and Reeves, T. C.(2007). Implementing Authentic Tasks in Web-Based Learning Environments. EDUCAUSE Review, 30 (3)
  11. Page, C. (2007)."Why Today's Students Value Authentic Learning." [Download PDF file from "View this resource:"].

Also: Please consider reviewing (and participating in) three discussions on Linkedin’s Ideagora group related to using Technology-Enabled Active Learning Strategies (TEALS) in Asia ( and the Middle East ( as well as a discussion focusing on faculty resistance to TEALS (

Part I Agenda 

0800 - 0915 Anticipating the future
0915 - 0930 Break
0930 – 1015 Identifying trends and events that will affect the future of our students
1015 – 1045 Selecting the most critical trends and events
1045 – 1100 Break
1100 - 1130 Implications of the most critical trend or event affecting our students' future

Part II Agenda 

1300 - 1400 What do we mean by technology-enabled active learning strategies?
1400 - 1500 Are these strategies important in improving instructional effectiveness?
1500 – 1520 Break
1520 – 1600 What are the barriers to faculty members adopting these strategies?
1600 – 1700 How can we encourage faculty members to adopt these strategies?

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