Dale F. Campbell
Institute for Higher Education
University of Florida
Since their inception, community colleges have been adaptive and responsive to society and community needs. The colleges of the future will remain constant in their philosophical commitment to access and quality. Community college leaders, however, will be faced with crucial choices that are far from constant in planning for the future of their institutions. These choices will shape not only the organization and delivery of their respective programs, but the type of institution the community college will become.
My assumptions in developing a scenario for the future employ an adaption framework. I believe there are certain trend setters or bellwethers that we can examine to predict the future of community colleges. John Naisbitt's book Megatrends coined the term bellwether for states where most of the social invention in America occurs (1982). The bellwether model is useful for community college leaders. The model assumes in part that colleges are able to assess their own stage of adaptation to benefit from the lessons learned from the trendsetters in providing leadership for their institutions. The model, however, does have its limitations. For example, in developing a vision for the future of community colleges for 2010, would I still use the three bellwethers for education that Bill Ballenger and I used in a 1984 futures scenario (that is, in-house business and industry training programs, the military, and member colleges of the League for Innovation)? No. What has happened since 1984 has changed my perspective on the framework and the assumptions that I used to develop the current scenario on the future of community colleges.
Enter the Global Paradox
"'The bigger the world economy, the more powerful its smallest players,' is--like all paradoxes--an apparent contradiction, but when understood it becomes a sturdy framework for understanding the world" (Naisbitt, 1994, p. 12). It seems most appropriate that Naisbitt, who initially coined the term bellwether, would also be influential a decade later in causing me to reexamine my assumptions. The initial bellwethers I had chosen for community colleges were for the most part big. Usually the only in-house business and industry training programs are in big corporations. The military has a big technical training component. The League for Innovation is composed primarily of big community colleges. Each sector was large enough to have a sufficient resource base for research to test new ideas and promote innovation. The first question I was faced with is whether "big" was still a valid assumption in determining bellwethers for education. Naisbitt (1994) states that the formulation of strategic alliances such as the League is one mechanism for avoiding getting bigger. Strategic alliances also allow the pooling of resources for innovation and the ability to transcend geographic or political boundaries, which are becoming less relevant in the telecommunications age.
For our scenario, let's consider for our bellwether framework the additional factor of the types of strategic alliances that are forming, which resemble recent well-publicized communications mergers in the broadcasting and entertainment industry. The trend toward communication alliances is paying little attention to national borders. Cross-industry and cross-border alliances are becoming a strategy for growth (Naisbitt, 1994).
Two recently formed strategic alliances were represented at the 1996 Community College Futures Assembly, which focused on the theme "Building Learning Communities." Florida's Brevard Community College, which had formed a partnership with America Online to form the World Community College, and the Colorado Community College and Occupational Education System, which had formed a partnership with Jones Educational Network, shared what they had learned with the assembly participants. Jones had entered into a similar partnership with the League for Innovation the previous year to form the International Community College. Each of these alliances position the entities to transcend geographic and political boundaries and meet a growing demand in the educational marketplace for learning on demand. Strategic alliances such as these lend further credence to James Morrison's (1996) hypothetical question, "What if a major software company (such as Microsoft) joins with a provider of educational materials (say, Disney) and a telecommunications company (such as AT&T) to produce and sell educational training modules?" I believe that the types of community colleges of the future will be dependent upon how the colleges define their service community--local, state or regional, global. Institutions of the future will mirror trends currently occurring in three sectors of the transportation industry: railroads, airlines, and tourism.
Local Community College. These institutions will primarily define their program mix to continue to meet the needs of their local community and service area. Instructional programs and organization will consist of core missions of transfer, technical programs, developmental education, and community service somewhat resembling the line of connected box cars on a railroad. Distance learning will primarily make use of cable TV, which is accessible to 98 percent of the college students within most college districts, but is limited in the scheduling of offerings by the times that are available for broadcast. Many of the institutions will join the PBS "Going the Distance" program, which enables students to earn an associate degree via telecourses. The colleges will continue to work with the local and state educational political bodies and respect boundaries for coordination, approval, evaluation, and funding of their educational programs. These institutions will be similar to Piland's traditional college (199495).
State or Regional Community College. These institutions will mirror changes going on in the airline industry as a result of deregulation and mergers. There will be increasing emphasis on transformation similar to Terry O'Banion's vision of the "Learning College" (199596). This will occur mostly in what Al Lorenzo, president of Macomb Community College, referred to at the Inaugural Futures Assembly as "shadow colleges," where an increasingly significant portion of the college programs are operated in an entrepreneurial fashion in partnership with business and industry and as self-supporting or revenue-generating enterprises (1995). The distinction of credit and noncredit courses will blur with the increased emphasis on demonstration of knowledge, skills, and abilities. Distance learning will be a combination of telecourses and delivery over the Internet. Charter college applications will increase in order to be released from state mandates and geographic restrictions and to be competitive in the marketplace. Performance standards imposed by the legislatures will continue to be rather crude, resembling the on-time arrival measures of the airlines. Some program consolidation will occur, along the lines of the mergers between community and technical colleges that have already begun, as state legislatures increasingly view distance learning as a way to gain efficiency. The colleges will be funded with both public and private funds. Colleges and their faculty will identify more with their strategic alliances and leaders in their discipline nationwide rather than within the state. They will increasingly have more in common through membership in organizations such as the League for Innovation and the Continuous Quality Improvement Network. Partnerships such as the International Community College will continue to develop but will be hampered by concern about impact on the home campuses and by varying state standards. These institutions will continue to be the bellwethers for the majority of the colleges nationwide.
Global Community College. These institutions will mirror the tourism industry. Tourism not only focuses on your mode of transportation, but develops a personalized package with opportunities for sightseeing and learning for each customer. The industry already has many interlocking strategic alliances and networks to assist each potential traveler. In the twenty-first century, it will be possible for anyone to access a seamless global tourism-information network from a home computer. You will be able to connect with a one-stop travel agent who can access your interests and develop a portfolio of options for your trip. The agent will also follow up with you after your trip to ensure your satisfaction as a customer. An assessment of your interests will include previewing interactive videos that will enable you to experience segments of the trip before departure through "virtual travel." The agent prices multiple routes by accessing multiple partners in the industry from airlines, cruise ships, railroads, hotels, and restaurant chains to develop a customized and affordable plan for each traveler. National standards for the travel industry are being developed such as those in Canada to coordinate the development of occupational standards and nationally recognized industry-based certification programs (Naisbitt, 1994). Do you see any parallels for community colleges?
The global community college will encompass many elements of the tourism industry and will work with a global network of individual providers to develop a customized learning plan for each individual or company. The Jones Educational Network's founding of the International University College (IUC) is one example of private sector pioneering of this model. IUC is the degree-granting arm of Jones telecommunications; it enables the company to develop, access, broker, and distribute courses and services worldwide. The institution is in the process of applying for regional accreditation and is structured similarly to the infrastructure of the Community College of the Air Force. CCAF relies on a worldwide network of base educational officers and counselors to advise students and transfer in general education and related courses from area colleges to apply to the associate degree programs. If CCAF's success is any indication of market potential, IUC in the future could become one of the largest awarders of baccalaureate degrees. The global community college will contract with various "star" faculty to develop curricula congruent with nationally recognized standards. A royalty and distribution system will be developed similar to the one that serves actors in the movie industry. Commissioned faculty will be franchised to provide the curriculum locally along with regional assessment centers for counseling and advising. Services will include the development of portfolios to evaluate experience and prior learning for award of credit (Tate, 199596). Each student will complete a capstone experience upon finishing the program to actually demonstrate competency before attainment of the degree. The ability of global community college graduates to demonstrate their skills will result in high credibility of their credentials in the marketplace. The global community college will also "guarantee" graduates and will provide opportunities for continuous lifetime learning for alumni. The college will be private and keep costs low through use of latest technology and its world wide delivery system. It will cut across traditional state and community college service boundaries.
Is such a scenario for the global community college likely? Some striking parallels with the entertainment industry seem to make this scenario highly probable. Frank and Cook, in The Winner Take All Society (1995), analyze a trend in our economy where more people compete for fewer rewards. Sophisticated technologies and global markets enable consumers to listen to and hear only "star" artists--and the trend is spreading to other businesses, including higher education. Consumers have benefited by being able to hear the original artist on CD for less than the cost to hear a local artist at the community theater. Yes, community theater still exists, but in fewer places and with smaller total audience. These trends raise some fundamental questions regarding our values and the choices we make for our curriculum and the impact on the communities we serve. These are crucial issues that merit further examination. Nevertheless, the parallel trends are striking for those of us in community college education. I believe that we can anticipate similar shifts occurring over the next decade in the programs of community colleges. The question about the global community college scenario is not if it will happen, but when. Key questions for community college leaders in planning for the future will be how your college board of trustees will define your community, what strategic alliances you will form, how you will shape your curriculum to meet the needs of that community, and what impact your choices will have on students, communities, and society in the future.
"Building Learning Communities." 1996 Community College Futures Assembly, Institute of Higher Education, University of Florida, Orlando, Fla., March, 1996.
Campbell, D. F., and Ballenger, W. L. "The Future of Microcomputers in Community Colleges." In D. A. Dellow, and L. H. Poole (eds.), Microcomputer Applications in Administration and Instruction. New Directions for Community Colleges, no. 47. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1984.
Frank, R. H., and Cook, P. J. The Winner Take All Society. New York: Free Press, 1995.
Lorenzo, A. Presentation at "Beyond 2000: Visioning the Future of Community Colleges," Inaugural Community College Futures Assembly, Institute of Higher Education, University of Florida, Orlando, Fla., Feb. 1995.
Morrison, J. L. "Anticipating the Future." On the Horizon, 1996, 4(3), 26.
Naisbitt, J. Megatrends: Ten New Directions Transforming Our Lives. New York: Warner Books, 1982.
Naisbitt, J. The Global Paradox. New York: Morrow, 1994.
O'Banion, T. "A Learning College for the 21st Century." Community College Journal, Dec./Jan. 199596, pp. 1823.
Piland, B. "California Community Colleges at the Crossroads." Community College Journal, Dec./Jan. 199495, pp. 2528.
Tate, P. "Learning for a New Century." Community College Journal, Dec./Jan. 199596, pp. 3134.
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