Which institution is currently negotiating best with the future?

Who said the competitor to sitting back home alone would be an office, or even a campus, when you instead could go to a nice café? If we analyze what people actually do, neither what they say they would do, nor what others claim that they actually should do, an interesting future might become visible for us.

It seems that very many educational institutions, universities as well as professional education companies, now discover that the world will not really go back to the same situation that existed before Covid. What they have discovered is that the presence on campus, or at the physical conference center, does not seem to become at the same level as it once was.

Thus, they have now also begun to ask themselves what the campus of the future should look like. If not, as in the case of many conference centers, they do not just leave buildings to their own fate. Few commercial education companies own the conference center they hire, then it is just easy to do.

As far as I can see, all this, already, and probably soon in more cases than so far, has led to existing physical premises now being rebuilt a bit. And above all, we can expect a certain amount of classic classrooms to be converted into group rooms and study places, combined with office changes of the type of single rooms beoming converted into rooms shared by several people – the quickest/easiest possible fix?

This is a strategy that is basically about trying to continue to do what you already do, but adapting a bit towards a changing world. It is in many ways a passive, not an offensive, strategy. A kind of strategy one is dragged into, but did not ended up in by a free choice – if it would have been a free choice it would have been made many years before Covid.

It can bee seen as a way to ‘negotiate’ with what seems to be ongoing under the surface – the third step in the ‘Five stages of grief-model‘, so to speak.

It can also bee seen as a kind of strategy ‘decided’ upon by others, not by oneself.

In a situation like this, you might have wished for better weather reports before going out to sea.

If overstating a bit could even call this as a situation where oneself is not really in control of what is happening anymore.

It´s a bit like a ‘strategy’ a small boat applies when out on the open sea and a storm suddenly appears (excuse me for using a storm here as a comparison, it is not really a storm happening here). In such case it´s really the wind, not necessarily the skipper, that then decides where the boat finally will end up.

And changing to a different boat, one a bit better suited for a storm, is to late at that moment.

Such kind of boat can really be lucky, just float with the waves and finally the wind will cool down, then everything can become great again. But it can also lead to the boat crashing to a big rock, even go under. Onself beeing onboard on that boat does not really know what will happen and nearly the only thing one can do, except trying to manouver well during the road (something that on the other hand really can make a big difference), is to cross ones fingers and hope for everything to turn out well in the end.

This is a pretty good picture of what a ‘let´s-negotiate-with-the-future’-strategy looks like.

Forced to it, do not really want it, and does as little changes as possible, wishing that it will be enough.

In many cases, this strategy will probably also work, at least for a while, and in some cases perhaps even permanently – who am I to really know what will work and what will not work in the end? Just adapt/change the premises a bit, then continue as before.

But it´s also a genuinely risky strategy.

It is a risky strategy for primarily two reasons: 1. It does not really take into account how a pretty big amount of students, and employees, actually people in general, tend to function. 2. It is based on an idea that these changes are synonymous with ‘the future’, that nothing more than what we have seen so far in terms of people’s behavioral changes will happen further on.

One can put it this way: such a strategy envisages that adapted premises will be enough as a reason for students and employees to show up physically.

In many cases, people will actually also show up again, that we can be sure of. But how many of them?

Starbucks have great chairs, good coffee, free wifi, nice music in the speakers. In addition, their geographical location is also often pretty good, far away from places where campuses might be located, but close to where people are – train stations, city centers etc.

During the Covid period, both campuses and many offices were closed (well, in some countries Covid-restrictions are still there). But Covid didn’t mean that people, if they could, and dared, stopped meeting each other physically.

Life did simply not stop just because of campuses beeing closed down. And really; actually not even universities themselves stoped living at that moment. They kept on running, just digitally – a seriously interesting fact worth contemplating a bit on.

In my country, Sweden, where the Covid restrictions, globally speaking, were relatively weak, you could actually see that life continued relatively easily. Students met at their student housing, employees met in cafes. A lot of people also had meetings back home.

And then a decent amount of these people draw the conclusion: it actually worked perfectly fine to meet like that, in some cases it was even better (as well as, of course, in other cases worse).

What we as humans experience tend to influence us quite a lot, and learners working with education knows this – pretty often also use it in their own teaching. In some cases it can even change our mind. Of course what we are exposed to can affect us, in a negative way as well as in a positive way. But it do tend to matter.

To a lot of people it is such physical meeting places that now have become the competitor to a rebuilt campus, not the option of continuing sitting alone at home in a cramped little room with a Zoom connection.

Experiencing yourself is among the strongest ‘learning tools’ available.

Can we really count on classrooms that are now being converted into group rooms and study places, as well as squeced office space, to lead to a, again, thriving campus?

Yes, doing all this that seem to be happening right now actually sounds pretty good, at least at the surface of the challenge here. It will very likely also save cost. And thinking about how to achieve that can actually be hard enough at this moment.

However, the real problem right now by rebuilding the campuses in this way is not that it´s the wrong (or perhaps right) thing to do at this particular moment in time, but that it seem to take up all the existing thinking-time. So educational institutions doing this right now simply seem to stand in the way for them rethinking their future basic role in society.

And at least I would not become surprised if we will see several educational institutions finally ending up exactly there, just a bit later on in time than today.

But while waiting for a such kind of possible thing to happen we will have to be content to see effects on the market for used class room chairs and tables. It’s likely going to be a little cheaper to buy in the future.

Voila: the home office you perhaps created during the Covid period, could now have been decorated well much cheaper, if you had just waited a little while.

-> Share perhaps this post with someone that, like me, seriously care about the future for existing educational institutions.

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