School of Digital Education
Vision and Long-term strategy

Near Future Teaching

Co-designing a values-based vision and strategy for the future of digital education at a University.
Design Principles
Client details
Open Experience (OX) is the Royal Bank of Scotland’s innovation lab, based in Edinburgh and London, and established in 2016. They address challenges from across all parts of the bank, while championing a human-centered and collaborative attitude to innovation through design thinking approaches. 

The University of Edinburgh, founded in 1582, is one of Scotland’s ancient universities. It is a member of the Russell Group, and was recently ranked 20th by the 2020 World QS University Rankings. It is one of the largest Universities in the UK with over 40,000 students. 
Anticipating the social and technological changes likely to affect the future of digital education, the University of Edinburgh wanted to build a realistic and preferable future vision and corresponding long term strategy for digital education at the University. They advocated for the idea that the University community should be actively involved in shaping this preferable future and strategy based on their shared values at a time when technological change is accelerated and is often assumed to be driving the future of learning.

Joining the ‘Near future teaching project’ in its early stages, our responsibility was to help embed co-design and futures thinking methods into the project, and to lead on key research and engagement activities.
On joining the project, we supported the University team by synthesising a large body of raw data collected from a community scoping exercise (300+ students and staff members were asked about key issues and concerns for the future of digital education) into four values, which went on to guide critical decisions later in the project.

In tandem, we used two short reviews published by the University which identified global trends affecting the higher education space, to develop four possible scenarios for the future of digital education.

Bringing these two work streams together, we ran sessions with 20 staff and students in which they were asked to think about what the University might look like if it not only existed in these future education scenarios, but also prioritised the four aforementioned values. This created a series of rough visions for the University’s future, which we developed into refined illustrations. 
Through the creation and analysis of these visions, we helped define a ‘draft preferable future’ and strategy for digital education at the University, which we then sense-checked with over 50 members of staff and students, using ‘provotypes’ (provocative prototypes) as a tool to help generate discussion around the abstract issues that the vision and strategy was addressing.

In addition, we ran workshops with schoolchildren (the next generation of University students) to explore their ideals for the future of digital education, in order to ensure that their values are aligned with the current University community. 
Ultimately we supported the University team in building the final vision and strategy, which was launched in March 2019.



At a point in time where higher education and teaching are being told that they are about to be disrupted by technological developments, we helped the University develop an approach to strategy and strategic visioning which is underpinned by the values of its community, and not just the external forces affecting the sector.


Since completing the project, the University have expressed significant interest in our approach, tools and methodology, asking us to run masterclasses with their staff members, and inviting us to contribute to other strategic initiatives. 


The vision, strategic recommendations and values emerging from the project have been positively received, and are feeding into innovation efforts across the University. The University’s project lead, Siân Bayne, stated that, “This project has been formative for the way we think about the future of teaching at Edinburgh, and in mapping a way forward for digital education.”

Andthen brought passion, energy and dedication to the Near Future Teaching project, and were a pleasure to work with. They were extremely knowledgeable about their specialism, confidently helping us introduce design-led methods and futures thinking to strategic visioning and planning in a way that was new to us. The quality of their work, the breadth of their skillset, and their attentiveness to our particular challenges was of a level that you would not expect from such a small team.”
Professor Siân Bayne, Director of Education at the Edinburgh Futures Institute and Assisstant Principal for Digital Education
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