Its 2030 and the COVID-19 has changed the world including the world of learning. A decade after Corona, the cure still eludes, though vaccines can protect temporary. Fearing another pandemic lurching around the corner, people social distance, mask their faces and go into hibernation at the slightest pretext.
“With outings, events and public gatherings discouraged, campuses have ceased to exist as teaching transformed from physical to virtual.”
Rapid technological advancements have abetted the transition. A man-made sun is now a perpetual source of light and energy, making access to electricity at a frugal fare for all. 9G network, beamed through space stations, has enabled connectivity to all the nooks and corners of the universe, in terabytes.
Communication has gone from global to the universal level and need no access devices. A Prenatal Bionic Chip (PBC) enables unlimited access to Universe Wide web (UWW), Virtual Reality and AR with the blink of an eye. It also serves as proof of identity through Universal Unique Identity validation(uUIV) and seamless financial transactions through Universal Fintech Services Access (uFSA).
The super-rich have made their home on the Moon and Mars that are now terraformed. With substantial business interests still here on Earth, they teleport back and forth at will. A miniscule minority of the earthlings occasionally get to traverse the universe in pods, mostly for business. Universal Basic Income (UBI) has eliminated destitution. Thus, the rest on the earth are the aspirational middle class striving for space travel at least once in their life.
Technology aided teaching, AI-ML enabled automated educational services and real-time validation of competencies, soon made restrictions on student intake redundant. Consequently, learners from low ranked institutions migrated in hordes to the top ranked universities, they consolidated, merged and finally reformed into Lifelong Learning and Skill Augmenting Tertiary Institutions (LL-SATI).
Social media and web presence soon took over as career-guidance counsellor advising potential learners with AI curated courses customized for individual aptitude. Finally, students were unshackled from the clutches of a single university and thus permitting seamless qualification access and portability across institutions in the universe.
As institutions succumbed to individual sovereignty, students accumulate credits from a wide variety of universally accessible Humongous Open Online Modules (uHOODs) offered by humans, humanoids and cyborgs accredited by the Universal Higher Education Teaching Accreditation Authority (uHETAA). They charge fees at will with due regard to market dynamics and fine-tuned as per their Target Rating and Popularity Points (TRPP). Conspiracy theorists believe that brains of teachers with super-duper TRPP are preserved in cryonics to clone.
Eventually, the best universities too lost their relevance and were replaced by a universal Higher Education Qualification Authority (uHEQA) which assesses Credits accumulated in the Academic Credit Bank Account (ACBA) of a students and awards qualifications, albeit with an expiry date.
Individuals with acceptable scores in Research Acumen and Accomplishment Index (RAAI) are automatically identified and funded to pursue research in high priority areas. Research Results are pre-published for popular review. Those with high popularity index are marked for transnational research to monetize the new knowledge and stored in Databanks located in space and powered by O’Neil Cylinders or Stellar Engines.
I was shaken out of my slumber by students who wanted to know if I would take my class today. Apparently, while waiting for the class, I had dozed-off and my imagination had run riot. The reality was that defying the fancy futurology, universities had returned to their old ways just as the pandemic subsided a bit. I shrugged and walked to the sweet smell of chalk and blackboard with projector and smart board on the side.
Dr. Furqan Qamar, presently Professor of Management, has been the Secretary General, Association of Indian Universities, Vice Chancellor, University of Rajasthan and the Central University of Himachal Pradesh and Advisor (Education) in the Planning Commission. With keen research interest in public policy, planning, administration, and financing of higher education, he has published in journals of repute and national dailies. He has chaired and been members of a large number of committees, working groups at the national and international level.