Ponderings of a Communications lecturer

The future is a funny thing … when you least expect it, it’s already there, says Ilze Raath in our latest IABC EMENA Region Board Blog.

Audience in the lecture hall.Sometimes the future is upon you while you are still in the process of preparing for it.

The start of an academic year marks new beginnings, promising visions of a student’s future academic excellence and career. Expectation. Hope. Dreams. Aspiration. And many more emotions. Parents have high hopes for their offspring; and the students silently hope that their choice of university and studies will lead to a successful life.

From the academic side, we try to anticipate scenarios and methods to equip our students with knowledge and skills which will help them meet future challenges. We work on programmes to anticipate the future classroom. Whilst it renders merit, I wonder if the future classroom is a mirage. Every time we think we have nailed it, it shifts slightly. Equally, before the advent of the internet and world-wide web, we did not know that we needed it. The next big thing is waiting around the corner, but we won’t see it coming.

If we try to anticipate what the future may hold: jobs that do not yet exist, for instance, we are fooling ourselves. We don’t have a glass ball. Who had foreseen the global financial crash in 2008? Or natural disasters? Many future jobs will probably come about due to the fallout of some or other disaster or for social, economic or geo-political reasons.

Humans love to predict, but in fact we are just projecting our fears based on current fact or speculation. And yet, we are constantly trying to future proof ourselves. We are trying to protect ourselves from the great unknown.

Back to the Future

Just maybe we should turn our thinking around: fast forward to 2025; and look back to 2015. What do we need to teach now – not how or where – in order to equip future generations in an increasingly hostile and competitive world? We need to reflect and go back to basics: strong interpersonal relationships, interdependence and co-operation, and life skills. Obviously, one’s geographic location on the planet will determine what life skills you may need.

Sadly, younger generations no longer see academics as eternal fountains of knowledge. Those days are long gone. Ask anyone who has followed a massive open online course (MOOC). They are free or cheap enough to make knowledge accessible on a global scale. How lucky we are to live in such interesting times.

Future continuous

My contention is that teaching in its traditional form will not become obsolete, but teaching styles and methods will have to change to fit the demands of a brave new world. So, what do we need to teach: resilience, embracing uncertainty, adaptability, flexibility, thirst for knowledge: a.k.a. lifelong learning and entrepreneurial skills.

Maybe we will have robot assistants in 20 years’ time, even if it’s only to bring us some strong coffee. We, as teachers, will have to be more than knowledge-dispensing machines. We will have to be a lot more: facilitator, coach, mentor and visionary.

It seems that we fret about the future, and then, in hindsight, we had anticipated a much worse scenario than the eventual reality. Strange that.


Ilze Raath

Ilze Raath

About Ilze Raath
Starting in a multimedia communications agency just before the heady days of the Internet boom, Ilze saw her career moving into corporate communications, journalism, publishing (online, magazines, newspaper, corporate), and training over the next 20 years. She was the editor of e-Hospital and International Health & Equipment magazines. She is currently involved in cross-cultural training and research, working with the ITIM/Hofstede Institute and teaching at Fontys Business School in the Netherlands.
Follow Ilze on Twitter: @illieb