Emerging Future MOOC Participants Discover Innovative Technology and Trends


“The best way to predict your future is to create it.” The famous quote often attributed to Abraham Lincoln was a prominent theme in The Emerging Future: Technology Issues and Trends Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), offered as a not-for-credit learning experience in the fall of 2014 by the San José State University (SJSU) School of Information.

Dr. Sue Alman, an instructor at the SJSU iSchool, used the Canvas Network to teach the online course, which began on Sept. 22, 2014, and provided 1,712 individuals from around the world with a free professional development opportunity as they explored what the future holds for information organizations.

According to Alman’s introduction to the course, the goal of the MOOC was not so much for participants to make predictions about the future, but to acquire the skills needed to be proactive about the future both personally and professionally. MOOC participants learned about the role of “futurists” in information organizations, and about the emerging technologies that will affect organizations in the future.

On the topic of emerging technologies, participants beta-tested the HP METIS project, a printed interactive e-textbook. According to Hewlett-Packard, the e-textbook “incorporated resources available in the MOOC and enabled participants to personalize the content with their notes and selected audio/video and print materials.”

Highlights of the Emerging Future MOOC included guest presentations from SJSU iSchool faculty members Dr. Michelle Chen and Dr. Tonia San Nicolas-Rocca, who spoke on the timely topics of big data and cybersecurity. Alman also interviewed a professional futurist, Jason Swanson, who is director of strategic foresight at KnowledgeWorks. Alman’s interview, which provided insight into what a futurist is and does, is available for viewing on YouTube.

Individuals enrolled in the MOOC worked through six weekly modules covering topics such as “technology trends,” “the future of connectivity,” and “thinking like a futurist.” According to Alman, “The MOOC has an international audience of around 1,700 participants, many of whom are working on earning e-badges for each of the modules.”

MOOC participants have responded very positively to the curriculum of the course, noting that the MOOC covered skills and trends with immediate applications to their lives. Paul Goodson, a reference librarian at the Wyoming State Library, remarked, “As a librarian I found this course not only to fit my personal interests, but also to assist me in thinking about future trends and technology as they may affect the library environment.”

Buck-Seng Ng, an IT professional from Singapore, really appreciated the exposure to new technologies and new ideas. “Not only [did] I get a good framework around the technology foresight space and tons of great information from diverse sources,” stated Ng, “I have [also had] great opportunities trying out the Canvas and HP METIS learning platforms and lots of fun learning and interacting with the teaching faculty and many diverse fellow learners from all over the world.”

The Emerging Future MOOC has had a significant impact on Anette Rahbek, a Danish student with a background in marketing and business development. “Life changing is how I describe my experience,” she explained, “because from now on I will be an avid follower of emerging technologies, and I plan to work in a tech company one day.”

René Radusky, an alumna (MLIS 2014) of the SJSU School of Information who already completed all six modules of the MOOC, even wrote a blog post about her experience, noting that the final project, the creation of an infographic, was both particularly challenging and particularly useful.  

Some MOOC participants, like library assistant Dani Felt from Idaho, were skeptical at first about the idea of “futurism,” but found the course content thought-provoking and useful. “This class introduced me to a valid area of study, its multiple methods, its interesting history and everything cool and scary coming with the future,” said Felt. “I am so glad I opened up my world view to the possibilities. This class was rich with resources, and I feel like I finally found the true potential of the Internet age.”

Alman co-taught the Emerging Future MOOC with Jen Jumba, an instructor at the SJSU iSchool, and had help from many current SJSU iSchool graduate students, who assisted in the development phase and during the actual running of the course.

“In the summer there was a core group of iSchool students who worked on developing the MOOC either for credit or volunteering,” explained Alman. “This term we have seven student and professional librarian volunteers—six who monitor the Homeroom and Tech Crowd discussions on the course website and one who is the social media czarina. She keeps the Twitter feed and Facebook page up to date.” The MOOC tweets, which can be found with the hashtag #EmergingFutureMOOC, have been used to introduce followers to cutting-edge technology developments and essential future-related job skills.

The Emerging Future MOOC officially concludes on November 2, 2014. A certificate will be issued to those participants who complete all six modules.