Dr. Khyati Shetty, Campus Director, Focus College, British Columbia, Canada

Dr. Khyati Shetty is the recipient of the GCC Education Leaders Award-2019, Top 100 Global Training and Development Minds-2018, GCC Women Leaders Award-2017 and the former Dean of Curtin University, Dr. Khyati Shetty comes with 15+ years of experience working in academia. Her passion for transforming individuals led her to flourish by working with high potential leaders, executives and entrepreneurs and has conducted over 300+ workshops in 10+ countries. She has also been working as a leadership consultant for Government bodies in Nigeria, Ghana, Dubai, Maldives, and Mauritius. Khyati is a Certified Co-Active coach from CTI, USA, A Professional Co-active coach from the Coach Training Institute, USA, and a certified Psychometric Test Professional accredited assessor and SFHEA (UK). She holds a degree in MBA (Marketing), PG Degree in Human Resource Management and a Doctorate in Brand Personality Congruence. Her research interests are in the areas of Strategic Marketing, Branding and Women’s Entrepreneurship and has published numerous peer-reviewed articles. She also regularly contributes to Forbes and CNBC. She is currently the Campus Director of Focus College, British Columbia, Canada.


The pandemic upended every aspect of Higher Education at once. It was just not a move from brick-and-mortar classes to computer screens. It challenged everything we ever knew about education- instruction, attendance, role of technology and the human connection that hold it all together. A year and a half later rethinking is underway with a growing sense that changes may last. In a typical crisis, organizations tend to focus on “now” and deal with the “after” after the crisis has subsided. However, the nature of the crisis that the pandemic unfolded was different which didn’t follow the usual steps of a crisis- Initial “boom”, followed by response, recovery and- then time to reflect on what occurred—organizational resilience. But what does it mean when the boom keeps going with no defined end—and the continuous threat of a second boom?

As an innovation strategist, I work with professionals across a wide range of industries. From venture teams to CEO’s, my clients’ job titles and goals vary. Innovation is a sparingly used word that gets thrown around a lot. But real innovation gets stuck in the back burner as we are engulfed by our day-to-day obligations. HEI’s need a sustainable framework to help weave innovation in the DNA of our organizations. One such framework, I am personally a big fan of is Three Horizon Model developed by the members of the International Futures Forum of Innovation which I believe could be great for academic leaders to reflect and build on for reshaping teaching strategies post covid. The three-horizon model could help universities visualize what an ambidextrous higher education set up would look like. The framework is depicted below and shows three horizons spanning the present and the future — providing a “way to think about the future that recognises deep uncertainty but responds with an active orientation” (Sharpe, 2020;p. 19).

Horizon 1: “Business as usual, with important twists”

The first horizon (H1) is the dominant system at present and is our most familiar. It represents ‘business as usual’. As the world changes, so aspects of business as usual begin to feel out of place or no longer fit for purpose. Horizon 1 innovations in teaching would generally involve short term projects that generate results in 1-3 years. While as educators we are rushing “back to normal” to the rigidity of our brick-and-mortar classrooms, doesn’t mean ignoring what we learned last year. This crisis will always be remembered as a wake-up call for most universities, where we learnt that many (not all) of the activities could be held in virtual formats. During the crisis most of us followed an unequivocal dictum: keep pace and survive. Now it’s time to make space to reflect and implement our learning into projects that generate results in 1-3 years. Often, projects that fall under the horizon 1 umbrella are those that optimize what HEI’s already have been following. Think incremental, small optimizations of your existing practices by expanding your student base step by step or improving internal processes. Driving away from simply ‘surviving’ or ‘winning’ over the pandemic, HEI’s will have to reflect on how to build a sustainable system of teaching, doing research and engaging with society. We will need a new and robust system in which online and physical presence is well balanced, efficiently articulated and scientifically backed up. Going back to face-to-face activities will go hand in hand with re-thinking and re-designing our education model. We will keep the technological tools that meanwhile we will have learnt to use to ensure engagement and learning effectiveness and strive to design a more flexible approach to allow students to work while studying and to build a tailor-made learning experience. While the physical campus retains an important role in this future model, it needs to evolve and adapt to accommodate this less-structured learning approach to ensure it promotes deeper learning.

Horizon 2: “New Normal for Longer”

Horizon two would include the rising star businesses that have emerged in the past and extending it into new areas of revenue-driving activity. This is the transition and transformation zone — emerging innovations responding to shortcomings of H1 and anticipating possibilities of H3. These businesses may be step-outs from the core or related extensions that simply require new capabilities and time to build. The objective of the horizons is not to provide a clear picture of the future (being a fortune teller is not among our skills – yet!), but rather to enable us to be better prepared for the possibilities that the future might hold, and even to ‘mould’ certain medium-term changes into a specific direction shaping the future by thinking about it.  If you subscribe to the theory of disruptive innovation, and it is becoming increasingly clear that knowledge-based industries are deeply impacted by these disruptions.  Clearly some of these disruptions are related to technologies that has shifted the foundational relationships between students, facilitators, and knowledge. Radical shifts by formally adopting hybrid and blended learning, providing free access to accredited courses, opening campuses overseas where students can study without losing contact, stackable micro credentials and providing  non-traditional experiential opportunities that engage individual student passions and creativity that create context for the more traditional content-driven classroom programs .Horizon 2 activities require rapid prototyping, rewarding risk, acceptance and, de-centralized decision-making, and revisions to our tried and true business models.

Horizon 3: “Renewed Outlook for Higher Education”

Horizon 3 ventures are long-term innovation projects that generally produce results in 5-12 years. They’re typically associated with disruptive, radical, or architectural innovations which help us envision the ‘viable world’. We may not be able to define this future in every detail and there’s a lot we still don’t know about the length of the continued crisis-yet we can intuit what fundamental transformations lie ahead. This is the realm of “what if” scenarios, where, over a longer time, we re-imagine and re-design the alignment of vision and resources in ways that are significantly different than today. This horizon is where we challenge the fundamental relationship amongst the three legs of the educational process: students, teachers, and knowledge. Our normal reaction is to stick this horizon away on a burner that never gets turned on; these issues and opportunities are just too remote to the burdens of daily life.  Unfortunately, that reaction flies in the face of reality. Horizon Three exists whether we like it or not. It would be worth generating a fascinating lists of “what if” questions to be brainstormed that lead to endless opportunities. Many of these will be dead ends; a few, with hard work, will vault our students into a new learning process prepare them for their futures, not our past. More existential and fundamental questions also suddenly matter sooner and will require more intensive financial modeling than is typical in college and university planning processes. We must get familiar with innovation processes and integrate them into the HEI structures, or we will lose the entire set of Horizon Three opportunities.

Ask any academic leader how they are managing COVID-19, and many describe the litany of operational decisions, what they’ve prioritized for this week vs. next vs. next month. While there is tremendous complexity in this work, the problem is that the day-to-day crisis response is crowding our attention to larger strategy. The tendency to fall back into established routines creeps in every day. It’s vital, therefore, to go beyond initial information sessions to regularly reinforcing the new practices. This involves reminding people what the new practices are until they don’t feel it is “new” anymore. It’s almost like reminding drivers about new speed bumps and lane changes for a period until they get used to the change.  In an extended crisis, and given the strategic risks already upon us, the “after” cannot wait. None of us have a crystal ball to anticipate the future.

But what if the future is not waiting for us but will depend on how will we design it? In that case, don’t you want to take part?

Then, let’s imagine our future.

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