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The future of student life: playing

Laura Schlehuber (Houston Foresight Program, Houston, Texas, USA)

On the Horizon

ISSN: 1074-8121

Article publication date: 14 August 2017




A research project exploring emerging student needs explored six aspects of student life: living, learning, working, playing, connecting and participating. Playing is explored here, considering changes in student approaches to leisure, recreation and having fun and investigates how playing in general is changing. The purpose of this paper summarizes two scenarios about the playing domain from the Student Needs 2025+ project and highlights implications for the future of higher education.


A modified version of the University of Houston’s “Framework Foresight” method was used to explore the future of six aspects of future student life.


Play has gotten serious. It is increasingly scheduled, supervised and often includes some larger objective, such as learning. This purposeful play is spreading into virtual space as well, which will increasingly be the setting for play. In the longer term, play – in the form or gamification – is likely to integrate into more and more of student life. Games and play will be used for teaching in the classroom (real and virtual), at work for training, to make exercise “fun”, and even in civic life for encouraging greater participation in governance.

Research limitations/implications

In terms of research limitations, the paper is focused on the needs of students and does not purport to be an exhaustive analysis of all the issues influencing higher education. It views the future of higher education through the lens of students and their emerging needs.

Practical implications

The paper is intended for educators, researchers and administrators to provide insight on how the needs of students, their key customers, are evolving.


This research explores student life in its totality as way to more accurately identify student needs in the future.



Schlehuber, L. (2017), "The future of student life: playing", On the Horizon, Vol. 25 No. 3, pp. 169-172.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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