As I look into the future of higher education and the impact of the OER movement, I read OpenCourseWars again, having read it a couple times recently. A problem of this particular fictitious history, which simply requires some amount of suspension of disbelief, is the short amount of time in which the story takes place. It seems unlikely that any major changes in higher education generally could occur in a 7 year span, especially given several court cases and multiple levels of appeals, which themselves probably take most of that time. Then there's the part where Google becomes evil, but I digress, as that is not really the point of the story. What's important is the discussion of the problems with the CC-NC clause, license compatibility issues between GFDL and CC, and the explosion of the sharing culture.
My first prediction is that we will have compatible versions of the GFDL and CC licenses by 2010, although concessions will have to be made on both sides, and they will not be fully compatible. There will be certain versions of both that play together. Some people will care and use the license-exchange option, and some will continue not to care and mix them anyway.
My second prediction is that as new collaboration and communication tools are created and distributed over the next 10-15 years, more virtual schools like WGU will pop up, and the jucos, tech schools, and for-profit institutions will embrace collaborative education methods. Broadband access will finally become universal and inexpensive after a narrow vote in Congress funds a major investment in infrastructure, as lobbied for by Google. The two major options will be wireless and powerline networking. With increased access a whole new market of potential nontraditional students will open up. With the lower-tier schools enabling and empowering their students, the research universities will have no choice but to adjust their practices to remain competitive. The top-tier schools will be dragged, kicking and screaming, into the collaborative age and then will immediately turn around and congratulate themselves on their innovative practices (like how the cellphone companies fought against phone number portability, but now tout it as a great feature since they were forced to implement it).
My third prediction (a subset of number two) is that the textbook industry will go away as we know it. As Wikipedia and its sister projects continue to grow, the younger professors, who are adept at Web 2.0 tools and who resent their professors that forced them to spend $1,000 per semester on out of date textbooks, will stop requiring textbooks for their courses. It will be a slow process, and some form of printed textbook will always be around, but the demand will eventually diminish.
My fourth prediction (also more details on number two) is that these young professors will adopt new teaching methods that leverage student and alumni knowledge and information-gathering skills to develop their lesson plans, giving them more time to complete their research. That won't last long, though, as many faculty positions will become 12-month, rather than 9-month appointments to deal with the increasing numbers of students and their tendency to take classes year-round, since many classes can be done from any location.
My fifth prediction is that my children will not remember a time when you had to pay for long distance phone calls. Okay, so that doesn't have much to do with OER or higher education, but that will be the seamless nature of technology within a few years, and openness will be expected in all facets of life.