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Scenario planners are not clairvoyants or fortune tellers.

The art of scenario planning involves separating what we do and do not know about the future. There are two reasons for this important distinction:

  1. It helps us to differentiate between predictions of the future versus scenarios for alternative or plausible futures in volatile or fast changing contexts.
  2. It helps us to focus on where scenario planning works best, namely the major drivers of change where the outcome is unknown.

Attempting to build scenarios based on trends where the outcome is predictable is not effective because there is a mismatch between the purpose and strategic planning tool. Forecasting techniques are better suited for strategic planning when working with predictable trends. In short, uncertainties are the driving forces that are both extremely important, but at the same time highly uncertain and are used as the foundations for building deductive scenarios.

For scenario planning to be effective for today's decision-making, we should avoid the realm of mere speculation or fanciful conjecture. Conceptually, if the future were 100% unpredictable, strategic planning would not be possible. Similarly, if the future was certain, there is no point to planning.

The art of scenario planning is to strike the right balance between the predetermineds and uncertainties. That said, it is not always easy to clarify the difference and in this subsection we will share ideas on identifying key uncertainties relevant to our educational context.

What you will do in this subsection

In this subsection, participants will identify and share suggested uncertainties. Given that these are uncertainties, we will post them in the form of questions, for example:

  • Will massive open online courses (MOOCs) displace the traditional university?

Depending on your own context, this question could represent an uncertainty. There are two distinct positions which the answer to this question could assume, thus suggesting that the outcome is unknown, for example:

  • Yes: Rapid expansion to free learning opportunities combined with the growing acceptance of alternative forms of certification could conceivably displace the traditional university; or
  • No: In the absence of an appropriate revenue model it is conceivable that the costs of developing MOOCs for tertiary education could not be sustained in the long term.

Of course, there are other facets relating to the MOOC question which would be equally interesting to explore using different scenarios.

We will use WikiEducator's "Questionstorm" prototype feature for sharing suggested questions about uncertainties in education. The WikiEducator Questionstorm feature will also enable participants to vote for questions which they deem (or don't) to be strong uncertainties. Participants will also be able to vote on the likelihood of the "yes" or "no" poles of the respective uncertainty.

The list of uncertainties and corresponding rankings will provide ideas for you to select the uncertainties for the scenario you will develop later in this course.

Questionstorm activity

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Identify and share your uncertainties (#SP4Edu)
  1. We will use the Questionstorm feature for posting and voting on uncertainties.
  2. Visit the Questionstorm page regularly to see what uncertainties participants have posted.
  3. Cast your votes for the major uncertainties. Remember an uncertainty is a factor which must meet three conditions: It will have a major impact on the way we will operate in the future, it must be plausible and the outcome should be unkown. If you agree with the rationales for the uncertainty, click on the "up arrow" to increase the cumulative vote count. If you disagree, click on the down arrow.
  4. The idea with voting is that the major uncertainties should in theory receive the most votes. Don't be missed by your absence -- cast your votes!
  5. Identify and submit your own uncertainties (one or two). If you don't see your uncertainties listed, please share these by posting them in the form of questions using the Questionstorm feature.
  6. Post suggested answers (the Yes / No) to your question. This is to assist readers to understand why you are claiming the factor to be an uncertainty. Please keep the following aspects in mind when formulating your answer:
    • Respond to both poles of the question in your answer (eg yes / no). It can't be an uncertainty unless there are plausible "Yes/No" answers to the question. If for example there is only a viable "Yes" option, you are most probably thinking about a trend where the direction of the future outcome is known.
  7. Revisit the list of uncertainty questions from time to time to cast votes for the new submissions from the participants.