Keying in to the uncertainties of the future

I’m beginning to understand how scenario planning is useful for predicting longer term futures, especially as it emphasises contrasting possible futures. It leads to an emphasis on flexibility and adaptability, key elements of sustainability. It does force decision makers to look past the current trends and plan for those unexpected events. It also forces decision makers to look past personal preferences to other viable possibilities and options.

I don’t mind admitting that I’m struggling to get my head around scenario planning and its usefulness in my context. It’s interesting to note that at my tertiary institution a number of important decisions have been made recently, with significant monetary investment, on technologies to address the learning and teaching needs of the future. One of the key guiding documents the Steering Group was given was the 2012 New Horizon Report, The Technology Outlook for Australian Tertiary Education 2012-2017, whose methodology is rooted in a systematic review of the literature on current and emerging technologies and trends. It is a response to recent trends, or what is happening now in education and gives us a good look at identified drivers of change in education (predetermineds). Therefore it takes a strategic rather than a scenario planning approach to predicting technology adoption in education.

Where I think scenario planning is important in an educational context is the ability to predict where our learners will be in the future, what work they will be doing and what their world will look like, so we can work backwards and put things in place that will hopefully be relevant to their futures. I would like to better understand what the key uncertainties of the future are for tertiary education and explore how well decisions that have already been made address possible future scenarios.

Johnson, L., Adams, S., & Cummins, M. (2012). Technology Outlook for Australian Tertiary Education 2012-2017: An NMC Horizon Report Regional Analysis.[Report]. Austin, TX: The New Media Consortium.

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