ITB Week One


Inventing the Beyond | Module 1, Week 1

Statistics for Week 1

Participants:  435
Number of participants completing more than 90% of all work: 18 (4%)
Forum Posts: 118 posts in 33 threads
Most active forum thread: The Shift from Scarcity to Abundance of Content

Overview of the Week

Week one provided an overview of scenario based planning and how to use uncertainty to create a culture that can respond to change. Videos introduced the concept of scenario-based planning and provided a framework for how the process will develop.  At the end of the week, participants were invited to rate drivers of change based upon their uncertainty and impact. The results of this voting can be seen here.

Big Ideas

What is scenario-based planning?

Scenario planning has its root in military planning in World War II and became a tool for industry in the 1970s where it’s utility in preparing for uncertainty provided tools for dealing with volatile and unpredictable markets.  The purpose of scenario planning is not to predict the future but to visualize the range of possible futures and reflect on how prepared an organization is for them. 

Why build alternate futures?

Because we cannot predict the future with any certainty, building different futures puts you in a different mental space and can help show how the assumptions that we have about the future may not the only possibilities, opening up other possibilities.  By establishing alternative futures, we create the ability to see possibilities for the future and look for opportunities in the way the future unfolds.

By developing scenarios with multiple possibilities, you can anticipate a wider range of outcomes, avoiding surprises by helping thing through the process ahead of time. For the purposes of this collaboration, scenario-based planning helps to frame our thinking about education in 2030 in a variety of settings so we can understand better what we are planning for (or against). Scenario planning helps to make the forces at play visible. 

Building multiple scenarios of possible futures provides an excellent tool for describing, exploring and preparing for the future. For this project, the questions we want to answer are what are the critical factors for academic survival and success in 2030? And what practices will best guide and support learners, faculty and institutions? The results will provide the framework to refine and focus the scenarios for different stakeholders and institutions. 

How do we build scenarios?

Scenario planning begins with a focus: an issue or idea that is at the heart of the matter.  For our activities, we will focus on higher education, and, specifically, what the will be the future of higher education in 2030?  The focus is important because it helps to narrow down the possible futures to those that will help lead us to better decisions. 

From this starting point, then, we begin to look at the range of factors that can drive change—social, technological, economic, environmental and political—and build a list of these forces to get a sense of those that have variability and those that are unlikely to be very different no matter what other changes take place in the future.  These former forces have a sense of uncertainty to them, and from these, we want to determine which are critical uncertainties—that is, which of these has the potential to have significant impact on the issue we are focusing on. 

The full list of uncertainties is typically long and interrelated, so a process of narrowing is necessary to arrive at a manageable range of more critical uncertainties.  Many uncertainties are very similar in nature as well, enough so that they operate not as individual uncertainties but as linked ideas that serve as proxies for one another.  Still, at this stage, our goal is to consider each with respect to two factors: to what degree is the future state of this driver uncertain and how great an impact will this driver exert on the focal issue. 

Both of these questions are essentially subjective in nature, but they are intended to leverage the wisdom of an informed body to weigh those uncertainties that are perhaps more certain (such as population increase and demographic shifts) or that are of minimal impact from those with high degrees of uncertainty or large scale effects.  Those in this latter category are termed critical uncertainties, insofar as they have the greatest impact and greatest degree of uncertainty on the focal issue.

Highlights from the Forums

For our first week, we asked the forum what force of change has had the greatest impact on higher education since over the past 15 years.  The conversation was wide ranging, and well-informed.   Below is a recap from the first week:

What force of change has had the greatest impact on higher education since 2000?
  • The “fundamental shift in funding,” with the burden moving from states to students over the last decade.
  • The Internet, which has made content that “was once scarce, hard to acquire…[and]very valuable” more easily accessible.
  • Scrutiny of higher education's role for adequately preparing individuals for the world of work
  • Increasing cost of attendance, which has contributed to enrollment shifts.
  • The rapid pace and adoption of technological changes
  • Increased focus on accountability and assessment
  • College has become widely regarded as something as necessary for all.
  • Shift toward short-term thinking and acting due to increased competition.
  • Market demands that have challenged assumptions of education as a public good, which has traditionally guided funding decisions and governance policies.
  • More non-traditional students and shifting demands for highly competitive and marketable skills due to economic disruptions of the 2000s.
  • Political discussions encouraging increased college attendance and increased government funding, as people in school are not counted as unemployed or under employed.
  • The power of the future itself to shock, awe and completely overthrow predictions, as key disrupters today not only were unanticipated but perhaps beyond the possibility of predicting as little as a decade ago.
  • Increased access, coupled with growth in the availability of online programs, to allow students to take advantage of academic programming.
  • The redefinition of knowledge, not just in terms of moving from scarcity to abundance of content, but how and where it is created, produced, and categorized and how it is transmitted, shared, and mediated.
  • The renegotiation of authority, from students' increasing economic and cultural power as customers to FERPA to the decline of the “sage on the stage” model.
  • The shift from providing instruction to producing results, in which faculty have to defend roles/loads, resources, scholarship, student-learning on a results-based mindset.
  • The change in the cost of education has made education less attractive to those who are average or disadvantaged financially, accompanied by digital access to scholarly information playing a key role in creating other avenues of acquiring a college degree.

What happened?  What comes next?

Throughout week one, participants were to consider the driving forces affecting higher education with an eye to which were critical uncertainties and, as a final activity, rank a short list of 30 forces based upon their impact and uncertainty.  The results of this activity will contribute to the establishment of a suite of candidate scenario matrices that will be the focus of week two’s discussion.

Invent the Beyond: The weeks ahead

Module 1:
Week 2

Selecting the matrix

September 28 – October 4

Module 2:
Week 1

Setting the stage for our scenario

October 12 – October 18

Module 2:
Week 2

Building the scenario

October 19 – October 25

Module 3:
Week 1

Fixing the future

November 9 - November 15

Module 3:
Week 2

Naming the future

November 16 – November 21