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The purpose of this introductory session is to:
  • Reflect and share thoughts about major change in education.
  • Define and introduce scenario planning as a methodology to support and inform strategic planning.
  • Consider the shortcomings of scenario planning.
  • Discover the world of scenario planning
  • Introduce the structure of deductive scenario planning.

Thinking about big change in education

In human affairs — political, social, economic, and business — it is pointless to try to predict the future, let alone attempt to look ahead 75 years. But is possible — and fruitful — to identify major events that have already happened, irrevocably, and that therefore will have predictable effects in the next decade or two. It is possible, in other words, to identify and prepare for the future that has already happened.

—Peter Drucker[1]

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What major events have happened in education?
Microblog activity

Read Drucker's quotation above. What do you think? Join the brainstorm activity and let us know what major events that have already happened that are likely to have an impact on changes in education in your context. For instance, some of you might consider the advent of the OER university or today's MOOC phenomenon as a major event. Share your ideas by posting on twitter or WEnotes and remember to include the "#SP4Ed" in your post. Feel free to post more than one reflection. For example:

  • <Insert major event> will change education because .... #SP4Ed
  • We can make the future happen b/c ... #SP4Ed (Note b/c is microblog shorthand for "because").

Note: If you want to say more than the 140 character limit of a microblog post, feel free to use the open forum or your personal course blog (Remember to label or tag your post using "SP4Ed").

Preknowledge exercise

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Quiz — Setting the scene
Looking through your crystal ball

Indicate whether the following statements are mostly true or false:

  • The purpose of developing scenarios is to help organisations predict unkown futures.
    • True
      • Incorrect. It is a common misconception that scenarios are used to predict the future. However, many scenario planners advise that scenarios are not predictions of the future, but rather mental models to gain a better understanding for decision-making in the event that a future scenario were to materialise. Scenarios help answer the question: What will we do now, if that future were to happen?
    • False
      • Correct. Scenarios are tools to help organisations better understand the forces which might have an impact on the future so they can be prepared should these forces materialise. Scenarios are not intended to predict the future, and usually scenario planners develop multiple story lines for the future, because it is hard to predict the future accurately.
  • The most effective scenarios are based on analysis of historical trends to forecast anticipated futures.
    • True
      • Incorrect. Scenario planning is a tool used when the future is largely uncertain or un-knowable, for example disruptive technologies which fundamentally change the way of doing business. Past trends are only reliable in relatively stable environments. Over reliance on historical data is of little use when the future will be fundamentally different from the past.
    • False
      • Correct. Scenarios are not intended to produce forecasts. They are used to visualise futures which are significantly different from the past, consequently historical trend analysis do not generate effective scenarios.
  • Scenario planning (as a strategic planning tool) is characterised by systematic, analytical, and rational approaches.
    • True
      • Incorrect. Systematic and analytical approaches favoured by conventional planning models are not well suited to generating compelling but plausible images of alternate futures. Scenario planning is not an exact science.
    • False
      • Correct. Scenario planning is an art. It is a creative process which generates alternate but compelling views of alternative futures which are usually significantly different from the past.
  • Scenarios are designed for the long-term (eg - 10 to 30 year horizon) and not intended for immediate decision-making.
    • True
      • Incorrect. While scenarios are designed for the long term, by developing a number of scenario alternatives for consideration, they provide decision-makers with a better understanding of the world around them including the main drivers of change thus enabling managers to drill down to practical decisions for immediate implementation resulting in more effective choices because future alternatives are "known".
    • False
      • Correct. Scenarios will not be effective, or indeed worth the effort, unless alternatives for the future translate into down-to-earth decisions in the real world.

Let us know if you disagree with the suggested feedback above by posting on twitter or WEnotes and remember to include the "#SP4Ed" in your post.

Thinking about technology innovation, perception and the relationship between the past, present and future

Strategic planning involves the complex interaction between the past, present and future. Glick and Kupiec, with reference to technology strategies in education, suggest that "the more we understand the drivers of change, the better equipped we will be to act strategically" (2001:36)[2]. Notwithstanding improved understanding of the drivers of change, very often, perception and the certainty and stability associated with our knowledge of the past plays a significant role influencing the impact of technological innovation in education.

Technology and educational change

To dwell on the earlier fads and disappointments that technology has generated in education would be pedantic. Innovators like to believe that theirs is the real revolution. But technology has been about to transform education for a long time. In 1841 the 'inventor of the blackboard was ranked among the best contributors to learning and science, if not among the greatest benefactors to mankind'. A century later, in 1940, the motion picture was hailed the most revolutionary instrument introduced into education since the printing press. Television was the educational revolution in 1957. In 1962 it was programmed learning and in 1967 computers. Each was labelled the most important development since Gutenberg's printing press.

—Sir John Daniel[3]

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Fads and failed technology revolutions?
Microblog activity

Read John Daniels' references to the "failed" technology revolutions in education above. What do you think? Why would the major events and drivers of change you identified earlier be any different? Share your thoughts on twitter or WEnotes and remember to include the "#SP4Ed" in your post. Feel free to post more than one reflection. For example:

  • <Insert major event> will surely change education b/c .... #SP4Ed
  • <Insert change driver> is not a fad b/c ... #SP4Ed.

Note: If you want to say more than the 140 character limit of a microblog post, feel free to use the open forum or your personal course blog (Remember to label or tag your post with "SP4Ed").


  1. Drucker, P.F. 1998. The future that has already happened. Futurist. 32(8): 16-19.
  2. Glick, M.D. & Kupiec, J. 2001. The answer is still technology — Strategic technology. Educause Review. 36(6): 44.
  3. Daniel, J.S. 2012. Making Sense of MOOCs: Musings in a Maze of Myth, Paradox and Possibility. Journal of Interactive Media in Education (JIME).