eLearning scenarios

In my work around the future of eLearning recently I was referred to the Edinburgh Scenarios. This Macromedia Breeze presentation summarizes really well the conlucsions of the Edinburgh planning group, and the scenarios that they came up with. The presentation features an animatied Powerpoint show that takes you through the process of scenario development and describes the scenarions that were arrived at. The presentation is narrated and commented on by Jay Cross of Internet Time and Jonathan Star from Global Business Network.

I’m a fan of scenario planning for the reasons described in the presentation – it’s not about predicting the future, but about creating a framework that provides a basis for conversations. The Edinburgh scenarios are based around two sets of variables:
(a) the acceptance and adoption of technology in educaiton – (patchy-widespread), and
(b) sources of power, influence and new ideas (established – emergent)

The four scenarios they then describe are:
?? Virtually vanilla – (efficient, structured and technology-rich)
?? Back to the future (fearful, traditional and controlled)
?? You Choose (skeptical, local and real)
?? Web of confidence (experimental, creative and confident)

In pondering these through I found these scenarios helpful in framing a lot of what I see occuring in the eLearning space at the moment – particulary after my visit to Melbourne and in reviewing the work I’ve been doing with T4T4T – and understanding the various tensions that exist where decisions are being made.

In NZ education we have been promoting the autonomy of local schools and institutions since the reforms of 1989, resulting in many welcome improvements and efficiencies. Paradoxically, this approach has also led to most of our activity in the eLearning space being at the “patchy” end of the continuum – vascillating between the “Back to the future” and the “You choose” scenarios. Similarly, as we are now facing up to this by introducing measures to encourage “widespread adoption” at a strategic and policy level, we are facing yet another challenge – the tension between doing this within existing frameworks and traditional ways of thinking about funding etc, and the opportunities that exist from pursuing a more innovative and “learner-centred” approach.

The danger of succumbing to the former is that we’ll end up in the “Back to the future” quadrant, described by Jay and Jonathan as their ‘least preferred” (even dangerous) scenario. Unfortunately we may be seeing some of this in NZ already with what is happening with The Correspondence School and some of our other key educational agencies and institutions. Let’s hope the conversations continue.

One thought on “eLearning scenarios

  1. I would agree with your comments here Derek, as it pretty well reflects my experience of the Tertiary sector.

    It seems to me that two things need to change. The first is that we need to encourage risk taking in Higher Education. Society at large is becoming increasingly prepared to accept risk as a part and parcel of the 21st century society. For example, few of us now expect to have a job for life. In our Universities and other institutions, the conservative approach is the norm.

    Secondly we need to reward those who take risks with teaching and learning. Currently, it is research output that has the ??gold standard?? and it is this output that attracts funding and kudos. Until the playing field is levelled and excellence in teaching and learning is equally valued and this is demonstrated by equally funding it, then I fear there is little hope for significant movement towards a learner centred approach in anything more than small isolated pockets.

Leave a Reply