Kuala Lumpur 2010


Exercise: Potential Events That Can Change the Future of Higher Education in Southeastern Asia

The objective of this exercise is to identify potential events that could affect the future of higher education in Southeastern Asia if they occurred. 

We will begin the exercise by selecting new leadership roles in each group. The roles are facilitator, flip chart scribe, reporter, and paper hanger. Please concentrate on the discussion, and not worry about taking notes.

Events are unambiguous and confirmable. When they occur, the future is different. Event identification and analysis is critical in anticipatory planning.

It is important that an event statement be unambiguous; otherwise, it is not helpful in the planning process because (a) it is unclear what may be meant by the statement (i.e., different people may understand the statement differently) and (b) we have no clear target that allows us to derive implications and action steps. For example, consider the following event statement: There will be significant changes in political, social, and economic systems in Southeastern Asia. Each person on a planning team may agree with this statement, but may also interpret it differently. It would be far more useful in analysis for a statement like: Use of alternative sources of energy (e.g., hydrogen, wind) world-wide increases 1,500% from 2006 levels. Or Palastine and Israel sign peace accord. Or OPEC becomes a free trade zone. Or 30% of professors in Kuala Lumpur use project-based learning as a central instructional strategy. The latter statements are concrete, unambiguous, and signal significant change that could impact colleges and universities in Southeastern Asia.

Another point. We should not include an impact statement in the event statement. Consider the following event statement: New developments in technology will dramatically increase enrollments in online education programs throughout Southeastern Asia. First, we need to specify each technological development as an event. Second, it may well be that an event can have both a positive and a negative impact. For example, there may be signals that within five years 85% of college and university courses will use multimedia technologies in instruction. Or, there may be signals that within five years 30% of college and university courses will be taught by the project method. Both events could have both positive and negative consequences on colleges and universities. If, for example, if the faculty in a particular institution are not currently oriented to using multimedia technology or the project method of instruction, these events may adversely affect the competitive position of their college. On the other hand, distributing the signals of these events in a newsletter to the faculty may bring about an awareness of what is happening and assist in developing a desire to upgrade their set of teaching skills.

Finally, it may be helpful to write event statements as headlines in a newspaper (e.g., Peace in Southeastern Asia; Iran nukes Israel).

We will use the Nominal Group Process for this exercise. The group facilitator will pose the question: What are the potential events that would change the future of higher education in Southeastern Asia if they occurred? Take five minutes to think about the question, remembering to think broadly through the STEEP sectors, locally through globally. Then begin the round-robin process to post nominations from individual group members to the flip chart. We will spend 45 minutes on this part of the exercise (or until you have exhausted event nomination). When I call time, go to the discussion/clarification phase, where the facilitator will ensure that group members understand and agree with the event statements (prepare for some rewriting!). When I call time again, begin selecting those events that may have the most impact on colleges and universities in Southeastern Asia in the next decade. We will use the paste-on dots for this exercise. Group members will be given four dots to indicate their selection. Voting criteria are as follows:

  • Vote for four of the most critical events for the future of higher education in Southeastern Asia that have some probability of occurrence within the next decade. Do not be concerned about the event having high or low probability; be concerned only about the severity of the impact (positive or negative).
  • Do not put more than one dot on one event statement.
  • Put all dots by the beginning of the event statement (so that we can quickly see the frequency distribution of dots)

After this section is complete, identify the signals that indicate your five most critical events could occur within the coming decade. Then begin preparing your conference report of the five most critical events and the signals that they could occur within five years.

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