I'll be teaching an online class of masters students this summer. It will be one of their first courses and I want to plan a synchronous session to help reinforce the networking that will happen during their two-week residency. As their degree is in higher ed leading in times of change, I thought the following Critical Uncertainties activity would be useful.
Can we predict the future? See around corners? Know what’s coming next? Probably not. But we can prepare for an uncertain future, respond to surprise and be more resilient when faced with challenging circumstances. And here is a perfect place to learn and practice how to face a changing future with poise.
You will be working in a group of four. Everyone needs to contribute. Here’s what we’re going to do:
Firstly, you will get 5 minutes to make a list of factors that are impossible to predict or control in your college or university.
Which factors threaten your ability to operate successfully? Answering this question will allow you to prioritize the most critical factors. This should take 10 minutes.
Based on your group’s history and experience, you will select the two most critical and most uncertain (X and Y). 5 mins
Next, create a grid with two axes—X & Y—with a “more of <— —> less of” continuum for the factor to be represented on each axis. For example, for the X axis, if the number of new students is a critically uncertain factor, one end of the X axis is a large number of new students and the other is no new students. Repeat for the Y factor and axis. For instance, if protected research time is a critical factor, one end of the Y axis is strong research protection and the other is no research protection. Four quadrants are created.
You have 10 minutes to choose one quadrant, give it a creative name and write a thumbnail scenario for it.
Let’s take 2 minutes to peek at what the other groups are doing.
Back in your own group, it’s time to brainstorm three strategies that would help the group operate successfully in the scenario you described. 10 min.
Now let’s take a couple of minutes to share our strategies with the whole class.
The whole class will sift through the results to identify which strategies are robust (strategies that can succeed in multiple quadrants) and which are hedging (strategies that can succeed in only one scenario but protect you from a plausible calamity). The balance of strategies can succeed only in one scenario. 10 min.
Each small group debriefs with What, So What, Now What? 10 min.
The four groups share their debriefs and the whole class makes first-steps decisions about their Now What. 10 min.If I were running this face to face in the classroom, I'd know how to do it easily. But I'm a bit unsure of the technical challenges of a synchronous class (full confession, I've never done this before) and how to create small group areas in Moodle. If this is overly ambitious, let me fall/fail forward here. I'm counting on my team for advice. :-)