About this online course


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Course video

Learn theory, skills and tools needed to analyze 'deep' uncertainties, to anticipate change and to design adaptation pathways for large-scale and long-term interventions in infrastructure and water management systems.

Recent events show the vulnerability of infrastructure to unexpected or difficult-to-predict events. Flood security is frequently threatened and returns on investment in infrastructure are vulnerable to shifts in climate change, to financial crises, to disruptive innovations or to trend-breaks.

Experts and policy-makers need to develop long-term policies that can anticipate these uncertain changes rather than merely react to the undesired events they bring about. To achieve this, professionals in these fields need theory, innovative tools and methods to cope with uncertainties and enable them to design adaptive plans.

A system-based approach

In support of this new and systematic approach to long-term planning, researchers from TU Delft and the Deltares Institute in the Netherlands, have developed tools with which to:

  • better identify and cope with 'deep uncertainties'
  • design 'adaptation pathways' to anticipate change
  • monitor the implementation of such pathways.

In this course you will learn about the theory behind these tools, how to use them and how they differ from conventional planning methods. The course uses examples from water and delta management in the Netherlands and United Kingdom where 'adaptation pathways' have already been used in policies for managing flood risk and improving freshwater availability.

Serious Game to improve decision-making
In this course you will learn by reading and by doing. You read chapters from a recently published book on decision-making under deep uncertainty. You apply your insights in an electronic serious game that was made for this course.

In this game, you will experience the consequences of your approach to long-term planning of a sea port city while dealing with stakeholders and uncertain futures. After this first game, you will learn the step-by step approach to designing adaptation pathways. Subsequently, in the last weeks of the course, you will test and evaluate the success of your adaptation pathway for the seaport city while playing the same game.

You will play the game by yourself but discussions with your peers will enable you to enhance and compare game results.

Is this course for you?

If you are involved in long-term planning, you will find many opportunities to apply these methods in a professional setting. They are most useful for engineers or professionals who have developed a systems-thinking approach to solving complex problems. We recommend this course to professionals with experience with long-term planning or policy-making for development and life cycle management of large scale infrastructures. This course expects good levels of ability in conceptual thinking but does not call for the use of computational skills.

After taking this course, you will be able to:

  • articulate and defend choices in long-term planning or decision-making under uncertainty
  • use a structured method to develop scenarios for plausible but uncertain futures
  • identify indicators and actors for the monitoring and evaluation of an adaptation pathway
  • design an adaptation pathway and evaluate its performance in a serious game
  • make recommendations on how to deal with the strengths and weaknesses of adaptation pathways during their implementation

Watch sample video lectures


All course materials stem from the scientific papers, policy papers and books that have been written by the course contributors. Papers stem from research on design and implementation of adaptation pathways in the Dutch Delta Programme, other climate adaptation policies in Bangladesh, Indonesia, New Zealand and the Philippines, as well as research on the adaptive planning of airports and sea ports.

Course Syllabus:

Week 1 - Why and when do we need adaptive planning?

This week, you play the online, single player serious game. You are asked to support the mayor, the local community, the water authority and commerce in planning the development of seaport city Tanui. Also, you read about the practice of adaptive delta management in the Netherlands and the role of adaptive planning in this long-term policy. This week, topics for forum discussions will include the need for and difficulties of adaptive planning.

Week 2 - Key concepts to decision making under deep uncertainty

You start this week with a video that discusses decision-making under deep uncertainty and adaptive planning in particular. This is an introduction to the book chapter that you will read this week. A short second video gives a short overview of all steps involved in designing adaptation pathways. The making and use of a 'system diagram' is one of the steps that you should master. Two videos show how to make such a diagram. The assignment is to draw your own diagram for the port city Tanui.

Week 3 - Designing adaptation pathways

The first video discusses the levels and dimensions of uncertain factors in the system's context. Then, the remaining steps towards designing adaptation pathway maps are explained: scenario discovery and scenario analysis for identification of adaptation tipping points, and the sequencing of measures in an adaptation pathway map. These subjects are covered in the mandatory reading too. You will practice scenario discovery in this week and you will also practice drawing an adaptation pathway based on the system diagram that you made in week 2.

Week 4 - Monitoring and evaluation of adaptation pathways

The focus of this week is on the needs and challenges related to monitoring adaptation pathways in a multi-actor policy environment, and on ways to address these. Videos and reading materials introduce key concepts and show an approach for the design of monitoring arrangements. You will practice by identifying key signposts and triggers for the pathway that you designed in week 3.

Week 5 - Role of testing adaptation pathways

During these last two weeks you will work on a final assignment. Week 5 is used for the making and evaluation of an adaptation pathway map. You will use your map in the online game environment that was used in week 1 and play three times. You collect the outcomes of these three games to evaluate the results and to discuss results with fellow students in the forum.

Week 6 - Final wrap-up

During this week you will either write a short memo (2-3 pages) or prepare a PowerPoint presentation (8-12 slides). We provide the format: first you present the long-term policy goals, then your adaptation pathway map followed by a discussion of the results of using this pathway map in the game environment. You use the outcome of forum discussions to explain the success or failure of your pathway map and to reflect on strengths and weaknesses of adaptation pathways. You submit the paper together with a self-evaluation making use of the same criteria that we will use to grade your paper. These criteria will be made available in week 0.


Certificates and CEUs

Professional education course with verified certificate.

The TU Delft Extension School offers Continuing Education Units for this course. Participants who successfully complete the course requirements will earn a Certificate of Completion and are eligible to receive 3.0 Continuing Education Units (3.0 CEUs).

View sample certificate


This course is primarily geared towards working professionals. Advanced course for professionals and MSc students with knowledge of long-term planning of infrastructures.

This course has been designed for a limited number of participants. There are only 30 places available - enroll now and secure your place!


If you have any questions about this course or the TU Delft online learning environment, please visit our Help & Support page.

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  • Starts: Future dates to be announced
  • Fee: €395
  • Group fee: contact us
  • Length: 6 weeks
  • Effort: 4 - 6 hours per week
  • Max. number of participants: 30

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