Lessons from Alternative Education

Another illuminating TED Talk, by Glenn Zucman, titled Burn the University Catalogue: lessons from alternative education, highlights the importance and benefits of alternative education. Watch it here:

Zucman showcases four alternative schools: Montessori School, Olin College, Medici University and Runaway University, and the key points of his talk are:

Out-of-sync University Catalogues

Almost all conventional university catalogues are out-of-sync with 21st Century learners, and they should be learner-centred;

Actively Engaging Students, Montessori School

According to Marie Montessori, instead of demanding students to actively listen, we should be actively engaging them. Founders of Google, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, are both graduates of Montessori School;

Olin College

One of the top 20 engineering universities in the world that ranks highest for both of these questions: “I’ve never worked harder in my life” and “I’ve never had so much fun!”

Medici University

A university that spans six continents and where students use “Avatars” to attend virtual classes. They have virtual lounges, libraries and classrooms, where “Avatars” discuss their projects;

Runaway University

Runaway University has 321 students from 75 countries; they attend classes in different locations, including the house of the founder, Glenn Zucman in Los Angeles.

According to Zucman, if a learner attends classes just to log in attendance, then the purpose of learning is lost. We live in a world where extrinsic motivators such as points and grades have replaced intrinsic motivators such as developing a career of choice or becoming a more complete human. He dreams of manifesting an active, engaged, project-based and student-defined college experience, where students truly are working harder and having more fun in their lives. And in this university, no one has to ever take attendance.

Zucman suggested the following to all college students:

Make your education project-based

Our education should not be about buying classes, but creating useful projects. Trade a project you care about for a rote exam;

Creating own class

Create your own class by collaborating with other students on a joint project;

Practise negotiating with faculty members

Develop rapport with faculty members early. They are the ones that can help you gain approval of your projects;

Develop own learning/research portfolio

Showcase it on your own website. Use it to negotiate with your faculty members to get the project you want to study.

In the context of what Zucman shares above, I am very fortunate to have completed my education with the IUPS because I get to do 75% of my assignments through projects that I’m passionate about. I have ongoing “open” conversations with my Professor, I create my own research questions and find my own answers. I have used the classroom in my own training to test my investigations and experiments. I have also used my business operations as my own “laboratory,” which involved working intensively with my “classmates” (colleagues) to put a change model (spiral dynamics) into practice. This largely involves changing our business audience and the way we communicate through all communication channels. It has distinctly and positively turned my company around in 18 months. All professional and personal development courses that I took over the last 10 years have been incorporated into the academic curriculum. In short, I have experienced all the things that Zucman suggests.

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