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Distrib-U _ Community-Driven Higher Education

Distrib-U empowers students as hubs of university resources, decentralizing higher ed, as community drives learning and makes direct impact.

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What is the need are you focusing on?

There is very high and un-met demand for higher education. Many are unable to fulfill their goals to earn a degree due to financial, or family matters. The model of a centralized campus with a large number of commuters has a negative impact on personal and institutional sustainability goals. The isolation required by COVID-19 is also an opportunity to see how we can better use our resources, reduce cost, increase family and community engagement, and end the brain-drain many diverse and economically disadvantaged areas suffer from. 

Which type of submission are you sharing?

  • Sharing a pivot idea your organization is considering or could consider

Describe the business pivot or adaptation in 3-4 sentences.

COVID-19 precautions are forcing universities to rapidly adapt to remote learning. Along with the steep learning curve and adoption of new technologies, my university, like all others, is currently struggling to make the value-case for a university education when the traditional university experience is no longer possible. Universities are vast repositories of information, expertise, networks, and resources. If we could decentralize those resources and take them into to communities where the students live, those students, guided by challenges in their communities and supported by the expertise and resources of the university, can have service- learning experiences that directly impact the people around them as they build skills to last a lifetime. Students will need to be issued remote hotspots and a smart cities-type data network will be necessary to create both a highly expert and highly adaptable engagement system.

Do you plan to implement this solution?

  • Yes

Describe the impact that this solution will create in the world.

Studies have shown that a university education has a demonstrated impact on lifelong income and building wealth for families. When a student is the first in their family to go to college, it is often years before that value is realized within the communities from which they’ve come. Tens of thousands of families invest heavily in their success and struggle to make life work while hoping for a better future. Often though, life takes these highly educated students away from their communities and they never return. The community investment is never realized. By having the students actively learning while engaging with the issues of their community, they become more invested and millions of people across America could immediately reap the rewards. Higher Education is then not just for the students, as they become teachers and mentors, they establish a culture of learning and building value locally. With the technology support and expertise, we could realize the first phase of this system by the Fall Semester.

What is the name of your business or organization?

California State University Long Beach

What does your business/company do? Whose needs does your business/company address? Who do you serve?

"California State University, Long Beach is a public university in Long Beach, California. The 322-acre campus is the third largest of the 23-school California State University system and one of the largest universities in the state of California by enrollment, its student body numbering 37,776 for the Fall 2016 semester. The university continues to receive record numbers of applicants; for Fall 2018, it received 102,879 undergraduate applications, the most of any CSU campus. The school has a 28% acceptance rate and is one of the West Coast's top universities in terms of student body racial diversity, being named the 5th most diverse university in the West by U.S. News & World Report. It has one of the lowest tuition rates in the nation."

What is your profession?

Associate Professor of Design; Coordinator of the Immersive Design Research Lab and the graduate Human experience Design Interactions (HXDI) program.

Where are you located (country)?


Where are you located (region)?

  • North America

What industry is your business/company in?

  • Academia/Research
  • Communications/Visual Design
  • Customer Experience/Service
  • Designer(UX/CX/Design Research)
  • Education
  • Engineering/Architecture

How many people does your business/company employ?

  • 250+

How old is your business/company?

  • 10 or more years old

Which classification describes your organization/business?

  • Nonprofit/NGO

What kind of stakeholders and partnerships are needed to pursue this solution?

  • Funding- Grants
  • Funding- Investment
  • Stakeholders/Partnerships- Private Sector
  • Stakeholders/Partnerships- Government
  • Stakeholders/Partnerships- Grassroots/Community Groups

Do you need help building partnerships and finding partners?

  • Yes

If Yes to the above, please share 1-2 sentences describing the specific help you desire.

We are looking for a technology partner willing to invest, experiment, and partner in what will be a game-changer for education and innovation in the multi-billion dollar US higher education market.

What do you think are the main barriers to implementing this solution?

We need a technology partner. All students and faculty would need remote 5G wifi. In addition, we would need to build out our system of resources to be accessible through a portal designed to create, assess and generate the data created by this new approach to higher education.

If you are currently working on a pivot, what have you learned so far?

Yes, we've taken in hours of student and faculty comments as part of the transition to online instruction. We've learned that people need a change and that many ideas that once seemed impossible - are now possible.

Are you aware of any open source efforts, hackathons or other collaborative efforts related to your solution? Are you participating in these efforts?

Yes, there are many people working on this issue and I am part of a task-force at my university. We're just getting started.

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Photo of Joshua Ian

This sounds amazing! Something like this can really be a game changer for accessibility and local communities!

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