OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

Knowledge Sharing for Learning

Creating a knowledge sharing culture for self-directed learning.

Photo of Naman Mandhan

Written by

For those who can afford to benefit from it, today's formal education system provides students with a structured path for excelling in their fields of interest. With clearly defined course objectives, content and academic support, students are able to prepare themselves for their futures, at least to a certain extent. However, there are some questions and concerns that arise from this current system:

  1. What about the students who can't afford to pay for college?
  2. Does this structure teach students valuable life skills such as leadership, personal finance, communication or networking?
  3. Students are expected to know what they want to do with their lives a year or less of going into college. Often times, students realize that their chosen career path is not something they want to pursue, and leaves them with switching majors. This takes away precious years of their lives and adds one or two years of college debt to their already thin pockets.

The idea that I would like to propose addresses these three questions and concerns.

My idea is the creation of a platform that allows for the free exchange of information within a community of self-directed learners. Students with or without college degrees, looking to learn about topics of interest can connect with members of their online community to assist them with learning these skills through sharing of  content such as books, articles, videos, podcasts and research papers.

Steve's Learning Roadmap

For illustrative purposes, let's take the example of Steve. Steve is a recent college graduate who pursued his Bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering, with a minor in Psychology. Steve excelled academically in college and had a strong GPA, but failed to develop skills in leadership and communication, both essential to being successful in the workplace. Having graduated without a job, Steve is looking to fill this gap in his skill set.

Steve signs up on an online platform and creates a list of skills that he would like to further develop. Let's take the example of leadership. Soon after his post, one of his friends sends him a link to a TEDTalk she recently watched that taught her a thing or two about leadership. She tells her Dad, a university professor in Organizational Leadership, about Steve's search for success in leadership, and he recommends a few research papers that his team came across during their research. 

Soon, Steve is receiving recommendations from his family members, his friends and their friends, who are provided Steve with a directed approach to filling his gap. As he continues to read books, listen to podcasts and read articles on leadership, he is becoming more and more informed on the topic. He now has 10 or 15 people who are invested in his goal of obtaining leadership expertise.

Additionally, Steve finds a couple of friends who are interested in learning with him. They add each other to their network and have weekly discussions where they share what they have learned in the past week.

To put his knowledge to practical use, Steve also signs up for a volunteer event where he will be leading a team of high school students to clean up a local community. Steve now has essentially created a leadership portfolio for himself and is able to present this to his future employers.

Let's take this scenario and look at how it can address the three concerns highlighted in the beginning.

  1. What about the students who can't afford to pay for college?
    All knowledge shared is of no cost to Steve. The books he borrows are owned by people he knows, he has access to millions of videos on YouTube, and the Internet provides the rest. 

  2. Does this structure teach students valuable life skills such as leadership, personal finance, communication or networking?
    By picking what skills he would like to focus on, Steve has essentially created several roadmaps for himself that give him a directed approach to learning for any skills that he would like to develop.

  3. Often times, students realize that their chosen career path is not something they want to pursue, and leaves them with switching majors.
  4. By taking his learning into his own hands, Steve can become an expert at just about anything. For example, while completing his college degree, if Steve realized that he also had an interest in economics along with his psychology minor, and didn't see himself as being an Electrical Engineer for the long run, he could complete his degree but also use this platform to study concepts in economics and combine it with his love for psychology, to maybe one day become a behavioral economist.

Who is your idea designed for and how does it reimagine higher education to support the needs of tomorrow?

This idea is designed for self-directed learners across all ages who are looking to diversify their skill set and re-imagine a conventional approach to learning.

This idea emerged from:

  • An individual

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

What are some skills that you wish you had gained while you were pursuing a higher education degree? Do you often times find yourself getting recommendations from your friends for developing some of these skills?

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

I will tap into my social media network to ask for recommendations for certain topics. Using a spreadsheet software, I will then track any recommendations that I receive and use this to prototype a learning roadmap for myself.

Tell us about your work experience:

I recently graduated with a Masters degree in Mechanical Engineering, with a focus in decision-making, human-centered design, economic theory and additive manufacturing. I am currently a Design Engineer at an automotive company and a part of the OpenIDEO Detroit chapter.

13 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Photo of Kate Rushton
Team

Hi Naman,

Interesting post.

Have you seen Degreed  and WhatYouKnow.com  ? I think they might give you a few ideas.

Photo of Kate Rushton
Team

To answer your questions:

What are some skills that you wish you had gained while you were pursuing a higher education degree?

Pitching, Creating Business Model Canvases, Leadership with Empathy, Design Thinking, Design using Adobe, Rapid Prototyping, Producing Simple and Effective Wireframes, Producing User Journeys, Basic Coding; Filing Taxes; Accounts for Running a Business; Investing in the Stock Market; Persuasive Writing - the list goes on and on.

Do you often times find yourself getting recommendations from your friends for developing some of these skills?

I get recommendations all the time. The challenge is trying to prioritise what I should focus on. My Kindle library has about 10 books waiting to be read. My list of movies to watch, TED talks to watch and online courses to take gets longer and longer.

At the moment I am focusing on short and sweet snippets of information from an unusual perspective.

Andrea Zelenak - as a more recent graduate than myself, what are your answers to Naman's questions: What are some skills that you wish you had gained while you were pursuing a higher education degree? Do you often times find yourself getting recommendations from your friends for developing some of these skills?

Photo of Naman Mandhan
Team

Kate,
Thank you for sharing! I was able to check out your tagged posts and here are my thoughts.

I think Degreed does a fantastic job in terms of a front-end interface and provides a comprehensive database of options for learning. I think something similar could serve as the "platform" for my idea, but with the social aspect of having a network that originates from you to be invested in your learning.

What I love about WhatYouKnow.com is that it presents a good model for communicating their gained learning experience to third parties such as employers, which is definitely something that my idea could use. To go along Stefan Tod 's thoughts, partnerships with professors, professional working in industry, or career centers might provide an unbiased evaluation of the learning roadmap.

What are your thoughts?

Photo of Naman Mandhan
Team

Kate,

Your challenge of trying to prioritize what you should focus on has definitely gotten me thinking. Do you think that you would place certain items over another in the priority list if you were given the opportunity to participate in an experience that made you apply your learning? For example, instead of having goals in terms of what topic you wanted to focus on or learn about, the goal could be an experimental research project posted by a professor or industry professional that would have a real-life impact on other people's lives.

I'd be interested to hear your thoughts!

Photo of Gabriel Landowski
Team

I'd just like to highlight that to me there are two sides to the "education" coin:

(1) What you want to learn for yourself

(2) What "proves" to others your are educated or skilled in a particular vein and thus become employed

So for me the angle of what I want to learn is nice, but at the end of the day it is my ability to convince others to hire me for work which requires such education is the main challenge. By example, I am currently career track splitting and developing my skill set as an Information Security Analyst. I've been learning how to use Wireshark, a popular tool, and the intricacies of network packet analysis. Despite all the self education I am doing, the various job opportunities out there only care if I have certifications (GIAC, CISSP, etc). So it doesn't really matter what I learn on my own unless I use that to gain certification somewhere else.

The rub for me personally is that all of these organizations charge big money up front to take the test, and then usually a maintenance fee of some sort - just to say I am certified! So what I would like WhatYouKnow.com to become is a place where an employer could go and have reasonable confidence in my rating to give me a job and let me start proving myself without the "pay to play" mentality.

Photo of Naman Mandhan
Team

Gabriel,

Thank you for your really insightful answer! I think it definitely is a challenge to communicate our learning to recruiters. For example, as a campus recruiter myself, I only get so much time to look at a person's resume or portfolio before I have to move on to the next candidate, which doesn't give me the full picture of a person's contributions at a certain time.

I like how your idea translates unconventional learning into a more structured approach for employers and recruiters to track and understand learning.

Something that I hope to achieve through this idea is to give learners the chance to engage in projects with their network that would directly apply the skills that they pick up throughout their journey. As an employer, I would love to see someone go out of their way to not only self-teach a concept that they had additional interest in, but to also apply the learning to a real-life project.

What are your thoughts on this? Stefan Tod do you see this being an incentive for members to contribute?

Photo of Kate Rushton
Team

Yes, I have watched tons of TED talks and read lots of books on various subjects. But, I have not been able to apply what I have learned. I would love to be able to apply some of my knowledge at the interface between different subjects e.g. toxicology, environmental management and design thinking.

Photo of Kate Rushton
Team

I think the key is 'credibility'. I think I mentioned on another post that I have received endorsements on LinkedIn for skills I don't have from people I have never met and I don't know if these people have knowledge in that area.

Photo of Gabriel Landowski
Team

Absolutely. What I'd like to see is for a person to say "hey, I want to become an Information Security Analyst" and start tracking their progress, while at the same time mentors can say "hey, I'm happy to teach people about ISA" and the system connects the two. This could then be an easy hook in for recruiters looking to employ ISA folks.

View all comments