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Combining online learning with global, digital collaborative projects / internships.

A platform that offers world-class online courses with compulsory projects for real-world companies allowing learners to apply their skills

Photo of Sharon DCosta

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My idea is an online platform that offers not MOOCs from the world's best universities along with compulsory short term projects with well-known companies - via remote digital collaboration.

Depending on the subject one is studying, the project would be more along the lines of research, brainstorming, suggesting innovative strategies, perhaps building an app.. or setting up a social media campaign for a new brand, etc. 


This will not only allow anyone, anytime, anywhere in the world to get a world-class education in field/s of their choice, but also –

  • Learn by doing. Build hands-on experience in the subject.
  • Gain valuable experience solving real business challenges for world-class companies. This is even more helpful for young people newly entering the workforce or people looking for a change in career path.
  • Collaborate with diverse sets of people from around the world and build valuable company contact and networks in their area of their interest. Break geographical barriers.
  • Added incentive to complete the course. Gain a certificate of experience from the company 
  • Earn while you learn. At least enough to cover the course enrollment / certification fee.
  • Companies gain fresh, diverse solutions to their business problems. Often, the 'students' might also be experienced professionals looking to build their skills or make a career change, etc.


So it is a kind of win-win situation for the company and the learner.

Inspiration - I'm a regular MOOC-taker, and I've personally participated in a few online collaborations - including -

  1.  A crowd-vetting collaboration for +Acumen, involving due diligence for a social enterprise, with >200 people around the world, including entrepreneurs,students, executives, academicians, even VCs.
  2. The Center for Global Enterprise has regular digital collaboration opportunities for everyone - E.g. "Devise a strategy to help the NFL expand its international fan base through its Game Pass digital product.” 20+ participants from around the world conduct research, brainstorm strategies and create a combined report of their work to share with the company. ---No expertise or training is required, but the learning from this would be very relevant to a student of International Marketing, for instance. 
  3. OpenIDEO – what we’re doing right here – except that it would involve actually putting the ideas to action, prototyping, etc - officially, on behalf of IDEO.org  
  4. A team marketing competition in uni for Nissan that involved creating a viral ad campaign on social media for one of their new car models.
  5. UPDATE: (Kate Rushton shared some excellent links in the comments, to creative crowdsourcing websites like eYeka, Jovoto, etc. where companies post challenges that anyone can participate in. )

My idea is based on the assumption that people might be more likely to pursue the course seriously if it were linked to a tangible incentive at the end.

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

Fresh graduates with no work-experience who are about to enter the job-market. Professionals looking for a change of career path. Lifelong learners looking to collaborate and expand their skills and networks.

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?

Experiences with online learning and digital collaborations. Building an online learning platform.

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

I would like to start by experimenting with college students or fresh graduates or job-seekers. I know several people who are interested in learning digital marketing, for which 'learning by doing' is crucial. I would start by referring them to a MOOC, followed by the opportunity for a 'gig', managing digital marketing for a local startup or small business, and observe the results.

Tell us about your work experience:

I am an entrepreneur, marketer, designer & social entrepreneurship enthusiast. I recently founded a marketing company that works exclusively with startups and small businesses. I have an academic background in business design and psychology.

21 comments

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Photo of Mary Ressler
Team

I like the idea of collaborative efforts to solve world issues. This could even be facilitated in the middle and high school curriculum of the United States! I am going to embed this idea in “Education Speedway” as well. I will link your website, etc. Thank You!

Photo of Sharon DCosta
Team

Thanks very much, Mary.
Apologies. I've been away, so I missed your response, and only just saw it. How has your project been going? I wish you all the best. :)

Photo of Mary Ressler
Team

Good Evening.

Thank you for your message. Literacy Speedway https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.app.literacyspeedway&hl=en now has 100-500 users on Google Play and hasnt been marketed. It is part of the Barbara Bush XPrize for Adult Literacy and someone wanted to buy it. It is going well for about six weeks up and running. Artificial Intelligence is being added to it and other APPs will enhance it, once feedback and pilot is done this spring. Thank You! Mary Ressler

Photo of Walter Pape
Team

Hi! When it comes to the collaboration piece I have a few ideas on how to easily connect everyone in one place.

Photo of Sharon DCosta
Team

Hi Walter, thanks for your response. Do you mean virtual collaboration? I always look forward to new ideas and feedback and would love to know what you have in mind. And, hopefully, be able to develop this idea further in the next phase of the challenge. :)

Photo of Isaac Jumba
Team

Hi Sharon DCosta I really like your idea. It reminds me of Andela (www.andela.com) in Kenya and Nigeria which trains developers through a bootcamp and recruit them to work on projects with the top companies in the world. Basically, the fellows get monthly salary while working on the projects but what I like is that they have a physical space where these fellows(developers) can work from. The physical location also helps in building culture and other people skills that they wouldnt have otherwise learnt if they are to work remotely. Its definitely something that can work especially for recent graduates

Photo of Sharon DCosta
Team

Hi Isaac, thanks for sharing! Andela is a great example.. I love the idea of giving trainees a chance to convert their learning into real career opportunities with top companies. The idea of having a physical location is excellent from the point of view of culture building and peer learning. But I was wondering if they faced any logistical challenges with that, especially if trainees are from different regions. And how might they overcome these challenges if they were to expand to a worldwide audience? I'd love to study their model in depth! Thanks again!

Photo of Isaac Jumba
Team

Hi Sharon, yes, they have faced lots of logistical challenges. Each month they admit about 10-20 fellows, and that has come with its own challenges, such as the physical space, and facilities. For the Kenyan office, they have plans of moving out of their current location to a new campus. In terms of admitting trainees, they provide accomodation for the trainees as well, for a subsidized amount for those coming a bit far away from the city. In terms of expanding, they are using a replication model - they have a Kenyan office, Nigerian office and are planning to launch operations in Uganda and Ghana. Also, at some point their trainees work with the client companies directly, so no need to visit the campus.

Photo of Kate Rushton
Team

Hi Sharon!

I like the way this idea gives valuable experience to people who may not be able to participate in an on-campus college e.g. someone living in a remote area of the US, someone who may be housebound etc. Could this be also used by 'career changers' who want to 'test the waters' of a new career? For example, a teacher who is interested in marketing.

I want to highlight some research posts that might interest you:

Degreed - a platform to find, track and measure informal & formal learning experiences e.g. TED talks, MOOCs, articles & discover your gaps for lifelong learning
Massive Open Online Research (MOOR) Volunteering Online while Studying 
Apologies if you have already read them.

Photo of Kate Rushton
Team

I also want to add some companies you may/may not know:

eYeka is a global community of talented creators who love to solve brands' challenges with fresh thinking, creative ideas and shareable content. https://en.eyeka.com

jovoto | open innovation platform: We bring innovative ideas to global brands. Leverage mass collaboration with 80 000 creative professionals to solve your next challenge.https://www.jovoto.com

imagine with orange. .imagine.orange.com/

The HYVE Crowd is an online platform - https://www.hyvecrowd.net

http://givemechallenge.com/

Photo of Sharon DCosta
Team

Hi Kate, Yes! In fact a number of participants in MOOCs are people looking for a career change. So, for example, a teacher who is interested in marketing would take the Marketing MOOC, and 50% of the grade will come from planning a digital marketing campaign for a new brand or product of CompanyX or conducting consumer research. The experience will help evaluate if this is the right career for them, and add some marketing experience to their CV.
Thanks for sharing the research posts. I missed them as I joined the challenge late.

Your post on MOOR is similar to what I had in mind! It would be great to build a platform where learners can take several such courses and the practical experience would somewhat bridge the gap between online and on-campus education.

Photo of Sharon DCosta
Team

Hi Kate, Yes!! In fact a number of participants in MOOCs are people looking for a career change. So, for example, a teacher who is interested in marketing would take the Marketing MOOC, and 50% of the grade will come from planning a digital marketing campaign for a new brand or product of CompanyX or conducting consumer research. The experience will help evaluate if this is the right career for them, and add some marketing experience to their CV.
Thanks for sharing the research posts. I missed them as I joined the challenge late.

Your post on MOOR is similar to what I had in mind! It would be great to build a platform where learners can take several such courses and the practical experience would somewhat bridge the gap between online and on-campus education.

Photo of Sharon DCosta
Team

Wow, I did not know about these! They're excellent examples of the type of work companies might benefit from outsourcing to the crowds. Thanks for sharing.

I'm signing up on some of them now lol ;)

Photo of Kate Rushton
Team

Another one - https://foundry.unilever.com/
http://www.100open.com/

Photo of Kate Rushton
Team

Another one - https://www.ideaconnection.com/contests

Photo of Teo John
Team

Hi Sharon,

It is indeed good idea. Personally, I have used MOOC platform ( e.g Edx, Coursera , Novo-ed, etc ) to complete my online learning. I have used other digital tools like Google Hangout, Skype ,and others for virtual meetup.
If it is ok with you, we could collaborate on this online leadership program.

Photo of Sharon DCosta
Team

Hi Teo, Thanks for your response!!
I'm a regular MOOC-taker too. These sites have some excellent courses. The ones on NovoEd require students to work in teams - -such as The Design Kit- HCD by IDEO
I honestly haven't looked at this idea in much detail, but would love to explore it further and see how it shapes up. The feedback and insights on OpenIDEO are always valuable :)

Photo of Madiha Ahmed
Team

Hi Sharon,

I love the idea. It is so exciting and enriching for an individual like me :)

Sharon,do you mean that a student interested in journalism be allowed to be a part of The Telegraph or one interested in Computers be allowed to be a part of Microsoft or HP for a project ? Something like that ?
I am wondering about why well known companies would employ fresh grads (like my sister) with no experience at all in a field ?

Also,if this is a compulsory short term project then does that mean there would be a lot learning and explainatory material along side hands on projects to guide students ? Every company who wants to be a part of this would have to prepare these guides from the basics to guide fresh grads. I think this would also help the employees of the company because when you teach something to someone,your own knowledge gets strengthened-this is if the companies think in a similar way. If companies give some kind of incentive to these employees then this initiative will pick up fast and become popular with other companies too.

The learning,networking,collaboration,earning points are great !

Thank you,Sharon.

Photo of Sharon DCosta
Team

Hi Madiha, Thank you! :) Absolutely, that is exactly what I mean. In fact, most well-known companies do offer internships to university students. And they do also hire fresh grads as trainees.
In this case, the learner won't be formally employed there. But depending on the subject one is studying, the internship would be more along the lines of research, brainstorming, suggesting innovative strategies, perhaps building an app.. or setting up a social media campaign for a new brand.
And often, the 'students' might also be experienced professionals looking to build their skills or make a career change, etc.
So it is a kind of win-win situation for the company and the learner.

For example 1. The Center for Global Enterprise has regular digital collaboration opportunities for everyone - E.g. "Devise a strategy to help the NFL expand its international fan base through its Game Pass digital product.” 22 participants from 10 countries, 3 continents, 10 languages conduct research, brainstorm strategies and create a combined report of their work to share with the company. No expertise or training required, but the learning from this would be very relevant to a student of International Marketing, for instance.

My idea is based on the assumption that people might be more likely to pursue the course seriously if it were linked to a tangible incentive at the end - such as money, a certificate from a well-known company, a job opportunity etc.
I'd love to explore this further. Thanks for the valuable insight, Madiha!

Sharon

Photo of Madiha Ahmed
Team

Sharon,

Absolutely ! I got your point now.
I agree with the incentive part you mentioned. It may add to their experience and the resume too.
So,how do you think we can take this further ?

-Does this mean that more collaboration is required between the universities and the companies ?

-Would making a list of companies and categorizing them by the authorities concerned,based on the subjects taught at high school or college help students select and make choices ?

-Is there a need for an intermediate or third party who links the universities and the companies ?

-How about a neutral platform where students from different universities can apply for the companies (this is keeping in mind that some educational organizations may not be able to collaborate due to different reasons and the students might miss out on these opportunities ) ?

-Would OpenIDEO kind of a platform help students and companies ?
Company heads or HR can be on platforms like these and lookout for students in the different fields. This way they can check the profiles of students-the research,ideas,collaboration etc,all the different phases and also the ideas of the individuals in the topics of their interest.

You have certainly activated my brain ! :)

Thanks Sharon!

Photo of Sharon DCosta
Team

Haha thanks Madiha! Your responses made me think deeper into the topic too. :)

-Yes, some collaboration would be required between the universities and the companies because it's their content/certification after all. Most leading universities do have corporate ties.
Perhaps the platform can help facilitate that. I'll need to do some research on this and see how the existing MOOC sites operate. (Coursera, EdX etc.)

-Perhaps students can be given a choice of 4 to 5 projects based on their subject.

-As for the need for an intermediary between the universities and the companies - there will be a web platform. So essentially this would be somewhat like Coursera-meets-eYeka.

-About the neutral platform where students from different universities can apply for projects - there are some great ones that already exist. Kate Rushton shared some in her comment above - eYeka, Jovoto, Hyve etc. where companies put up crowd projects, and anyone can participate.
The idea is to link the two and bridge the gap between online and on-campus courses through practical experience and peer learning.

"-Would OpenIDEO kind of a platform help students and companies ?"-- That is an interesting idea to explore -using it to connect learners to relevant job opportunities!

Thanks for the great insights, Madiha. I appreciate it! :)