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Purposeful Projects

Students declare a problem they see in the world, and work on an interdisciplinary team to attempt to solve the problem.

Photo of Taylor DeJesus
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Many students complete project based courses with students in their own field of study, and those students are given a particular project, rather than creating their own. Students will be more eager to learn if they see their project as an opportunity to solve a real world issue. Any given idea would likely require a team of students with different educational backgrounds, so students would be afforded the opportunity to work with others outside of their own field. This will allow students to learn to communicate with people outside of their own field, as well as give them the chance to learn about topics that may not be discussed in their regular curriculum.

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

This idea is designed for universities to implement as a course option. Higher education generally ignores the needs of the individual. The proposed solution would allow students as individuals to work towards understanding what kind of challenges they would like to work on, as well as learning to communicate with a wide variety of people. Such experience will improve communication skills, foster creativity, and allow students to get a better view of how they can use their degree.

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?

The organization of the solution could be improved. Perhaps the initial project proposals would include job descriptions for each necessary member of the team, or would someone more experienced determine what type of students are needed? Team sizes would be variable, so would this be set up as a course, or would teams be given a faculty advisor to guide them, allowing additional flexibility in team sizes?

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

Determine an issue that is generally important to the community, and based on that begin a small project team of interested people. Give a set amount of time for the project to take place, and monitor progress throughout. After completion, survey participants regarding what they learned (split as in their field and outside of their field), what they discovered about themselves, and whether or not they enjoyed the project.

Tell us about your work experience:

I recently graduated with a degree in Computer Science & Engineering from The Ohio State University. I have some experience in marketing as I worked as a marketing intern for Concur Technologies for one year.

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Photo of Jordan Lucas
Team

Mostly students not completed his/her graduation courses and starting a job or business, but education is most important thing in our life. Nestor University is a big and great university who give a chance to all learners to catch graduation degree in very short time and get success in their life. http://nestoruniversity.wikidot.com/

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Photo of Gregory Wilson
Team

This is very similar to an idea I've been developing for a few years now Mindover U: Hacking Your Thinking - The "T-shaped" University . Interested in your feedback and would love to collaborate Taylor DeJesus !

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Photo of Isaac Jumba
Team

Hi Taylor DeJesus , that's really a great idea. I like the bit for fostering interdisciplinary approach to problem solving for undergrads, as this really helps the students learn about things like empathy, and how best to work with each other. I had almost a similar idea, only that students collaborate with local businesses and organizations to solve real problems as part of their final year project Student Multi-disciplinary approach to solving Local Business Challenges as part of Final Year Project 

Just one question, what happens on completion of such projects? Are the students awarded degrees based on how the challenges are tackled? Do the solutions become new businesses? 

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Photo of Taylor DeJesus
Team

I imagined this idea would be integrated into a traditional education, but students would do these projects multiple times, allowing them to gain a variety of experiences as they decide what it is they would like to do as a career.

After completion, students could do what they would like with the project. That could mean creating a small business, selling their idea, or even abandoning it. A group of students may even complete another project together that stems from the prior project. This would depend of course on the type of project that was done, as well as the outcome, since not all projects will have a successful end product.

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Photo of Isaac Jumba
Team

Thank Taylor. Looking forward to your feedback from the light prototype :)

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Photo of Isaac Jumba
Team

Thanks. Can't wait to read about the insights that come from your prototyping phase :)

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Photo of Leah Edwards
Team

Experiential learning courses are very powerful, and I love to see students working on problems they particularly care about. One challenge with a semester format (let alone with shorter quarters) is that it can take that long to define a project with the partner organization or community.

It might be helpful to have a team or organization consolidate projects for students at multiple universities to choose from. Projects need to be very well defined, and students need to be well matched in order for the teams to get into the projects right at the beginning of a term and to have any chance of learning the processes the courses intend to teach.

One successful example is Design for Extreme Affordability, a class for which the instructor and teaching assistants spend a lot of time setting up the projects: http://extreme.stanford.edu/

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Photo of Kate Rushton
Team

Hi Taylor,

Great idea!

There are a few posts in the research phase that may give you some insights that may help you shape your idea:
Broaden Horizons and Develop Problem Solvers - Example of a class project where students worked on complex real-life problems on campus and in the local community by recognising stakeholders, beneficiaries and interviewing with empathy
Volunteering Online while Studying 
African Leadership University - an innovative higher-education model in Africa focused on finding your mission vs. finding your major with self-directed, peer learning with a focus on skills. there are no majors just missions and a focus on entrepreneurship.

Stanford2025: Exploring Future of Undergraduate Education 

Is there any chance you could find an image to go along with your post? Images help grab attention and tell a story. You should be able to use the Edit Contribution button on the top of your post and follow the instructions to add images from there. Looking forward to seeing more of your inspiring insights on OpenIDEO.

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Photo of Taylor DeJesus
Team

Thank you! The African Leadership University is very interesting. I enjoy the idea of a more flexible education, as opposed to the one-size-fits-all structure that we generally see.