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Higher Education as A Human Centered Service Built Around Industry Partnerships

A higher education system that is not restricted by campus spaces and institutional divisions, instead be centered around individual needs

Photo of Umar Shehzad
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In a world where access to information becomes easier every day, we imagine a postsecondary system of education in which learning transcends the physical boundaries of a campus, and is accessible to students and professionals alike. We see higher educational institutes as all inclusive places of learning that not only extend college credits for students to include learning activities outside of the classroom and campus, but also provide opportunities to professionals, entrepreneurs and organizations to use the institution’s learning space and resources. This will not only enable conventional students to learn from and work on problems and projects grounded in the real world, but also help working professionals evolve and adapt to the challenges presented by the ever transforming economic ecosystem.

There are multiple elements in this model. Students will be accredited for learning beyond the campus, by working on real world problems and projects, taking up MOOCs, or for civic engagement. A design student working as an intern with the design team for a product; an engineering student enrolling and successfully completing an online course on discrete mathematics; a psychology major working with a social startup, and helping them understand the needs of their potential users; can all be considered examples for this accreditation model.

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Secondly, entrepreneurs and organizations should be allowed to use the university’s resources including the labs/workshops on campus. They should be able to use the tools and resources available for development, meanwhile offering opportunities to university students to engage and take part in real world research and development projects from different industries. Conventional university students will be much more likely to transition to employment since they’ll already be a part of the process during their education.

Other than using the campus as workspace, professionals will also be able to enroll for the courses offered at the university. Many organizations offer specific training sessions for professionals. These organizations will offer these training sessions at college campuses for anyone to attend. Because of this collaboration, each individual student will be able to get a more personalized curriculum that fits their needs and requirements. At one hand, professionals will be able to attend specific classes that aligns with their jobs and career growth, while students will be able to attend professional training sessions that large companies already offer/ take part in. 

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

The idea is designed for conventional students, professionals and entrepreneurs. These diverse sets of people will utilize their knowledge and insights on the practices of their respective industries and figure out ways to improve them, enabling them to adapt to the ever transforming economic ecosystem to tackle real world problems. In addition to this, the flexibility designed into the system will allow a a broader spectrum of learners to access higher education.

This idea emerged from:

  • A group brainstorm

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

We need to devise a consolidated framework for offering personalized curriculum for making education more inclusive for all types of students. Accrediting students’ activities and engagement beyond the campus is what we believe in, and we expect the community to refine the framework so that it can be adapted by universities around the US and beyond.

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

We run a makerspace based in a public sector university in Lahore Pakistan. As an experiment, we will equip our space with more tools and broaden the scope of training sessions and increase their frequency. We will partner with a startup incubators, offer our space and tools to their startups. In return they'll conduct training sessions and offer apprenticeship to the university students and our community members. This model can also be adapted by most of the universities in US and beyond.

Tell us about your work experience:

Umar Shehzad co-runs the first ever public makerspace in Pakistan, based inside Information Technology University. Umar is a member of the International Development Innovation Network (IDIN at MIT) and have worked on many development projects whilst following the design process of the DLab - MIT. These projects include low cost water dispensing unit for minimizing spillage and maximizing utilization, and a low cost safety add on for chaff cutter, i.e. a perilous agricultural machine
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Team (2)

Umar's profile
Ali's profile
Ali Murtaza

Role added on team:

"Ali teaches a D-Lab course at the university our maker-space is a project of, and also co-runs the maker-space with Umar. Ali has an MFA in Industrial Design from SCAD and has worked as a design consultant for organizations like Dolby Labs, Grid Impact, Innovations for Poverty Alleviation Lab and Audi. Not only will he be able to grade students based on their engagement at our maker-space, his experience of industry and academia will be instrumental in the implementation of this new model."


Join the conversation:

Photo of Valentina Nolli

We are mexican students, we really liked this idea, it is very important to LEARN how to work while studing, not all experiences are in books, work teach you so many others real experiences and help you to grow as an adult in the real world even when you're just in college.
It is a great opportunity to get paid while learning and to improve yourself and your skills.
This would surely make a differece in the student that come out of college with work experience and curriculum.

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