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Roundtable v0.03

Education needs to go beyond the lecture hall. 'Roundtable' is small groups of students, alumni and faculty who learn beyond the lecture.

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Innovation takes what is available to a few and provides it to everyone.

"The future is already here,  — it's just not very evenly distributed." William Gibson

The best educational institutions I know of stayed ahead in past decades through having the best libraries. The internet is changing that by opening up learning to everyone. They stay ahead through having the best networks, the internet is changing that too through new forms of social and professional networks. The other standout feature that is regularly overlooked of top institutions is how they learn in small groups beyond the class and lecture. At Cambridge and Oxford, students participate in weekly tutorials in addition to attending lectures and classes. At Harvard, they have the large lectures led by professors and then small groups with many TA's. They are usually one-on-one or in small groups no more than three.

"Student tutorials are generally more academically challenging and rigorous than standard lecture and test format courses, because during each session students are expected to orally communicate, defend, analyse, and critique the ideas of others as well as their own in conversations with the tutor and fellow-students. As a pedagogic model, the tutorial system has great value because it creates learning and assessment opportunities which are highly authentic and difficult to fake."

One of the world's leading high schools is Phillips Exeter Academy. There, they employ the Harkness teaching method, "a system based on a conference format of teacher and student interaction, similar to the Socratic method of learning through asking questions and creating discussions."

Other interesting roundtable stories are King Arthur, Starbucks and Pixar which I will share later. :)

Our idea is a small roundtable for everyone. Tiny online and on-campus forums where those with experience and knowledge mentor those who seek it on very specific topics. When I was in college, I couldn't speak to someone who graduated ten years before me easily and I didn't know anyone in my field, not did my parents. I desperately wanted to. Internet users today are not consumers of content as they were in internet 1.0, they have become participants and creators. At Roundtables, students are not there simply to listen as they do in lecture halls but to get involved. (via @Andrea Stadler)

There are a lot of questions still to be answered. Should this be 1 on 1 or limited to the amount of people that could share a pizza? When? How often? What is the agenda for the time spent at the roundtable? Should it be over food or on the internet in a discussion forum?

O N L I N E    V E R S I O N:

Alumni can be asked not only for their financial donations but for their time that workplaces can incentivize and reward those who participate. I've found that many people do not want to be full-time teachers but love doing it part-time on top of their busy careers. Clay Shirky talks about what people do in their spare time in his book 'Cognitive Surplus' detailing a generation of drinking gin followed by a generation of watching television to our current generation who built Wikipedia. At the Architectural Association in London, faculty are considered older students who are still learning, but are further ahead than the rest of the group. Recent alumni have a lot still to learn and might actively be interested in this kind of opportunity.

C A M P U S    V E R S I O N:

I believe content in the future will come from online lectures that expand the learning opportunity for students by allowing them to rewind and replay so they can truly grasp what are meant to learn. If they don't get it first time, just listen to it again and again. This opens up the conversation that if universities around the world are no longer focused on the lecture hall, what service will they provide? Small is the new big! Small conversations of talking to each other is how we will go forward.

Companies see recruiting as an expensive activity, this could be an alternative. Seth Godin speaks about in Purple Cow not simply promoting what you do, but showing what you do. Companies can do this by turning up at universities with their signage, but instead showing students how suitable they are through ongoing conversations throughout their education. (via @Kate Rushton)

Maybe the free model might not work. Instead provides an inspiring business model where people pay by minute for the mentors they want to get in touch with. While is for startups, this service would be for students. (via @RINA)

T H E   A G E N D A

Without an agenda, this idea will likely be an awkward conversation with no purpose and lose traction. What will happen at these small groups is critical to their success. (via @MaxNoble)

Prototypes for types of Roundtables (needs more research!)

i) The Oxbridge Model (1 on 1 or 1 on 3)

ii) The Harkness Method (Group of 10)

iii) Center conversations around a student syllabus providing talking points. If a computer science class is about sorting and searching data, then a Roundtable agenda can be made on that topic to complement the lecture. 

iv) AMA - Ask Me Anything. One of of most popular formats on the internet to learn is currently absent from most university education.

W H A T   I S   N E E D E D ?

Opportunities to test this model out with real students/classes

More prototypes for types of roundtable. Who would participate? How would it be useful? How regular would it be? Where would it be? When would it be?

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

This is a potential solution to a problem I had while a student. It is for anyone who is seeking guidance and mentorship. Where Slack is about conversations between many people, Roundtable is for conversations at a smaller table.

This idea emerged from:

  • A group brainstorm
  • An individual

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

Storyboarding examples

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

It would be great if we had some fellow OpenIDEO participants knew university students or schools to lead small groups. Possibly OpenIDEO chapters may play a role.

Tell us about your work experience:

I studied architecture at University College Dublin and later at the Architectural Association in London where I had the opportunity to learn from the world's best architectural thinkers. I trained at KPF, JDS, and OMA where I developed an interest in diagramming, prototyping, research, computational geometry, and storytelling. Leaving architecture, I participated in Startup Chile and ran a successul Kickstarter campaign. My dream now is beginning


Join the conversation:

Photo of James McBennett

Found this similar idea for entrepreneurs, but expanding to more topics.

"Why Do So Many Business Leaders Have Peer Groups?
Over 100,000 CEOs and business owners spend more than a day each month with forums organized by Young President’s Organization, Entrepreneur’s Organization, Vistage and similar organizations. These groups cost $5,000 to $10,000 a year and up. Why?

Peer groups help members solve problems, save them from reinventing wheels, and amplify knowledge and networks. A peer group becomes something like workout buddies so you can overcome obstacles, stick with a program, and sustain change. Even though we are linked to more people than ever, we are increasingly isolated. Confiding in a group of peers is fulfilling even as it is worthwhile. It can connect friendship, learning, and earning.

We would carefully match you in a peer group of 7 other entrepreneurs who have similar goals and challenges as you. Over the course of 16 weeks you will meet in our video meeting room 8 times and work on those challenges with each other. Each circle has a guide who shows you how to run a meeting, set goals and learn from each other. Sixteen weeks later you emerge as a stronger founder, better learner, and possess a larger network of people from whom you can draw upon for support (or in your case, a place to crash).

We’ve been workshopping the product and process with other founders and have seen some awesome results so far. Our learning methodology has been developed in partnership with some real pioneers in the field and we’ve built an advisory board of CEOs and thought leaders from organizations like YPO, General Assembly, MIT Media Lab, The Aspen Institute, and The Center for Curriculum Re-design at Harvard University."

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