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The Human Potential Academy

To use Massive Open Online Courses to develop critical thinking skills, emotional intelligence and entrepreneurial capacity.

Photo of Mushtak Al-Atabi
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In 2013, I developed and deployed my first MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), Global Entrepreneurship . More than 5000 students from 150 countries joined this MOOC to learn and work, in teams,  to crowdfund variety of projects, developing in the process not only amazing products but also highly valuable skills. My second MOOC, Success with Emotional Intelligence , featured more than 5000 students who developed emotional awareness and resilience and again working in groups to achieve self discovery and provide mutual support.

The range of successes achieved by people who took these courses was amazing. This ranged from starting own business to climbing a mountain to even getting married. These successes led to the idea of this project.

This project is aimed at developing a free and open online academy that comprise MOOC style series of courses that aspire to develop critical thinking, emotional intelligence and entrepreneurial capacity. These courses are practical, project based, social and highly interactive. The MOOC platform will allow the participants to capture the skills they develop in a portfolio that they will be able to use for future purposes including employment or fund raising. The academy will allow volunteers (from all over the world and from different industries) to mentor the students by dedicating some of their spare time. Employers will be given access (with students permission) to choose future employees based on the course performance.

The academy hopes to plug in a gap in the current higher education provisions where the focus is on academic and disciplinary learning with little focus on development of mindset, emotional intelligence and entrepreneurialism. The project should be scalable and customisable for the needs of different communities.  

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

While anyone can join the academy, it is focused on developing and transforming youth who are 16 to 25 years old. It reimagines higher education through providing a scalable method for developing holistic individuals who will be able to realise their potential through growing their mental, emotional and practical capacities. This will prepare these individuals to further their studies, seek employment or even start their own businesses, in short preparing them for a changing and uncertain world.

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?

App building and design would be highly appreciated skills to bring the project to fruition. I intend to use which is highly flexible and social learning platform, but effort to further customise the platform will give even better results. Marketing and communication skills to establish the mentor volunteers, funders and employers databases would very useful too.

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

The proof of concept is done with my two earlier MOOCs. These two MOOCs received extremely positive feedback from students the world over.

Tell us about your work experience:

I am currently the Senior Deputy Provost at Heriot-Watt University, Malaysia. My research interests include thermofluids, renewable energy, biomechanical engineering, engineering education and academic leadership. I published two books, “Think Like an Engineer” and “Driving Performance” and I delivered a number of highly successful MOOCs. My TEDx talk reflects my thinking style


Join the conversation:

Photo of Camila

I think it is absolutely essential to include so called soft skills in the next wave of education reform. We need to learn to regulate our emotions, think creatively, and work in diverse teams. Do you think MOOCs can offer a way to do that?

Photo of Mushtak Al-Atabi

Yes. MOOCs can be one of the key ways to deliver this in a scalable manner

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