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White Sp ace . . . Choose Your Own Adventure

Imagine crafting a curriculum that is eclectic, self-organizing, collaborative, and customizable—a sort of CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE.

Photo of Pat Vining
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White Sp ace - n. Potential, tabula rasa, the beginner’s mind, the future . . . 

Imagine a curriculum that is eclectic, interdisciplinary, self-organizing, collaborative, and customizable—a sort of CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE; accessed through a portal that provides guidance, aggregates learning opportunities and eventually provides testing and certification.

This new model could also allow universities to focus on the strengths of its faculty, create new offerings, and raise these well above the industry standard. Instead of duplicating services and classes for which schools are not equipped or funded, allow students to take these in other departments, online, or at other universities. This can be accomplished by relaxing requirements and transfer policies and allowing students to customize their programs. It also reduces cost, as the department does not have to be “all things to all people.” At a large state universities, this type of program allows for unimagined juxtapositions of knowledge from many disciplines. The possibilities are mind-blowing.

The new curriculum should be:
1. Agile & Responsive - allowing for self-organization, assessment and customization in real time

2. Strategic - focused on strengths with a clear identity & mission

3. Trans-time and trans-media - multi-channel, anywhere, anytime education

4. Collaborative – partnerships/internships with other departments, universities, and industry

5. Experiential - how to learn, not what to learn, independent inquiry, students as content creators

6. Hybrid - team teaching, peer teaching, faculty as “knowledge brokers,”

7. Connected – online and physical workshops, videos, classes, etc.

8. Transparent - free flow of information, trust, no more silos

9. Complexity Busting - Motto: “Simplify, Simplify, Simplify!”

10. Visionary - develop new hybrid courses, tools, and methods for learning

11. Social - Group projects, study groups, etc.

12. Entrepreneurial - develop alternative sources of income utilizing the staff, equipment, and space you already have (e.g., precollege programs, online courses, in-house agencies, professional workshops and skills bootcamps, etc. that could be held on weekends or during summer breaks and that employ students)

13. Global

14. Sustainable

STRATEGY: Co-creation
I recommend an Ideo-type Deep Dive with stakeholders: faculty, staff, students, industry partners, etc. to co-create this future-oriented, ground-breaking new ecosystem.

            • New Brand Strategy

            • New Culture

            • New Systems

            • New Offerings        

            • New Delivery Channels

            • New Digital Tools

            • New Roles

            • New Methods

            • New Responsive Framework

            • New Certification & Accreditation

            • New Space

            • New Collaborators

            • New Suppliers

            • Phase I – Deep Dive

            • Phase II - Research 

            • Phase III - Co-Design New Model

            • Phase IV - Build and Test Agile Prototype

            • Phase V - Intervention Design & Implementation

            • Phase VI - Grow, Test, Improve & Repeat


            • Administration/Staff

            • Donors

            • Faculty

            • Students

            • State Officials/Civic Leaders

            • Industry Professionals

            • Business Leaders


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

This idea is open to anyone, anywhere who has a desire to learn. This idea creates life-long learners as well as citizen scientists, journalists, designers, coders—and fields that have not yet been invented. The potential is unlimited . . .

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?

First and foremost—a meeting of the minds in the form of a Deep Dive with the stakeholders listed above. The next step would be creating an MVP and working through a StartUp weekend sort of event. Prototypes, testing, putting a rock star team together, protyping, testing, and then on to capital.

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

Since I am a university professor of digital design, I could talk to my peeps and begin to collect data. I could sketch out an MVP and perhaps attend a StartUp Weekend to gather more data.

Tell us about your work experience:

A reformed catholic school girl with a penchant for gelato breakfasts and neutral-colored fashion statements, my lifetime of experience includes stints as a university-level educator, a creative director and owner of an award-winning design and communications firm with four Fortune 500 companies as clients, illustrator, entrepreneur (creator of the Amazing Alphabotz and the Superphonic Decoder Cards), and blogger (new blog launches in a week:


Join the conversation:

Photo of Terry Hosler

Hi Pat and Kate,

A very intriguing idea!  I appreciate that this concept already has a development approach laid out.  It is easy to see how it would encourage the lifelong learner. Do you have ideas on how advisement would play into it or how it could be used for programs involving licensure or certification such as teaching, healthcare, or business/technical areas?  It puts me in mind a bit of the post on "Gamification' titled Interchallange in the Human Connection focus.

Photo of Pat Vining

Thank you, Terry. I am thinking that advisement could be handled online and we could take advantage of Skype, FaceTime, Google Hangout, etc. There would still need to be a skilled team of counselors who knew the offerings and could point students in the right direction—but they could work from anywhere in the world. As for certification, a community of professionals and other stakeholders (even students—sometimes they are tougher on each other than we are) in each field could vet and propose the criteria and certification—we could build something open source like Wikipedia did over time with input and oversight. I love your connection to gamification—that would be a great metaphor for this project as it is like one big complex game! Someone is going to build it—it is just a matter of time, and it will seriously disrupt the traditional university.

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