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The Future of the University

Speculative Design for Innovation in Higher Education

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Below are summaries of five different models of innovation proposed for higher education. 

Polymath University

"As a condition of matriculation, every student at Polymath University commits to three disparate majors. Faculty at Polymath University all possess competency in three distinct disciplines and teach, research, create, and think in the areas between those disciplines.

Students choose one each from a "menu" of three majors: the professions, the sciences and social sciences, and the arts and humanities e.g. Finance, Astronomy and English or History, Accounting, and Biology. 

Nomad University

"A University with no fixed physical location for nomadic knowledge workers. 

Each "course" at Nomad University is organized around a specific problem. The faculty mentor identifies the problem, likely grounded in a specific research question. Then via a virtual network, the students and the professor decide on the nature of the problem and the outcomes for completion (success). They assemble at a location determined by the professor, where they will work together on the problem for a specified period of time. When the participants and their clients are satisfied that some equilibrium solution has been achieved, the student-faculty ensemble disassembles until they meet again in another location to work on a new and different problem.

Students can choose either to arrive or not arrive to work on a problem, and the "class" might look different each time the group assembles; like the production of a motion picture, the class brings together "free agents." Students matriculate from Nomad University once they have participated in 12 such classes and developed a portfolio of their work."

Interface University

"Interface University focuses on the idea that machines will not — indeed cannot — supplant human cognition. The curriculum presumes that humans and computers thinking together are better than humans or computers thinking alone, and that thinking with machines allows students to engage in a level of cognition not possible with the human brain alone. Thus, at Interface University students will learn how to "think with computers."

The Neo-Liberal Arts College

"At the Neo-Liberal Arts College, the broad-based skills of the liberal arts experience align with workforce development needs: the skills identified by employers become the subjects of a liberal arts education. Thus, rather than history or chemistry, students study sense-making, communication, complex problem solving, and other such skills, with formal courses organized around each skill. This college also requires a new type of faculty, one knowledgeable in skills rather than academic disciplines."

Ludic University (or the University of Play)

"Ludic University makes play the highest form of learning, well above the acquisition and production of knowledge.

If the seminar room and the laboratory define the modern research university, then the studio defines Ludic University. The university has no set curriculum, no prescribed set of courses to follow. Students follow their curiosity, exploring those subjects necessary to satisfy that curiosity on an as-needed basis."

Students of the University-as-Playground engage in world-making, with players building pretend worlds, inhabiting them, playing in them, and role playing within these imaginary environments. Students and faculty also transgress the rules, invent new rules, and play games based on these new rules. The exploration of "what if?" is one of the highest forms of inquiry.

Its motto? Ludite ut sibi fin. (Play as an end unto itself.)"

The full article by David Staley, Associate Professor of History at The Ohio State University is available here in the Educause Review. 

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  • An Individual

Tell us about your work experience:

I am the Community Guide for this challenge. I have studied at Birmingham, Nottingham and Leeds University in the UK and graduated with qualifications in Biochemistry, Toxicology, and Environmental Management. I have held a number of jobs including being a TEFL teacher and energy analyst.

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

Can any of these ideas be incorporated into higher education in some form or another? Can you foresee an adaptation of these ideas?

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Photo of Christophe Parot

Very interesting and disruptive article. Thank you for sharing.