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FlippEd ~ education for the new millenium

Flip power dynamic by aggregating student profiles and having educational providers (current and new players) bid to fulfill student vision.

Photo of Philip Arca
18 10

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Who is the target audience for your idea and how does it reimagine the cost of college?

With such a complex issue, many players, many levers to pull -- can we use technology to flip the power dynamic of students nervously applying, parents struggling to pay vs. higher ed institutions and their constellations (testing empires like the College Board, usury lenders, and other intermediaries) holding the levers of power, gatekeeping decisions for higher ed pathways? Imagine a version of "LinkedIn plus" for students, presenting a student educational vision and seeking bidders.

FlippED would develop a "LinkedIn plus" for students, presenting a version of below online:

1.Portfolio of Student Performance (albeit not all testing scores), List of Aspirations, and their Educational Plan

2.Student Educational Plan, might perhaps be outlined as following example:

        Year 1, Coordinate a Community Experience -- project based work experience like Americorp, with OnLine General Ed Courses

        Year 2, In Class Time, Residential Experience with OnLine Ed --  to increase the pace of learning

        Year 3, OnLine Ed and Career Focused Internships -- sponsored by employer entities receiving first look privileges by contributing to the educational bidder price

        Year 4, In Class Time, Residential Experience, Internship -- closing with a Graduation Rite of Passage, Career Placement

3. Price/Willingness to Pay

    Students and their families offer an annual price they are willing to pay for the educational experiences they have outlined per Student Educational Plan above. Higher ed institutions, current intermediaries and perhaps new intermediaries accept the student/family bid, or even bid lower -- to provide the plan as proposed. 

How is this different from the current system? Students and their families propose a price for what they have outlined in the Student Educational Plan, not passively pursuing what already exists.  Perhaps initially, it will be "lesser profile" institutions bidding, but once a market is built, it will be a more efficient way to match student and educational path. Others will join.  

Quality control will be maintained by an open, transparent rating system of the educational bidder, and student participant based on explicit deliverables. 

And yes, there is a role for the public sector and public sector dollars in this model. Public entity support can be shared directly with the student and family, not with the educational bidder (an aspect of flipping the current power dynamic).

A quick note relative to public dollars. Public investment in human capital to prevent the tragedy of our cognitive "commons" is no joke. And as the cost of the prison system has shown us, early investment/prevention/intervention is less expensive than our current mix of bad outcomes. Public money should support any proposed model, but higher ed institutions and their constellations need to be challenged, need more competition, and more dilution of their brand power.

Possible considerations, outcomes, questions? Need a platform. Need to drive interest and aggregate the student profiles, tapping into the talents and expertise of high school college counselors and other mentors to help students build profile and parse bid options. And then, yes, disrupt and get the bidding going and flip the power dynamic. Create a world where students and families have their own brand, and their own choices for which " educational brands" to pay for, support.

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

Have students build an FlippED profile. Invite and survey educational providers, including non-traditional providers -- seeking off the record bid amounts for various profiles and educational plans.

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

Platform design. Strategies to build aggregation and bidder interest. Plan for the bidding process.

This idea emerged from

  • An OpenIDEO meetup

Are you interested in the Path to Pitching track we've developed for this challenge?

  • Yes

Evaluation results

11 evaluations so far

1. Does this idea make college more accessible, especially for low income students in the U.S.?

Yes! - 9.1%

To a degree - 45.5%

Not that I can tell - 45.5%

2. Does this idea think beyond current cost structures of college and activate new sectors or partners?

Yes! - 36.4%

It's attempting to - 36.4%

Not that I can tell - 27.3%

3. How excited are you about this idea?

I'm so excited I just can't hide it! - 9.1%

I'm pretty neutral in my excitement level - 54.5%

I don't feel very excited about this idea. - 36.4%


Join the conversation:

Photo of Meshack Vallesillas

The main weakness I see here comes down to this: People don't know what they don't know. Putting the onus on students to construct their own education saddles students with a new burden. On top of applying for financial aid, keeping grades up, studying for SATs, researching careers, and doing the most important but most often overlooked work of figuring out who they are and who they want to be - and all this while suffering the stresses of living in poverty - this puts an almost impossible task in front of the student. How to optimize an education to fit the needs of a future employer.

I am speaking from my own experience. My parents were divorced, my father was absent, and my mom worked three jobs to support myself and my siblings. Anything to do with my education was on my own shoulders. I consider myself lucky that I had the head on my shoulders that I did. For example, I began forcing myself to listen to the news on NPR around my junior year, even though it was the most boring thing I've ever heard. But I couldn't imagine expecting someone that age to know what is happening in business, the working world and education to expect them to construct their own education plan.

The difference between my own situation and my more privileged peers was that they had a support system in place: Family members that could bring their considerable experience to bear and take on some of the workload of making an education plan (in this case, selecting a college, a major, and a career path).

Your proposal as it stands continues an existing problem in education: corporations or firms have offloaded the responsibility of training their workforce on to the workforce itself.  This is the model of an industrial age that didn't need philosophers and poets, it needed more cogs in the wheel of industry, and it needed those cogs to be merely competent, and thus we have compulsory education.

Higher education has now become almost compulsory, and we should question whether it should be really up to the individual to not only anticipate the future job market and needs of employers, but to pay the cost of training and to shoulder the risk that the pace of technology and changes in the market will not make their hard won skills useless...

Sorry if this sounds ranty, I want to be on the same page with where I am coming from. I think this proposal could be fixed. But it sounds like you thinking of technology first, and relationships second. What if you approach the relationships first, and then technology?

Companies talk about having a skills gap. What if you partnered with one or more companies to find out what the skills gaps are, work on a curriculum to fill that (as you did with your sample Student Education Plan), and then package that as something that can be delivered to students in poverty. This gives the student a clear path toward learning skills and having a job prospect lined up, without increasing the student's already considerable workload.

Photo of Jim

On first reading the FlippED proposal and comments the first thing that popped into my mind was the story of choreographer Gillian Lynne (of "Cats" and "Phantom of the Opera" fame). Here is a quote from Wikipedia...
"Lynne's gift for dancing was discovered by a doctor. She had been underperforming at school, so her mother took her to the doctor and explained about her fidgeting and lack of focus. After hearing everything her mother said, the doctor told Lynne that he needed to talk to her mother privately for a moment. He turned on the radio and walked out. He then encouraged her mother to look at Lynne, who was dancing to the radio. The doctor noted that she was a dancer, and encouraged Lynne's mother to take her to dance school."
Perhaps FlippED's custom, LinkedInPlus educational vision is what brought the Gillian Lynne story to mind.
My gut reaction to the FlippED proposal is that it could "pivot" during the final days of the higher Ed challenge, and shift focus to home in on addressing the potentially millions of Gillian Lynnes out there. Young people with great potential who might benefit from an alternative approach to structuring an educational path.
My initial impression is that FlippED should be scoped down from a universal educational reform to an innovation that focuses on identifying individuals that the current system "misses" and custom crafting an educational path that suits them. 
Of course this challenge has a focus on financing education. So additional refinement of funding ideas could be useful.

Photo of Jeff Fitzmyers

Porter Stansberry called this, “How do we invest in people?” He termed it MeBay. The student offers a percentage of their future earnings for X years in exchange for money now. The primary challenge is that’s totally illegal in many jurisdictions. Therefore people come up with convoluted (and less direct) ways of basically doing the same thing. Another challenge is colleges are the very happy recipients of the US gov willing to indebt anyone with a pulse thousands of dollars to pay schools. (I know a person who has over $300,000 in loans.)

So the design challenge is to accomplish MeBay be offing something so compelling govs and universities have to go along with it either because it’s so cool they can’t resist, and or it would look terrible if they did not.

Photo of John Matthews

I'm trying to get my mind around your idea. I think you're describing a portal that houses people's profiles with their educational desires, where providers of those desires can indicate that they can fulfill them.

Let's say they have 10 educational desires. Are you saying the provider can indicate they can fulfill a certain desire or must compile a comprehensive and customized plan to fulfill all 10 desires? And, if they could fulfill all educational desires, must they grant the student a customized and accredited degree?

I think fulfilling specific educational desires is more realistic. Fulfilling all and granting an accredited degree would not be feasible.

Photo of Hope Connection, Incorporated

If you ask the wrong question you are likely to get the wrong answer, ... or answers. The main reasons lower income youth do not graduate with bachelor degrees, the entry way into the middle class or higher, is that they are not prepared for college and that they are disadvantaged during college.  The ACT board says a score of 22 or above is college ready - it s also the median score for students that go to college. Half the young people who start college are not academically ready for college. Furthermore, it takes a score of 25 to have a good chance of succeeding for a nursing degree, and even higher for engineering. Students who hope to do more demanding careers need to be prepared before they start to lower the risk of failure.

Students that go to a lower income area middle school, start high school a year or more behind students from better performing middle schools, and stay behind their peers - even when they attend the same high school. One year of high school is worth about 2 points on the ACT test.

More than half of students that do graduate with a four-year degree take more than 5 years. That means at least a 25 percent increase in tuition and fees, plus housing and living costs, and a year(or more) of lost wages. Living and housing cost can exceed the cost of tuition for community or state colleges. Even if the school were to give the extra time needed to graduate for free, it would not be free for the student and their family.

If the goal is to make a high impact in getting young people to graduate, a free year of community college, in the town where they live (so that they can stay at home and save cost), would make a great savings for students and their families. They could be tested (with the PERT test for example), and then be placed in classes where they can improve skills they need the most. Yes, this sort of an extra year of high school, but half of all college bound high school graduates need it. If designed well, it could serve as a bridge to college life, teach study skills, and give a more realistic view of what college will be and help the students to develop those college and life skills. Those that like the school might stay on and get an AA or technical degree. PP A reason that male students, especially from working class cultures fail in college, is they are independent,  less likely to work in study groups, and less likely to commiserate.  (They don't realize that everyone is struggling at times, and fell like others are succeeding more easily, and that they don't belong in the game.) These students need to be brought into the game. This will not happen by chance; the schools need to focus on this, perhaps only getting paid for success.  Traditional students that have to work more than half time to support living expenses are also disadvantaged are much less likely to graduate. The have less time and energy to study, they have more difficulty scheduling classes and study sessions.

A free year at community college would also help better prepared students by cutting of a year of cost at a four year school. Often classes during the first year at four year schools are taught by grad students in auditoriums. The teaching is often better at community colleges, and more interactive.

College can be a bargain when one gets a great education and it opens doors to follow the person's dreams, but disaster when a young person fails, looses self-worth, and depletes family resources for naught. A year of free, high quality education to ensure a young person  is prepared would be a great investment by society for its future.

Photo of OpenIDEO

Welcome to the refinement phase Philip! We’re excited by the prospects of how this idea can give students and families more market power to tackle the challenge of affordable education.

Moving forward, we’d love for you to develop the value propositions and and user journey of this idea. In particular, we’d love to learn more about how universities might be incentivized to bid on student profiles. What would be the value proposition for colleges to lower their tuition costs when there is a large pool of candidates who may not need financial support? What would make a potential candidate more valuable to a university during bidding process. Who will be paying for the reduction in tuition and also for the operations of FlippED? With regards to the user experience, we’d love to learn more about what kind of support students might need as they develop their FlippedED profile. What might a typical Student Educational Plan look like? And who are some potential university partners that might be interested in participating in a pilot of this idea?

Here are some key questions and milestones we encourage from all ideas in the Refinement:
1. How might this idea address the unique needs of low-income families and first generation college students?
2. Clearly summarize the value proposition of your idea in 1-2 sentences
3. Identify assumptions that need to be answered in order to validate your value proposition.
4. Collect feedback from potential partners and users to answer the assumptions you’ve identified.
5. Communicate your idea in a visual way with user experience maps

Lastly, here's a useful tip: When you update the content of your post, it'd be helpful to indicate this in your idea title by adding an extension. For example, you can add the extension " - Update: Experience Maps 12/22" to you idea title. This will be a good way to keep people informed about how your idea is progressing!

We’re excited to see this idea progress in the next weeks!

Photo of OpenIDEO

Congrats on making it to the Refinement Phase Philip! In the next few days we'll be sending you additional feedback to help you take this idea forward - so be on the lookout for that. We're looking forward to how this idea will grow!

Photo of Lucy Chen

Very interesting in restructing the 4 year experiences of learning. I look forward to more detailed design into that! I wonder if flippedED profile ultimately be a new form of transcript, if so, I think a mix of academic scores and portfolio would be good. Very willing to contribute to build more details of Student Educational Plan.

Photo of Alexandra Alden

Hi Philip! Alex here from Path to Pitching, really cool idea! I see you've signed up for the Path to Pitching and our interested in pitching to our accelerator partners, that's great! To be pitch ready you need to go out there and validate your idea with users and other stakeholders, have you done any interview yet? Once you have post them up! Next you'll want to start prototyping as soon as possible. Mapping out the user journey through the platform would be a great place to start. Some more business oriented questions: think about how you would make revenue, what is your value proposition to students? to universities? 

We've developed the Human Centered Milestones to help you on the Path to Pitching: 

Photo of Gavin Cosgrave

I really like the idea! The extent of colleges "bidding" for students right now is mostly email and print marketing, and maintaining a good reputation. I also like how the actual college experience is more integrated with real-world skills. In a sense, students are building a "profile" when they apply on the Common App, but of course, only the chosen colleges will view the information. Good thinking!

Photo of Philip Arca

You are right, Common App format is excellent basis to build the Profile. I'd push that a bit further by having the Student schedule out their Educational Plan, year by year, with perhaps various pull down menus that do allow for category selections like Experience (think Americorps or Internship), OnLine Learning, etc..., while essentially guiding the student to specify their educational objectives well have enough to have a plan, and to allow an educational provider and/or broker to bid on the educational package sought. And as I noted, it would be better to for the student to know their budget, potential public subsidy (financial aid) and force the educational provider to bid competitively without that inside knowledge or upper hand of knowing the financial aid package awarded to the student.

Any thoughts on how to quickly aggregate Profiles, spark Bidder interest?

Photo of Shane Zhao

Philip, perhaps there might be some synergy between Flipped and this idea?
Let's Give Scholarships a Face:

Photo of Dj Healy

Great idea with revolutionary potential. Since it's so revolutionary and detracts from current behavior and expectations on the part of both students and the education industry, my initial thought is that there are a lot of hypotheses that needs to be tested. That being said, here are a few things that come to mind that you might need to validate:
1) What kind of support would learners need as they develop their FlippedED profile (e.g. establishing their goal, figuring out steps to achieve it, etc.)
2) How to design education programs and bring together components into one comprehensive program (e.g. will there be multiple education providers serving one client, and, if so, who would be responsible for designing the overall solution)
3) What kinds of education institutions would be interested in participating in a pilot like this. My initial thought is that universities are not a good option simply because they're very conservative/risk averse)

Photo of Trevor z Hallstein

Great to see this coming out of the meetup, Philip.

Photo of Kenneth James

I think this idea is an interesting one. I particularly like the suggestion of the lightweight experimentation to try out in your community. I have two comments/question to explore. First, What is the implication of engaging/linking the businesses (overall or by section, i.e, health care, etc. to the educational institutions in the community in the process? Would this help bring about some clarity for the students about how long things take and what they cost (as offered by David D.).

My second comment/question is related to the "student education plan" outlined as step 2 of 3 above. Affordability, while critical, may also require a different kind of engagement/participation on the part of the community to make this effort success. Is there any value to building into the steps mentors and a support structure to enhance the student's success during and beyond the education funding process?

Photo of David Derryck

If I was a student engaging on this platform, it would be helpful for me to see what some of the educational paths might be and what they cost. In my experience working with HS aged youth, they are sometimes not clued in to how much and how long things take.

Photo of Philip Arca

Points well taken. I would imagine the following:

In this model, there remain key roles for high school and CBO (community based organization) advisors that could work through the platform with a student -- as well as parents when feasible.
The platform that manages the brokering of the bid and the educational relationship would have an array of Templates and Sample Paths to reference.

And once students begin moving through the process, with permission, various actual Student Educational Plans could be shared broadly, to inspire others on possible options for designing a program, or to your point -- providing some reality check information.

Appreciate the comments!

Photo of OpenIDEO

Congrats on this being today's Featured Contribution!