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Project On: Reimagine course cost structure based on project-based learning

In last two years of college, students pay course materials fee and optional advising fee for all courses, which replace exams with projects

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

Facing the ever-changing world, students need to skillfully direct their own learning to move beyond controlled classroom scenario. That is why PBL (project-based learning) is ever important in educating students how to think. Professor, in this case, is more like a content provider and a mentor, thus, the student fee for course should be structured that way. Students should be granted a choice to look for mentor themselves outside the class and not paying for the advising fee for prof.

【Greater Context】

1 Lectures are not the way to learn.  -> Essential PBL (Project Based Learning is the right way to go).

2 Academia and the corporate world are disconnected in a lot of ways:

    a. Hiring is costly and inefficient. Looking at GPA is not the right way to hire.  -> Student projects provide a deeper and higher explanation power about what a candidate can really create. 

    b. Students learn too little about how to think and how to create. They enter the industry to follow and take years for them to gain 'creator' mindset to think for complex challenges.

    c. Training is expensive. 

3 Student tuition are not transparent. Students, especially undergraduates, should be paying to the necessary parts from which they receive benefits. 

【How does it work?】

In Junior and Senior year, all student 

    A. a framework to produce PBL course in a more efficient manner to lower the cost of course design,

    An analogy would be OpenIDEO platform: given the framework of several steps in idea creation, we only need to worry about content change for every new challenge. 

    B. $ student pay for a course = $course content material + $ advising(Optional)

    In addition to lower cost of course design, students have opportunities to pay even less for the class, if they can find the mentors outside school, recognized by the course professor. Therefore, each PBL course would not need too many mentors, whose salary may comprise a huge part of the course cost. 


1 Significantly decrease the tuition cost for students in Junior and Senior years through: 

   a. replacing all exam-oriented courses to project-based courses

   b. producing PBL courses at the lowest courses 

   c. mobilizing the intellectual powers outside academia to mentor

       students as advising fee for course professors is optional 

2 Promote PBL and project-based transcript to bridge the disconnect between academia and industry:

   a. encouraging project-based transcript as a more concrete way to    

       identify students' competencies and potentials, so to:

                i. better the hiring process

                ii. save companies in professional training 

                iii. prepare more talent to solve complex challenges

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【Questions to think about】

1 If we look deeper in the repetitive and most costly part of professional training, we can incorporate the findings into designing the PBL framework.

Curiosity Has no Cure

Stay tuned! 

More to update soon:  

【Stakeholder Analysis】 

【Prototype for PBL production framework】

【Sample PBL course design with more details】

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

1 I believe PBL should be adopted in all disciplines but portfolio-based transcript are more acceptive in certain field. Design -> Humanities(History, Philosophy, etc) -> Sciences (Physics, Maths, etc) We will find PBL classes existing in college, preferably non-design classes. We will work on a framework to produce PBL courses to decrease the cost per course and propose to the college curriculum development board. 2 Assess student job performance who have participated in multiple PBL courses

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

1 More research on funding/income for professors and their research, especially how much of that comes from undergraduate tuition 2 More research to support PBL help students connect their learning to real world practice 3 More testimony from the academia and corporate(esp. human resources) to support project-based transcript, portfolio, are more beneficial than course score-based transcript Please send me your ideas regarding the questions posted earlier!

This idea emerged from

  • A group brainstorm
  • An OpenIDEO meetup

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

  • Yes


Join the conversation:

Photo of Joel Gingery

Hi again, Lucy,
FYI, just want to share an interesting and comprehensive review that may help put this IDEO contest in perspective: "Harnessing the Power of Information Technology: Open Business Models in Higher Education." and "The Future of the University: Speculative Design for the Future."

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