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Renaissance University

Exceptional online education that money can't buy.

Photo of Kaye Han

Written by

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

Humans don't value things unless it is hard to obtain. Online education is cheap and easily accessed, that's why it's perceived as less valuable by students, employers, and society. Therefore, Renaissance University's online education is closed and only accepts students based on intangible qualities; the application process is difficult and rigorous, it can only be completed with effort and time. This completely removes money from the equation yet still creates high perceived value.
  • Brief

Renaissance University's online education is closed; it only accepts students based on intangible qualities for success - completely removing money from the equation. This is counter-intuitive against the usual 'open course' of online education where everything is easily accessible and cheap. The fact that it is too easily obtained is what makes it not valued by students and companies alike. Renaissance University flips the equation upside down. 


Student Applications

The application criteria for acceptance is based on a student's adaptability, response to adversity faced in life, proactivity, enterprising mentality, etc. It has rigorous and difficult application process that can only be accomplished with effort and time. This levels the playing field where coming from a high-income family does not put you any further ahead. Everybody has the same amount of hours per day. That is something that cannot be changed by money or society. 


Teachers, Courses, & Curriculum 

  1. SET ONE (WHY): The online video courses will be created in collaboration with successful entrepreneurs such as Elon Musk, Bill Gates, etc. The opening will be a recorded video narrated by this entrepreneur as it sets the tone for why the material is important. It is the mindset part. 
  2. SET TWO (HOW): The tutorials, class interaction, workshops will be apply the concepts in most MOOCs today of interactivity. This will be the learnings of how you do what you need to do. 
  3. SET THREE (WHAT): Applying the work is the best way it is learnt. As online courses are virtual, Renaissance University will partner with startup accelerators around the world and connect students with startups where they can learn to apply their knowledge. This also increases their work experience and network that normally lacks in online environments. 



UNIQUE ATTRIBUTES 

  • The Renaissance University is closed. You can only be accepted by putting in time and effort into the application process displaying your drive to succeed.
  • As the application process rigorously tests a student's motivation, and makes it difficult to enter, this increases the likelihood of the student graduating once they begin. It is more valuable to the student. 
  • Materials are created and collaborated on with successful entrepreneurs, this increases perceived value of material. 
  • Partner with startups and accelerators around the world to provide for mutual benefit. Startups receive free help. Students receive network, experience, and applied learning in the offline world. 


FEES

The goal to remove money from the equation (or at least make it less important) is to make the landscape more equal; running with the concept that the most valuable things in life, money can't buy. That is, if even the richest kids can't get into this school by buying their way in, it will increase perceived value of this online education, and students will be more motivated to graduate. 

Potential Ways To Cover Fees

1. If a student does not pay any fee, then during the course of their education, they must work for a startup that would be sponsoring their cost. In a way, they are working to gain experience but at the same time paying off their fee via the sponsoring company. The issue would be to get a sponsoring company, which is why the application process would be rigorous and focused on motivated individuals. 

2. Similar to number 1, a large corporation (or group of companies) sponsors a batch of students together. Say 30 students, then these 30 students during the course of their education work on solving problems and improving the large corporation's business. 

3. I don't like this one, but the price could be offset by donations, so they are scholarships. 


CLOSING

Renaissance University does not create ground breaking content, it is changing the perception of online education. It does this by applying human psychology to increase the perceived value of its education; this makes students value it more and strive to graduate, the 'closed/exclusive' nature of it makes it more valuable to future employers/companies, and its association with startup networks makes it content more relevant to the real world. 

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

Speak to startup entrepreneurs, accelerators, etc. if they would be interested in lending their partnership and reputation to co-create the material. Create a landing page and see if students go through the rigorous application process.

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

For accepting applications, what would be some good criteria to measure a person's intangible skills for success, and how would that be evaluated.

This idea emerged from

  • An Individual

10 comments

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Photo of Olive Grey
Team

I think online courses will work just fine; however, universities will have to maintain quality control to ensure courses don't turn out to be fluff. Also, how will schools verify who is actually taking the online course? I can see many students putting in the time and effort and others hiring someone to do so on their behalf. And is the technology truly good enough to deal with all of the interactive work that is now required in today's university environment? Plus, will professors be compensated for all of the extra work required to create and manage an online course?
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Photo of Katerina Bohle Carbonell
Team

Nice idea Rob Han . I suggest you check or talk with someone at Minerva School. They have very rigorous application procedure.  
I would also suggest that you partner the business person with a professor. They have different but complimentary knowledge. It may be a cultural thing, but universities in the Nederland that provide less academic knowledge are perceived as less good. Also students who want to do research for life might also not be attracted. 
Lastly, I agree that everyone has the same hours in a day, but the experiences you had in your life shape what you thing you can do. You might want to add extra support for all applicants (and stimulate to make use of this). 
Forgot to add, working at a startup is not for everyone. It can be chaotic with you having to be able to be autonomous and take the initiative to find tasks to complete. See this https://katerinacb.wordpress.com/2015/10/02/startup-institute

Photo of Denny Wong
Team

Great idea Rob. I have a sneaky feeling that it might just work.

Firstly, are somewhat helping 'startups' or the industry by doing a sort of pre-selection. I have very similar idea on 'financing' the model with you no.1 and no.2 - I would even considering upping the bar by paying the student to attend the school - because we are certain that the accumulated value that they will be creating during the course is higher than the cost of setting up the program.

Secondly, 50% of the success factor will be at the selection phase - meaning that the success rate per applicant would naturally be low, meaning you would need an audience of good quality to start with. The selection criteria would indeed need to be clarify - and completely different compared to 'conventional' program. I believe there are many literatures out there that tries to predict success (tested or hypotheses) that we can inspired from - starting on individual life journey (historic and present), achievement and self awareness. 

Thirdly, by removing/isolating money from quality - the yardstick to measure could be meaningful life experience for the individual and the community around them. Any outcome would need to be anchored to a community or mission that speaks to the individual - hence, also the acknowledgement from the community.

I am working on my project - AkaSchool and would be happy to share the application process or criteria that we are considering to use.  

Photo of Jim
Team

...the university doesn't need to be free. If students can prove that they have the character to succeed, and what is taught aligns with industry needs, employers will be lined up waiting to hire them.

Photo of Jim
Team

I suggest focus on the core idea that students must prove that they have dispositions for success such as grit, perseverance, and self-agency. Define the (online) tools with which students will earn the admission.

Rather than also try to design the learning model, team up and pair your core idea with innovative designs for online delivery. With that team consider what makes other highly selective colleges like Minerva different, and what design elements cost-effectively achieves learning outcomes.

Photo of Priya Arya
Team

Hi Rob. This is an interesting idea, and my brain is flooding with questions, so please don't mind if I laundry-list them at random. It seems that this is unique because of its application process, but it is not clear what that process is and how it would be any different from something as rigorous as applying to professional school. Perhaps you are developing ideas in that arena. Perhaps it is also unique because of its primary hands-on focus? Nonetheless, I wonder how this idea is different from Venture for America and similar programs. Is it kind of like an invitation for individuals from all walks-of-life and interests to come and get their hands dirty in any field or capacity that they find interesting?

Also, when you say money is out of the picture, do you mean that it is no longer a factor involved in whether or not one chooses to apply to Renassaince University? What are the costs for such a university and who will pay for them if not the students? I know you may or may not have the answers to the question at this time, but I just figured I would pose them anyway.

Interesting idea, Rob!

Photo of Kaye Han
Team

Great questions, Priya. This idea is barely formed in my head, I figured it's best to work together on it with the community to refine it to something better. Answering your hardest question first: to completely remove money from the application process, I have a few ideas.

1. If a student does not pay any fee, then during the course of their education, they must work for a startup that would be sponsoring their cost. In a way, they are working to gain experience but at the same time paying off their fee via the sponsoring company. The issue would be to get a sponsoring company, which is why the application process would be rigorous and focused on motivated individuals.

2. Similar to number 1, a large corporation (or group of companies) sponsors a batch of students together. Say 30 students, then these 30 students during the course of their education work on solving problems and improving the large corporation's business.

3. I don't like this one, but the price could be offset by donations, so they are scholarships.

In regards to your other questions: it is similar to Venture for America, except that it takes on tertiary level education. From my understanding, Venture for America focuses on people who have already graduated. So it's combining online university education with the startup community.

The goal to remove money from the equation (or at least make it less important) is to make the landscape more equal; running with the concept that the most valuable things in life, money can't buy. That is, if even the richest kids can't get into this school by buying their way in, it will increase perceived value of this online education.

The application process from what I understand of professional schools focuses on two parts: what's your grade and can you pay the bill. It's not rigorous at all in my experience. It's focused entirely on your academic performance. With this idea, it's about switching the focuses to be more on where has this candidate displayed proactivity in their life? Where have they been entrepreneurial? When have they faced extreme adversity, how did they react, and did they persevere?

How do we validate these attributes is where it'll be difficult haha. Looking for input and ideas here! :)

Photo of Priya Arya
Team

Your feedback did provide some clarity, so thanks Rob. I will definitely look to add any input I can soon. Great work!

Photo of Sandrina Pinto
Team

Thanks Rob. This is a good idea. The question presented by Priya in regards to the costs is also interesting.

Photo of Kaye Han
Team

Cheers, Sandrina! Yeah it's a difficult one. It would be awesome to make it as close to free as possible. The idea is to remove the association of quality to money completely. I answered some of the questions in my comment to Priya, would love to hear your insight!