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Reverse Innovation

Let's design high quality education that is affordable

Photo of Katerina Bohle Carbonell
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The Harvard Business Review published an article about how a team at MIT invented a wheel chair for the developing world: Instead of taking a wheel chair made for the US and take away all frills and comfort to be able to produce it cheaper, they created a wheel chair for that market in mind. The result was a wheel chair so good, that they added things to make it attractive looking for the US market and sell it at a high margin.

Point is, instead of trying to make the current education cheaper so that everyone can afford it, let's start from scratch and make a university that provides high quality education at a low costs (e.g. $ 2000 tuition per year). If we want to provide high quality education, we need to start using learning theory when designing courses, no matter if they are online or offline. 

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

Throw away all your idea about what a university is, and thing about what it should be.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Xiaofan Liang

I really like this notion of reverse engineering. Rather than focusing on breaking down existing systems and the causes, we should keep the low-cost option in mind and ask the most basic question of what does education mean and what does modern education look like. I am currently in an alternative school called Minerva ( and it fits as an example. It's indeed low-cost, but low-cost is not the original intention of this university, but more like a side product. The more important question to ask is what education do people want.

Photo of Katerina Bohle Carbonell

Hello Xiaofan. I'm involved in a research project with Amber Dailey- Hebert (Park University, and Minerva is on our list of interview partners. I'm looking forward to the talk.
While I do find their concept very interesting, if I remember it correctly, with a price tag of $10 000 (exc. board) it is not what I consider affordable. The median income in 2013 (inflation adjusted) was just above $50 000, with huge differences between ethnic group and gender and age of main household holder ( But I do thing that you'll get more value for your dollars than at other universities.

Photo of Xiaofan Liang

Hi Katerina. I tried to look up your research project, but it seems fuzzy to me on the website, so I am just curious about what you are researching right now. Also, I compared the price with international student tuition fee in state, so that's why it is so "cheap" for me, but not necessarily for the local. However, I do think most of the tuition goes to the place it should be such as paying professors and curriculum development. Also, I would like to hear some critique about Minerva if you conclude any after the interviews~ It helps me to stay mindful. Thanks~

Photo of Katerina Bohle Carbonell

Hello Xiaofan, the link was a webpage from my colleague, Amber. We are just in the beginning of the research. As a researcher our ideas is our intellectual copyright. I don't feel safe to share it here in public and some evil people do steel ideas. If you want to know what comes out of it, connect with me on linkedin (

I agree with you that your money is being used to improve your education. As far as I know you don't need to pay for fancy fitness rooms, sports team, and other non teaching and non research related activities and buildings.

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