Thanks, Joel! I completely agree. Partnering with NGO/NPOs to offer project-based learning activities around real social problem-solving would be a win-win.
Maybe a ProjectHub + Hybrid Learning Model, where college becomes a permanent hackathon?! There could be a GitHub-like intranet where NGOs/NPOs can post social project opportunities. Educators and experts work together to compile a list of pre-requisite courses that students must complete in order to participate in a given challenge. The project board could be populated with challenges that are specifically relevant to the local community. Community members could use some sort of upvote system to indicate the most pressing challenges facing their community. Local businesses/corporations can choose to sponsor individual challenges (providing funds, tools, mentorship, facilities, expert assistance, etc…) to support the students and, as a result, the entire community.
Students monitor the Project Board, "Wish List" projects of interest, identify courses that would qualify them for the most projects on their Wish List, then take those courses with a mission in mind (a la Denny Wong 's Start with the end in mind contribution). This way, there’d be no question of “how would I ever use this in the real world?” A student can directly apply the subject-matter s/he's learning about in a pre-req class with the project s/he's planning to work on, or the larger social challenge s/he wants to solve. Even a topic like Biology might be relevant for any sort of systemic design project (e.g. biomimicry as a core innovation concept: http://bit.ly/1JdjL0N).
These pre-reqs could be offered on-demand, in an online format — maybe a list of recommended MOOCs from a broad range of learning platforms and universities that students can choose from (as opposed to offering a limited selection of university-specific courses).
These online courses (MOOCs) might not even need to be accredited; it could be up to the coach/project leader/school admins to determine whether or not a student is ready to participate in that challenge. Maybe the teacher could require a reflection essay — “What will you do with what you learned?” — in which the student articulates what s/he learned from the MOOC, and how s/he'd apply it this new-found knowledge to the project challenge s/he's applying for.
This would lead to more student-directed/student-controlled learning, and be more about earning badges to qualify for a project team than the more tedious process of box-checking core classes. And also, kind of like Cathy Moore’s "Action Mapping Model" for Competency Based Education that Andrew Choflet referenced in Reconnecting purpose with placement . It’s also kind of a “design your own curriculum” model, which is cool.
There’d have to be some form of physical “Learning Center(s)” that provides broadband and computers for the students to take these courses (in case they don’t already have their own, or their home residence isn’t conducive to learning) and that are accessible 24/7 (or as close to that as possible). And there’d need to be on-prem subject-matter experts (mentors) who could answer any questions and engage in any discussions about the MOOC course content. Which means, as you and others have pointed out, I think Community Colleges would have to play a central role in this system.
Aaaand I’m getting completely carried away here... but I think this incorporates both of your suggestions. Whaddya think?
Just CCed you on another post in reference to this contribution.
On a slightly different note, I'm confused about a few aspects of this proposal:
<<...create a program that pairs students with employers, and provides in-class education to those students only in areas that both the employer and student deem appropriate>>
Q1: What's the assessment criteria for determining the appropriateness of a certain class?
--- <<Pair small but strong companies with high school graduates of good merit...>>
Q2. Would this be available to all high school grads of good merit, or limited to grads from certain income brackets?
--- <<...there are two major problems with the higher education system right now. One is that there exist people with great potential that will never see that potential realized because they don't have any means of paying the money it takes to get moving.>>
Q3: How might companies assess untapped potential in bright young minds who may have lacked the support network needed to excel in high school?
PS - I realize just how how annoying these Qs are, so please feel free to ignore them!