Project Launch: @Stanford with the d.school

Last week, we announced a new collaboration with Stanford's d.school. You can read the details here, but in short, Ei is teaming up with the design education giants on a class that's focused on exploring the future of higher education. It's called @Stanford and it's backed by one of the most stellar teaching teams around. Currently, the class is seeking to redefine how four key areas will shift and impact the future of higher ed:

  • The Library
  • Resident's Life
  • Accreditation
  • Experiential Learning

Each area has a team of students, two team leaders, and five weeks to present their current problems, potential solutions, assumptions, and possible future experiments.

After a week of brainstorming, each group was given a time/day to launch their project with the rest of the class. This made for an exciting array of presentations, exercises, theatrics, and challenging questions.

For our team, specifically, we've decided to unpack three main areas surrounding experiential education:

  1. How can a student better define their motivations and learning objectives for higher education?
  2. How does a student choose or create experiences that best fit those objectives?
  3. How can someone best relay an experiential learning journey to peers and/or future employers?

Colleen, our "Process Lead," and the four Stanford students have taken time to ask questions about Ei's Founding Class to find what has and hasn't been working. We're using these learnings to give us a 'head start' on the questions above.

Then, for our launch presentation on Wednesday, we invited the entire @Stanford class to the d.school for an interactive session around our three questions.

2013-10-30 12.17.24
2013-10-30 12.17.24

We began by asking each person about their own motivations for attending their undergraduate or graduate programs. Each individual was given a stack of options to sort in order of importance.

Then, we divided the class into five groups and asked them to envision a "Rockstar" Engineer, Entrepreneur, or Teacher to tackle the second question of "how to choose or create experiences…" In classic d.school style, we handed out stacks of sticky notes and told each group to choose one of those professions and list every possible experience that led to a successful and accomplished career.

"Where did your "Rockstar" go? Who did they meet? What did they learn and how? etc."

The stories were spectacular, fun, and insightful. Hardly anyone mentioned a traditional university context. There were grand stories about opportunities to work with certain leaders, create meaningful work, and endure certain struggles.

On a personal note, this was incredibly surreal. Two years ago, I was doing this very exercise for myself as I began thinking about Leap Year Project and how I could create my own version of a Master's based on experiences. Now I was watching an entire classroom of bright, passionate, caring people do the very same thing -- all in the hopes of finding a way to make this type of thinking more widespread. It was a moment I'll never forget.

Finally, we asked them to choose the six most valuable experiences to present in a storyboard format. This gave us a glimpse into ways we could replace traditional modes of accreditation with portfolios, references, and even storyboards.

The entire launch was a great exercise, showing us where we needed to refine our focus and what aspects are on the right track. Also, attending the other group launches revealed a slew of questions and ideas I had never considered. The students, the team leads, and the @Stanford crew have created a platform for us to freely dream about the possibilities.

And, though we know we are only scratching the surface, each group is packed with energy and doused in hope that these small projects may someday be used to improve how we educate, empower, and connect the next generation of leaders and creatives.

I could write a novel about the rest of my time here and the amazing people who have been gracious enough to share a conversation or brainstorm about Ei with me. But, for now, just know these are great steps forward for everyone involved. And, they're just the beginning.