Future Stanford: Time Traveling for Better Design

Last year, after a serendipitous meeting with a newfound friend, Erik Olesund, we decided to team up on a workshop with his team at Stanford’s d.school and the FEED collaborative.

That workshop, entitled “Designing the Future of Higher Education,” served as a crash course in design thinking, a brainstorming session about education reform, and an overall launching point to experiment with ideas about the future of universities, education models, and students. It was a surreal experience, and the time with Erik, Sariah Triolo, Denis Willett, Matthew Rothe, and Debra Dunn sparked something in me that still burns today.

During that time, I caught wind of a project called @Stanford––a collaborative, interactive effort that worked to frame how d.school students might benefit from immersive learning experiences in new contexts. That’s exactly what we’re exploring through Experience Institute: the intersection between experience and education.

@Stanford sought to redefine how paradigm shifts in key areas like libraries, accreditation, and experiential learning would impact the future of higher ed. It inspired a flurry of open conversations amongst students, professors, and even David Kelly himself. In a time when information is immediately accessible and people can communicate across continents at any given moment, what’s possible for the world of higher education? How can we address flaws in higher education’s current design? In what ways can we incorporate advances in technology and changes in the way we live to create a better model for learning? Several of these questions were surfacing amongst my friends and mentors as we were creating the framework for Ei.

Through @Stanford, design education giants created a platform where thinkers could freely dream about countless possibilities and then filter those dreams into more communicable concepts, posing real solutions to current problems in today’s traditional model of higher education. Recently, the work developed through @Stanford culminated in an experiential exhibit and website called Stanford 2025. I made the trip to Stanford to join them for the final presentation. Just like every other trip to the d.school, the team was hard at work creating something remarkably creative and profoundly meaningful.

Through this interactive exhibit, Stanford 2025 generated four possible future paths for higher education: Open Loop University, Paced Education, Axis Flip, and Purpose Learning.

Each possible future was accompanied by an introductory video and a breakdown of the changes and projected benefits. (In fact, if you watch closely during the Purpose Learning video, you can see footage of Ei students and activities!). As we experiment with this new type of higher education committed to teaching through experience, I hope to learn from and implement the ideas inspired by Stanford 2025’s proposals. We’ve already begun by advising our crew of learners to choose a mission or question before each term. Even better, we envision Experience Institute as a place where students can loop back in at any point in their lives to continue the process of lifelong learning in a valuable way. And that’s only the beginning: the possibilities continue to grow as we continue to learn.

As you can tell, there’s a lot that we can take away from Stanford 2025 project. More than anything, however, we continue to be grateful for and inspired by the d.school’s team. They are a stellar crew and their invitation for Ei to collaborate with them shows a character that each of us at Ei hope to exemplify as we continue experimenting alongside higher ed’s modern-day pioneers.

Here’s to a bright future.