MOOCs for Community Developers in 2015

MOOCs! Massive Online Open Courses are university courses offered online to the public. Thousands or even a hundreds of thousands of students can register for each course from all over the world for free.

A year ago, I signed up for a MOOC on how to design online courses…and it was terrible. It wasn’t clear how to engage with the content, teachers or students and I soon lost interest. Rightly so, there are plenty of folks talking about MOOC’s failures. That being said, there were likely tens of thousands of people enrolled around the world that gained valuable learnings for free. So, not all bad?

I recently saw a post on 260 MOOCs starting this January 2015 on OpenCulture.com . Sifting through, I assembled a smaller list of MOOCs starting in January 2015 for community developers like you! In case you were wondering, the courses are a bit light on advocacy. You won’t find “Revolution 101” here. Sorry :)

Free Courses Credential Key
CC = Certificate of Completion
CA = Certificate of Accomplishment
HCC – Honor Code Certificate
VC$ = Verified Certificate
VCA$ = Verified Certificate of Accomplishment
SA  = Statement of Accomplishment
SP$ = Statement of Participation
CM = Certificate of Mastery
NI – No Information About Certificate Available
NC = No Certificate

 

Education

Online Learning

Facilitation

Entrepreneurship

Sustainable Development

Food

Health

Democracy

International Development

Organizational Development

5 lessons for teenagers considering university (from the future you)

Hey there,

It’s me – yourself, in the future. I think a lot about education these days. And I am still paying off the debt we incurred during the undergraduate degree you are considering attending. I wanted to send you this letter from the future to help you consider your next steps.

I remember what it was like to be you at 17. You told yourself that you didn’t really know what you wanted to do with your life, but you actually knew quite a bit at the time. You were doing some pretty neat stuff that you’ll like talking about in the future, when you’re me. These experiences were all very important, so keep it up. Soon you will have to start make some decisions about what will happen after highschool.

I know what you’re thinking: “I can’t stay in my hometown. I want to get away. It will just be like highschool if I stay. If I don’t go to university, I will end up a loser.” I know you’re excited about going to university  – and that’s a great feeling to have. Think of the parties! Doing whatever you want! Your plan will look like this: go to university, get a good paying job, pay off the student debt easy, become the boss.

Spoiler alert! It doesn’t work out that way.

Here are my best tips for you, as someone who has lived your life. I hope these might change your ideas about going to university and your next steps after highschool.

1) Take a break, but keep learning.

You have been stuck in an institution for 13 years. You need some time to process what you have seen, and to figure out what things you like and what things you don’t like. You’ve done a lot, but there are pieces missing that you won’t find in a university syllabus. Did you know that you could work on an organic farm anywhere in the world through Woofing? Did you know that there are programs like Canada World Youth where you can live and volunteer across Canada and abroad? What about Folk High Schools? You can kick it to Norway, learn Norwegian, go mountain climbing and study world peace – no tuition needed (it’s actually illegal to charge). No. You did not consider it.  It was never an option. It may not look well with your friends or your parents to not go to university, but the alternate experiences you can find are a real asset that they won’t have.

2) Learn for free.

Go to university… for free. Visit any university and start looking through the undergraduate courses they offer – even graduate programs. Go with your friends who are in the classes and paying full price. Speak to the professor directly: tell them that you’re interested in their course and would like to audit it. Chances are they will say yes. You will find out:1) whether or not you like the topic; 2) if you like how universities teach; and, 3)about other students who are interested in similar careers. Lastly, universities are always hosting speakers from around the world for special events that are often only promoted to the university. Often, they’re free. Go for it.

3) Home work and travel work.

In the future, you will be paying for your own housing. Your own place! It’s exciting. But you know what’s even better? Not paying for rent. It’s expensive. I know living at home with your parents is a bummer. But one thing your parents can easily offer you, for at least a short time, is their  roof! They might ask you to pitch in here and there, but compared to living on your own – you will save a lot of money. Keep that crappy job you had before for a few more months, and pick up odd jobs while you’re at it. This can help you get out with a plan in hand.

Yes, get out and work some more! There are so many ways that you can earn money for the adventurer in you. You’ve got connections. Spend 6 months asking about connections around the world and I bet you’ll find something great. Work at a Hostel. Go Tree Planting.  Pick fruit in New Zealand.  It’s easier than you think for someone with energy, a good back and willingness to travel.

After that, you can go to university or commit to another direction, with money saved and no debt.

4) Hang around with successful, remarkable people.

This is hard. I know you want to be cool and hang around with cool people. But cool people at 17 are not always cool later in life. I’m not asking you to stop hanging around people who you think are cool, cold turkey. However, do consider that there is a lot to learn from people of any age. Connections with people older and younger – and people who are not like you – will be enriching and useful your whole life. The more you hang around with successful, remarkable people, the more you will be successful and remarkable.

5) Reflect and set goals.

Later in your life you might hear yourself talking about setting goals, reflecting on your needs, and blah blah blah. I know you think this lame as a 17-year old. But please, give it a try.

  • Write two lists: First,  write down everything you are good at.   Second, write down everything you like doing. Then, check out your lists. You might be surprised by the different and exciting combinations of the two lists.

This very basic step will guide you in your 17-year old life. It also helps you be unique. In the future there will be so many jobs that don’t exist in your present. Find your unique mix and soon you’ll be making up your own job. Also, try this exercise out every couple years as your ideas, opinions and interests will change – yep, change is a constant.

  • Next, think of something you want to accomplish in the next few months – or even half year. Write it down. Write down a few month-long goals. Then write down the steps you think you’ll need to accomplish each goal.
  • Find someone who can check in with you and be your “accountability buddy”. Ask them to help you keep on track.

Do this often.

Best of luck for you and your future. I am proud of you.

All my best,

You.

 

 

The Future of Education p.1

The past week I have been able to listen in on some great conversations about the future of education. The first was a presentation at MaRS Discovery District titled An Avalanche is Coming: The future of higher education by  Sir Michael Barber, Katelyn Donnelly, Saad Rizvi, and University of Toronto president, David Naylor. The report they spoke about is available for free here.

The general context was laid out: the economy is changing, people are not getting the jobs they want out of degrees, people can find content anywhere, credentials are not what they were before, people are finding social experiences elsewhere, costs of universities are high and the internet is changing everything about traditional education institution as well as our understanding of the purpose of higher education.

Nothing new here. I came to the presentation thinking it would be a bunch of university presidents defending how the universities will stay strong and are at the centre of “innovation” instead of admitting truthfully that the university was a dead system.  Fortunately I was very delighted to hear how universities are changing/ will change/ must change. The researchers focused on 5 “university models” of the future: The Elite University, The Mass University, Niche University, the Local University and the lifelong learning mechanism. Here are some excerpts from their report which highlight two models which most interest me the most:

Model 2: the mass university

By taking advantage of globally-developed content and adapting it for their own students, mass universities will be able to provide a good education for the rapidly growing global middle class (and others) who recognise that a high school education is not enough to provide a passport to the jobs of the future.

These universities will use predominantly online or blended approaches (provided perhaps in traditional collaboration with respected institutions) and cater to hundreds of thousands of students at a time. These students will increasingly see that greater value for money and time is offered by these institutions compared to attending a mid- to low-tier university. The variety of courses and learning opportunities will extend far beyond what is offered at a traditional bricks and mortar college, allowing students to customise and build their learning according to their personal interests and passions over a period of time that suits them best. The mass university offerings will also increasingly extend into the realm of real-world workplace skills, supplementing their faculty with practitioners from business and other fields who will see the relationship with a university as bringing prestige, but also access to well-educated talent.

Due to the nature of the industry, there will be rapid consolidation of the online providers, with only the strongest players left standing. At the same time, many middle- to low-tier universities will have to disband or adapt as they become irrelevant.

Some mass universities will emerge from among the classic 20th century universities in the developed world – shutting their physical doors and moving entirely online as we’ve seen happen in the newspaper business. Others will be found in the newly-developed world; perhaps, for example, in Brazil which has placed itself at the forefront of developments in online higher education. Some will be for-profit, others not. Some will be predominantly vocational, others will be broader.

Model 5: the lifelong learning mechanism

Nandan Nilekani, one of the founders of the highly successful Indian company Infosys, has taken on a project for the Indian government with immense implications. Its goal is to register as many of the 1.2 billion people in India as possible on a database in the cloud. Already around 300 million are registered. Now imagine that those 300 million could add their educational and career achievements and qualifications to the database. Imagine, too, that some of them sign up for a mentoring programme with an organisation that specialises purely in that. Imagine that others take a series of modules from different academic institutions around India and the world and find yet another institution to accredit that combination of courses as a degree, perhaps because yet another organisation has provided an assessment, using the best computer game technology, that really tests not just deep learning of content, but problem-solving and leadership skills and/or potential.

Here we would have people who had successfully completed higher education without ever attending a university, who draw on a range of services, most of which are not provided by a university. It is a plausible scenario, and there are others. Universities around the world have been awarding honorary doctorates for exceptional performance in a wide variety of fields for decades – it’s plausible to think that this idea could be extended for bachelors and masters degrees as well. Many successful business entrepreneurs, for example, have proven themselves in the real world and acquired more relevant knowledge than that conferred by a traditional business degree.

Take Natalie Warne, whose story was told in the New York Times in November 2012.Natalie, the paper says, is:

‘A poised 22-year-old from Chicago, she stepped off the college track after high school to “hack” her education which to her meant travelling the country to protest atrocities in war-torn Uganda. It started with a gap-year internship after high school with a charity called Invisible Children where she acquired experience in public speaking, event co-ordinating and film editing (she eventually appeared on Oprah). Finding satisfaction, she stretched her gap year into two, and two became three. While speaking at a TED conference, she met Dale J Stephens, the founder of the group called UnCollege that champions ‘more meaningful’ alternatives to college. Her plans for college are off for now. “Experience has proved to be a far better teacher in my life than any book, classroom or educator,” she said.’ Maxim Gorky would have been proud of her.

There are countless other success stories of college dropouts, from Richard Branson to Steve Jobs to Mark Zuckerberg, none of whom completed a university programme, but who have changed the world. But in each of these examples of success, the entrepreneur made a significant lifelong investment in learning.

 

Their report on the Lifelong learning mechanism mentions Dale Stephens from UnCollege . He has become a leader in the “hackademic” movement which I am a big fan of. I hope to give my thoughts about the future of education which speaks about Dale Stephens new book “Hacking your Education” in an upcoming post.

How do you think Universities will change?

 

Folk High Schools

When I started my Masters in Adult Education and Community Development, I had unique interest which would take me deep into the 150 year history of alternative education and its connection to Canadian adult education system as well as a study trip to Sweden to study Folk High Schools.

So what are folk high schools exactly? Here’s a short piece of my work (with super power house edits by Ashleigh Dalton) which was recently published in the Global Citizen Digest and can be viewed here all cleaned up and ready to go. Here is the text with a few extra photos of my own.

 

Grundtvig’s Yippies: Sweden’s innovative folk high school creates space for global learners

“The best way to learn about YIP would be to live it yourself”, Reinoud Meijer, the Program Coordinator for the International Youth Initiative Program (YIP) suggested to me over Skype. Within a week of that brief conversation across the Atlantic Ocean, I arrived in the small Swedish village of Ytterjärna to experience firsthand what Meijer was talking about. In Ytterjärna resided the centre of YIP, an innovative education model with an undaunted aim to change the world.  My task of the trip: to uncover what appeared to be the creative blend of a gap-year program, social entrepreneurship training and global education.

Folk High Schools

YIP is based on the Scandinavian community college model called folk high schools. They emerged from the vision of Danish Bishop N. F. S. Grundtvig as a humanistic model of adult education that would counter what he saw as a problematic contemporary education system. Grundtvig referred to existing Scandinavian educational institutions of early nineteenth century as “schools for death”, claiming that they taught dead subjects, dead language and “deadened the students who were forced to endure them” (Davis, 1971, p. 27).  In contrast to ‘standard’ post-secondary institutions like universities and colleges, folk high schools require no exams, offer no diplomas, and express an explicit commitment to dialogue and student-centred curriculum (Toivianen, 1995; Paulston, 1980).  Instead, folk high schools are small post-secondary residential learning centres that emphasize creating a sense of community and captivating learners into engaging with civil society. The result of Grundtvig’s efforts and persistence for a ‘School for Life’ was the opening of the first folk high school in 1844 in Denmark.

Folk high schools are immensely popular in Scandinavia, attended by approximately one hundred thousand students each year (Bagley & Rust, 2009). Currently, more than three hundred folk high schools exist in Scandinavia, each with their own governing body and funding (ibid). Most notably, folk high schools do not charge participants tuition or costs that are not directly related to their living and material costs. Folk high schools are typically promoted to youth aged 18 to 25 years of age as a transitional year for personal development before focusing on a professional or academic career (Toivianen, 1995).  Courses vary widely, focusing on such curriculum as the arts, outdoor leadership, religious studies and organic agriculture (“Folkehogskole,” 2011). All folk high schools have a focus on advancing democratic and social participation (ibid).

 

Conversations of Yippies about community development

Anthroposophical Beginning

Although Grundtvig’s folk high schools influenced adaptations in Sweden, it was Rudolph Steiner’s anthroposophy that eventually inspired the emergence of YIP. Anthroposophy, translated as human wisdom, has led to Waldorf education, as well as holistic practices in farming, medicine and business. Following a decade of meetings, conferences and conversations by Waldorf youth and educators, the initial concept for a post-secondary international service-training program was formed. While its formation is interlinked with the lives of its anthroposophically-educated organizing staff, YIP is committed to exploring multiple perspectives and forces that shape society including Steiner’s philosophy and its applications.

The core curriculum of YIP is based on social entrepreneurship principles, understanding current global issues, and as the name Youth Initiative Program implies, encouraging initiative amongst its participants. Each week, students or “yippies” as they affectionately call themselves, are immersed in a different field of focus taught by international experts and innovators in the field. Previous facilitators to YIP have included former presidential candidate of the Phillipines Nicanor Perlas, and founding publisher of Utne Magazine Eric Utne. Weekly topics have ranged from the most recent trends in social media innovation, facilitation processes, sustainable building design and political economics to traditional practices of storytelling, portrait painting and theatre. Meijer likes to say that although YIP is a yearlong program, “it takes a lifetime to digest”.

YIP offers a full day intensive residential program for youth aged 18 to 25. Situated 55 kilometres south of Stockholm, Sweden, YIP sits on the expansive Järna Fjord which connects to the Baltic Sea. Since beginning in August 2008, YIP has graduated over 75 participants from 20 different countries. The 2010/11 semester will produce its third graduating class, with 40 participants from 18 countries, including three Canadians.

The Living Word

A critical focus of YIP, and folk high schools in general, is what Grundtvig termed the “Living Word”, the process of learning within the present moment. According to Lawson (2000), the Living Word describes the use of dialogue between the teacher and learner where the teachings remain alive within the teacher and are based in the learners’ reality and interests. The method of teaching is often centred on workshops that emphasize group work. This process allows teachers to support and guide students’ individual learning processes (Toivianen, 1995). Contrary to a lecture style of teaching, dialogue helps both the learner and teacher to name their current reality and come to common understandings, and encourages social transformation and equality (Freire, 1970).  Bolivian participant Joaquin Zambrana explained the value of youth learning for themselves: “(YIP Staff) give tools, knowledge, things you can use to build what you want to built, but it is always up to you”.

A frequent practice of folk high schools is its focus on inner narrative. Bugge (1983) suggests Grundtvig aimed to “make people conscious of what they are”, “what they have to do”, and “what it all means” (Bugge, 1983, p. 19). Similarly, folk high school learners are often at a time of transition and are offered space to discover what is true to themselves and their place in society (Toivianen, 1995). In Scandinavia, not surprisingly, most applicants are recent public school graduates seeking to grow individually, socially and academically (“Folkehogskole,” 2011). YIP puts a special emphasis on supporting each participant’s personal journey with an organizing staff specialized in counseling and autobiographical work. Moreover, the most recent research testifies that folk high school students report that their experience helped them to “dare to be themselves” (Knut & Solhaug, 2010, p.80) in a way that supports reflection, personal maturation, confidence building and self worth (ibid).

At YIP – biodynamic farms surround the campus

International Youth Initiative Program

When I arrived into the YIP, I found the yippies picking apples, building fences and renovating walls. Their first month involved hands-on tasks that focused on community engagement and asset-based community development (ABCD). Led by urban researcher Kiara Nagel from the United States and designer of cooperative games for social change Edgard Gouveia Júnior from Brazil, yippies split into groups to make the dreams of the local residents a reality. Using the metaphorical “glass half full” approach of ABCD, yippies attempted to use the skills and knowledge held within themselves and the local community, rather than depending on outside financial support. For example, one resident of Ytterjärna wanted a public space for local sheep to graze. Discovering local community bureaucracy, finding resources, negotiating with neighbours and learning the methods of woodwork – the yippies were introduced to a microcosm of the process required for social change. Learning through engagement with local community issues and creating space for reflection with dynamic facilitators makes up what I would call YIP’s Living Word.

It is often noted by researchers of Grundtvig and folk high schools that learners do not manage to find their identity alone, but in relation to others (Knut & Solhaug, 2010). Residential schooling, that is, schools that have a live-in element for learners and teachers, provides an important contribution to learning about a sense of community. For example, there are certain social behaviours that most formal educational institutions do not or cannot teach. These include how to live independently, cook, share gratitude and problem solve within a group. YIP offers a residential style of learning where lessons on how to live together are often as important as the course work itself. Similar to the aim of other folk high schools, YIP students are guided to seek democratic solutions to residential challenges in ways that encourage tolerance and understanding. They are also required to work on the maintenance and upkeep of the residence, which could include cleaning, gardening and providing meals. In this sense, there is no separation between school and life. Democratic principles learned in a classroom have real implications for delegating chores, resolving conflicts and building consensus between residents. Although seemingly insignificant, even the act of deliberating which late-night movie to watch together was itself a practice in learning participatory democracy.

A unique feature of YIP is its one month international internship. After six months of studying weekly themes, organizing initiatives within Ytterjärna and researching individual projects, yippies travel abroad individually or in groups (without a supervisor) to work with a socially and environmentally sustainable project or organization anywhere in the world. Past internships have been to eco-villages in Nepal, a children’s school in Kenya and a media non-profit organization in USA. However, YIP internships differ from traditional international volunteer programs in its aim to deepen comprehension of global challenges and experience how others work towards solutions, rather than provide answers or cures. Following the completion of YIP, some yippie graduates return to their placements to help develop projects further. This year a group of seven yippies will travel to a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon to work with a youth centre which continues to be organized by a YIP alumni.

I left a chilly and more beautiful Ytterjärna after a couple weeks feeling as I had almost become a real yippie. The early morning scramble to class, the late night conversations by the fire and the utmost joy in discovering myself lost reminded me of my summer camp days long gone. However, this program is not for careless children, but is determined to tackle the injustices of the world. Through its commitment to sustainability, dialogue, community building, and individual growth, while immersing in one’s relationship and obligations to others, YIP offers a model for adult education that could extend to global citizenship. Indeed, it may not be long until Grundtvig’s yippies show Canadians how to create the school for life for themselves. In fact, it already has begun.

For more information about The International Youth Initiative Program – visit www.yip.se

Nico Koenig, M.Ed Adult Education and Community Development, works with civic education programs for youth and continues to explore innovative learning spaces, sustainable development, social media and food. He can be found cycling in Toronto and online at www.findthesky.com

Ashleigh Dalton is a graduate student in Adult Education and Community Development at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto. She works in research and policy around poverty reduction. Ashleigh‘s interests include citizenship, community engagement and civic education

Bibliography

Bagley S. & Rust V (2009). Community college models. Springer Verlag. Part IV. 279-298

Bugge, K.E. (1999). Canada and grundtvig. Jorn Thomsen Offset, Kolding: Kroghs Forlag A/S og.

Davis, D. (1971). Model for a humanistic education: the danish folk highschool. Columbus, OH: Chales E. Merrill .

Freire, Paulo (1970). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Continuum.

Folkehogskole. (2011, January 31). Retrieved from http://www.folkehogskole.no/index.php?page_id=44

Lawson, M. (2000). “N. F. S. GRUNDTVIG” Prospects:the quarterly review of comparative education (Paris, UNESCO: International Bureau of Education), vol. XXIII, no. 3/4, 1993, 613–23.

Knut, A., Solhaug, T.(2010, December 10). “Som en sang i sinnet – som et eneste sollyst minne”. Elevers utbytte av folkehøsgskolen Retrieved from http://www.ntnu.no/plu/forskning/prosjekter/folkehogskole

Paulston, R. G. (1980). Other Dreams, Other Schools: Folk Colleges in Social and Ethnic Movements. University of Pittsburgh Press

Toivianen, T. (1995). “A Comparative Study of Nordic Residential Folk High Schools and the Highlander Folk School.” Convergence 28.1 (1995): 5-24.


A moose charging towards me in Jarna!