Monday, May 05, 2014

Revisiting the e-School Concept

I have written on and off about the e-school concept. The idea was to break away from the model established by business schools, which is all about providing solutions to problems, and rather, focus on finding the problems, as entrepreneurs will do. It is still about studying business, but not through case studies, but doing one. In this conception, the e-School will look less like a school, with desks and all that, but rather like an ecosystem, with incubation, facilitation and education, all bounded together.

This is a 'pivot' for U-Aspire and a necessary one. My initial efforts to persuade partners abroad to think about education differently were producing the familiar conversations about getting a British degree on the cheap, a goal I wanted to move away from. The idea was to start a new kind of conversation, about how education needs to change, but the easy one, selling British degrees, was triumphing over the difficult one, of innovating in education. Hence, the change I pursue now is to set up a school ourselves, in London, and create the entrepreneurial ecosystem that we want to put at the heart of education. This is our learning curve, but we always knew there will be one.

However, this also means breaking away from the familiar model of delivering a curriculum online, and reconceptualising the learning process in a way that fits work. So, there is more to be done online than we were previously imagining, more choices to be provided, projects will be all live and connected to entrepreneurial businesses. But this will break away from the model of the traditional school, with its structured progression to a diploma, and rather focus on the individual person, who can collect credits through work, of setting up a business or of working for a business, and construct a diploma around that.

I am committing myself to this model, though this means scaling back the international aspirations of U-Aspire and focusing on Britain instead, because this is the best way to demonstrate the educational model that we have been advocating: One based on work, on innovation and on enterprise. I eventually saw our message to be too complex for the partners we were trying to talk to: It was technology enabled education focused on innovation and enterprise imperatives leading to a British diploma. Obviously, the 'innovation and enterprise' bit, despite being central in our minds, was getting lost. The rethink of the model is to bring out what is really important to us.

I am hoping that this is an universally applicable concept, and once I am successful in setting up one ecosystem in London, which will possibly safely keep me focused for next few years, I shall be able to replicate the model in other countries. But once we have the model, the route to market will be to develop a franchise, and build exclusive facilities just as we seek to build here. Innovating in education, as we have now understood, does not come easy: It has to be done, hands on, one learner at a time.

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