A Thought Experiment

As we consider the overarching question of the summit -- how to make our educational institutions truly responsive to the needs of contemporary society and today's students -- we will do a little structured brainstorming and allow ourselves to consider the four themes in a constraint-free setting, with the goal of allowing us to be as creative and far-reaching as we can be.

We will use the following thought experiment to help us to do that. We'll use it to guide our conversations as we break into groups to consider a series of questions intended to push our collective thinking.

The Scenario: Creating the University of the Future

You have been invited to serve on an international panel of experts advising the rector of a new university that will be established in the developing country of Futurolandia. Your invitation issues from the Ministry of Education and indicates that you are part of a handpicked team — a team that is meeting in person today to perform its task.

This university is meant to be the first of its kind, and will be established free from preconceptions or official constraints about how it will operate. Its mandate is to provide an excellent education in an environment of open access, built on four key ideas:

1. Access to high-quality education should be available to all, and open content is a key part of providing such access.
2. Informal learning and mentoring are effective and well-proven approaches to engaging with youth and stimulating critical thought.
3. Personalized learning is critical to student success, but will require learning standards that allow students to continue their learning where ever life takes them.
4. Tools such as digital video, mobile devices, social media, and the global network all have important roles in learning and should be available to all learners.

The rector has been asked to prepare a proposal addressing how the university will achieve this vision, and sees these ideas as core requirements for the institution she wishes to create. As part of the international expert panel, your task is to assist the rector by identifying ways to support each of the four requirements, examining the pros and cons of each proposed strategy, and presenting a summary of your team's recommendations to the rector, point by point.

Within your groups, a set of guiding questions will help you consider each of the four points in detail. As you think about each, try to envision fresh approaches that support the kinds of learning experiences students ought to be having to prepare them for the world they will live in. Think beyond the boundaries of what education looks like today — turn over fresh ground, and push yourself and your team to consider different approaches as you design these essential elements of an entirely new educational institution.