Prototyping: The ‘Hack your Education’ Story
As an example of a (successful) prototype, I’d like to share my experiences with Hack your Education in the University of Applied Sciences (UAS) in Leiden. As part of our MoveMakers LAB, I decided to work on a challenge I was facing in my work with the UAS in Leiden. Together with my colleague Marien Baerveldt I had been working with their faculty of Law and Business for a while, that was observing a dropout rate of almost 50% after year one. Although this kind of dropout rate is not uncommon for universities, they were curious to learn more about what was causing this. How might we assist them in turning the tide and how could students create more ownership over their learning?
In April 2015 I met Jonathan Fritzler, who was on a educational learning journey through Europe. I was on his list of stations he wanted to visit and we had an inspiring three-day encounter in my city, The Hague. He told about the book he wrote with the catchy and inspiring title ‘Hack your Education’ – and we decided to use his book to create a prototype for the UAS of Leiden focusing the problems the university faces. Our assignment provider in the university supported the idea of running this prototype and they created the right circumstances for it to happen (e.g., informing the teachers, getting permission from the exam-commission to do a pilot with a small group of students, assigning three teachers to co-run the programme with us, finding money to hire us, etc.). At the MoveMakers LAB meeting in Denmark, Jonathan and I had an opportunity to brainstorm on this programme with a group of educational professionals and prepared to step into a prototyping process with our colleagues in Leiden.
Jonathan and I, together with teachers Kirsten Diepenbroek, Manuela Fabiao, and Chris Jan Geugies, designed Hack your Education as a 10 week programme in which students went on a journey to find what was really important to them and formulate visions for the future from that place. We challenged them to ‘hack’ their compulsory school projects, such that the projects become stepping stones in fulfilling these visions, rather than just being tedious tasks. Next to that, we invited students to create their own ‘education strategy’, which helped them develop more consciousness about the steps they were making in their education at the university and beyond. We invited them to do this with a prototyping mindset. It was an inspiring learning journey, both for the students and for us. Below, you find some of our learnings. This list was co-created with the students who participated.
WHAT REALLY WORKED
- Student projects: In these projects students experienced that they can actually start working on a topic that is of interest of them, while being in school.
- Judgement-free zone: Each person in the class is unique and deserves to express without judgement.
- Creating your own vision: Students said that they were never asked before to think of a vision; and they created strategies to make them reality.
- Gamification: Use games as a way to engage students and teachers.
- Personal Branding: Students created their own personal brand by creating youtube channels, blogs, websites, linkedin pages, and facebook groups.
- Building a network for the future, work experience, and other projects
- The Hackathon: This was the final event, where friends, family, teachers and others came together to experience some of what the students have been doing and was hosted by the students.
WHAT WE WOULD DO BETTER NEXT TIME
- Programme was not credit based: The programme lacked a point based grading system to increase accountability to the programme.
- Intake interviews: Interview student that want to enter the programme and ask for their drive to participate.
- Exit interviews: Interview students and learn from their reasons to leave the programme or students who completed the programme and learn from their experiences.
- Create an online community: A place where students and teachers can meet online. Students that are interested can visit this community.
- Communication with project teachers: More updates about the HyE-students and the programme for the teachers who were doing the regular projects.
From the beginning it was vital for us to run our prototype with strong involvement of University teachers. Besides Jonathan and me, three teachers from the university were part of the team running the programme. In this way, the university became co-owner of the project, with the result that we’re now in conversation with the university about how the programme can continue to be part of the curriculum of the school and how we can train teachers to make their class ‘hackable’.
I believe Hack your Education is much more than a programme. It became part of a culture shift in the university, in which the visions of the students are leading. In this view, the school is serving the manifestation of the inner call of the student, instead of students blindly accepting the programmes of the school. This -we think- will decrease the amounts of drop-outs. We will keep on monitoring that. We’ve experienced that prototyping is an excellent way of inviting other perspectives and convincing crucial stakeholders to do things differently.
– Diederik Bosscha, Dock20, The Netherlands