[Future Education] Educational Innovation for Future Society

2020.7.16

Our society is changing at a rapid rate but social systems do not seem to be changing that much. When we look at our education sector, students are still to this day forced to sit behind their desks for hours and hours while taking in tremendous amount of knowledge. How well are we responding changes around the educations sector? How useful would the knowledge students acquire from universities today be in the era of the 4th Industrial Revolution?

What Kind of Human Resources Do We Need?
What kind of human resources will be needed in the future? There is no guarantee that the jobs considered promising today will exist in the future. It is no secret that many professions we have today will disappear from technological advances like robots and AI and as our society becomes more automated. According to the 2013 report, ‘The Future of Employment’ published by the Oxford Martin School, University of Oxford, around 47% of American jobs will disappear over a decade or two and only specialized professions that are less susceptible to mechanical automation will survive. Of course, not everyone is going to lose their jobs. As always, more new professions will be created as time goes by.

“We need creativity to adapt to whatever changes we might face in the future” says Professor Kim Kyung-Hee who became the first non-American to win the E. Paul Torrance Award which is considered the Nobel Prize for creative education. She also says that no matter how creative you are born, after finishing higher education filled with ubiquitous, standardized tests and around the time you’re getting used to your job, you become ordinary, thinking and behaving like any other person. The ability to flexibly respond and adapt to changes is becoming more important. Our society needs creative people who can think in three dimensions from multiple points of view and who are equipped with the ability to solve complex problems. The universities must also break the barriers and provide education taking full advantage of different experts and advanced technologies around the world.

Minerva Schools at KGI, A Type of School Never Seen Before 
A university with a completely new system that inspires higher education systems all around the world appeared. Minerva Schools which is often described as ‘a university without a campus’, ‘a university that only offers online classes’ and ‘a university that is harder to get into than Harvard’, just started with its founding class of 29 students in 2014. It really is harder to get into than Harvard which has an acceptance rate of 5%. From 2018 to 2019, only 276 out of 23,000 applicants were admitted to the undergraduate program. That is about 1.2% acceptance rate. However, this doesn’t mean Minerva School only accept students with the highest grades. Minerva Schools does not evaluate applicants based on standardized test scores such as SAT scores which most of the universities use. Instead, Minerva uses its own admission process and standards to figure out students’ values and individual abilities.

The biggest reason Minerva is becoming increasingly popular in this global era is that students after admitted for a four-year bachelor’s or master’s degree, get to live and study in seven cities around the world. Minerva is headquartered in San Francisco, California but it does not have a campus. Students spend their first full year in San Francisco, California and subsequent years in Seoul, Hyderabad, Berlin, Buenos Aires, London, and Taipei. These 7 cities are historical, economic, political, and vibrant cultural hubs and they have been selected based on factors including their open culture, Internet connectivity and political stability.

This visionary university was founded by an American entrepreneur named Ben Nelson. Thinking that universities will not succeed if their sole purpose of education is to simply provide information, Nelson recruited Dr. Stephen Kosslyn, former dean of social science at Harvard University and Vicki Chandler who is a member of the National Science Board, appointed by President Obama, to create a ‘perfect university’.

Learning the Wisdom for Living a Life
Minerva Schools’ mission is to ‘nurture critical wisdom for the sake of the world’ and is ‘focused on improving the future by enhancing student potential to lead the development of innovative solutions to the most complex challenges of our time’. Minerva emphasizes that this wisdom is more important than having socially respected jobs. It also believes that students must have five characteristics – First, be curious. Second, have broad interest in a variety of subjects. Third, be diligent. Fourth, be collaborative. Fifth, be humble. The first-year curriculum is about building the foundation. Students learn to think critically, think creatively, communicate effectively, and interact effectively. In their second year, students get to select their major. Minerva offers 5 programs – five majors — Arts & Humanities, Business, Computational Sciences, Natural Sciences, and Social Sciences. Minerva does not have superfluous electives or “hobby” classes. Instead, Minerva puts emphasis on academic-industrial collaborations. So far it has carried out many experimental and ambitious projects with global corporations like Google, Apple, Amazon and Uber as well as with public institutions and NGOs around the world. Minerva also values students’ field experiences such as internships.

Online Platform as a Classroom
Minerva became increasingly popular in 2020 especially because many countries around the world are giving online classes to their students due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. According to UNESCO, in April 2020, almost 91% of students around the world were out of school. There have been heated debates over the differences in the quality of online learning and about whether we really need physical campuses. And more people have become interested in Minerva Schools as the perfect example of remote learning.

All of Minerva’s classes are taught on an online platform called the Active Learning Forum (ALF). Students are required to be logged on to the ALF and ready to participate in class by the class’s stated start time. Professors do not simply throw information at the students. Instead, students participate in the lively exchange of ideas and deep engagement with course materials. Thus, research, preparation and complete understanding of the course materials are crucial for participation in the discussion. The AI technologies built into this online platform allow the professors to track the amount of participation of each student. Professors can also divide the class into teams for more in-depth debates and change the colors of students’ icons to encourage the students to participate more. One interesting rule of each course is that professors can not speak more than 4 minutes at a time. This rule shows that Minerva Schools views professors not as people who teacher but supporters who encourage students to participate and lead them in the right direction. Minerva students may not ever meet their professors in real life and to ensure that every student is an active class participant, the classes are participated by fewer than 20 students.

All of Minerva’s classes take place 100% online but it would be wrong to call Minerva simply an online university. Perhaps it would be best to define Minerva as an ‘offline university that uses an online platform.’ Minerva is considered an outstanding educational method not because it provides remote classes. It’s more complicated than that. Online classes are a method Minerva chose for the educational value they pursue and to maximize learning efficiency of students who get to live and study all around the world. Minerva is not saying remote learning is the ultimate solution. They believe education must constantly adapt to changes. And online classes are one of many educational frameworks that could solve the problems of the educational system today.

Offline Projects 
All of Minerva’s classes take place 100% online with professors, the students live together at residence halls and get to develop a bond. Each city has local supervisors that help out the students. “The second-year students spend fall semester in Seoul. We help out students as much as possible so they can adapt to living in Seoul for 4 months. We also work very hard to prepare various extracurricular projects. We basically get the academic-industrial collaboration programs ready by working with global corporations, social enterprises and public institutions in Seoul before the semester starts’ say Supervisor Eun-jeong Kim who has been working with Korean corporations such as SK and Kakao to prepare collaborative projects for the students.

In 2019, the second-year students who have moved from San Francisco to Seoul participated in a 3-month-long, joint project on developing new technologies related to 5G network technology and AI-based language learning solutions, collaborating with Korean telecommunication company SK. The students also helped SK Encar launch the beta service for the ‘Vehicle Search Option’ and contributed in developing an applied program that allows the users to quickly and easily access vehicles’ model names and market values using an AI-integrated mobile application. The outcome of the SK Encar project the students participated in 2018 is actually being provided as an official service on the SK Encar application. The students also carried out various tasks communicating with Kakao and Kakao’s headquarters for 2 months on designing a 100-day goal tracking application that helps the users set and achieve their goals. Instead of forcing students behind their desks, Minerva offers students the opportunity to think about how they could apply their knowledge and to experience the real world.

Minerva is an American university but over 81% of the Minerva student body is from outside the US. Students who are eager for a new type of education are constantly knocking on the door of Minerva from all over the world. The increasing number of students wanting to attend this relatively young school founded in 2014 means more people are realizing that conventional educational system does not work anymore. Minerva saw their first class of undergraduates complete their Bachelor’s degrees in 2020. Will some of them become greater leaders that change the world? Well, we sure our curious about what the future holds for those bright students who have experienced an innovative educational curriculum never seen before.

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