November 2, 2021, 14:50 pm – 15:20 pm

Experimental Higher Education: the know-how

The session will be a homage to experimentation in higher education. I will argue that every university needs a designated "lab" to design and test new approaches.

Just as it is prudent for one to have a diversified investment portfolio, higher education institutions should have diversified "strategic portfolios". Some activities should rely on traditions, some copy approaches tested by other institutions, and some should be experimental. Experimentation is high-risk, high-reward, and it is key to an institution's long-term survival and sustainability for two reasons. Firstly, experiments you run at your university, unlike the solutions you copy, respond to your unique problems. Secondly, some of them, like Brown's Open Curriculum or University of Maastricht'ss PBL, and later RBL, and Global Classroom, might give a boost to institutional visibility, attractiveness, and therefore competitiveness.

In 2020, we launched a Master's program in Experimental Higher Education at the School of Advanced Studies, University of Tyumen (Russia). The program is aimed at mid-career professionals and prepares graduates who can design, implement, and scale innovative educational models. During Year 1 MA students experiment with the Bachelor's curriculum of the School of Advanced Studies. They identify problems, and then develop and test new approaches in such areas, as institutional policy, teaching methods and formats, physical and virtual environment, informal curriculum, etc. During Year 2, students run year-long experiments at other institutions (either the ones they previously worked at or our partners).

The program is itself an unprecedented experiment which has allowed us to start a national conversation about experimentation in higher education.

In the session, I will reflect on our experience with the MA program, share our insights on how the "labs" should be organized and run and offer examples from other institutions around the world to illustrate my points.

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