When I enrolled myself for the “Solutions and Innovation Skills” Mooc of Leuphana Digital School, I hadn’t yet seen the introduction video for this ten week course. With experience of Leuphana Digital School’s first course “Think Tank – Ideal city of the 21st C” which I had attended back in 2012, I braced myself for the session. I was initially skeptical regarding the “solutions” part of the course, wondering how one could possibly learn to solve real problems, online. The course offered by Zeppelin University and Leuphana Digital School in cooperation, had an asynchronous format and the relevant lectures & readings were opened to participants during each assignment phase, with hard deadlines for team assignment submissions
Open to anyone!
For this Mooc, one didn’t need to have design or innovation proficiency. Anyone could attend as a participant or as a supporter.
For this Mooc, one didn’t need to have design or innovation proficiency. Anyone could attend as a participant or as a supporter. Before this course, however, I had attended a Mooc on Design thinking, “Design Thinking for Business Innovations”; offered by Darden Professor Dr Jeanne Liedtka; as well as “Creativity, Innovation and Change”, offered by Penn State University; both on Coursera.
Time is an essential prerequisite for participating fully in this innovation skill Mooc. Familiarity with the concepts such as change management or digital technologies, presented here, would have saved you some research and reflection time. But beyond that, most concepts were new for a first time innovation learner and may need more time than you have opted for.
Team building skills first
Each participant and supporter was assigned a team when they enrolled. Every team was allocated a mentor for “didactic” evaluation and a tutor to chat about technical or other minor issues. Second week onwards, the participants could choose to re-team and many did. This wasn’t the smoothest journey for everyone and soon the video on how to “re-team” found its way into the library. Reteaming was as real as teaming could get in real life.
An impressive panel of experts
Have you ever been taught a single subject by over a dozen experts in a period of 3 months or less? Imagine a hall where a single teacher is giving a lecture to a hundred students. Now imagine each of these hundred students learning from a dozen or so teachers, from the different universities across the world, looking at the same topic from diverse angles. And then these hundred learners team up and collaborate to create innovative solutions. That’s the experience we got!
Have you ever been taught a single subject by over a dozen experts in a period of 3 months or less?
The concept of collaboration was demonstrated in essence to us. While the face of the course was Prof Peer Ederer of the Zeppelin University; he would introduce the assignment and the speakers every assignment cycle and give instructions on how to attempt the assignment. The videos were short and concise; of generally 5-10 minute each and the concepts needed to be supplemented by resources available in the online “library”. Silvia Castellazzi, Bernd Eggers, Ulrich Eisert, Samuel Grieff, Ricardo Hausmann, Marco Iansiti, Thomas Lans, Ron Meyer, Ljubica Nedelkoska , Rolf Pfeiffer, Philipp Schmidt and Simon Weiderhold, were some of the dozen professors and experts from the field of Innovation who shared their research and expertise.
While the first week assignment was a precursor to the essence of innovation, it did not have direct relation to the later assignments which were based on a case. In the second week, we were told to choose from two cases; one was a drone manufacturer, Aerovironment; and the second was Graphoid. We needed to identify innovative applications, one of which was to be elaborated upon in the coming phases.
My first reaction was,
“How? I don’t understand either of these technologies.”
But that was the “something” that changed over the course.
Over the period of the remaining nine weeks, we had four assignments where we were led through the entire process of innovation from exploration, selection of innovative concept, application of digital technologies and value creation. Teams needed to demonstrate how they had applied the concepts explained in the lectures. The second week was the most challenging. You needed to reteam, read the materials, decide on the case study and come up with innovative solution concepts, agreed upon all as a team. Team lab pages, once published, were open to all participants/supporters and became a fertile learning ground for further ideation. Harvard professor, Ricardo Hausmann’s “Atlas of economic complexity” and the concept of “product space” found itself as the most popular resource along with the “Innovativeness Matrix”, which was a unique tool to make decisions regarding the choice of innovation. Other topics explained ranged from dilemma structures, digital technologies revolution, opportunity identification, change management, lifelong learning, exploration and creativity, problem identification and collaboration.
Over the period of the remaining nine weeks, we had four assignments where we were led through the entire process of innovation from exploration, selection of innovative concept, application of digital technologies and value creation.
Grading & Reviewing
While participation in this course was free of charge, one could also obtain university certificate with five credits, for a nominal fee. To be given a certificate, each team had to make five submissions which would then be graded by the mentors. Participants also had to evaluate automatically assigned team submissions each submission cycle. Further, peer assessments and commenting were encouraged by providing “badges” for evaluation, although they were not counted towards the final grade.
Deadlines were hard. We got two weekends and the entire week in between to work on each of our assignments. The mentors would remind us to “publish” our work well in advance. Incase we “forgot” to save and publish the current assignment, the information in the “lab” page would automatically be published at the Cinderella hour of the assignment.
Be prepared for hard work
Anyone who thought they would juggle even another mooc, or complete the course on their mobile phone, would have needed to reconsider the thought.
It was exhaustive and that’s the easiest term. So anyone who thought they would juggle even another mooc, or complete the course on their mobile phone, would have needed to reconsider the thought. When you are doing a Leuphana digital Mooc, its always a good idea to push your current commitments to before or after the mooc, reschedule that vacation and find a baby sitter around the assignment submission weekends, if you have small kids. Same was true here. More than time, you need mental energy to deal with new concepts. You could of course, complete the mooc on your mobile or ithing in less than 5 hours a week, but to justify your learning, an effort of 10-15 hours a week would have been required, along with a desktop. Presentation is a strong component of the grading (almost 30% according to the rubric) and you would want to use a desktop or laptop to create and review your assignment submission in a sufficiently presentable manner, maybe with some visuals, charts or graphs. The lab page on the site provided some tools for editing, but it wasn’t enough, if you really wanted to change the readability of your assignment, do some visual resizing or even for simultaneous editing by team members.
An exclusive community
Prof. Peer Ederer himself was always there to answer the questions, if suppose it went unanswered by the forum TAs
The community forum at the first glance was well organized and neat. There were some good discussions about the two cases initially and sharing of external resources too. Prof. Peer Ederer himself was always there to answer the questions, if suppose it went unanswered by the forum TAs, which actually was a rarity. In case we had a direct question for the faculty, there was a subforum called “Questions to Teachers” where the teachers would respond back, and promptly. So if you had a question to Philipp Schmidt of MIT or to Ron Meyer of Centre of strategy and leadership; or any of the other experts, they were only a message or a question away. And they would answer!
“Solution and Innovation skills” Mooc was equivalent to a brain shift. It doesn’t just give knowledge; it strives to give skills to find and use the knowledge, you may not even have!
According to Ron Meyer, the way we think is the way we act. “Solution and Innovation skills” Mooc was equivalent to a brain shift. It doesn’t just give knowledge; it strives to give skills to find and use the knowledge, you may not even have! For this vigorous course, you need to give it its due, by devoting the time and effort that it truly deserves. We were given a complex problem solving (CPS) test before the start of the course and have been told to compare our results by retaking the test after the course. Now, its time for me to retake that test. The mindshift, I sense, would have already happened.
Editors Note: Review by Bhawna Vij - Lifelong learner, Jewellery designer and design teacher based in India. She has taught design full-time for over six years in the National Institute of Fashion Technology, Delhi as an Associate Professor. She loves to travel and has lived in four states of India in the last five years and is currently based in Mumbai.
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