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«Submitted to Ontario College of Art and Design University in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Design in Strategic ...»

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By Nihal Ahmed

Submitted to Ontario College of Art and Design University

in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of

Master of Design in Strategic Foresight and Innovation

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

April 2015

© Nihal Ahmed, 2015


I hereby declare that I am the only author of this MRP. This is a true copy of the MRP, including any required final revisions, as accepted by my examiners.

I authorize OCAD University to lend this MRP to other institutions or individuals for the purpose of scholarly research.

I understand that my MRP may be made electronically available to the public.

I further authorize OCAD University to reproduce this MRP by photocopying or by other means, in whole or in part, at the request of other institutions or individuals for the purpose of scholarly research.



Higher education and universities have not truly transformed in centuries but may now be going through dramatic change. This report will look at some of the conundrums and trends that provide a glimpse of the future of higher education. The landscape is encapsulated by introducing some of the academies leading the charge in developing new models and approaches to higher education.

Finally, the ingredients of the potential solution address the gaps and needs of the target market. This solution due to its complexity and magnitude, needs to be a suite of versatile solutions rather than a single uniform one.

And The Limitless Institute does exactly that through its highly modular program built into the existing systems. Finally, the report explores new mediums through which higher education could be delivered; including a reality show. The report concludes by stitching the need and desired outcomes for higher education with the potential curriculum.



This exploration received a great deal of support from people whom I was humbled and privileged to have throughout. It certainly is not complete without an expression of gratitude to those who have helped shape this effort into a successful project. Therefore, I would like to utilize this opportunity to extend our heartfelt gratitude to them.

I am deeply touched by the support and guidance received from my mentor Akshay Cherian without whom I would not have identified this as a calling.

I express my deep sense of gratitude towards my formal and informal advisory team, Mr. Alexander Manu and Stephen Davies (formal), Daniel Oxenhandler, Mukut Chatterjee, Prateek Prajosh and KRS Rao (informal), for the incessant support and academic guidance that steered our project towards the path of excellence.

Heartfelt thanks to Lenore Richards, Program Director of the MDes in Strategic Foresight and Innovation Program, for giving us an opportunity to work on a project and thereby expand our knowledge.

Finally, my heartfelt appreciation to my family, friends and classmates for their constant encouragement and inspiration to always deliver my best all throughout.

Thank You

–  –  –



MOOCs: Revolution & Evolution


A ‘Major’ Problem

Unbundling and the Open Loop



The Minerva Project

NuVu Studios

Stanford 2025







Reality Check

The Setting




–  –  –

Figure 1: Indian Education Status

Figure 2: Indian Education Status

Figure 3: China Education Status

Figure 4: United States Education Status

Figure 5: Africa Education + Employment Status

Figure 6: Problem Tree

Figure 7: Problem Framing + Research Question

Figure 8: Solution Ingredients + Design Criteria

Figure 9: Limitless Institute Logo

Figure 10: Limitless City Chapters

Figure 11: Limitless Institute Cyclical Model

Figure 12: Limitless Institute Experience Journey Map

Figure 13: Limitless Institute Experience Journey Map 2

Figure 14: Limitless Curriculum Map

Figure 15: Limitless Concluding Message

–  –  –

clarify what they can offer the world, professionally, mentally and personally.

The youth represent 17% of the world’s population but 40% of the world’s unemployed and twice as likely as adults to be without a job1. Only 23% of the youth around the world are employed in quality jobs resulting in negative social effects on the society along with billions in lost wages according to the World Bank2. Finally, by 2020, 600 million jobs must be created in the emerging world specifically in Africa and Asia in order to accommodate young people entering the workforce2.

All these in a world where old social and environmental challenges have taken on new forms and is seeking problem solvers, especially in the emerging world. And even if young people are interested in cracking them*, employers say that they can’t find the right kind of talent. McKinsey for instance states that companies globally consistently cite talent as their top constraint to growth. According to a World Bank (2012); World Development Report 2013; ILO (2012); Global Employment Trends 2012.

(ONLINE) Global Employment Trends for Youth 2012. (2012, May 30) (ONLINE). Retrieved November 4, 2014, from http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/@dgreports/@dcomm/documents/publication/wcms_180977.pdf Global Agenda Council Millenial Innovation Survey. (ONLINE) (2013, January 1). Retrieved January 9, 2015, from http://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/global/Documents/About-Deloitte/dttl-crs-millennialinnovation-survey-2013.pdf report from the McKinsey Center for Global Governance3, 43 percent of employers say there simply aren't enough applicants with the knowledge and skills they need. “Unemployment is persistently high, yet organizations worldwide report difficulty filling key positions”, concurs another think-tank Manpower4. Finally, the Economist’s Special Report “The Great Mismatch” explores the divide and confirms this on its findings.5 Why the Paradox?

Many employers believe that recent graduates do not possess the necessary skills, competencies and the right mindset to drive the organizations into the desired future.6 What employers are really looking for are surpluses of creativity, ingenuity and compassion7, a mindset towards lifelong learning and problem solving skills8;

not necessarily the quantitative and technical proficiencies associated with the Mourshed, M., Farrell, D., & Barton, D. (n.d.). Education to Employment Report (ONLINE)| McKinsey on Society. Retrieved April 11, 2012, from http://mckinseyonsociety.com/education-to-employment/report/ Navigating the Changing World of Work. (ONLINE) (2010, January 1). Retrieved November 4, 2014, from http://www.manpower-venezuela.com/upload/File/2010 ENG Navigating the Changing World of Work.pdf Got talent? (2011, September 8). (ONLINE) Retrieved November 4, 2014, from http://www.economist.com/node/21528436 Kavanagh, S. The student revolution has begun. (ONLINE) (2012) Huffington, A. (ONLINE) (2012, July 9). What Is Working: A Bipartisan Search For Solutions To The Jobs Crisis. Retrieved November 21, 2014, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ariannahuffington/opportunity-what-is-working_b_1657998.html Robert J. Sternberg. “Giving Employers What they Don’t Really Want”. (ONLINE) Chronicle of Higher Education, (2013, June) source: http://chronicle.com/article/Giving-Employers-What-They/139877/ job9 as they’re no longer the most crucial skills for determining success. According to the Job Outlook 2014 Survey, employers believe that the candidates who demonstrate soft skills are best suited to succeed in the workplace. Those who demonstrate these skills are believed to have the capacity to work in a team structure, make decisions, solve problems, and plan and organize their work.10 They also emphasize that internships and other real-world experiences are essentials.11 "One of the things we’ve seen from all our data crunching is that GPAs are worthless as a criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless — no correlation at all except for brand-new college grads, where there’s a slight correlation... What’s interesting is the proportion of people without any college education at Google has increased over time as well. So we have teams where you have 14 percent of the team made up of people who’ve never gone to college."

- Google's Senior VP of "people operations," Laszlo Bock12 The education system of the industrial-era optimized itself to prepare students for jobs that are increasingly being handled by software and technology today.

Therefore, a shift towards teaching skills such as emotional intelligence, selfdiscovery and self-awareness, problem solving, leadership, teamwork, and empathy is more relevant now than ever before. Despite the urgency, these Ashoka: Martha C. White. “The Real Reason New College Grads Can’t Get Hired.” Time, (2013) 10 TIME: Kevin Gray. “The Candidate Skills/Qualities Employers Want.” (ONLINE) National Association of Colleges and Employers, 2013.

11 Ashoka: Martha C. White. “The Real Reason New College Grads Can’t Get Hired.” Time, 2013 12Bryant, A. (2013, June 19). In Head-Hunting, Big Data May Not Be Such a Big Deal (ONLINE).

Retrieved November 4, 2014, from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/20/business/in-head-huntingbig-data-may-not-be-such-a-big-deal.html?pagewanted=1&_r=2&smid=twnytimesbusiness&partner=socialflow& higher order skills needed to compete in the job market today13 are still not taught in universities; further widening the talent gap.14 Unemployment Crisis or Educational Crisis?

"Lowering unemployment will require changing education so people enter work equipped with skills firms are willing to fight over”.

–  –  –

“To succeed in the 21st-century economy, students must learn to analyze and solve problems, collaborate, persevere, take calculated risks and learn from failure.

Studies have shown how innovation most often happens] despite their schooling— not because of it. With a market place that wants ingénues we need schools that offer an arena to develop innovative skills.” argues educator Tony Wagner 16. With all this, it doesn’t seem very convincing to say that higher education is providing their graduates with the right skills to navigate the fast changing global economy.

What Matters Most: Teaching for America’s Future. (1996, January 1) (ONLINE). Retrieved November 4, 2014, from http://www.namodemello.com.br/pdf/tendencias/whatmattersmost.pdf 14Two Sides of the Same Coin: The Employment Crisis and the Education Crisis. (ONLINE) (2014, March 4). Retrieved November 4, 2014, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/ashoka/2014/03/04/twosides-of-the-same-coin-the-employment-crisis-and-the-education-crisis/ Got talent? (2011, September 8) (ONLINE). Retrieved November 4, 2014, from http://www.economist.com/node/21528436 Tony Wagner. “Educating the Next Steve Jobs: How can schools teach students to be more innovative?” (ONLINE) The Wall Street Journal, April 2012 from http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304444604577337790086673050?mg=reno64wsj&url Maybe because the classic university system was designed to foster academic research and emphasize theoretical knowledge. But at the turn of the 20th century, it shifted to a blend of research, theoretical knowledge and practice but isn’t really equipping people for the complex problems we are dealing with today. These intellectual frameworks and methodological foundations are dated and what is needed is to translate knowledge into action approaches to evaluate and reflect on those learnings. So, we might be at the precipice of a new evolutionary phase bringing with it a layer of transformation literacy that could usher personal and systemic transformation and collective action.

“The core curriculum--based on current mainstream economic and management thought--equips students with a mental framework that amplifies our global ecological and socio-economic crises instead of helping to solve them. What's at the core of this problem is not a failure of individuals, but the failure of an outdated intellectual framework that is profoundly out of touch with today's challenges.” argue futurists in a recent report17. Simon Kavanagh from the Kaospilots, a hybrid business and design school in Denmark, believes that the divide between industry

and academia is growing:

The divide is a fundamental outcome of the insular and egotistical focus of most universities and their subject matter’s relevance to a changing world.

And with this divide, large corporations are taking it upon themselves to 17 Future of Education. (2014) (ONLINE) Association of Professional Futurists.

design more people focused, leadership, innovative and entrepreneurial courses and programs. Experts believe that for the first time since the industrial revolution the mindset has overtaken the skillset in terms of employer focus. When asked in the UK whether they preferred predicting the mindset of the staff they would desire in 10 years from now, or the skillset;

–  –  –

This gap also extends to the social sector where employers are looking for traits like humility and leadership rather than the analytical skills taught at school.

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