Have you ever worked on a project that you were so excited about that you just KNEW it would be good for something at some point? Maybe you couldn’t quite put your finger on the who or the what or the when, but somehow you knew what you were doing was important, and that you should keep doing it.
I recently experienced this phenomenon with a pet project I’ve been thinking about for a long time, but only recently made any real progress in transitioning it from dream to reality, and I have to say it’s really exciting. But even with these small steps toward reality, I still had a difficult time articulating exactly why this particular project was worthwhile. It was important to me, and it solved problems that I perceived in my field. But when you’re seemingly the only one who notices a problem, it’s hard not to think that maybe the problem is with YOU.
Regardless of the nagging thoughts that it could all be for nothing, I pressed on. I thought about use cases, I justified myself by saying “I’m just a little ahead of the curve here.” I reminded myself that being ahead of your time isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
And then I read this article in the Chronicle today and it was like the last piece of the puzzle. This article completely validates all the swirling hypothesis about where, when, why and how this could be a useful tool. The most recent use case I thought of for justifying this “thing” (for lack of a better word for it) involves choosing courses as an undergrad. Here’s a snippet of what I wrote about the experience a few weeks ago:
In preparation for the big event that was scheduling classes, I got out my degree planning sheet, which listed all the requirements, credits, and course sequences I needed to check off all the boxes and qualify to get my diploma. I’d look up all the class options available to me for the next semester and rank them in order of what I was most interested in first. Then, I would mark off which courses met the requirements on my degree planning sheet. Then I’d cross-reference the two and try to make the classes I really wanted to take fit into the boxes I needed to check off on the sheet.
Long story short, after 8 semesters, I checked off all the boxes on my degree planning sheet and exchanged that degree planning checklist for a diploma. Off I went into the world, degree in one hand and resume in the other. Goal achieved, right?
Now, imagine it this way. Students prepare to choose their classes for the next semester, but rather than consulting a check sheet, it’s an education goals and objectives list, which they’ve worked closely with an advisor to put together. The student logs in to a
Sneak peak at some early notes for whatever we’re calling this crazy project.
n education planning platform, which lists all the available learning experiences offered in the next grading period, which include: internships, lecture classes, labs, collaborative project groups, research opportunities, study abroad experiences… the list goes on.
Within the platform, all the learning objectives and outcomes for each experience are listed. As the student debates choices, the platform asks, “Where does this experience fit into your goals?” Students associate each choice with a goal from their list.
Not only do I leave the university with a degree, but also a comprehensive portfolio of my skills and abilities, and how they all relate to my post-graduation goals. I have a justification for choosing each experience.
Doesn’t that sound better than “I took this class because it was on my check sheet?”
I think it does, and so does a group of my colleagues who are helping me make the dream (the platform) a reality. We’re not sure what to call it yet, but we’re all excited about it – and even more so now that we know we’re not the only ones who noticed the problem after all. Stay tuned!