What is OpenClassrooms' educational vision? As you may know, education is an extremely important topic, both for people and government. Everyone seems to agree that a well-educated workforce has a greater chance of taking charge of their career, setting goals and enjoying professional success.
Nonetheless, you must have heard people saying that "the education system doesn't work anymore" and that "education should be reformed." This is why we've had so many education reforms, but the subject is still a hot topic. Education seems hard to reform, and there is a very good reason for this: it's complex. Understanding education is hard.
You're not going to hear us say: "Yeah, everything is sh*tty, annnnd we've come up with a brand new solution that finally works". 😎
That's not the way we see it. We integrate into the current ecosystem and work hard to change it for the better. We don't think a revolution will happen overnight. However, we strongly believe that it takes many little steps and lots of effort to make it better.
Why Do We Think Education Has Issues?
First, take a look at this picture:
This is a classroom in the mid-1800s at the Arts et Métiers in France. How is it different from what you'd see today?
Honestly, there's not a huge difference. That's because education has hardly changed in 150 years. You have:
A teacher who has the knowledge
Multiple students listening to this teacher and taking notes
Specific durations (like 1 hour classes)
Same age groups
Students are expected to learn at the same pace. They get some information in one classroom for one hour, then the bell rings, they stop everything, and have to go on to the next classroom to learn about a completely different topic. There is hardly any communication or collaboration between each classroom (physics doesn't overlap with English, for instance).
Why does it work like this? This system was designed when the industrial revolution began. Suddenly, the world needed workers in factories. Lots of workers.
These workers needed some basic skills: writing, counting, and more. The objective was to produce almost identical people, ready to work in factories. This was a good solution at the time.
The World Has Changed
However, the world has changed since the mass education system was first conceived. Ever heard of... the internet for instance? 😛
Today, knowledge is everywhere. It is easily accessible to everyone, but the teacher's job is still to deliver knowledge, as if they were the only source of it in the room.
Technology is evolving at a faster pace than ever before. This means that some of the lessons you'll learn at school will be obsolete in just a few years. Why do people still think that you learn at school and then execute at work?
Our jobs require more creativity and problem-solving than simple execution. This is an important trend that traditional schools are not sufficiently taking into account.
The key takeaway here is that, while the education system was adapted to the industrial revolution, it does not suit to the knowledge economy in which we live.
We should treat students as unique individuals. Students should be able to discover more by themselves, with a greater emphasis on "doing" than theory in academic studies. We should see more collaboration in the classroom:
Between students because we learn better together, even if nobody in the group knows the answer.
Between students and teachers because the teacher should be there to facilitate learning, guiding students without forcing them. Students should look on them as mentors rather than textbooks.
We get inspiration everyday, everywhere, from many people. Here are a few people and initiatives that have inspired us:
Salman Khan (Khan Academy): for his ability to teach in a very friendly, accessible way. His website puts a great emphasis on mentoring. His story is worth checking out too! Read One World Schoolhouse if you want to know more.
Benjamin Bloom: a famous educational psychologist, who discovered that combining private mentoring and mastery learning gives impressive results on students success. His Bloom's 2 Sigma Problem is a famous education problem, that we're trying to solve here at OpenClassrooms. We've written an article about this on Class Central if you want to know more!
Maria Montessori: she developed the famous educational approach a hundred years ago that took her name. While directed at younger learners, her method emphasizes on student autonomy, responsibility, and learning by doing.
Sudbury Valley School: a democratic school where teachers and students are equal. Students learn at their own pace in mixed age groups, and can learn the way they want as long as democracy in school is respected. It looks a bit extreme to some people because it's very different from what we're used to, but it's worth looking into!
The Future Is Bright: We Just Have To Work A Lot To Build It
We hope that you already have a better sense of what we think here at OpenClassrooms. 🙂
We don't say that everything in schools is wrong (great stuff is happening everywhere): we just say that we can go further.
Here is how we imagine the education of the future at OpenClassrooms (and we're working hard to make this happen!):
We like theory and practice. People need to learn by making mistakes just like children do. Yes, mistakes hurt, mistakes look wrong, but they are an essential part of learning.
We like to start with a real project. Even if students don't know how to do the project, we think it's better to show them a real world situation firsthand. This is how they get a sense of context, which will drive up their motivation to learn the lessons they need.
We like human interaction. We allow and encourage communication between students and with dedicated mentors. We want people to share their experiences: this should be at the very heart of every educational experience.
We like helping people land in a job (you already know that this is part of our vision!). This is one of education's core outcomes and we take this one very seriously, measuring our success by the number of students who land in a job, change career paths, etc. We focus heavily on teaching the skills people need for their future job.
We like learning all life long. Education should not stop when you get a diploma. Why? Because people love to learn and because technology is evolving faster and faster... requiring us to learn new things every year and sometimes every month.
We like what we do. We are passionate about education, and we want to share this passion. This is why our courses are made by teachers who really love their subject. ❤️
Hopefully this gives you a better idea of who we are and what we fight for everyday! 😊
If you want to know more about our educational vision, we invite you to check out this TEDx video of our co-founder Mathieu Nebra:
Because our vision states that we help people find a job, we need to start with jobs. We have reversed the usual approach to make sure students can land a job. To do this, we:
Look for jobs in high demand. There are plenty of companies with staff shortages, because there aren't enough people trained to do the job (eg: programmers). Which jobs should we prepare people for?
Extract skills from these jobs. We interview professionals to understand what skills are needed to do these jobs. We also read the job descriptions to understand what companies are asking for.
Create projects that let people use these skills. They should be based on real world problems, even if they seem a bit complex at first for beginners. Showing that a student has done the project should prove to an employer that they're able to use these skills.
Create courses to prepare people to do the projects. Once we have the projects, we know what the students will need to do: therefore, we can prepare them by giving them just enough theory.
As you can see, we only create courses at the end of the process. Creating great courses costs a lot. It takes time, energy, writing, video shooting, editing, reviewing, etc. However, preparing the path takes less work. This is why we only create a course when we're sure that's the one we really need.