What We Do
Our Educational Vision
What is OpenClassrooms' educational vision? Education is an important topic - both for people and the government. Everyone seems to agree that a well-educated workforce has a better chance of controlling their career, setting goals, and enjoying professional success.
Nonetheless, you must have heard people say that the education system doesn't work anymore, which is why we've had so many reforms. The subject is still a hot topic, and the system is hard to change because it's complex.
You're not going to hear us say, "Yeah, everything is sh*tty, and 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 firmly 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 knowledgeable teacher.
Students who listen and take notes.
Specific durations (like one-hour classes).
The same age groups.
Students are expected to learn at the same pace. They get information in one classroom for an hour, then when the bell rings, they stop everything, move to the next classroom, and learn about a completely different subject. There is hardly any communication or collaboration between classes (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 factory workers. 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. It was a good solution at the time.
The World Has Changed
However, the world has changed since the mass education system was first conceived. Have you 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 it as if they were the only source in the room.
Technology is evolving at a faster pace than ever before. Some of the lessons students learn at school will be obsolete in a few years. Why do people still think that students learn at school and achieve at work?
Our jobs require more creativity and problem-solving than simple execution. This is an important trend that traditional schools don't take into account.
The key takeaway here is that, while they adapted the education system to the Industrial Revolution, it doesn't work with today's knowledge economy.
We should treat students as unique individuals. Students should learn more independently through practical experience rather than studying theory.
Learning in a group is more effective than studying alone -even if nobody knows the answer.
The teacher should be there to facilitate learning between students and teachers, guiding students without forcing them. Students should look to them as mentors rather than textbooks.
We are inspired every day by people and things around us. Here are a few people and initiatives that have spurred us:
Salman Khan (Khan Academy): for his ability to teach in a very friendly, accessible way. His website emphasizes mentoring, and his story is worth checking out! Read One World Schoolhouse if you want to know more.
Ken Robinson: for dedicating his life to more creative education. His book Creative Schools is worth reading, and his TED talk is amazing.
Benjamin Bloom: a famous educational psychologist who discovered that combining private mentoring and mastery increases student success. His Bloom's 2 Sigma Problem is a famous education problem we're trying to solve at OpenClassrooms. We've written an article about this on Class Central if you want to know more!
Maria Montessori: who developed the famous educational approach a hundred years ago that is named after her. While directed at younger learners, her method emphasizes student autonomy, responsibility, and hands-on learning.
Sudbury Valley School: a democratic school where teachers and students are equal. Students learn the way they want at their own pace in mixed-age groups - as long as they respect school democracy. It looks a bit extreme to some people because it's very different from what they're used to, but it's worth considering!
The Future Is Bright: We Just Have To Work a Lot to Build It
We hope that you have a better sense of what we think here at OpenClassrooms. 🙂
We don't say that everything in traditional classrooms is wrong (great stuff is happening everywhere): we just think 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 learn by making mistakes, just like children. Yes, mistakes hurt and look wrong, but they are an essential part of learning.
We like to start with a real project. Even if students don't know what they're doing, we think it's better to show them a real-world situation. It’s how they get a sense of context, which will motivate them to learn the lessons they need.
We like human interaction. We allow and encourage communication between students and 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 a job (our vision!). It’s one of education's core outcomes. We take this very seriously and measure our success by the number of students who get a job, change career paths, etc. We focus heavily on teaching the skills people need for their future.
We like life-long learning. 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. It’s 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 every day! 😊
If you want to know more about our educational vision, check out this TEDx video by our co-founder Mathieu Nebra:
Because our vision states that we help people find a job, we need to start with them. We have reversed the usual approach to make sure students can land employment. 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 (i.e., 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 allow students to use these skills. They should be based on real-world problems, even if they seem complex for beginners. Showing that a student has completed the project should demonstrate to an employer that they can 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!