The Learning Experience at Exosphere

Here is our prospective story of the learning experience at Exosphere:

Members of the Exosphere community will have a significant variety of avenues and formats for customizing their learning experience, not only to acquire the skills and knowledge to purse projects they are passionate about, but also to stoke curiosity in an array of other topics. Unlike the traditional classroom setting, the Exosphere learning experience is focused on experience. Learning should always be about doing something, rather than practicing to do something. Our model of open inquiry allows the oxygen necessary to spark flames of passion in all of our participants, from the youngest candidates to the oldest fellows. We are all in a process of co-discovery. For our participants this means an unparalleled learning experience.

Some of the ways we foster innovation and creativity are…

Problem Identification Laboratories

Fellows are encouraged to lead Problem Identification Laboratories focusing on a cluster of issues with a view toward start-ups spinning out from the Labs. Some Labs may be short-term and narrow in the subject matter considered, others may be open ended and run indefinitely. We believe that many start-ups fail not because of a lack of dedication from their founders, but because they take a product-oriented approach to business rather than a problem-oriented approach. By drawing our members into forums like Problem Identification Laboratories, we believe we can mitigate one of the primary causes of start-up failure.

Skill Boot Camps

New skills are required constantly due to rapidly changing technology. The modern university not only responds slowly to these changing requirements, but because of its outmoded system of evaluation, is ineffective at actually helping its students to develop proficiency in a skill. Fellows, Residents with unique expertise in a skill are encouraged to host Skill Boot Camps that feature intensive study of a single subject (for example PHP programming, Drupal development or even more physical things like soldering or organic heirloom tomato gardening) with the sole and exclusive purpose of being able to produce something useful with that skill. Because we don’t care about tests and grades, these activities, like everything else in the Exosphere community, are tools for the pursuit of problem-solving products. We encourage everybody in the Exosphere community, Fellows, Residents, and Candidates alike to attend Skill Boot Camps and expand their portfolio of abilities.

One-on-One Mentoring

The core of the Exosphere experience is the Fellow-Candidate relationship and the Fellow’s role as mentor and “co-curator” of the Candidate’s learning journey. Weekly meetings, small group sessions, reading lists, and open dialogue characterize the ideal mix of activities that Fellows and Candidates will engage in as part of the mentorship process. The cultivation of mutual respect and genuine community between Fellow and Candidate is essential. The modern university has bought into the idea that ‘students’ and ‘teachers’ must maintain professional distance in the same way as doctors and patients. We reject this impersonal, disinterested approach. Learning should be both human and humane. The subject-matter is not sovereign, the learners are.

Discussion Groups & Public Debates

Discussion and debate expose ideas to challenge, help us question our own assumptions, and sharpen our critical reasoning abilities. These are skills that we must continue to hone throughout our lives and they are a central part of the Exosphere community.

Mutual Teaching

Everybody has something to learn, and everybody has something to teach. At Exosphere, mutualism is just part of our culture, and we encourage everybody who is part of our community to engage each other in various kinds of learning, especially language learning. But mutualism is not only for academic subjects and innovation-oriented skills, it is for cooking, music, art, and so many other things that all of our talented, creative members can capably teach each other.

  • Andy Ellwood