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Future Learning: Alt Tech

Posted on Aug 7, 2013


This time it’s technical.

Remember Labrina our virtual teenage daughter? We scoured the globe to provide her with a whole world of choice, so rather than going to university, she could build her own unique alternative learning experience (click here for Part 1).

Well she’s only gone and changed her mind! She still wants an alternative education. But this time she wants us to look around for things more technical and entrepreneurial. She sees her virtual future in programming, SEO, a new start-up and the like. Our Head of Lab would have torn his hair out if he had any. So, as well as pointing her in the direction of our last blog piece about the ’10 top alternative educators’ we went back to the Lab and looked at some alternative alternatives.

What most schools don't teach

All young people should have the opportunity to learn code. Who says so? A complete who’s who of people from Bill Gates, Bill Clinton, Mark Zuckerberg and Richard Branson to, Snoop Dog and Stephen Hawking. Discover why they have all got behind this initiative and watch their video. Or you can start learning all about computer programming for yourself at – It’s a fantastic idea. And we wouldn’t be surprised to see programming offered as an option for all university courses for those who have already missed out. Labrina is definitely going to give it a try along with some other wonderfully named websites. She’s going to learn the fundamentals of coding at Learnstreet, develop software collaboratively at Github, programme interactive stories at Scratch, learn to become a web professional at Interact and create interactive websites, fun games, and killer apps at Code Academy. She’s also going to learn to code even faster with a mentor at Thinkful, earn badges (viewable by employers) at Treehouse and
join ‘girl develop it’ that empowers women from around the world to develop software.


A Google it education – Google know a thing or two about the internet, so to step things up a notch, she’s also going to study programming at Google University. And then for good measure, and to further enhance her employability, she’s going to study towards a certificate in Google AdWords.

Hacker School – Once Labrina’s learnt the basics and wants to become a better programmer, where better to learn than with other programmers on all kinds of projects? Hacker School is free and it’s a chance for Labrina to hone her programming skills working on collaborative open source projects on a three-month long immersive experience. They describe it as a writers’ retreat for hackers. As it’s held in New York, it’s appealing to Labrina in more ways than one.


The UKMOOC – MOOCs are blazing a trail across the world and FutureLearn is no exception. A private company set up by the Open University only a few months ago, FutureLearn will soon offer free online courses from 23 (and growing) of the world’s best universities. They may not have delivered a course yet, but learners from 140 countries have already signed up, which just goes to show the huge appetite for MOOCs. Their video was even shown at the G8 summit! Labrina can’t wait to start. She just needs to choose a course.

Then there are the more ‘traditional’ virtual learning sites Labrina can take a look at. These include College Unbound and The University Without Walls where you can gain a bachelor degree at a world-class university without leaving the comfort of your home. There’s also Udemy where ‘anyone can learn’ from the world’s top instructors.

Virtual tutors and instructors seem to be growing in popularity. At InstaEdu Labrina can connect with nearly 3,000 personal tutors anytime, anyplace, anywhere. While at Udacity they boldly claim that ‘the lecture is dead’. Their alternative education enables people to earn certificates by learning through doing and through bite-sized videos.

In today’s virtual world, The School of Emerging Media & Technology seems an obvious place for Labrina to develop her social media expertise.


It’s not just what you know, it’s who you know – And with Sandbox you’ll be in very good company. It’s a global community of 800+ young entrepreneurial change makers driven by a desire to change the world for the better. Membership is by application only. In terms of connecting young like-minded people with shared ambitions and interests, such networks present fantastic opportunities and are better than an alumni network in many ways.

Other young communities worthy of note include the Under 20 Community that creates real and virtual spaces for people aged under 23 to collaborate, learn from and inspire each other. It’s all part of a fellowship created by PayPal founder Peter Thiel where students aged under 23 are given grants to pursue their entrepreneurial ambitions and come to together in real and virtual spaces to learn together. Inc has written an interesting article evaluating the ‘worth’ of such initiatives.

Not to be left out, the Russians have created the Strelka Institute, ‘a stock exchange for human capital, a place shaping a flow of creative energy.’ Situated close to the Kremlin in the former Red October factory (Labrina and the chocolate factory has a nice ring to it), its lecture halls and studios provide free tuition for international young specialists with backgrounds in architecture, design and more.

Other good examples of a new generation of learners coming together to work collaboratively and inspire and teach each other include The Hub, General Assembly, Citizen Circles and Creative Mornings. Travel will definitely broaden Labrina’s mind if she hops between Moscow, London and New York gathering knowledge as she goes.

And as she’s a virtual girl is more her thing connecting students with entrepreneurs 24/7.


Earn while you learn – It’s not a new principle. But in today’s climate the opportunity to receive a salary and have your university and accommodation fees paid is hard to resist. Especially if you get to study at a major UK university and it leads to career with an organisation such as KPMG. They pick up the bill and Labrina will pick up lots of new skills on a six-year audit programme designed especially for school and college leavers.

Whether you want to call them edupunks, self-directed learners or microlearners, one thing’s for sure – it’s a movement that’s taking off. Just take a look at the ZT College or Uncollege, a social movement designed to help you hack your education without setting foot inside a classroom. They even have a Hackademic Camp. As Fast Company put it – the world is your class.

Again, this is all just a snapshot of the rapid change out there. We’ve still not even touched on the hybrids, the hangouts and the hives of learning taking place in start-up incubators. All of this, and lots more is in our Lab and available to inspire and help shape your own way forward. If you want to learn more about how the Future Index can help you then please look at how we help institutions with their future employability offer by clicking here. You’ll be met by a picture of Yoda being 3D printed – now there’s a story..

To ask us to think about how we might meet a challenge, please contact us. We may even be able to provide sample content and inspiration to help you directly.

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