The VPM Blog

Global Service Jam as a Model for Higher Education

Posted by admin on Mar 11, 2013 7:22:47 AM

No doubt, you’ve heard: tuition costs at public universities are soaring, up on average 8.3% from last year. And yet, (always it seems)… the debate over higher education’s “value” rages on. Panels concerning “Digital Learning” and “The Future of Education” are propagating like bunnies, and SXSWedu featured session after session concerning re-imagined classrooms and teaching tactics.

So in the here-and-now, how do colleges and universities get back on message? How do administrators and faculty members provide value to their student body (and the future of our workforce)?

I wish I had a blog-length answer for you.

Here at Verge Pipe Media, we’re quick to talk about MOOCS, flipped classrooms, gamification, telepresence and the like… but if you’ve noticed, there is a practical backbone running through all of these themes; a vertebrae built on community, convenience and service.

Colleges and universities can create immediate value by peering up from some of the stereotypical navel-gazing.

DO.gsj1 gsj2

Do more to develop and foster a vibrant local ecosystem that brings together townspeople, local business owners and administrators at local municipalities.

Not too long ago, Verge Pipe Media had the pleasure of participating in the Global Service Jam, organized at Auburn University by Chris Arnold and the Center for Architecture, Design and Construction. Our small faction of dedicated Auburn Jammers joined nearly 3,000 people around the world, collectively striving to design and develop “an idea” from scratch that would have a positive impact on the local community.

All over the course of one weekend.

If you aren’t familiar with the Global Service Jam, I won’t waste too much space getting you up-to-speed. Full details are available here -- but the event is basically a hack-a-thon for social good. The concept: stick a group of people in a room for a weekend, give them an obscure prompt and let imaginations run free.

Friday night, we convened to hear this year’s theme: Grow ^. What does this mean? What comes to mind? What can we turn this little gem into for the town of Auburn, Alabama? That’s all we had to work with… that, and a lot of caffeine.

We brainstormed. We selected a problem and sketched out a concept. We brainstormed some more and Skyped with fellow Jammers in Ireland, Australia and other pockets of the world that sparked accent envy. Then we started executing. By 3:00pm Sunday we uploaded our rough concept for FeedU.

For the sake of this blog, there are some big lessons to be learned.

  1. Speed – in a world where “short-term” goals are often defined within the timeframe of a calendar year, Global Service Jam demonstrates just how much can be done within a few days.
  2. Talk Less, Do More – committees, sub-committees, fact-finding counsels, etc. etc. are all well-and-good (there is a place for these organizations), but every university, college and department needs someone to step up, shrug off tenured malaise and take action.
  3. Don’t Be Afraid to Fail – following the “talk less, do more” model often involves taking a few unsure steps. Failure shouldn’t be feared. As with students, failure creates opportunities to learn, grow and improve. With so much shifting in the world of technology and our global economy, institutions of higher education need to fight to stay bold, agile and relevant.
  4. Embrace different Viewpoints – in uncertain conditions, it’s wise to reach outside the system and stack your team. The Global Service Jam brings together students, teachers, community members and business leaders. The model could (and should) work for other sectors within higher education. Different viewpoints challenge the status quo and yield fresh results.
  5. Technology is not the point, but it certainly helps facilitate the process – the big takeaways from the Global Service Jam had very little to do with technology but, without Skype, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and the international server space, our event would have been significantly less successful. We relied on input from Jammers around the world and rapid-fire market research afforded by social media. Technology enriched our experience and, with a little more imagination and certainly less fear, tech can blow the borders off any learning environment.

The Global Service Jam was a tremendous amount of fun and we’re incredibly grateful to have been involved. GSJ is all about thinking big and daring to create something of actual value, all under severe constraints and tight deadlines.

What a mission! I wonder where else this could be applied {hint, hint}...

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Author: is Head of Ops & Co-Creative at Verge Pipe Media. Verge Pipe Media assists public institutions, enterprises and the non-profit sector with Imaginative Inbound Marketing strategies + campaigns. We also have a development team chock full of Marvelous Mobile Migrators, poised to help transition our clients into a mobile + social world with custom software, iOS and Android mobile apps.

Topics: Inbound Marketing

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