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Distributed Education through IOUF: A Lesson in Creativity and Flexibility

It's impossible to open a newspaper or web page these days without noticing how dramatically our world is changing. Global markets are in turmoil, civil unrest is flourishing, demographics are shifting and the values many of us grew up with - no matter where in the world we were raised -- don't seem to offer the beacon of hope we had once thought they represented.

Topping it all off is the "voodoo" that seems to be attached to the year 2012.

It's a confusing time for many. But what does it all mean to folks who have a mission to make the world a better place? At the Intercultural Open University Foundation (IOUF) it means that creativity and flexibility are more important than ever. Our founders built our graduate and post-graduate degree programs around these two qualities, and they continue to be crucial aspects of our success today. While rigorous academic standards underpin our educational model, we believe that an academic curriculum for adult learners needs to take into account how people actually live.

The IOUF's mission is to provide personalized, mentored post-graduate educational opportunities for people anywhere in the world. We focus particularly on people who are working towards the kinds of social changes that will make people's lives better. That might mean establishing clean water programs in under-serviced countries or implementing sustainable farming practices for impoverished soil. It might mean helping to eliminate forms of systemic discrimination or bridging the gap between competing cultural beliefs.

Most of our learners are mature adults with busy careers, families and, often, charitable interests to tend.  Most are over the age of 40. They turn to the IOUF to help them meet their academic goals in a way that recognizes the constraints on their time. The IOUF has established a number of creative and flexible ways for our learners to pursue their distributed education - for example, our programs:

  • Allow learners to create individualized curricula relevant to their specific areas of specialization
  • Emphasize cross- disciplinary inquiry
  • Focus on collaborative learning
  • Use a "scholar-practitioner" model of learning that connects scholarship and theory with real-world action and practice
  • Make extensive use of online technology

The IOUF favors academic inquiry that focuses on social relevance and ways for the world's peoples to live together peacefully. Each faculty member has more than 25 years of experience in distributed education and in learner-centered adult education; they share a philosophy that considers the process of learning to be as important as the content of learning. Put another way, our staff and faculty have made flexibility and creativity the cornerstone of their careers

If you feel the Intercultural Open University Foundation offers the kind of educational experience that will help you meet your academic and life-centered goals gracefully, we invite you to get in touch. Alternatively, we'd love to hear your comments about the role of flexibility and creativity in the delivery of education today. What are your thoughts on the topic? What needs to change in order to ensure the global educational system meets the needs of students today?