If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you’ll have no doubt noticed that faculty and staff at the Intercultural Open University Foundation (IOUF) consistently refer to “students” as “learners.” There’s a powerful reason behind the shift: a student is someone who studies. End of story. A learner is someone who learns, which is a much more active process. There is also an expectation of an outcome present in the word “learner” that is absent from the word “student.” Similarly, at IOU Foundation, we don’t view our learners as people who simply consume information – they actively acquire practical knowledge they can use in the world beyond their PhD degree.
How else are we different from traditional educational institutions? Let’s count the ways:
Mentoring. IOUF learners receive one-on-one mentoring from senior faculty members to ensure they are guided as effectively as possible to the completion of their degree.
Online Learning. As a distributed foundation for higher education, the President and Board of Governors of the IOUF are continually exploring ways to incorporate Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) into our learning processes. Mentoring is a one-on-one process and faculty use a variety of methods to communicate with learners, including, but not limited to Skype conferences, email, social networking, etc.
Scholar-Practitioner Model of Learning. We follow an educational process that connects scholarship and theory and applies them to real-world action and practice. We believe that the process of learning is as important as the content of learning and we stress self-direction, collaboration with peers and faculty, and the importance of experiential learning
Assessment. As a foundation for adult learning, many traditional means of institutional assessment don’t apply to the work we do. For example, IOU Foundation learners are generally working in the fields that interest them when they apply for their PhD degree, so job placement is not an important assessment tool. We also do not feel the use of grades provides an accurate indicator of learning achievement, although we have on-going self-assessment of learning processes in place.
Social Relevance. Intercultural Open University Foundation requires that the programs of its learners reflect their awareness of the social implications of their studies and of their obligation to share knowledge with integrity in uplifting the communities in which they serve.
We are a unique foundation and as a result we appeal to a unique type of learner. Our ideal learners are able to work independently and with a high degree of commitment to their own learning process. They are able to work collaboratively with faculty and peers and they like the idea of “learning by doing.” Above all else, our learners are committed to using the learning they acquire through an IOUF education to make the world a better place.
If you feel this is the right place for you to begin the process of earning your PhD degree, or you think it might be, please get in touch. We’d be happy to provide you with any information you need in order to make a great choice for your future.