Blog Post

Micro-Colleges and the Pop-Up University

Micro-Colleges are time-limited, intensive courses centered around practial skills such as coding or beer brewing. According to Thomas Frey, Micro-Colleges exist because traditional college takes too long and costs too much for people who just need to retool themselves for the changing job market.

The futurist: The lean, mean, micro-college model and More on the lean, mean micro-college model

So, what do you have when you have a collection Micro-Colleges? A Pop-Up University? To me, a good model would be a two-year program of general studies to teach core skills such as oral and written communication, critical thinking skills, and learning-to-learn skills. Then, students can attend a Micro-College, work for a while, and then come back to another Micro-College to retool.  How does this sound as a viable blend of a good liberal education and vocational education?



I think I like your view but can we check whether it is compatible with the following

1 education that ends in certificates -and student debt - isnt the future most people need to develop their livelihoods 

2 there are urgently missing curricula all the way from age 9 up which include:

financial literacy

how to host discussions that lead to team action

360 degree views of entrepreneurship

3 most teenagers are no longer well served by monopolising all of their day time with schools and testing- we need apprentice schemes and other community spaces where people can eg action ,earn makers skills or become digital coders or even peer to peer teachers!

4 most people will be happiest to continue experiential learning all through life; ultimately this also means that there is more teaching work and more of us will be occasional teachers but not always of the sort that teachers previously monopolised - there will be much more work for mentoring, tutoring, connecting but much less for those who want to me -too elements of a course whose content can already be acquired from moocs or khan academy type platforms


My net generation future exploring freiends and I are over 30 years into linking in extreme educational networks of the above type ; it is much more rewarding for everyone, teachers, parents,students, communities but its not what the teaching profession or government used to assume they alone knew how to do




I really like the idea of rethinking college in this way.  I especially like the idea of "retooling" by allowing students to come back and get all the education they want. A lot of smart people I know working outside of academia miss the environment and would be glad to get back into it if it were more accessible.  I also think that inexpensive mini-courses offer the possibilities of true "lifelong learning," which surely would be a good thing for our society?

On my new blog of different #FutureEd options, I speculate what would happen if everyone worked less and went to school more. If we had real teachers doing these microcourses, we could maybe even overcome the glut of adjunct labor:



But who is going to do the actual teaching in this set up? More importantly, how will they get paid a fair/liveable wage? From the student's perspective - in our certification obsessed moment - I understand the appeal of getting your certificate as fast and as cheaply as possible. And it is nice to be able to take a class for the various reasons that Beth's blog post describes. But as someone nearing the end of a PhD and peering into the adjunct oblivion, I don't see this as a viable solution to that problem.


The MarineLives academic/public history initiative uses twelve week "pop-up" courses to drive its collaborative transcription programme.

Our first such course was run in September 2012 as a Proof of Concept.  Our next one kicks off in June 2014, and is being run in collaboration with Bath Spa University in England. There will be a further transcription collaboratory in October 2014, and probably three more in 2015.

We will be recruiting forty participants in April and May for the June start - eight facilitators and thirty-two transcription associates. Each facilitator works with and supports three or four associates, whose age range in the past has been from seventeen to sixty-eight, and whose background has included K11 and K12 students, undergraduates, doctoral students, early career scholars, museum archivists, teachers, and retired health administrators

Participants are volunteers and there are no charges. Participants are asked to commit to spend one and a half to two hours per week for the twelve weeks of the course.  In our Proof of Concept our drop out rate was about fifty per cent, which for a technically demanding, volunteer based course was pretty good.

Since our first Proof of Concept we have established partnerships with early modern historians and informaticians at Bath Spa University (England), the data and web science group at the University of Mannheim (Germany), and early modernists at the University of St Andrews (Scotland).  We are keen to add two North American partners to our initiative, and are seeking early modern historians and data and semantic web scientists. We will be trialling a collaborative annotation "pop-up" course later this year, testing an RDF based linked data tool.

For anyone interested in learning more, please see: Colin Greenstreet and Jill Wilcox, Digital Humanities and Technical partnership: a Discussion Document, July 23rd 2013

To access our resources (which are made freely and publicly available under a CC by 3.0 licence) see our MarineLives profile on the HASTAC website