The Minerva Project or The Death of the Lecture


MINERVA’S PROJECT: Founded by Ben Nelson. Minerva majors include are: Social Sciences, Computational Sciences, Natural Sciences, Arts & Humanities, and Business. Each one of these offers six different concentrations. Minerva uses the Active Learning Forum™, a platform that allows students to interact online. Instead of building a campus, Minerva chooses to invest to students co-living in a same physical setting, one that changes each semester across continents, while learning occurs only online.

The courses may occur online but they are not massive, says Graeme Wood, a journalist that reported on Minerva back in 2014 for the Atlantic.  Wood joined a course of inductive logic ran by professor Eric Bonabeau (physicist, Minerva’s dean of computational sciences). All of the courses in Minerva assume the form of online seminars. They do so however, by profiting from the existence of MOOCs. Ben Nelson, the founder, likens MOOCs to publishing and considers them to be in the future sole providers of content in terms of lectures.

Nelson bases the Minerva layout to his belief that ‘when you have a noncurated academic experience, you effectively don’t get educated’. He also insists that ‘the lectures’ model is dead, soon to be completely obliterated’. Kosslyn, a former Harvard dean and a renowned cognitive neuro­scientist who has joined Minerva as a founding dean, also claims that lectures might be ‘cost-effective but they are pedagogically unsound’. Kosslyn in particular, says Wood, in his 32 years at Harvard has realized an extended research on education and cognitive science and that now he has the chance to put this research into motion.

Claire Cain Miller from New York Times claims that Minerva’s faculty concluded that a key skill is being able to apply learning in new and different contexts. Toward that end, students keep blogs during their travels about how they’re using the concepts they learned freshman year. “As we define it”, adds Nelson in Bized Magazine, “fully active learning means that 100 percent of students must be engaged at least 75 percent of the time in every class.”

Wood’s article is the most thorough of all but is inconclusive as to whether this initiative will prove strong enough to alter the current educational practices of the ivy league institutions. It is also unevenly written as strangely enough, the author concludes the article with the ambitious expectations of Nelson instead of his stronger initial remarks in regard to Minerva’s courses seminar-alike setup:

For one thing, it was exhausting: a continuous period of forced engagement, with no relief in the form of time when my attention could flag or I could doodle in a notebook undetected (…)  I was forced, in effect, to learn. If this was the education of the future, it seemed vaguely fascistic. Good, but fascistic.

Three years later, in April 2017, the Minerva project is still on. In fact what started timidly with a small cohort of 33 students, was strengthened in 2015 with a cohort that reached 100 students, while this year, 150 new students have enrolled (Minerva accepted only 1.9 percent out of 16,000 applicants).




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Virtual Design Studios


Bradform, Cheng and Kvan describe their impressions of a VDS realized in early 1994 between the University of Hong Kong, MIT, ETSAB Barcelona, Cornell University, Washington University of St Louis and UBC in Vancouver.

Authors describe VDS as an experimental environment for design education that allowed students to work collectively with colleagues from different cultures. Content was exchanged through a shared server. Communication mostly occurred via e-mail (asynchronous). Real time collaboration (synchronous) occurred less often via teleconferencing software and various interacting whiteboards.

The Virtual Design Studios main tools that were used were:

  • CAD
  • Internet
  • Teleconferencing
  • Whiteboards

The main problems noted were: lack of constant interactivity, student poor representational skills through digital media, lack of collaborative attitudes.



Bradford, J.W., Cheng, N., Kvan, Th., 1994, Virtual Design Studios_eCAADe Proceedings, available here

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The Not-Yetness term.

Openness as transparency between students; communication between students and the outside world; interdependent relationships between educational institutions and external practices ( Dalsgaard and Thestrup). This paper asks if openness is a absolute positive.

The authors claim that:

  • a. the binary between open and closed is false: closed is associated with hierarchy and repression while openess represents creativity and innovation, a total liberation from the constraints of formal study (…) all forms of openess entail forms of closed-ness (Edwards), educators decide what forms of openess are justifiable pedagogically and ideologically.
  • b. the overemphasis on access homogenizes learners and contexts: not all individuals require simply access to content in order to learn; OER emphasis on replication presumes uniformity of learners (…) complexity reduction is problematic (McArthur)
  • c. open does not attend issues of power and inclusion: OERs could be reproducing asymmetric power relations between those who produce and those who passively assimilate the offerings (…) access is not enough unless it is seen in a context of social inclusion and justice

Not-Yetness is a response to dominant discourse of using technology in education: accepting risk and uncertainty of practices in flux while setting boundaries and looking for alternative modes of openness in digital education where there is an emphasis on the learners’ connections and not just content. Openness as a quality of relationship amongst students, teachers, technologies, texts and an unknown audience.

Example No 1: while wikis promote consensus around dominant voices, a federated wiki allows individuals to manage and control content, they resolve to multiple servers

Example No 2: blogging provokes an awareness of audience and voice but student bloggers rarely have the option to experiment with identity or set their own limits of exposure

Example No 3: exposing learning to an unknown and therefore unpredictable audience (the agents beyond the course) may lead students to making decisions based on the awareness of that audience.



Collier, A., Ross J. 2016. For whom, and for what? Not-yetness and thinking beyond
open content. Open Praxis, vol. 9 issue 1, January–March 2017, pp. 7–16 (ISSN 2304-070X), available here

Urban Memory Infrastructure by Ben Vershbow and Shannon Mattern


NYPL Labs’ work provide a new, and deeper, understanding of city streets, buildings, and society, over centuries of change (…) Turning vast collections into usable data, connecting maps, photographs, menus and community memories, NYPL Labs created a series of multilayered projects that point the way to a new information ecosystem.

Full article available here/ Image available here

Architectural Education, Michaela Wozniak


The Beaux Arts period in Paris had four primary elements:

  • the Ecole: Ecole was the stiff, traditional study of classical painting and architecture, which culminated in the Grand Prix de Rome
  • the private ateliers: in the small independent ateliers students learned directly under a “master” with all the success of the students reflected directly back on the master
  • the Salon: The annual Paris Salon was the show in which the best works as chosen by a jury were displayed to the public
  • the café life: the Parisian life of cafes was the informal extension of the ateliers and the Ecole, in which people came together to discuss design

Wozniak suggests that the cafe life, thus the informal setting of studying has receded. She also claims that the rigid hierarchy and the division between professors as jurors and students creates a chasm between the two.

Wozniak exalts the teaching methodology of Sekou Cooke who requires that the students peer to peer one another even from the first year of their studies. Cooke gives the students a template of reaction: “What works is ____. What does not work is ____. And what could be done differently is ____.” This collaborative process according to the author, revives the informal “cafe life” setting and allows students to appreciate one another and learn form each other just like they will do in their professional life as architects.



Wozniak, M., 2016,  How to Improve Architectural Education: Learning (and Unlearning) From the Beaux Arts Method, published in Archdaily, full article available here 

More information on the Beaux Arts available here 

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Five emerging technology concepts


The principle that traverses all five points is the blending of the virtual with the real.

  1. Centaur Mentality: The term “centaur” is used to describe a human working with the assistance of machines (…) the term was coined by Kasparov (…) new form of chess playing where human could confer with gaming machines (…) we will come to leverage the capabilities of our inventions where appropriate.
  2. Biosyncing: it refers to biomechanical symbiosis  when a human and a machine are in a reactive, performance-augmenting loop (…) we will work with our inventions and we will learn to communicate with them through “wearables” or the “Internet of things”
  3. Social Immersive Experiences: Augmented reality and virtual reality are now coming together and so are the possibilities of greater social interaction (…) with VR comes the ability to create human connections through shared simulated experiences
  4. Situated Media: Triggers for additional information will increasingly remain affixed to physical objects and locations
  5. Digital Inclusion as a Human Right: On June 27th of this year, the UN passed a non-binding resolution declaring Internet access a basic human right: “Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development.”



Denis Hurley, Looking forward from 2016: Five emerging technology concepts to watch…December 16, 2016, full article available here

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