Often people question us on why we call NewCampus a “colearning school”. This is quickly followed by “what is colearning anyway”?
To answer these questions, we need to take you back in time.
Long long ago, in the 16th century, Ottoman coffeehouses served as hubs for coffee, candies and conversations. The intelligentsia, the curious and the news-loving flocked these coffee houses to get a pulse of the social, educational, cultural and political state of the world.
In the 17th century, at the cusp of the Revolution, this concept spread to reach Parisian coffee houses. If there was a piece of breaking news, the cafes became a rendezvous spot to gather quick updates, hold discourses and exchange rumours and ideas. You didn’t have to wait for the newspapers, there was always someone well-informed to fill you in while you get your fill-up. According to Louis-Sébastien Mercier, these coffee houses were “the ordinary refuge of the idler and the shelter of the indigent”.
Penny universities cropped up in England in the mid-17th century, offering admission into the cafe and a cup of coffee for the price of a penny, helping you catch-up with the locals and the latest. In nearby Vienna, things were no different. In fact, in October 2011, this Viennese Coffee House Culture made it to the list of Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO, stating that it is a place “where time and space are consumed, but only the coffee is found on the bill.”
In some ways, these cafes were the first colearning spaces. They became the seat of the intellectual movement of that time, spanning from Turkey to London and beyond. People connected, discussed and understood the many changes washing over the world around them. Strangers left as friends and formed communities of activity and learning.
What exactly is colearning?
Today, the news is at our fingertips. Twitter feeds have become global debate rooms. While the power of the Internet has made everything more accessible, we are also facing a millennial friendship crisis and are one of the loneliest generations of human beings.
The need for community and camaraderie has never been more pressing. Add to it the need to course a changing world where yesterday’s invention is overthrown by today’s innovation. Traditional educational methods are as old as humanity and are replete with learning gaps, obsolete curriculum and lack of infrastructure to support our teeming masses.
This is where colearning — or collaborative learning — comes to our rescue! Colearning breaks free from the shackles of traditional educational systems and sets the stage for communal learning, not unlike the penny unis, Ottoman coffee houses and Parisian cafes of the past.
Colearning Vs. Traditional learning
Research indicates that “when compared to more traditional methods where students non-interactively receive information from a teacher, cooperative, problem-based learning demonstrated the improvement of student engagement and retention of classroom material.” Hands-on activities, or active learning, also served to enhance the learning process (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2004) . Several studies concluded that active collaborative learning had a greater positive cognitive outcome for students (Cui, Lockee, & Meng, 2013; Freeman et al., 2014; Prince, 2004)
Colearning allows participants to engage with one another throughout the learning process and coordinate efforts to understand and solve a problem. So, everybody learns more through colearning!
It also combines the idea of community, discussion and learning. This ensures that information is not passed over from one source to another like in a traditional setup. Information, instead, gets analysed from various perspectives and discoursed upon. So, colearning results in participants retaining more information due to the thoughtful discussions carried on the subject.
Traditional systems work on hierarchy and are less participative. This leads participants to feel restricted or suppressed. Since everybody learns and works together, colearning creates a vibrant and positive environment to study.
In short, colearning creates an ecosystem of learning which is self-sustaining.
NewCampus’s foray into colearning
Early in 2019, we pivoted our business and rebranded QLC to NewCampus. The success we’d had in gathering over 12,000 colearners in over 40 countries since our inception, triggered this decision. But the catalyst was how we built a community of 1,500 out of this in a little under 6 months in 2018 in Dubai.
People thronged our hands-on workshops, networking events, live-streamed sessions and kept wanting more. “I socialized in an international crowd, made new friends and learnt about many global innovations which I never would have if it wasn’t for my time (well) spent with NewCampus’s growing community,” shared our colearner Awaise Alvi. Such feedback from our colearners was invaluable and spurred us on.
We realized that our Dubai colearning space was filling the big educational gap after school and college. Adult friendships proved hard and networking events were laborious. People were looking for a way to meet other like-minded souls organically and belong to interesting communities. And we became that community!
Colearning became our new business model. We connected with beautiful co-working spaces and under-utilized buildings to host an after-hours school of sorts. We brought together a community of people motivated to futureproof their careers and excited by the changing world. We gathered top-notch industry leaders and entrepreneurs who were driving innovations around the globe as class hosts. Based on the ideology of facilitating a lifelong learning mindset, we launched daily classes hosted by global instructors for our colearners.
Over the year of existence across Dubai and Singapore, we have cultivated a holistic learning experience in the market. People — across all ages, race, cultures, education, work experience, etc.– gather at our spaces to learn, take part and share their thoughts on various topics of global interest. Our classes enable our community to develop a lifelong learning mindset and stay relevant in a swiftly changing planet. And many of our colearners have become class hosts and our class hosts have attended our sessions as colearners. This has created a cyclical learning system at NewCampus.
Colearners often claim that they come for the class, but they stay for the community. And in it lies our biggest success. In a time where real-time friendships are so hard to build and online learning so hard to complete, we are creating a colearning community that grows in strength with each passing day.