Why we should enable students to HACK THEIR EDUCATION

At the law department of Hogeschool Leiden we think it is time to turn things around when it comes to how we educate our students. No longer do we accept large numbers of students dropping out in their first year. We therefore encourage and enable our students to use their schoolwork as a resource to build their ideas rather than being a hoop to jump through to get a degree. Sounds appealing? Read how students can find purpose through HACKING THEIR EDUCATION!

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Suppose you are starting a new challenging job. Your first task is to write a report on how your firm can take legal action against one of its competitors. You put a lot of effort into it and when your report is finished you hand it over to your boss. He reads your findings, really likes what you have come up with, and praises you for the work you have done. After you leave his office he picks up the report, throws it in the garbage and continues whatever he is working on.

Sounds ridiculous? Well, it is. When it comes to education however, this is what happens every single day. Students spend a tremendous amount of effort in doing schoolwork. They write essays, compose reports and take exams. They think of projects, make proposals and outline papers. And when their work is done and graded, it mostly ends up being unused.

It is time to turn things around

The study load of a bachelor degree (HBO) is 6.720 hours. That equals 840 working days or 168 workweeks. Many students see the time they spend in school as something they have to do. They regard schoolwork as something that needs to be done in order to get the grade, complete the class, get the credit, and eventually to get the piece of paper. Every teacher that has ever had a student at its desk asking if a certain topic is “part of the exam” recognizes this dynamic.

Because many students focus to meet the demands of the education system, undesirable things happen. Students for example take a very “consuming” attitude, merely paying attention to what they need to know to pass the class. Or they show up being unmotivated, as they know their work is thrown away after it is graded. Although there is a significant group of students that eventually reaches the educational finish line, too many students do not. They drop out, with all the consequences that this entails.

Enable students to hack their education

At Hogeschool Leiden we have decided to turn things around. We do no longer want our students to spend 6.720 hours of work that eventually ends up being unused. No longer do we want our students to solely jump through our educational hoops. And no longer do we want students to drop out because they feel their education is not truly meaningful to them.

You might wonder: how? The answer is shockingly simple: enable students to focus their upcoming schoolwork on their personal goals and interests. Instead of assigning one-size-fits-all projects and assignments, encourage students to meet the objectives of the class by focusing on things that are truly meaningful to them. In that way we help students to see their schoolwork as a resource to build their ideas rather than being a hoop to jump through to get a degree.

When students focus their work on what matters to them on a personal level, school gets a very different perspective. We truly believe that when students align their schoolwork with what is most valuable to them, an untapped source of vitality and passion is ignited. And in this way students can truly become inspired to do what has always been avoided: homework.

By enabling students to hack their education, we are creating a culture of Purpose Driven Education. Instead of passing classes because the education system demands them to, students use that system to build their dreams. And we as teachers can help students to utilize the time they spend in school to make that dream come true.

@ Hogeschool Leiden

These are big words. At Hogeschool Leiden, students and teachers are turning these into reality. In several ways we are enabling students to find purpose through hacking their education.

Program 1 – Current student

Firstly, we have developed a ten-week program for law students who are in their first year of study. In this program students will embark on a journey of self-discovery to become crystal clear on their personal passions, goals and interests. Using those personal insights, students will design a compelling vision for their future career. They discover what drives them, they find mentors by connecting to people they professionally look up to, and students are encouraged to dream big.

Students in the program have a clear short-term goal: hack the “mainstream” project at the end of their block or semester. In presenting a quality project alternative (their education strategy), students try to convince their teacher to do a meaningful project that aligns with their goals and interests on the one hand and meets the requirements of the assigned project on the other. In other words: students persuade their teacher by explaining how they can do a different project and still meet the educational objectives that are set.

The hacked projects of our law students will be very different. A student that highly values animal rights for example, can use its legal knowledge to help strengthen animal protection. Or a student that wants to become a lawyer to defend marginalized people, can approach a law firm and do a project that contributes to a specific case. These very different projects however share one important hack-principle: they are meaningful! Both to students self and the world around them.

Program 2 – Pre-students

Hogeschool Leiden is also piloting a program for those that have applied to become law student, but are finishing their final year of school at an MBO or high school. This gives students the opportunity to experience university life at Leiden. Traditionally, there is a high dropout rate of students that start their first year of study. In this program we therefore guide students to develop their education strategy: a plan on how to hack your upcoming law education and use the education system as a resource to build and fulfill your personal ideas and interests.

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Students that hack their education will find purpose in all aspects of their education. Next to getting a degree, they will use their schoolwork to build their network, find their dream job or start their business, build their CV, design their portfolio, and do things that matter. All while they are at school!

Interested in how you can enable students to take ownership and make their school more meaningful? Please contact us!


Contact ▸ Chris Jan Geugies