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by Chris Hartigan
Some schools talk about building online communities to foster collaboration and many schools just dream of it. But a few schools actually do it. Oxford University’s Said Business School (SBS), which recently launched its Global Opportunities & Threats: Oxford initiative (GOTO) (http://goto.sbs.ox.ac.uk) is one of the few, and their motivation for doing so may surprise you.
Of course there’s a lot of social learning going on these days. MOOCs, for one, are bringing together online communities from far reaches and this has spawned dozens of micro online "appendages" to these massive communities formed through tools such as Facebook and LinkedIn to pick up where the MOOCs drop off. And these are just high profile examples of what’s happening everywhere: students looking online for – and finding - others with shared experiences or differing viewpoints that can help them round out their own perspective on a subject, a topic or a learning discipline. The goal, for many, is to create an all-around enhanced learning experience for themselves. But in the case of SBS, one of the driving goals for their online collaboration model is to create a better world for all of us.
What SBS is doing with GOTO is unique. The site works as a single platform that pulls together specialists from all over the university to share information and teach each other. SBS constituents (students, faculty, alumni) have permissions to access the site and can view videos and infographics, pour through data, contribute to blogs and discussions and participate in a highly thoughtful exchange of ideas and perspectives. The most unique part? Aside from the fact that thought leaders from across the university (i.e. not just from SBS) are engaged together on this site to provide balance and depth to a subject, GOTO is unique in that the site focuses this community around only one subject area at a time. For 2013, GOTO will be looking at the Population 21 Challenge and the implications of changing demographics on the world (http://www.nato.int/docu/review/2011/Climate-Action/Population_growth_ch...). In the words of Said’s Dean Peter Tufano, GOTO is an attempt to form a community of problem solvers to tackle the world’s large-scale problems. And there are few large-scale problems that we all face that are as big as population growth.
Business schools can often come under quick criticism for perceived myopic, centrist viewpoints used to assess economic and social challenges. But SBS, especially with GOTO, is an example of how many business schools see their role in addressing these challenges with a very broad lens. Responding to the world’s compounding needs for both job creation and responsible business, business schools themselves are embracing social learning and supporting collaboration around our unified problems to deliver outcomes in ways that few others can.
Click here for more details on SBS and GOTO.