Is project-based education a new idea?
Unbound’s Ascend program is different from traditional college programs in that it gives students the opportunity to learn by doing something themselves. But this isn’t a brand new idea in the context of world history.
In fact, for most of world history, learning has been done this way. People have learned by doing. Up until the last century, few people attended college. Many people learned a trade through the apprenticeship model.
The apprenticeship model was fairly simple and straightforward. A young person would find a mentor who knew their trade and they would work under this person until they had developed the skills to work on their own. When they could work independently, they graduated from apprentice to journeyman. The final step beyond journeyman was master craftsman for those who excelled in their work and mastered the trade.
This model was practiced back in the Middle Ages and even earlier.
Learning a Trade in the 21st Century
There are still some industries that adopt this structured apprenticeship model with its hierarchy of excellence. Blue-collar trades often require more hands-on training than formal schooling. That’s because the skills for excellence at the job can’t be learned in a classroom.
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But even beyond the blue-collar trades, we are beginning to see this model of direct trade preparation being used.
Google has launched its Professional Certificate program. This online program seeks to provide accessible and affordable training for in-demand IT and related jobs. The idea is to equip students with the knowledge and skills they need to know to do the job, without requiring them to spend years at a school, spending thousands of dollars on a degree.
This program from Google is challenging the idea that to get a white-collar job in the knowledge economy, you need a costly college degree.
A Return to Practical Learning
The Ascend program works in a similar way.
Students who complete the Ascend program will “graduate” with college credits that they can transfer to their target school, thus saving time and money.
Their project completion will also provide them with something to put on their resume and a chance to build skills and experience.
They will also receive the Ascend and Signature Leadership Certifications. These certifications are linkable and can be easily added to a LinkedIn profile or online portfolio of work. The link can also be shared with interested employers who can review what the student did to complete the certification.
Unlike the Google certificates however, Ascend also works from an understanding that Christian young people need more than just job training to prepare them for an impactful life. They need community and training on how to live productively in a world that is hostile to their faith. That’s why Ascend also includes the Signature Leadership Courses and the Navigate course.
Similar to the medieval apprenticeship model, Ascend students will learn directly from subject matter experts who are actually working in their field of expertise. Whether it is a marketing strategist or an apologist, these subject matter experts will share their knowledge and experience directly with Ascend students. Consider these the “masters” of their craft, sharing their practical expertise with students.
The Ascend model is simple: learn directly from subject matter experts, practice what you learn in real time with your own project, and practice peer coaching in your Ascend Team to support other students to excel.
This isn’t a brand new model. It has worked for centuries. We’re not claiming to invent project-based education. We’re just bringing it back to the 21st century so that Christian young people can prepare for impactful lives through real-world experience.
Jace Bower is the Marketing Coordinator for Unbound. An Unbound alumnus, he has experienced firsthand the powerful advantages of doing college differently and participating in an intentional community. Jace graduated with his bachelor’s degree in History in 2016 and has worked in restaurant management and marketing since then. He also served on the Unbound Student Cabinet in 2019.
The author of two books and a semi-regular blogger, Jace can often be found doing something with words. When he’s not, chances are he’s reading about theology, listening to music, or playing pool or tennis with his wife Shannon in their Virginia home.