In this educational model, interdisciplinary teams of students and teachers collaborate with government and industry professionals to solve specific challenges.
Image: JMU -X-Labs
There is still a discrepancy between the knowledge acquired in university classrooms and the experience demanded by current jobs. Also, the labor challenges that the emerging technologies will impose, such as automation or artificial intelligence, will require the development of educational programs capable of empowering graduates with the necessary skills to thrive in changing environments. How to achieve this?
James Madison University (JMU), created a technological laboratory in which students nurture problem-solving skills in real and complex scenarios. JMU X-Labs invites companies to transfer their challenges to the classrooms so that students can formulate solutions while developing abilities.
This educational model, which is based on the Design Thinking and Lean Launchpad methodologies, prepares students to investigate all aspects of a problem; interdisciplinary teams of students and teachers collaborate with government and industry professionals to solve specific challenges.
Some of the courses taught by this technological laboratory are Virtual and Augmented Reality, Autonomous Vehicles, Blockchain, Creativity and Innovation, Drones, Internet of Things, Medical Innovations, as well as different ethical hacking and entrepreneurship subjects.
As an example, the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) employed a JMU student to develop, along with other undergraduates, drone technology to monitor grassland bird nests using thermal imaging.
The scope of this initiative not only influences American companies. A team of students built a drone to photograph the ancient walls of Cartagena, Colombia; they developed technology to generate 3D representations from the captured images. On the other hand, in 2019 a simultaneous course of "Hacking 4 Community" will take place at the facilities of JMU X-Labs and will be broadcast at the Technological University of Bolivar, Colombia.
Linking work experience with academic knowledge is necessary. Critical thinking, leadership, and teamwork are some of the skills that JMU X-Labs students develop while solving real problems. This is an example of how universities can close this critical learning gap.