Notes on U.Lab 2015

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Presencing Institute

Notes on U.Lab 2015

Harry Bartlett

An overview of the Presencing Institute's Massive Open Online Class (MOOC) and our contribution to the development of the online community.

The final live stream for U.Lab 2015 happened earlier in December. 50,000 people from 180 countries around the world took the class titled "Transforming Business, Society and Self." It was a resounding success, with 1/3rd of surveyed respondents declaring the class "life changing."

We greatly appreciate the opportunity to help create the social collaborative community that supports this MOOC and want to thank everyone at the Presencing Institute as well as class participants for making it a success.

Listening in on the final live stream was inspirational. There were live video feeds from three locations around the world. Otto Scharmer presented from MIT in Cambridge, MA, Adam Yukelson led a group from Sao Paulo, Brazil and there was a large group gathered in Edinburgh, Scotland including the Deputy First Minister.

What It Is

U.Lab is a unique, free, online course or MOOC. It was co-developed by edX/MITx and the Presencing Institue and led by Otto Scharmer, an author, activist and senior lecturer at MIT. It's a unique example of an "o2o" (online-to-offline) learning environment, comprised of 3 parts:

  1. Primary course content and live video sessions delivered by edX, the online curriculum platform used by MIT, Harvard, and other universities. There are 4 live sessions, 3 during the course and one after to recap results.
  2. An online social collaborative community that we built. Approximately 13,000 participants used the online h2h (human-to-human) community which includes features aimed to complement the edX content delivery in order to reach a finished goal such as Hubs, Coaching Circles, Discussion Board, blogs, Prototypes, and Listening Assessment.
  3. Offline and in-person communications around the world.

Purpose + Methods

Information on U-Lab
Illustration by Kelvy Bird

The purpose of the course is to foster 'reflection, dialogue and collaborative action' to solve social, economic and environmental problems. This is manifested online by the creation of Hubs (groups), Coaching Circles (leadership meetings and groups), a Discussion Board, Blog, Prototypes (projects, actions or initiatives), and other types of online and offline engagement.

The allure of the class extends beyond the classroom however, as one participant said:

"Most meaningful for me has been the contact with people who care about the planet and want to collectively work towards positive change. Since I am an international global citizen living in a remote area, the MOOC offered me the possibility to overcome distances and connect nonetheless on a deeper, more personal level with like-minded people. It is really wonderful to feel being part of a global movement. Very meaningful! Furthermore, I learned a lot about myself and my higher intention. This helps me to take some important decisions in my life."


The U.Lab MOOC compliments, expands, and surpasses educational initiatives in many ways. as a reference point let's look at the educational initiatives, STEM and STEAM.

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) is promoted in part as an efficient way to foster economic growth and raise the standard of living in the US and other parts of the world. With the addition of Art, STEM evolved to STEAM, since creativity and design are critical for innovation as exemplified by Apple Computer.

U.Lab goes one step further, as Otto Scharmer explains:

"We need a second version of STEAM that complements the first one: Social Technologies, Entrepreneurship, Aesthetics, and Mindfulness. That second type of STEAM, which promotes co-creative social literacy, is missing from education today - as the news make painfully obvious every day - and that is precisely what makes the U.Lab relevant now."

U.Lab's popularity proves there is an enormous demand for spiritual and secular collaboration to address global economic, environmental and social issues. It represents a new o2o - offline to online platform for affecting change, utilizing core strengths of the Internet. This new global, grassroots, ecosystem is at the forefront of online education and social activism that surpasses what established institutions are capable of.

It has been a pleasure helping create the U.Lab. We greatly thank everyone at the Presencing Institute for this opportunity, including Otto Scharmer, Adam Yukelson, Kelvy Bird, Dr. Katrin Kaeufer, Janice Spadafore, Angela Baldini and Julie Arts as well as everyone around the world who made this movement a reality.

See more about U.Lab on the Huffington Post.

About the author

Harry started BI in 1998 and focuses on integrating best practices in branding, user experience design, Internet marketing, and technology to increase the value of an online presence.
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