Educational Ecosystems

Educational Ecosystems unite the internal actors within a school, university, or learning organization such as the students, teachers, and administrators with the wider community and stakeholders within which an institution is placed. The wider network of actors (families, organizations, businesses, faith groups, government, etc.) all contribute to the character and quality of education received. This in turn increases opportunities learners have to create real-world impact and prepare students as leaders of 21st century challenges and opportunities. Furthermore, by linking learner experience with external actors in the wider ecosystem, this collaborative and networked approach to education increases opportunities for students to build key relationships with stakeholders that can extend well beyond a students’ educational career and provide stepping stones into their given vocation.

By their very nature, educational ecosystems are inherently systemic, collaborative, and solution focused. As the OECD report The Outward Looking School and Its Ecosystem suggests, “Schools are living environments that allow for interactions between learners, educators and the community of people surrounding the environment. The nature of these interactions is crucial to stimulate creativity, trust and the freedom to evolve and transform.” The report further suggests that the more internal/external stakeholders participate within educational ecosystems the more learning and impact is possible for participants and the wider community. The PKG Center at MIT for example, has for the last 30 years provided students with service-based learning opportunities to prepare them as social innovators tackling complex social and environmental challenges. Similarly, the executive program also at MIT being offered in 2019, Innovation Ecosystems: A New Approach to Accelerating Corporate Innovation and Entrepreneurship, prepares business leaders to apply “ecosystem-based open innovation approaches” that enable collaboration between stakeholders. Educational Ecosystems are emerging around the world as 21st century responses to the increasing interconnected and complex world in which we learn and work. The following examples highlight aspects of educational ecosystem approaches: