Open Master's Preview

A week ago, a small group of entrepreneurial learners came together in DC to change the way society looks at study. Together, we began planning the Open Masters: a community-based, customizable masters program where students create their own curriculum and complete it with the support of peers and mentors. Forty-nine people filled out an online survey and about half of them attended the Open House event at Canvas on May 31st to explore ideas related to open higher education. All of them were coming for different reasons; some could not afford graduate school, while others could not find a graduate program that was flexible enough to meet their learning goals. Still others had never considered graduate school before, but were attracted to gaining a new group of peers with whom they could learn anything- from design thinking, to business skills, to cooking. A common thread throughout the room, though, was a core set of values: passion, action, purposefulness, and a desire for impact and community.

This Summer, a group of us will be crafting the framework and handbook for the Open Masters, to help give the program clear shape and direction, while ensuring it remains flexible enough to support all passions, personal development adventures, and skills. We are also planning a common core experience for participants to start the Open Masters journey together, including a retreat this Fall. We will be incorporating into each of these foundations of the Open Masters the feedback we heard at the open house and in the surveys about what people would like to see, including:

  • A strong sense of community, cultivated through opportunities like shared meals and places to study.
  • Clear structure and accountability, from common criteria and mechanisms like regular check-ins.
  • Ways to supplement our knowledge and learning paths, through the guidance of expert mentors, apprenticeships, project portfolios, and other practical learning experiences.
  • Incorporating existing tools for open learning into the program, such as: Citizen CirclesKCDC classesskillsharesPeer 2 Peer University courses.

If you are interested in designing your own Open Masters, we hope that you will stay in touch and, whenever you’re ready, get involved. We’ll post new developments on this blog, and we’ll keep you in the loop if you sign up for updates (on the right). If you have any questions or want to get involved in the development of this program in any way, we hope you will comment on blog posts, send us your thoughts by email, or (if you’re in DC) join ongoing informal gatherings we’ll be hosting this summer (we’ll let you know if you sign up for updates).

If you’ve ever tried to learn something on your own or with others, we’d also love to hear about your story at or in the comments section below. What was successful about your experience? What could you have done differently?