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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Assessment + MMORPG + Real World Challenges: How The MESH will Change Education

Formal education institutions exist in their current form only because tests and other forms of assessment are so poor. If there was a perfect assessment system, someone could just prove what they know, regardless of how they gained the knowledge. This would render the concepts of four year college and graduate school with their archaic diplomas and transcripts instantly obsolete.

Any theoretically perfect assessment system must be reliable, accurate, and trusted (at least as much as current school systems). As well, it should by adaptive and current. This has caused problems in the past.

But these could be resolved. Imagine the emergence of The MESH.

Enter The MESH

The MESH would be structured similarly to a massively multi-player online role playing game such as World of Warcraft. But rather than killing dragons or aliens, teams would fluidly form to bid on and, if selected, attempt to solve real-world problems. Assuming they were successful, they would get a) points towards a "degree," and b) an increasingly detailed assessment of natural strengths (such as leadership or project management), industry preferences, and weaknesses to be worked on.

How The MESH would work

An organization would submit a real-world problem or challenge to The MESH, including time frame, resources made available, and maximum cash value willing to be paid by the organization for having the problem solved.

Teams would form and compete for the right to work on the challenge. The organization would then pick three teams, using such metrics as past success, final bid cost, and creativity of response. The three selected teams would work on the problem over the course of the time frame independently, and each submit their solution.

The organization would then choose one of the teams, take their solution, and pay for it. The funds would be split between the team (and each of the team members), and The MESH. More importantly, the team would also get assessment credit (that typically mapped directly to the cash paid out by the organization).

The organization would have the option of taking none of the responses, and paying nothing. But this would result in a less good rating of the organization, which may impact the quality of talent the organization could have bid on future projects.

Some Advantages of The MESH

Here are some the advantages of The MESH.

  • Assessments are "real" and dynamic. They are always current and adaptive.
  • The MESH rewards not just "Learning to Know" but also "Learning to Be" and "Learning to Do."
  • The MESH is self-funding.
  • There is a seamless transition from assessment to real work.
  • There is not an "all or nothing" cram mentality of current tests. Some people might get "a degree" by working full time for six months, others may earn their points over years or decades.
  • People currently in the workforce could seamlessly switch careers, even industries.
  • Institutions and other service providers would pop up or evolve to help people learn critical skills they need to be successful in The MESH.
  • People would get comfortable with certain other people. Trust and competence would be rewarded.
  • The MESH would both borrow interface ideas from current games and sims.

There would be full time staff of stewards and curators. They might organize projects to fit into each degree. They could even create (or reuse classic) mini-practice challenges, worth nothing, but good for starting.

There would also be a significant role for philanthropy or other voluntarism. For example, many successful business people would donate their time to be mentors for projects or individuals as well, with some having bias to non-profit or specialized projects. Some mentors might insist that perspective mentees accomplish a certain level before even talking to them.


The future of assessment, and all of education, is The MESH. Social networking sites and massively multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPGs) have made the case. Now the next challenge is to harness this collective power towards real goals, not just more media.

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