How do participants learn on BlueDot’s courses?

By Li-Lian Ang (Published on April 29, 2024)

Our course is structured to empower participants to:

  1. Understand the problem and solutions in positively developing future AI systems and building a pandemic-proof world.
  2. Build frameworks to evaluate interventions critically.
  3. Create and implement impactful solutions using their knowledge and skills

To achieve these goals, our courses come in two phases:

  • Learning Phase: participants build a foundational understanding of the field.
  • Project Sprint: participants apply what they've learned to take meaningful action.

Learning Phase

We designed this phase to maximise the learning potential of each participant through active engagement. We additionally drew on research from the science of learning:

  • Active learning: Learners are more likely to understand and retain the material when actively engaged with the content. No lectures, no taking a backseat. Our facilitators undergo two weeks of training to facilitate engaging discussions with their cohort. All cohorts also follow structured activities designed for critical thinking, group discussion and personal reflection on the course materials.
  • Desirable difficulty: Learners are more likely to improve if challenged, so we've designed our courses to be challenging. Our courses are not for participants who expect to coast along with the materials. We expect each participant to spend 2-3 hours preparing for each session by reading the assigned resources and completing the exercises so that they can contribute to the discussion.
  • Do the real thing: We designed structured activities so participants can practice applying their skills during the weekly 2-hour sessions with their cohort. For example, participants are often asked to present the case studies assigned to them and debate on each merits with other participants to strengthen their critical thinking and reasoning skills.
  • Drawing on diverse perspectives: Our participants represent over 50 countries globally and come from a range of industries with similar motivations towards making a positive impact in the world. Our activities encourage participants to draw upon their real-life experiences, fostering richer discussions through an interdisciplinary approach.

Project Sprint

With this foundational knowledge in hand, we designed the Project Sprint to prepare participants to take meaningful action after the course. The core focuses are:

  • Rapid iteration. To avoid projects being stuck in the ‘planning phase’, we use weekly check-ins as an accountability mechanism for continuous progress. We've also trained our facilitators on the kind of projects and ambitions we aspire for in this phase so that they can help steer participants back on track during check-ins.
  • Developing strong communication skills. Communicating an idea is just as important as having the idea itself, which is why this phase of the project focuses a lot on verbal and written communication skills. Each week, participants will meet with their cohort to present their projects and give and receive feedback. During the course wrap-up, participants will also be expected to present and lead a discussion on their project.
  • Creating a support system. Our Slack workspace is home to over a thousand past and current participants on the course. We strongly encourage participants to ask (and answer!) questions in the workspace and to lean on each other for feedback and advice.

Projects don’t end after they are submitted. We encourage participants to continue working on their projects after the course and lean on the community to continue making an impact.

What do we mean by meaningful action?

Providing anti-examples might be the most illustrative, so here are projects we wouldn't be excited about:

  • Writing applications to another course, following a tutorial, or reading more content to learn more about the field.
  • Applying for opportunities in the field without a firm idea or reasons for why you think this opportunity will lead to a better impact.
  • Generally, doing anything with the sense of waiting for someone else to tell you what to do next or following someone else's lead with the next best step.

We are working in a niche field with no answers and many frontiers to explore. By the end of the taught content phase, you should be aware that no one knows what we should be doing next and be empowered to help steer the ship.

There is a vast ocean out there, and we aren't even close to being in the Columbus era, where there were maps — we're more akin to Polynesian explorers, following the birds and stars in the hopes of expanding our horizons beyond anything our predecessors know.

Participants would have spent 8 weeks learning all there is about the field, and we would be excited for them to:

  • Start organisations or projects of their own to fill gaps they've found in the field (including applying for grants, finding partners, and developing a theory of change)
  • Produce novel public-facing work to help advance the field.
    • Note that this differs from simply reading more content or following tutorials about the field in that the goal here is to produce novel work.
  • Apply for opportunities in the field to steer the organisation they join.
    • Note: There could be a case made for joining an organisation that already has a clear mission and provides specific skills they lack/improves their capacity, but we believe participants who graduate from our course can do so much more.
  • Advocacy. Educating others in leverageable positions and convincing them to use their power to take action.
  • Bringing others on board. For example, universities not only influence the research topics and post-graduate opportunities their students pursue but also inspire them to engage deeply in these areas. Similarly, influencers have the power to steer their audiences toward significant issues, effectively recruiting more minds to address these challenges.

Conclusion

We are working to solve these pressing problems so that humanity continues to have a future. Our courses are designed to take highly motivated and skilled individuals to the point where they feel ready to make a meaningful difference. If you are excited about this learning style, we strongly encourage you to apply to our course!

Applications are open for our courses on:

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