How does the Collins Institute Work?
Providing a new type of school environment, the Institute manifests through a multi-operating system platform that integrates with everything from our students' computers to their smart watches. This platform is designed to dynamically motivate students to receive a well-rounded education while acting on their own whims. Beyond ensuring mastery of essential subjects, the Institute pushes students to dream big and work with fellow students and world-class domain experts on real-world initiatives.
Bridging the gap between schooling at home, pods, and unschooling.
The Institute Platform
from a Student's Perspective
What to Learn
The primary interface of the platform is divided into an interconnected network of mastery levels similar to a skill tree or tech tree in a video game.
When visiting any mastery level node, a student will see what concepts must be mastered to graduate to the next level (through some form of testing).
Tests range from more traditional written exams to interviews by subject experts.
How to Learn
When booking a test to complete a master node students are presented with a variety of resources where said skills/knowledge can be gained, ranging from online courses to YouTube videos and student-created guides.
Students can add new resources to the list and vote resources up and down, contributing to a constantly-improving reference point.
The Credit System
Student test scores are translated into Institute Credits. The further behind a student becomes on a subject, the more credits they receive for the same test score. This dynamically incentivizes a well-rounded education. If a student falls too far behind in credits, they are expelled. Outside of this scenario, the Institute does not "punish" students.
The Extrinsic Motivation Problem
If you compensate someone to complete a task they previously enjoyed for its own sake, that activity will likely lose its luster. We call this the Extrinsic Motivation Problem: When someone is intrinsically motivated to do something (like learn something out of pure interest) and you introduce some extrinsic reward to motivate the same behavior, the intrinsic motivation dies. This is one of the reasons why many people end up hating hobbies that evolve into compensated work.
That said, there are always going to be some areas in which students lack intrinsic motivation. The Institute's credit system dynamically identifies those areas and introduces extrinsic motivation.
The Institute believes the only healthy way to motivate an individual is with “natural consequences” (e.g. if you break your phone, you no longer have that phone). For that reason, outside of the personal punishment a student gives themselves for bad grades, the only “punishment” ever doled out for low credits is expulsion from the system, as low credits are a sign the student is not thriving.
BRIDGING THE GAP BETWEEN SCHOOLING AT HOME, PODS, AND UNSCHOOLING.
The Collins Institute's Platform
from a Parent's Perspective
Because the Institute is designed to seamlessly integrate a passion for learning and self-improvement into students' lives, we evaluate students holistically in the context of their families and home lives. For the Institute's unique educational system to work, there are a number of critical decisions and responsibilities parents must assume.
While some of The Institute's curriculum is predetermined, domains of learning can be added at the bequest of (and with the assistance of) parents. These can include deep dives on a family's ethnic identity, religion, or national history.
In addition, parents overseeing their kids’ education at home are responsible for check ins, both with Institute staff and a parent group. During these sessions, parents will discuss how they can better support their students' growth, with a focus on social development. The Institute collaborates with parents to find ways to integrate students into local communities. For example, we encourage parents to find local groups for our students to join that facilitate their academic development, such as maker spaces, writing groups, or political movements.
After departing from school and university environments, recent grads often realize they have no idea how to make friends. Having been forced into regular contact with the same group of individuals every day, countless people reach adulthood without a toolset for seeking out and establishing new friendships and ties. In a world in which office jobs are increasingly rarified, this problem will increase: Millions of individuals will live lives of near total isolation as a result.
Schools do students no favors by forcing interactions between them. The Institute works with students to develop the confidence and skills needed to safely locate, identify, and engage new potential friends and social groups. Aiding this process is a top priority of each student's proctor, with whom they meet weekly.
A deeper dive!
An education through The Institute is littered with idiosyncratic experiences
drawn from academic research as well as our own experimentation
Creating their own Study Guides
At the end of each day, students structure and write down what they learned. These notes are then transformed into "textbooks." Students are allowed open access to these textbooks during many of the exams. This system was created based on research showing retention of information was much higher when it was written down in an organized fashion after it was first learned.
Research has shown that one of the most critical actives for the retention of knowledge entails teaching it to others. The Institute utilizes this peculiarity of the human condition by requiring that students learn how to effectively uplift their peers in order to reach higher levels in subjects. Tutoring is judged by the ultimate effect on the individual being tutored rather than hours logged.
A critical component to the Collins Institute experience is our network of experts. As students advance through the ranks, they will be expected to undertake collaborative projects with individuals who lead their respective fields. While students will often be directly introduced to leading figures, students will also learn how to proactively contact top domain experts, hunting down their emails and finding creative ways to engage them.
Research has shown that one of the best ways to retain information on a subject is to be tested on said information before learning anything. For this reason, the Institute encourages students to take a test before they even start studying a subject.
We aim to create an environment where tests present a fun way to explore a subject, learn what to ask, and celebrate mastery.
SATs and GMATs
Every six months starting in middle school, students are given college-level SAT, ACT, and post grad GMAT/GRE tests. This is done to ensure these tests are second nature to students should they choose the college path. Regular testing enables students to benchmark and track advancement relative to themselves while being made painfully aware of areas in which they have allowed themselves to stagnate.
An Evidence Based Aproach
The Collins Institute is, at its heart, a lab school
Lab schools are environments in which new educational techniques are tested. The Institute is built to allow for intense A/B testing within its student body and constant iteration and improvement based on new information collected.
While all testing will be done with parental and student consent and most experiments will be the result of changes made in the teaching methodology due to parental or student preference, experimentation will still play an active role in each student's experience. The legacy education system allowed itself to stagnate in part due to fear around testing better systems. We will not repeat that mistake. The experiments run will be designed both by active researchers in the education space and our students, as we believe our students are our peers.