A Voice and a Hammer
How can Web3 knowledge empower creative media students at Georgia State University (GSU)?
This was the question I had to answer for a new course I wanted to create.
The process to create a new class at a large, public university involves a faculty member undergoing a rigorous process that includes presenting the values and rationale of the class to a committee of seasoned academics. The committee wants to know the impact the class will have on the department and degree program, but mainly they want to know the impact the class will have on the students.
Serial entrepreneur and technologist, Sandy Khaund, and I, an innovative academic, have collaborated to teach media entrepreneurship and innovation. This partnership felt destined because, not only has Sandy been a mentor for me and my students for years, he and I are both early adopters of blockchain technology. As Web3 started to become a reality in 2022, we decided it was time for us to co-develop and co-teach a class dedicated to the topic.
Sandy and I wanted to develop a class that was accessible to all students and as we were particularly targeting creative media students at the Creative Media Industries Institute (CMII) at GSU. We wanted the class to have low or no code and to incorporate a wide range of Web3 use cases in the entertainment and creative industries. With this goal in mind, I set out to provide my thoughts on the impact that a Web3 class would have on GSU students in the Media Entrepreneurship degree program early in 2022.
I am no stranger to this vetting process as I am a strong advocate for creating fresh and future-forward content to be delivered in new and engaging ways. So, I started with the “why” as Sandy and I often tell the entrepreneurship students. I will provide the subsequent steps we took to ultimately create a great class and experience for all in an intensive Maymester class in May of 2022.
Step 1: Start with the “Why”
I started with my “why” before getting to the proposed impact on the students. I teach the latest trends and technologies because it is my belief that young people, and especially minority students – which make up most of the GSU population – must be included in emerging trends and technologies so they can be a part of not just the conversation, but the development and creation process. I believe that not only consumption, but rather creation, from younger generations and minority students is critical. In engaging in this form of teaching and learning, students from diverse backgrounds have the power to continue to set trends on a greater scale, be recognized for being starters of conversations and can develop the process by which technology and, ultimately, the future operate.
So here is my list of how web3 knowledge can impact (and empower) students:
Engages students in the language and tools to create in a new economy
Increases diversity in the development of new technology
Helps break down unintentional biases that can be embedded in technology
Enables students to become leaders in building the next internet infrastructure
Makes students aware of where biases can be intentionally or unintentionally embedded in technology
Learn by doing, creating, experimenting, and trading in the space to understand how it functions and how it is compares and contrasts with web 2.0
At the Creative Media Industries Institute, we already teach students to tell stories, create virtual worlds, and use avatars to navigate and play, so adding on the decentralized commerce component to the trade and ownership of digital assets seemed fitting. The class name we proposed was Decentralized Commerce or Web3, neither of which were super appealing names. What were we to call a class that would incorporate web3, metaverse, blockchain, NFTs, and more?
We defined the Web3/Decentralized Commerce class as follows:
New protocols, tools, and techniques are restructuring the internet into a more distributed, trusted, and self-managing network. Students will master foundational blockchain and metaverse concepts and explore Web 3.0 enabling technologies. Students will gain the ability to confidently use decentralized technologies like blockchains, fungible and non-fungible tokens, peer-to-peer apps, and more. Students will understand how these technologies are being applied in the entertainment and creative industries around the world and critically assess when Web 3.0 technology is advantageous over other solutions both from a technical and economical perspective.
Step 2: Keep Believing and Refining
The first pass through the committee was not successful, but I was encouraged to refine the rationale and some of the course delivery mechanisms. So, I pushed on to create the Web3 class, even as the term is still being defined, which made describing the potential future and the importance of a class like this hard to define and describe as it is still being built. On top of getting the class approved, I had another uphill battle; I had to advocate for co-teaching with a non-traditional academic, Sandy Khaund. I pushed to have Sandy Khaund as a co-teacher because he understands not only entrepreneurship, but has access to the latest knowledge and technology from Silicon Valley. And I pushed for this because collaboration is a key component to Web3 and how we will successfully build new technology together.
Step 3: Collaborate
Collaborating on teaching is not part of the academic ecosystem. But collaborating is key to success. I wanted to collaborate with Sandy so I could make sure to present multiple perspectives on what Web3 could be. But there was a closer to home collaboration that was equally important and that was with the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning and Online Education (CETLOE). CETLOE is one of the reasons GSU is the 2nd most innovative in undergraduate teaching according to USA Today. CETLOE is dedicated to finding ways to teach complicated topics in a scaffolded and iterative manner. I worked closely with an excellent learning experience designer, Morgan Nixon, to create a hands-on, student-focused learning experience that was authentic to student experiences and prepared them for this exponentially evolving future.
Step 4: Understand the Students as an Asset to Education
Finally, I attribute the success of this course to the focus on the students—allowing them space to expand and experiment in an authentic manner. This first cohort of students embraced the content, embraced the mindset, peppered us with millions of questions and then proceeded to create amazing web3 projects that surprised themselves and us.
We understand that Georgia State University is designated as a Predominantly Black Institution (PBI) and receives federal grants supporting the school's efforts to serve low and middle-income Black Americans. We also understand that GSU students are part of the thriving cultural economy in Atlanta and they are ready to be heard and seen.
Our Ultimate Goal with the Decentralized Commerce Course
While we designed this course to first teach a new form of technology, our ultimate goal was to make sure our students have a voice and a hammer to build the future.
While the steps above may vary from university to university, the framework for creating a Web3 course remains the same: by understanding and refining the rationale, collaborating with other professionals and engaging the students from an asset-based perspective, universities across the nation and the globe can engage in the same life-changing educational practices toward the future of education.