Building a Global Learning Community

Ilyana Sawka/ February 28, 2019

Here at LabXchange, we’re often asked what exactly it is that we do. Our answer–that we are working to build an open online platform for science education, and to foster a new generation of scientists worldwide–only prompts more questions. Is our focus too broad? Can we truly serve users across the world, when obstacles vary so much from place to place? Our team is based at the world’s most elite institution, Harvard–how can we unlock the diverse perspectives necessary to guide our development and, ultimately, our success?

We are aware of the many difficulties in building a platform that strives for global impact. And we know that we’ll encounter new and anticipated challenges along the way. Yet at our core, we believe that the principles guiding our work resonate both locally and globally. Through the combination of an innovative platform and strategic partnerships, we see a path forward to empowering a collaborative, global learning community with a scientific focus.

Access to the internet–particularly through mobile devices–has made a wealth of digital media available to users worldwide. It has also unleashed waves of low-quality content, misinformation, and everything in between. Platforms like LabXchange, which feature curated content from reputable institutions and qualified educators, are increasingly critical in the fight against fake news. Moreover, our platform can help universities like Harvard disseminate their research more broadly. In the face of increasing skepticism about the value and relevance of higher education, our institutions need to think outside the confines of their physical campuses.

It’s true that most of LabXchange’s collaborators are based here in New England. But people everywhere are striving to improve education, bridge access gaps, and create opportunities for skills development for children, youth, and adults. For a small team like ours, strategic partnerships are the best way to adapt to other local contexts in meeting these aims. By building connections and leveraging the strengths of like-minded organizations, we are laying the foundations for impact across the U.S. and globally.

Despite our increasingly interconnected world, we see an unmet need for supportive online spaces where students, scholars, and teachers to connect–across schools, cities, and countries. We hope that the learning-driven social network on LabXchange will convene an intergenerational community of global citizens. When individuals engage with each other around learning and knowledge-sharing, they are better equipped to collectively solve the world’s challenges. In particular, we hope that our platform will inspire effective proposals to address the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Although some would argue that the digital revolution has exacerbated inequality, we believe that it has reinforced universal aspirations: the drive to learn, the desire to connect, and the will to effect change across classrooms, neighborhoods, nations and societies. Through quality content, a multimodal platform, and strategic partnerships, we hope that LabXchange will enhance education, sustain learning communities, and have both local and global impact.