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MITx U.Lab: Transforming Business, Society, and Self begins today. We sat down with MIT Professor Otto Scharmer to learn more about his course, its global live-sessions, mindfulness and the connection between transforming the self and changing our world.Sign up today and join Professor Scharmer and a global community of learners and entrepreneurs.

Why did you enter the MOOC environment? What excites you the most about teaching this MOOC?

Higher education is in a moment of disruption. Many institutions of higher education have a product that is overpriced, out of touch with the real societal needs, and outdated in terms of learning methodologies. What excites us about the MOOC environment is that it radically democractizes the access to education and that it creates new learning platforms that can reinvent education around all three dimensions mentioned above: make it freely accessible for all, focus on real societal aspirations and needs, and using new learning methodologies.

What do you hope students will get out of the MOOC that is different from what students experience in an on-campus class?

It will be different in three major ways: one, that by joining this MOOC you join a vibrant global field of entrepreneurship and change that manifests through dozens or hundreds of Hubs around the world and that we will intentionally enable students to feel – by offering three live facilitated classroom sessions that allow learners to connect with each other and course staff in real time.

Two, you join a learning experience that is very personal. For example, each week, students will meet in small coaching circles in order to support each other using a deep listening based peer coaching process.

And three, students will learn new methods and tools that help them to cultivate their most important resource as a leader and as a human being: the power of their attention.

Who should take this MOOC?

Anyone who thinks that changing the world should be connected with changing your self. If you want to change the world without changing your self, this is the wrong course for you.

What kind of experiences do you hope students will have with your MOOC?

That they are strengthened in their entrepreneurial capacity to make the world a better place. That they feel the merging of two very powerful forces: the power of entrepreneurship and the power of the awakening intelligence of the heart.

How are you using your MOOC in different and new ways?

We are pushing the boundary in four different directions:

1. Introduction of global live-sessions that make students experience and feel the global field of learners in real-time.

2. We also introduce small peer-based deep listening coaching groups that give every student a deep coaching experience through weekly sessions in groups of five.

3. We believe in action learning: students will learn by prototyping the future they want to create.

4. And lastly, we introduce new mindfulness techniques and presencing practices that help students to access their deeper sources of knowing.

Why is mindfulness important? How can your students cultivate it?

Mindfulness has been getting a lot of attention lately in four areas: cognition science, health, education, and leadership. Mindfulness matters because it cultivates our capacity for paying attention to our attention. And that capacity is at the ground of everything, of all advanced human capacities. So we give students access to some of these practices, particularly practices that help them to become better listeners and more effective in holding the space for dialogue.

Considering current events and today’s challenges, is now the perfect time for this MOOC and how so?

Absolutely. Around the world, not only here in the US, we see the seeds and the sprouts for a worldwide movement that links awareness and self-awareness as starting points for creating meaningful environmental, social, and economic change. Seeing the millennial generation taking the streets is one of the most significant and inspiring events that we have seen in decades. This MOOC offers a set of methods and tools that allows this generation to generate change that is more creative, intentional, systemic, and collective.

What are your thoughts on change? Is it just something people talk about or does it actually happen?

I have seen real change in the sense of tectonic geo-political and geo-cultural shifts happening several times. I saw it when the Berlin Wall crumbled in 1989. I saw it when the Apartheid regime came down in South Africa. We felt it here in the United States, to some degree, when Barack Obama first took office. And we saw it again with the rise of East Asia as the new center of gravity in our evolving global economy in just a few decades. All of this happened in less than 30 years. And yet, we believe that the most significant change of our generation is yet to come. And that change has to do with transforming self and capitalism in a way that we start to activate our deeper entrepreneurial and creative capacities that we have as human beings.

What have you enjoyed the most about creating your MOOC?

Working together with a highly professional team at MITx and being at the forefront of revolutionizing higher ed.

What should students do to prepare for this course in advance?

Mark your calendars for the live sessions. Create calendar space for your (self-organized) weekly coaching sessions. Bring your full self and enjoy the ride as we go…

Rachel Lapal, Communications Manager

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