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Harbour Space University – An ambitious project to create the next generation of industry leaders

Wedged between yachts large enough to carry helicopters one sees Harbour Space University, housed in a ultra-modern building built right on the pier. Tonight, its first batch of students is about to set sail I’ve been invited to the graduation ceremony of this private Barcelona-based university, or rather, graduation sales pitch for its first batch of students. The event doesn’t simply involve caps, gowns (in fact there aren’t any) and the handing out of diplomas, the students each present their designs and creations and pitch them to the crowd.

The minds behind the project

That is just a small example of how differently Harbour Space views education. Founded by Svetlana Velikanova and Ingo Beyer von Morgenstern, the goal of Harbour Space University is to attract the brightest students from around the world, by both admitting only a tiny fraction of all applicants and the promise to them of being able to learn the latest technologies and be mentored by some of the world’s best teachers and professionals in areas such as technology and design. Velikanova, besides being the visionary behind Harbour Space, was director at VTB Capital, one of Russia’s largest investment banks. Ingo Beyer von Morgenstern is Director Emeritus of McKinsey & Company and a long time professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing.

Faculty, both permanent and visiting, present a remarkable blend of important minds, to name a few: Kamran Elahian is chairman and co-founder of Global Catalyst Partners and co-Chair of Global Alliance for ICT and Development of the United Nations; Andy Crestodina is a co-founder of Chicago-based Orbit Media; and Christopher Fabian is Senior Advisor on Innovation to the Executive Director at UNICEF.

Funding for the school, according to PR Newswire, is provided by, among others, SDVentures, by Beyer von Morgenstern himself and other angel investors.

Curriculum and philosophy

At the moment Harbour Space University offers degrees in Cybersecurity, Digital Marketing, Computational Science, Data Management, High Tech Entrepreneurship and Interactive Design, with plans to expand the curriculum with programs in Aerospace Engineering, Fintech and Biotech.

However, anyone that is involved with Harbour Space would tell you that the school is much more than these titles. What is important is teaching through mentorship, applied learning, teamwork, and leadership. Networking appears to be as important as learning and there are also ambitious plans to create “the world’s best alumni network” for its students.

The University’s curriculum is based on the needs of the students not on what any given professor would choose to teach. And, according to Beyer von Morgenstern, perhaps most importantly, “learning how to learn.” In his commencement speech he stressed how rapidly knowledge is forgotten, and that learning is a never ending process.  The University has 100 bachelor students and 50 in the Master’s program, something which helps implement their direct teaching methods.

During the ceremony, amidst the pitches and presentations made by the students, a common theme was that of the value of failure and the lessons that can be learned through it, a rebranding of the age old “if at first you don’t succeed” that is popular in society these days. I had the feeling this batch wouldn’t be failing for long.

In addition to studies, Harbour Space teams up with Moscow Workshops ACM ICPC to host a boot-camp to prepare over 150 students from top universities from the US, Canada, China, Russia, Singapore, Japan, and more. The purpose is to whip them into shape for the next ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest (ACM-ICPC), which is one of the most prestigious programming championships in the world. Last year, 8 of the 12 medal winning teams had participated in the workshop. The ACM-ICPC has produced industry big shots like Adam D’Angelo, creator of Quora, and Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, to name a few.

The current trend in higher education, especially in the technology field, is focused on understanding concepts, being able to utilize big data, individualizing instruction, creating workshops where students can apply their knowledge, connecting students with specialists, and knowing how to network. In many fields, traditional studies are on their way out and Harbour Space University is one of the pioneers of this trend. As one graduating student remarked, “I really like your high marks on this standardized test…said no recruiter ever.”

 

How Many People Use the WordPress Editor?

Just read the survey on how many people use the WordPress Editor and how they feel about it.  The survey’s full results can be found here. The editor has been a cause of much debate and, I also think, a hindrance for many people that either work with WordPress or who would like to do so.

Most of the respondents were developers and used the text (mark-up) editor more frequently than the visual editor.  That’s logical and I’m sure that non-developer users, such as bloggers or site owners use the visual editor more often.

The part that some found surprising but I expected was that that 75% of users have never tried the distraction-free mode. This mode was brought in 3 years ago and the purpose was to make editing easier, but in reality is confusing to learn and most people get by with the current editor assisted by plugins that let you include shortcodes into the editor or visual editor plugins like Visual Composer or even Beaver Builder.

The devs at WordPress have to come up with a solution, and I know it’s a priority right now, to make editing easier for regular users.  Designers and developers are comfortable with the current editor, even if it’s far from perfect, but new users and regular users are often turned away from WordPress because of it.

 

Web Design for NGOs

After completing my web design for artists post, I decided to go ahead with another guide on web design for NGOs. When taking on a project like this you first have to consider that it is not going to be about the money. You are helping out someone who is helping out others. These are projects that you should want to do, part of trying to be a good person. In the end you will have the appreciation of the people in the NGO and you will be just as, if not more, proud of your work when you are done.

SITE MENU STRUCTURE

ABOUT US: NGOs can get complicated in this area, there are subdivisions, partners, and various levels of administration that you have to sort out. Consider having sections with who we are, departments (each department with its own sub-menus), Mission statements, Legal framework, and others.

WHAT WE DO: Don’t assume that the user will know what the NGO is about. Here is where you list past and present projects that the NGO is doing and/or wants to highlight.

EVENTS: Depending on the NGO, you could include this under What We Do. However, if the NGO organizes functions, clean-ups, sit-ins, concerts etc, they should be in their own section.

PUBLICATIONS: Many NGOs possess a vast library of publications. A section dedicated to this could be essential. A searchable database of records is a must and perhaps the creation of an e-shop if they wish to sell their publications.

VOLUNTEER/DONATE: Depending on the goals of the NGO this could be one of the main features of the website.

CONTACT US: The usual complete contact us section with form, maps, address, phone numbers etc.

The design element

This is where you have to communicate with the NGO and come to an understanding before you open up your editor.

What is the main purpose of the web site? Once you have that you can begin.BLOG QUOTE SNIPPET TEMPLATE

If the NGO is heavily dependent on donations from the public, you can apply typical UX design strategy that you would use for a product site. Include elements such as a large call to action and a focus on getting the user to support the NGO. The same would apply for an NGO that need volunteers. This info has to be available throughout the site because this is how the organization survives.

Other NGOs receive funding from large organizations and do not need monetary support from the public, or it is not a crucial part of their functioning. Those NGOs have an informative nature and that should be the main focus of the design. Clean menus that make sure the user doesn’t get lost as they are searching through the site are very important. Think about how the information will accessed. Some organizations provide easily accessible pdf files, while others do not share their content.

Promoting

Social media is the ultimate tool when considering web design for NGOs. This is where the activity is.

Facebook? Yes

Twitter? Yes

Instagram? Yes

LinkedIn? Yes

There is no limit really on how many social media outlets the NGO should use. This is the opportunity to really show what is being done. A tiny NGO that helps deliver food to shelters just delivered food? Photos, posts are a great way of showing and inspiring people about the NGO’s activity.

Arrange to have anything that is added to the website be automatically announce through many social media channels. Next Scripts provides a great way to do that.

So, again, yes to everything.

Conclusion

While working on the EDYM-NGO website I realized the amount of hard work that goes into creating and running an NGO. Often it seemed like a one man show (as the web designer often is), people juggling with many issues, trying to create something that is for the greater good. Web design for NGOs can be a rewarding experience and one to not pass up on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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