... it's worth looking at ThinkCycle which seems to be engaged in an Extension-like coupling of universities with creative capacity to people with real problems. They say: ...
What strikes me about this approach is the global literacies that ThinkCycle is promoting which I marked in bold in the quotation above. Not only are students gaining experience on problems, they are building evidence of their competencies in what might be called a portfolio within the system. Since the system is open for searching, one could imagine members of one team seeking out people in the system who have demonstrated expertise in a related area and enlisting their help.
What is important about this form of global university education is that it is authentic and open. Its not a closed couse in WebCT and the problems are not toys with right answers set by the instructor.
Nils emphasizes the role of the students and their motivations. These portfolios have an important institutional role, too. For example, samples of students' Operations Management projects in DecS 340 served to help faculty and CTLT staff to reconceive approaches to learning and guiding learning. Their impact with faculty motivated my support for CTLT's development of ePortfolios.
Note that ThinkCycle derives from projects at MIT. As an institution, MIT, has a long and well-developed culture of engaging many students in real problems that are also academically rigorous. I suspect that culture of engagement is one of the reasons they can give away their OpenCourseWare and not worry about protecting their intellectual property and institutional reputation. Benkler's Wealth of Networks and Tapscott and William's Wikinomics argue that the principles are broadly applicable. Let's find out how far we can extend them!