Learning with Purpose (and How To Implement it in Your Courses)

Brandon Stover
Founder of Plato University
September 26, 2023
min read

Ladies & gents, my name is Brandon Stover, and I’m the founder of Plato University. Welcome to Theory into Action.

Theory into Action is designed to help you turn your wisdom into actionable education. Learn how to create online courses, design learning experiences, and build educational programs so your knowledge can impact thousands of people.

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What is Purpose?

Purpose is a direction of action that is meaningful to you and consequential to society.

  • What is meaningful to you will be based on your values, your personality, and your goals.
  • What is consequential to society will be solutions to problems and needs of the collective.

I believe education should help foster a sense of purpose and equip students with the skills necessary to fulfill that purpose.

Why Include Purpose in Education?

According to Enso's World Value Index, 91% of people expressed importance to live life with a sense of purpose. Yet, people are suffering from depression worldwide and suicide is a leading cause of death for young people. Our systems of education have neglected moral, social, and emotional development, along with other types of education that enhance individual experience beyond what is necessary for entrance into the labor market.

A student will achieve higher learning if they are internally motivated to learn the material. Cultivating a sense of purpose, with something meaningful to the student, will dramatically improve their motivation and subsequently their performance.

From a societal perspective, the dawn of the 21st century has proven to be a critical time in global transformation where humanity has fundamentally impacted our planetary and societal complex systems to the point of crisis. Climate change, poverty, pandemics, social injustices — the global problems needing solutions are beginning to stack up. For humanity to continue it’s evolution, we believe that higher education must play a critical role in preparing individuals with skills to solve these problems.

Furthermore, employers hire employees to solve problems in their business. What better way to prepare students for contributing to the workforce, and society at large, by having them practice tackling problems. TO solve any problem, you will need skills to do so, and no other vehicle is greater for learning skills than education.

Ultimately though, cultivating a sense of purpose will lead students to live more fulfilling and meaningful lives. Though education can not be the sole answer to this, it can surely help.

How to Include Purpose in Your Courses

First and foremost, allow room for exploration.

When one first tries to learn any skill, it initially starts with a process of discovery and exploration. The goal here is to gain a feel for what the skill is like, to build and play and apply without worrying about how it works under the surface. During this time, the learner is developing some important understandings about themselves, how they fit in the world, and what their strengths are for contributing to it.

Exploration fosters 3 important learnings:

  • Learning About Yourself: By exploring new topics you start to discover your strengths, weaknesses, behaviors, & values. This helps open a window to passions and self awareness.
  • Learning How To Learn: Have you ever been taught how to learn, not just what to learn? Exploration gives a chance for learners develop healthy learning habits, resourcefulness, & skills for self directed learning.
  • Learning The Landscape: How can you truly know what you want to do in life if you don't know all that is available to you? Exploration allows you to get your feet wet in multiple topics to find the ones that call to you most.

To facilitate the exploration process begin with coaching your students.

  • Help them gain a more clear understanding of who they are, what they are passionate about, and what difference they want to make in the world.
  • This means going through a process of radical self inquiry to start unraveling a students childhood programming while simultaneously introducing them to a variety of topics that may cultivate their passions.
  • Coach students to foster a deeper understanding of the self, one's own interests, talents, aspirations and goals. We then help them understand the career possibilities that exist matching their passions.

Then, introduce them to wicked problems and global challenges.

As you introduce them to problems, introduce and teach foundational skills.

  • Critical thinking
  • Creative thinking
  • Collaboration
  • Communication
  • Character building

Continue their learning, driven be internal motivation, by creating personalized learning paths to learn skills for fulfilling their purpose.

  • These learning paths are made up of all the skills that are going to be necessary for them to actually tackle and solve the problem that they wish to solve.
  • The idea behind these paths are declaring missions, not majors. Missions are fundamentally different from majors. At a traditional university, a student may decide to major in biology. That major will help prepare students for working in fields related to biology but may be less applicable to anything outside of biology. 
  • At Plato University, a student declares a mission and learns whatever skills are necessary to achieve that mission. For example, if their mission was providing clean drinking water for the world, they may learn skills that would be traditionally taught in biology, computer science, business, sociology, and more. This prepares students to actually make real change in the world while simultaneously preparing them for many avenues for work.

To learn skills, have students complete projects rooted in real world problems.

  • This is going to further help exploration and discovery of purpose because it's no longer theoretical. As they were start working on that project they discover whether they really like the problem they chose or not.

After they leave your class or school, they now have the skills to continue to be fulfilled, no matter what they are doing.

  • They have self awareness to change paths
  • They have meta learning skills they need to change into any career
  • They have a deep understanding of the world and choose they problems they wish to tackle

Want Help with Implementing Purpose in Your Courses?

If you would like help implementing purpose in an online course that you're creating, I would love to chat with you. I offer free strategy calls.

There's no hard sells on those calls. They are for really trying to understand what is it that you're teaching, how we can best set up a course, and if you would like further help with that, then we can talk about working together.

If not, then I just want to help you be able to get your course out there and teaching others, turning your wisdom into actionable education.

So let's build something great together.  

Schedule a Free Strategy Call

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Schedule a free 60 minute strategy call with us to begin turning your knowledge into a phenomenal learning experience. No hard sells.

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