Before the pandemic, coworking spaces were used primarily by businesses and entrepreneurs as formal working areas. One effect of the changes that swept the sector during the pandemic has been that coworking spaces were used in many different ways, and in some instances, we see spaces being used differently during the night than they are during the day.

For example, during the day a space can be used for working and studying, but at night it can change to an area where coworkers can  practice their musical instruments, attend evening classes or even socialise.

Coworking spaces are also moving towards bettering the community and being used for educational purposes. This has allowed students who do not have the opportunity to attend traditional educational facilities, but who were not successful at home based distance learning, to achieve their end goal of bettering their education.

Education is the future 

Kofi Oppong, founder of Urban MBA, has seen the changes in the sector and taken the opportunity to develop his educational program by working with and in coworking spaces, turning them — at least part time — into educational facilities. 

Urban MBA is a nonprofit organisation that provides enterprise programmes and business courses aimed to help young people develop their ideas and start their own sustainable commercial and social businesses.

One of Kofi Oppong’s passions is to lead today’s youth, and especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds to success by offering them the best possible education without it costing a fortune. 

The vision of UrbanMBA is to create an educational environment where students can learn what they need and want to learn, at the same level as an elite University. He called this idea “the Mini-Harvard for students from disadvantaged backgrounds”. The idea is to offer students who do not come from wealthy backgrounds the opportunity to take courses that will elevate them to the same level as a Harvard graduate. 

The vision of Urban MBA also includes the creation of tech hubs within coworking spaces.“This goal will be reached by approaching companies that are working with technologically advanced systems, like Google, and asking them for mock-ups of their systems.” These technologies would then be placed in the tech hub so that students can familiarise themselves with the technology, allowing them to be well versed in their fields when they graduate. This will make the graduates from Urban MBA more attractive to businesses as they will already have theoretical and practical experience.  

The objective is that the technology in such a hub would be updated every five years to keep it modernised and relevant to the times. “What we want to do is have partnerships with companies who have these technologies, and we want them to then update them frequently.”

Not only will the tech always be up to date, so will the teaching style. Kofi brought to light how important it is to train the trainer. “It is important for teachers to be able to teach all generations from Gen X to Gen Z. This will allow the trainers to think in the mindset of the student and understand the ideas and challenges they have.”

One thing that sets Gen X and Gen Z apart is how comfortable they are with technology. “Gen X will look back at the good old days without phones and say how wonderful they were, but Gen Z will respond with, ‘well, I can order McDonald’s chips from my phone’ which makes it important for us to understand the mindset of Gen Z and how technology is so integrated into their daily lives.” 

Another aspect that Kofi deems important is that mothers should be able to upskill again once returning from giving birth and looking after their children. “I am currently upskilling mothers and believe that the tech hub will create a great space for them to familiarise themselves with the latest technology, so that they can go back to their industry and still be on top of the game.” 

Jeannine van der Linden, founder of DeKamer, shared some of her insights to the possibility of rearranging coworking spaces into educational facilities. “When we start looking past the traditional uses of coworking spaces, we see that there are endless opportunities for these spaces. Education, for the purpose of bettering our youth’s future, seems a perfect fit.” 

Urban MBA has sought out the best opportunity to raise awareness for the importance of education through using coworking spaces to host these facilities. DeKamer agrees with this and sees the important role that coworking spaces can play within the education sector. 

In an ever-changing world it is important to stay relevant and innovative, and one way to do so, is to adhere to the youth. Coworking spaces are great for educational institutions and once the relevancy thereof is noted, there is no turning back.

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