Tomorrow University – online learning for business leaders and tech innovators

An interview with the founders of Tomorrow University: From innovation in education & teaching methods to promoting lifelong learning

Interview with Christian Rebernik and Dr. Thomas Funke, founder of the Tomorrow University of Applied Sciences

Christian Rebernik & Dr. Thomas Funke
Source by Tomorrow University of Applied Sciences, Copyright by Jiri Jan

Author: House of Eden

With the conviction that the transformation to a sustainable society begins with each individual, the Tomorrow University of Applied Sciences has taken a pioneering position. As a fully accredited, remote-first educational institution, it enables learning essential 21st century skills in sustainability, business and technology.

In June 2023, Tomorrow University reached a milestone when it raised €9,3 million in its Series A funding round. Since 2021, the company has raised a total of 13,8 million euros, which represents impressive progress in its growth and financing strategy.

We spoke to the founders Dr. Thomas Funke and Christian Rebernik to find out more about their vision, the concept and the future direction of Tomorrow University.

1. How did you get to know each other and what was the driving force behind founding Tomorrow University?

We've known each other for 20 years. Our collaboration began in 2004/2005 in a technology company in Vienna. Christian was a software developer and Thomas was a student employee at the time. The idea came about in 2020 when we discussed educational topics.

We both had different connections to the topic. As a passionate entrepreneur, Christian was frustrated with the teaching methods during the Corona pandemic due to homeschooling his children and therefore had a personal motivation. Thomas' connection was of professional nature as he worked in the education sector for over 15 years. The driving force behind its founding was the desire to build a community of educated, connected individuals who actively contribute to creating a more sustainable future.

2. What is your vision for the future of Tomorrow University?

Our vision is to reach as many people as possible and accelerate the change towards a more sustainable society. The more people develop their skills, think critically, are technology savvy and understand sustainability, the more will be able to create positive change. Our goal is to revolutionize education.

ToU Campus Experience

Source by Tomorrow University of Applied Sciences, Copyright by Jiri Jan

It is remarkable to observe that when the people we train inspire others, the butterfly effect occurs. Our logo was also created based on this effect. Every little flap of your wings can trigger a storm on the other side of the world. If this wing beat is positive, the world changes for the better. With better education we can drive this effect further.

3. Christian claims that the next talent a la Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos will emerge from the Tomorrow University program. What makes your learning content and methods so unique?

We use "Challenge Space Learning", a method that has been known since the eighties and has been proven to be twice as effective as conventional, passive learning. It encourages active, problem-orientated learning and enables learners to develop greater self-efficacy and self-confidence. This enables them to make real changes in the world. At the same time, our curriculum is based on a deep competency framework that focuses on 21st C skills. This framework emphasises the responsible use of innovation, sustainability and social and emotional intelligence and is integral to all our teaching challenges.

In addition, technology allows us to build a global network, unlike traditional universities that are confined to a limited physical campus. This allows our students to learn from people with similar and different views and backgrounds. This diverse community fosters social capital and is crucial for innovation.

We also offer mission-driven programmes that focus on 21st century skills for career-focused, purposeful impact. Through challenges tied to individual missions and values, essential experience and skills are built to act as problem solvers of the future. Our competencies include sustainability, artificial intelligence, entrepreneurship, self-leadership, social intelligence and technological literacy relevant to both today's jobs and future needs.

The programs are fully remote and emphasize flexibility in the learning process. There are intensive course discussions during the challenges, and learning occurs in groups or individually in short, flexible lessons that can be completed from anywhere in the world and in different time zones.

Tomorrow University Advice

 Source by Tomorrow University of Applied Sciences, Copyright by Jiri Jan

4. Since technology plays a significant role at Tomorrow University, how are you using it to add value to remote learning?

We use technology in two ways to improve remote learning. Firstly, we integrate competences into the challenges that can not only be taught but also measured. This allows us to personalise the curriculum based on learners' individual interests and competencies. As a result, the learning experience is customised and not "off the shelf".

Second, we promote connectivity by using technology to not limit the campus to physical boundaries. This allows us to specifically connect the right people to start projects and effect change. The power of technology lies in creating individualized learning opportunities that traditional teaching methods cannot provide.

5. Are growth and impact connected for you?

Yes, for us growth and impact are inextricably linked. We are redefining innovation, moving away from the traditional understanding as "new things with commercial success". For us, innovation means creating social value without harming the environment. It is about progress and development in harmony with the needs of society and humanity. Our focus is on sustainable, valuable growth that takes into account both social needs and ecological services.

6. What significance does the community have in your concept?

The community and the network are of great importance to us. Tomorrow University brings together a global diversity of students who learn from and with each other beyond the boundaries of a campus. We promote intercultural exchange and create learning opportunities across geographical and cultural borders. Instead of isolating online learning environments, we value connecting people and creating interactive learning opportunities. In addition to the curriculum, we regularly organize physical meetings at different locations to bring the community together and connect in person.

7. What fundamental changes do you think are necessary to meet the demands of the future in the education sector?

We need to promote a rethink in society regarding lifelong learning. The traditional life model of education, work and retirement is outdated. Instead, we must focus on lifelong learning in order to constantly develop and acquire new skills. Furthermore, we must abandon the idea of ​​predicting the future and future labor markets. Therefore, we need to train individuals who are able to create, design and innovate. Education should not aim to prepare individuals for the job market, but for life itself.

In addition, a lot has to change politically. Openness to new forms of learning must grow. It is necessary to think about the profitable advantages of technologies and not just focus on the potential disadvantages.

ToU Competency Framework

 Source by Tomorrow University of Applied Sciences, Copyright by Jiri Jan

8. What exciting developments are currently being planned for Tomorrow University?

Tomorrow University is planning many exciting developments. In terms of programming, we currently offer Bachelor and MBA programmes and plan to expand our portfolio. We are looking to offer a broader range of MBA programmes, such as one with a focus on climate action and one that focuses on inclusive leadership and diversity. We also want to offer a more flexible start system in the future, allowing students to begin their studies at any time. We also plan to expand the global reach of Tomorrow University and build an international community in countries outside Europe.

Thank you for the interview Christian Rebernik and Dr. Thomas Funke.

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