Nando Stoecklin's vision for education: Quest-Based Learning

This is the translation of the text "Vision for a new education system" by Nando Stoecklin from the University of Teacher Education Bern. It's visionary and intriguing.

When I first found it and shared the link via facebook and twitter, some people in my network tried to understand it via Google Translator. It awakened their interest. So I asked Nando if we could translate and publish a version. Fortunately, he accepted. Her's the English text by our intern Alan Look, revised and approved by Nando. And on Nando's Blog, you'll find the original German version and a great video!

16. January 2012 by Bea Beste

This is how Nando Stoecklin imagines the future of learning:

Presently we find ourselves in the transition from a book- to an ICT (Information and Communications Technology) culture. According to trend research in sociology and communication sciences this shift may be as radical as the shift resulting from the development of the printing press (accomplishing religious freedom, democracy, school, university, etc.). We have already experienced some of the accomplishments (co-)created through the shift from a book to an ICT-culture through the collapse of the Soviet Union and globalisation (see Manuel Castells).

Education too, will be heavily influenced by this transformation (see reflections on

In the following I have considered how an educational system could be fundamentally designed for the present day and age. My inspiration for this comes from the online-game The West as well as the post-doctoral from Jeanette Böhme „Schule am Ende der Buchkultur“.



  • To truly incorporate the ICT-culture into the educational system
  • To prepare children for rapid changes in the future


  • Fusion of formal and informal education respectively making informal education transparent
  • Gamification of education
  • Real individualization
  • Replacing the “Just-in-case” model for the “Just-in-time” (no more memorizing information “on stock”, but developing the competencies to find and learn the needed information, as soon as it is needed)
  • Relaxing the divisions between private life/ work-life/ school and child/ adult (lifelong-learning)
  • Institutionalisation of the project-method (or project-based-learning PBL) and of learning by teaching



  • Children want to independently discover the world to learn. They learn for example by imitating, what adults do.
  • The majority of learning occurs on an informal level.  Up until now these skills have only been facilitated on a basic level. A large part of the formal learning is never used and therefore atrophies in memory “All investigations of the knowledge that young people still possess five years after graduating from school lead to devastating results and to the cynical conclusion, that the German school system has a degree of efficiency striving against zero.” (Gerhard Roth, p. 297)
  • All students have a unique set of interests, predispositions, talents and style of learning.
  • “Learning means answering questions. At conventional schools children continuously undergo answering questions that they themselves did not ask. Hence, they do not learn, respectively they learn for exams only.” (Analogous quotation of a school principal)
  • Shifting the leading medium from books to Internet changes the environment. The ICT-culture facilitates individualisation, cooperation and easy publishing and communication. It shifts the necessary predispositions for work-life/ career-life by lending more weight to competencies rather than content.
  • 20-25% of the students cannot be schooled anymore (Ben Machmair).


Concept Idea

Students improve their skills and heighten their knowledge by solving quests. A quest could be:

-“Breed sunflowers in a pot.”

-“Cut a piece of sheet-metal and fold the edges to create a pyramid.”

-“Compose an excellent article on Wikipedia.”

-“Program a Facebook application with the following criteria...”

-“Find a hooligan and lead a discussion about his/her motivation.”

-“Play an avatar in World of Warcraft up to level 30.”

Public online platforms analogous to Wikipedia, offer an array of single and group quests. Initially the quests are solved locally; later on they will also be evermore global by cooperating over the Internet. Single quests can also be solved jointly with players solving the same quest (ex: joint pass tour to practice post geography).


The Quest-taker decides by oneself, respectively along with his or her environment, how the quest should be solved. The quest: „Give a 15 minute speech in English“ can be solved by partaking in an English lesson with a teacher onsite or by taking part in a language course in Malta for example. Students receive an e.g. half-year financial budget for solving the quests. An online-map provides locations where work can be done or skills can be trained for quests with specific skill requirements. This could include where workshops teaching sheet-metal work or piano teachers can be found.

If quest-takers are overwhelmed, they are able to take up the services of a coach. For this they receive a half-year budget of coaching-points, which they can top-up by offering to coach other quest-takers.

For every successfully mastered quest points are allocated to specific skills or areas of knowledge. The quest-giver decides how the result / final product is controlled. For example, they may demand an e-portfolio or simply display the final result, i.e. the final result of the programmed Facebook application. Experts control the result by „accepting“ or „rejecting“ it.

As soon as a quest-taker has achieved a certain set of skills and knowledge, they are raised a level. Level status can be required, for example, to offer coaching services, to solve quests from home, or to control the financial-budget by oneself, etc.

The quest-takers can choose quests from a databank, initially through the pre-selection by a coordinator. Depending on the personal set of achieved skill and knowledge points and according to the present level other quests may be recommended by the system. Quest-takers can recommend their own quests and have them approved by an expert.

The quest-databank is open and can be expanded. Experts rate new quests by defining the parameters to start the quest. Mostly coordinators create the quests on the lower levels. On the higher levels quests will come from the private sector, NGOs and higher learning institutions.

Whoever creates a quest, may decide whether the quest is permanently publicly available in the databank or whether it is only available to a select group of quest-takers or whether they are intended to be solved once or multiple times (for example: quests from the private sector). Quests intended to be solved only once are duels: Quest-takers compete amongst each other to be the first to solve the quest. Once the quest is solved it automatically expires.

Ranking lists for skills and knowledge will be publicly available. Quest-takers can decide whether his or her pseudonym will be visible in the ranking list or not. These ranking lists can serve as an additional motivation to gradually work their way up in a skill or knowledge area. Job recruiters can then discover interesting people for recruitment. The transition from school learning period to the career is fluid. The quest-system accompanies its users throughout a lifetime, at first as quest-takers and later mostly as quest-creators and experts.


Overall these are the following roles:

  • Quest-takers: solve and master quests
  • Coaches: Accompany quest-takers, giving tips, etc., are typically also quest-takers, who have coaching-rights in some areas.
  • Teachers: educate quest-takers in return for payment. Quest-takers can select teachers according to their choice. Someone who would like to learn to play piano for example can go to a piano teacher. There are no didactical regulations. Someone who is unsatisfied with any combination of teacher/didactic/price can simply switch teachers.
  • Coordinators: coordinate quests, especially on lower levels, may preselect specific quests from a quest-pool, motivate, and deliver ideas etc. Coordinators are the only staff that are employed by an Education board /agency full-time.
  • Experts: rate new quests and judge their fulfilment. Anyone who has reached a certain level of points in a specific area and can demonstrate both autonomic and independent work on the rank list can become an expert for this specific field or area.

It is possible to simultaneously be a quest-taker in one area, a coach in another area and an expert in yet another area. Coaching, for example, could be a quest by itself.


Presumably, the quest-system will need a „warm-up“ phase, during which children learn the basic skills and principles and learn a minimum of independence. Forest schools and nurseries may be the appropriate space for individual learning to take place.

Differences in an overview


Remark by Nando Stoecklin: This vision of education is a revised version of my blog publication from the 15.11.2011 and has now been translated into English.

Remark by Béa Beste: All photos are taken by myself during the education expedition. And then I played a little bit around with them. I call this appyart.

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