An MIT task force is re-imagining the future of learning at the school. The overall goal? "We want to enable more time for our students to build things and interact more with their professors and peers," says Sanjay Sarma, task force co-chair.
"Harvard and other academic institutions cannot and should not be trusted with the awesome and historically dangerous tool of racial classification," the lawsuit argues. "As in the past, they will use any leeway the Supreme Court grants them to use racial preferences in college admissions—under whatever rubric—to engage in racial stereotyping, discrimination against disfavored minorities, and quota setting to advance their social-engineering agenda."
"Seven universities are working on a year-long planning project to improve student success thanks to $225,000 grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. ...
Each university is working on a number of different strategies, but enough of them have some overlap that they can help each other as they go along. For example, The University of Akron and Portland State University are both working on credentialing knowledge, while The University of Akron and Georgia State are working on adaptive learning, among other things."
Simply getting courses online is no longer sufficient, and it can no longer serve as evidence of a strong institutional committment to online learning -- as Penn's Robert Zemsky argued a full decade ago. Institutions need now to turn their attention to finding ways to build or acquire instructional content that truly takes advantage of technology to improve learning. There's no better place to start than course design.
The logic of building collaborations is infallible: joining forces can potentially bring down costs, reduce risk, stimulate innovation, ward off competition, and more. But there are more a few failed efforts to ward off any naive assumptions that academic collaborations -- particularly those that concern shared courses -- are fool proof. There are more than 50 consortia in North America and almost as many types of consortia. There are right ways to do it, and wrong ways. Having had a chance to review online consortia recently for a client, I want now to share a few observations in a handful of posts, beginning with "known obstacles" of course sharing initiatives. These obstacles are not insurmountable. But like any undertaking, it helps to know where the potholes are before you set on your journey.
One of the key characteristics that distinguishes faster growing, more scalable, and increasingly high-quality online universities (described in “The Growing Chasm”) is the systematic use of knowledge about what works in online instruction and what doesn’t. This handful of US institutions tend to capture more data about student learning, learn from it, and act on it. As simple as this process sounds, its difficult to implement in our traditional colleges and universities, where course design and development is typically a very decentralized activity. Instruction is determined on a course-by-course basis and there’s rarely a systematic, robust process in place for identifying and sharing knowledge about drives student-learning outcomes most effectively. As a new faculty member, I remember being surprised to learn that my colleagues on the faculty had little to no knowledge of how their other colleagues in the department ran their courses, for example.
Not to be confused with constructivism, constructionism is a cognitive theory that relates to learning by making things. Based on the work of the computer scientist Seymour Papert, contructionism tries to bridge the gap identified between children's and adults' thinking. With his colleagues, Papert was famous for developing one of the first educational programming languages, known as LOGO. It was used to great effect as early as the 1960s so that children could learn how to programme floor robots known as Turtles. The connection between thinking and doing is exploited, and interacting with one's environment to effect change can have a profound impact on young minds. Papert sees learning by making as a means to 'shift the boundary between concrete and formal operations' (Papert, 1980, p 21). As Papert argued: 'Even the best of educational television is limited to offering quantitative improvements in the kinds of learning that existed without it. By contrast, when a child learns to program, the process of learning is transformed. It becomes more active and self-directed.' (ibid, pp 20-21). If we want children to be more engaged in their learning, we therefore need to make them more active in constructing their learning. Learning to code is more than simply 'making a computer do something'. Algorithms are much more than sets of instructions. They represent the essence of rational thinking, developing cognitive skills that will prepare the child to deal with a multitude of challenges and problems they may encounter later in life.
In a recent review we conducted of online higher ed consortia, we found that the majority of consortia, and the vast majority of those that started ten or more years ago, are designed primarily to increase access. That is, these initiatives define success by the number of online courses created and/or supported by the consortia, and the number of students enrolled in these courses. More courses, means more access. Access is obviously important. However, for a number of reasons, we believe that a recasting of the consortia model for online higher education would be beneficial. Given the state of online education, the focus needs now to shift from ensuring institutions can launch and support online courses, to stimulating innovation and improving quality.
This summer, Chad Mason signed up for online general psychology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. This spring, Jonathan Serrano took intro to psychology online at Essex County College in Newark, New Jersey. Though the two undergraduates were separated by more than 600 miles, enrolled in different institutions,...