Dan Cohen’s comments in the latest installment of the Digital Campus podcast prodded me to check out footage from George Mason University’s recent Forum on the Future of Higher Education. I wanted to link to and highlight a few snippets that really resonated. A few notes:
*I have to admit that Dan jokingly referring to some of the discussion as being Jerry-Springer-like piqued my interest. The discussion is actually very civil, and I appreciate Dan’s thoughtful skepticism.
*I haven’t watched all the footage. I saw individuals in the videos whose work I was familiar with (Dan Cohen, Bob Beichner, and Bryan Alexander) and tended to focus on their comments and responses to their insights.
*The video links in the titles below should take you to the appropriate spot in the conversation. I make note of the time when the discussion shifts and you may want to stop and move on to the next snippet.
1. Context and Learning Environments: (stop at 33:50) – I like Dan’s focus on the university’s role in scaffolding and contextualizing information and reminding us that most learners need help with this. Instructors as designers.
2. Measuring ‘Learning’ and Assessment: (stop at 16:40) – Dan reminds us that focus on assessment (especially the easy to measure stuff) and learner analytics doesn’t paint a complete picture–not even close. He argues that a university also provides an environment for unexpected outcomes and ways of thinking—aspects of education that don’t lend themselves to tidy measurement. This reminds me of a recent podcast by Freakonomics contributor Stephen Dubner in which he discusses lessons he uses everyday in his work with the professors who inspired the practice (even if they don’t remember the moment of inspiration!).
3. Student-Centered Instruction: (stop at 8:30) – Bob Beichner describes the SCALE-UP project at NC State, which utilizes problem-based-learning in large intro courses, and he shares how it’s working. This design is being implemented at many schools across the country, including at nearby Clemson University. The model is adaptable to smaller classes. Some classrooms would need some serious retrofitting to make this model possible, but it’s worth it.
4. Extending the Model Beyond STEM disciplines: (stop at 1:04:45) – Bob shares how the SCALE-UP model can be used across disciplines. I really like how his example covers the entire learning cycle and mixes team and individual work. Bryan Alexander compares technology use in the sciences and humanities.
5. MOOCs—It’s Complicated: (stop at 41:35) – Bryan provides a great overview of the different types of MOOCs, MOOC business models, and how colleges might leverage resources from MOOCs on campus. He also contextualizes several instructional technologies on the Gardner hype cycle. Ah, the trough of disillusionment.