Working on a curriculum committee? planning a new academic building? are you a chief information officer? director of a teaching center? Welcome to this discussion!
I've been writing a series of posts about how to improve (or even transform) college education. I'm 60 now, and I've begun to realize that I've changed my mind about a lot of things I used to believe in that area.
I first heard about an imminent technology revolution in higher education when I was a senior in high school. Initially the change was to affect how people learned and what they learned (e.g., programming). Later the hopes also grew to include who could learn (e.g., distance learning) and a reduction in the costs of instruction.
I heard more about this coming transformation when I was in college, in graduate school, as a program officer for the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (1978-85), as a senior program officer with the Annenberg/CPB Projects (1985-96), at the American Association for Higher Education (1996-97), and since Steve Gilbert and I founded the Teaching, Learning, and Technology Group (1998- ), a non-profit that supports over 100 colleges and universities around the world.
The buzz continues, continually changing its details. The catalyst would be mainframe engineering analysis and design programs. It would be simulations, computer-aided instruction, microcomputers, computer-aided design, videodisc, email, distributed laboratories, hypertext, Gopher servers, math tools, the Web, asynchronous learning networks, national learning infrastructure, streaming video, ePortfolios, eLearning, blended courses, course redesign, iPods, clickers, lecture capture, smart phones, digital cameras, social networking,...
Each new technology changed important elements of the direction -- students learning to program in BASIC on microcomputers would learn to think logically and creatively for themselves, videodisc would make education more visual and interactive, HyperCard would trigger a wave of hypertextual, interdisciplinary thinking...
There are common threads to this rapidly flickering vision, ideas that I've heard repeatedly over the decades:
- Education will shift the student's role from passive to active.
- Education will become more self-paced.
- Many new kinds of students will be involved.
- As more of the explaining function of education becomes embodied in technological materials, the faculty role will shift from always being the 'sage on the stage' toward spending more of their time coaching and managing the learning process("a guide on the side").
- Although the upfront costs would be large, there will be cost savings, too.
- And the exponential improvement in the power and efficiency of computer chips will help assure that the wave of change that we could already see would soon accelerate.
THE BAD NEWS
Since 1966, most predictions I've heard for technology-driven, paradigm-shifting change in the "how" of learning have not come true - not pervasively, not yet.
For example, most of today's students still seem to do most of their learning through what instructors and textbooks explain to them, for example. The students' job is still mainly to take notes, preparing to verify on the test that they have understood what they have been told. (Do you agree that this was, and is, the norm in colleges? If not, what was the norm 20-40 years ago? has the norm changed?). I think the norm has changed a little, but not in the ways most people predicted years ago.
Please add your own observations (click the 'comment' button below.)
What claims for technology-driven change in learning did you hear, 5-10 years ago or more?
What did you think that academics would need to do in order to achieve that improvement in learning on a programmatic scale?
Have any of those hoped-for improvements in learning actually happened across your program?
Which predicted changes in learning have not yet occurred on that scale? Why not?
- Were those goals for changes in learning actually unattainable or over-valued?
- Were there problems with the proposed strategy for achieving those changes?
- Was the new technology of the day inadequate to the task?