Learning Systems Subcommittee Report

Teaching & Learning for VT2020

Develop curiosity and a questioning disposition . . . [and] most important is fostering the love of embracing change.

— John Seely Brown

In the future, computing will be human-centered, available everywhere, like batteries and power outlets, like oxygen in the air we breathe. . . .  We need to be able to focus on the innovations, rather than focus on the technology.

— Carl Harris & Jeff Crowder

Q:  “What should students know and be able to do to actively engage life in the modern world over the course of their lives?”

All VT graduates should achieve broad learning outcomes that support the evolution of careers and citizenry in the 21st century that are integrated with their disciplinary (and related multi- /cross- /trans-disciplinary) knowledge acquisition/production; these would, at a minimum include:

  • critically engaged information literacies and information management;
  • innovative and collaborative problem-solving/problem-posing;
  • effective teamwork and communication;
  • ability to mentor, to participate in collaborative engagement and community building;
  • cross-cultural competencies;
  • “knowledge-able/knowledge-ability” (re: Wesch) across disciplines and communities;
  • computational thinking; ability to critically analyze data;
  • cyber-ethics;
  • learning how to learn (psychology and physiology of learning);
  • critically engaged users/creators of technologies—exploring and understanding “deep dives” vs. “info-snacking” and “continuous partial attention” vs. “what is solitude and what is focus” in context-specific settings and new learning environments (re: Lee Rainie);

Q: “Where is the edge—where do we need to go?”

How do we encourage institutional-wide “disruptive change” to foster a change in the culture of learning?  Possibilities include:

Rethinking the current structure of course delivery/sequencing of curriculum in “majors” and “minors”;

  • imagining new structures for learning that create opportunities for both independent and individual skill development in addition to collaborative, authentic problem- or project-based learning (PBL) with authentic assessments;
  • developing “personalized” learning (in part by better use of laptops, mobile devices to foster anytime/anywhere learning and engagement) and effective use of learning analytics that develop critical understanding and choice by all learners (re: avoid in loco parentis uses);

Developing locally or seeking (or both) high-octane, self-paced, modularized course development for some of our widely subscribed, foundational curriculum;

  • this curricula may or may not look like, act like, or be assessed like mere modularized versions of current course content—(re: a Math Emporium on steroids, or super-sized Scale-Up learning environment with teams of independent learners working sometimes face-to-face (“F2F”), sometimes via avatar in an OpenLife context, via holograms in “F2F” meetings with learners (or professionals or community members) from other campuses or learning communities (whether local, regional, national, or international);
  • faculty engage with the learners with flexibility with the ability to accommodate just-in-time learning—to facilitate, co-create the learning—rather than on a pre-determined, early agrarian model that was intended to accommodate planting/harvest schedules.

Rethinking and redefining faculty roles around integrated learning experiences (ILE).  ILEs are useful in their own right, but are likely to increase in necessity in light of modules to optimize (and, some might argue, legitimize) a four-year tuition and to develop essential learning and citizenry skills.

  • ILEs could build on lessons learned in first-year experiences (“FYEs”), PBL in learning communities, and civic engagement (perhaps some via undergraduate research opportunities with a civic engagement focus—research serving the greater common good directly vs. indirectly);
  • and, most importantly, renewed focus on problems/topics/situations that cross disciplines and engage pressing issues of the day—poverty, anomie, governance, energy, food, water, housing, innovation, transportation, materials, spirituality, art, etc.
  • ILEs will complement the modules, which could focus more on content and entry-level critical thinking skills.  This will help learners build core competencies of scholarship, collaboration, communication, and project management while being exposed to multiple career and professional opportunities.
  • new assessments and analytics to teach learners how to mark engagement, progress, and completion; kinds of assessments should vary by field, by course, more application of knowledge “mastery,” no more use for Scantrons, and no more being “read to” from lecture notes for weeks with the only assessment being regurgitation;

Increased opportunities for student engagement—intellectually and affectively; VT should aggressively promote social networking and experiential learning opportunities that make the campus-based experience powerful, retentive, and unique to VT.

  • Hokiepedia that fosters collective intelligence and community engagement;
  • Interactive eTextbooks (far beyond current options) that are “living documents” and that are non-platform-specific as a tech tool and avenue for developing knowledge-producers (in addition to knowledge-consumers).

Related Needs/ Resources:

  • consider new funding models at every level to foster structural change;
  • new reward system (for tenure and promotion, for staff, for admin);
  • create a Vice President for Innovation (empowered to drive change, gently, but effectively)—or, perhaps it is a new collective entity with renewable/rotating positions;
  • expand/reenvision use of FTEs (full-time equivalents); new structures for new curricular engagement—rethink traditional teaching “loads” for ILEs and a new curriculum;
  • invest heavily in instructional technology resources across campus; have more staff for building more re-usable learning objects (RLOs), videos, serious gaming and simulations, etc.
  • the goal could be to move much of the current “stand and deliver” curricular information into an updated cloud; instruction technology teams could contract with current professors to trick out their courses in interesting and effective ways with information technologies—many faculty are ready and willing, but we lack the resources and reward structure.

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