Mass Customization and Hokie Nation: “Google U” @ VT

Sam already knows VT and VT already knows Sam, which helps Sam start his university studies before he finishes high school. VT’s application process involves interactive gaming exercises that provide assessments to supplement SAT/GPA scores as well as recommend the first game Sam should play in GUVT, which Sam has been eager to begin.  GUVT is a self-paced, problem-based, learn-by-play system. Because it’s fun, Sam quickly advances through GUVT’s levels, just like he advanced through the levels of his video games—with each level Sam demonstrates core competencies and learning objectives required for graduation at VT (i.e., life sciences, material and energy systems, quantitative reasoning, information literacy, culture and history, communication and collaboration).

Sam is really fired up. Mid-summer before his freshman year he qualifies to join one of the many small teams of VT students assigned competitive projects.  This semester the choices include simulating an historic event, designing a household energy conservation strategy, creating a video teaching high school students entropy, reducing childhood obesity, sustainably feeding campus, or influencing a bill pending legislation.  His team competes first against other VT teams assigned similar projects.  Perhaps next year, but definitely before he graduates, Sam will compete against teams from other ACC schools—last year VT won the conference play offs and got featured on a national news program: Go Hokies!

Solving the team-based problem requires competencies in math, biology, chemistry, communications, logic, historical precedent, marketing, thermodynamics and so on, so Sam has been accessing the just-in-time learning modules strategically linked to the class website by his professors who have been freed from teaching mundane content to focus on facilitating more advanced learning.  Sam is able to work at his own schedule.  Most modules are maintained and co-designed by “Google U.” Some contain mini-lectures by the world’s most engaging professors, all require problem solving and have measurable learning objectives, more and more of them incorporate gaming theory and simulation, which makes learning more and more like play, and increasingly the modules are filled with student-generated content approved by the editorial board because it is a more effective teaching tool than what the professors developed.  Sam’s goal is to author a short module for Google U about an organic chemistry principle that fascinated him since his high school teacher—a VT grad—first explained it. Sam and his teacher think they figured out a way to integrate the VT logo into the example so that students from around the world will know a Hokie was involved.

Sam gets energized by learning, his creativity blossoms, he designs a major to fit his interests, begins to lead team projects, and develops the life long learning skills that help him navigate a constantly changing career path. As a graduate of VT, he’s earned access to the constantly growing pool of learning modules so he’s empowered not just to succeed at VT, but to thrive in an information economy where knowledge changes quickly and information literacy is key.  Continued access to GUVT and VT’s Continuous Learning Community provide advantages that help distinguish Sam in his competitive job market.

–Bruce Hull











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