Inside higher education launched “Inside Digital Learning” three years ago this month, with the aim of expanding our coverage of how technology is changing the nature of teaching and learning. We have built an audience of tens of thousands of dedicated readers – the recipients of our weekly newsletter and many more who search (or come across) our content on Twitter or other platforms.
We are grateful for your constructive ideas, suggestions and criticism during this time. Thanks for contributing.
If that sounds like “Inside Digital Learning” is disappearing, it is – in a way. But this newsletter is transforming, not ending. And I hope this new iteration – “Transforming Teaching and Learning” – serves our readers as well, if not better. Here’s what we do and why.
“Inside Digital Learning” has posted a ton of great news and opinionated content over the past 150 weeks, and we’ve been struck by a few things along the way.
First, colleges and universities and their administrators and professors are both excited and perplexed by the emerging role of technology in learning, and wary of it. In the report and commentary we published, “Inside Digital Learning” sought to document and explain the expansion of e-learning and other forms of digital innovation, without encouraging or demonizing it as cover it elsewhere.
We looked at dozens of topics on how colleges are using technology to improve and expand their learning delivery missions, the issues they face and how they cope after experimentation and, at times, failure.
What has become clear, however, is that for every good story we’ve come across about how a college or instructor was recreating a course or curriculum or approach to learning using some form of technology. digital – making it logical fodder for a publication on ‘digital learning‘ – we had to give up writing about other forms of pedagogical or educational innovation in which technology played no role.
And in a world where most students (still) take most of their classes in physical classrooms, it seemed… strange.
Technology will be an integral, if not fundamental, part of the future for just about any form of learning at nearly any college or university. As a result, covering the role of technology in learning will remain essential for any meaningful higher education publication (including this one). But technology is a medium, a tool – a sideshow, really.
The main event, the main activity, is teaching and learning – and the pressure is increasing on higher education as a business, and colleges and universities individually and collectively, to do it better.
The nature of this pressure is manifold. Some of it comes from external actors: accreditors, politicians and others who might be characterized as those who demand “accountability”.
Part of it comes from students and families, from those “consumers” (forgive the use of that word some of you dread) who, polls tell us, are increasingly questioning the value of the degrees that are available. ‘they get in college and the time they spend there. earn them.
And part of that comes from those of you within higher education itself, who (in some combination) pay attention to this external questioning and, as good professionals that you are, examine the way you are. provide education and consider whether it continues to be the right way to fulfill the mission of your course, program of study, or college or university.
Whatever your motivation, if you are in the process of reimagining the way you (or your faculty) teach or your students learn, the Transforming Teaching and Learning newsletter is for you.
Each week in this space, I will explore a facet of the changing landscape around teaching and learning. These reported columns could feature a teacher’s distinctive approach to redoing a course to try to improve learning outcomes, a college’s strategy for differentiating itself online, or a new classroom strategy that improves engagement. or student performance. I will interview thoughtful advocates and skeptics, stimulate and moderate debate, and from time to time, maybe even express a personal opinion.
Here are some of the areas that I consider the most ripe for exploration.
Quality and evaluation: How much are students learning and learning the “right” things? (And who defines that?) Is competency-based education ready for prime time? Ditto for e-portfolios? Do institutions pay less attention to student evaluations to judge the quality of teaching? Should they be? Do teachers set the bar too low for the rigor of their lessons? More fundamentally, do we know how to judge the “quality” of student learning?
Role of technology: How do faculty and institutions decide when to use technology to deliver education, and not? What do we know about learning outcomes in online education versus blended or in-person education? Is this the right comparison? What role does student data play (and should it play) in helping instructors understand how they and their students are doing?
The future of the faculty: Does the current composition of the teaching workforce make sense given the changing nature of teaching and learning? Is the current system by which we prepare and reward faculty members close enough to prioritizing teaching and learning? Is the teacher-scholar model the right one for the future, or should there be more variation in roles, with more instructors focused on guiding students in their learning journey and less focused? on disciplinary knowledge?
Beyond this new functionality, the “Transforming Teaching and Learning” newsletter will incorporate relevant content that we published this week in Inside higher education and include ideas from the great stable of columnists and other higher education professionals contributing essays and blog posts.
Careful readers may note that the new name of this newsletter is the same as the title of the IHE Now conference we’re hosting July 6-8 in Minneapolis. It is more than a coincidence; the Transforming Teaching and Learning conference will explore many of these same issues over the course of its three days, with a fantastic range of speakers and 450-500 expected university administrators and faculty members. Early agenda highlights include lectures by Candace Thille from Amazon and Cappy Hill from Ithaka S + R and a debate on the appropriate role of external providers in e-learning, with Robert Shireman of the Century Foundation and David Sutphen from 2U.
The content of the newsletter will help us build momentum into the conference and keep it going in the weeks and months to come.
Together the newsletter, conference, and other content we’ve planned is designed to show how important we think these issues are. There is perhaps no greater challenge (and opportunity) for colleges and universities right now than to prove that they deliver the rigorous, high-quality education they promise to students (and to make sure they are deliver it).
Important questions also arise as to whether students and families are paying too much for the education they receive, leading some to doubt that education is “worth it”. I do not diminish the importance of these questions. But most people will pay what is needed for something that they believe has significant value, which is why I think building a good education – and proving that students benefit – is Job 1 in this moment. This is what we are going to focus on here.
I would appreciate your ideas of what topics to explore here, who I should talk to, and just about anything you would like to share with me. This is a group effort.
We’re going to start for real next week. Hope you will come take the tour.
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