Reinventing the University, Sessions 3 + 4

New experts brought our discussion of Reinventing the University to the frontiers of learning in our latest sessions. Our third roundtable—”Next Physical and Virtual Environments”—asked our panel to imagine the type of physical and virtual spaces that would support learning experiences that have the highest impact on students.

José Bowen, incoming president of Goucher College and roundtable anchor, noted that the emergence of tuition-free learning platforms “fundamentally changes the value of what we do on campus.” Bowen and the panelists identified that professors are uniquely well-positioned to become “cognitive coaches”—empowering students to understand how they learn as individuals. To encourage this type of coaching, universities need to create learning spaces that support meaningful student-faculty collaboration, including design labs and nuanced, interactive online platforms. Panelists identified the distinct value of the university in this new ecosystem of learning—its physicality, the availability of experts—which will be critical in defining the path ahead.

The fourth roundtable centered on the “New Metrics” that can give a more accurate picture of learning outcomes—beyond assessing student progress with letter grades.

Curricular design and ePortfolio experts explored the benefit of assessment tools that enable students to take charge of their own learning trajectory throughout their college years. Some panelists, like Ruth Deakin Crick of University of Bristol, asserted that new metrics of student success create an “empowering culture” in which students “learn to learn.” If developed thoughtfully, new tools like ‘digital badging’ can bring student learning outcomes into better alignment with the qualities that future employers seek.

Yet the discussion highlighted the great tension at hand in educating the whole person: while tools are being developed to track personal accomplishments, consensus does not yet exist as to which are most useful—on their own, or as a complement to traditional grading systems.

Check back here on the Future(s) site for more updates on the Reinventors series.

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