Summing up the Reinventors Series

We recently completed the final roundtable for the Reinventors Series–our six session discussion on the future of higher education that brought thought leaders from universities, the non-profit sector and business together in discussion and debate. As a final recap for the series, we’ve captured some of the key insights and take-aways in a detailed video below. Thanks again to all who have followed and participated in the series this past 12 weeks–we hope these conclusions will spur more dialogue on these issues in the future.

Our Final Roundtables in the “Reinventors” Series

Our fifth roundtable in the Reinvent the University for the Whole Person series, Principles Driving Policy, focused on the intersection of public policy and higher education — asking what type of public policies support an education made for the whole person.

The roundtable was brought many perspectives to the issue, with leading voices from across academic, government and technology sectors weighing in. Former U.S. Under Secretary of Education Martha Kanter noted that ideal public policies are those that recognize the complexity and diversity of higher education across the United States. Other panelists, including Georgetown’s Provost Robert Groves, added that the diversity within American higher education also contributed, in significant ways, to the economy and to the democratic process.

Our sixth and final roundtable, Strategies for Organizational Change, asked thought leader to draw upon all that we’ve learned throughout the series and to suggest ways that universities can adapt to better meet the needs we have identified.

Steven Mintz, the Executive Director of the University of Texas System’s Institute for Transformational Learning, argued for the importance of large-scale change– on an institutional or curricular level, rather than just among one or a few faculty members. Other participants noted that change in higher education also depends on the interests of stakeholders — including students, professors, employers and the general public.

These final episodes tied together much what we’ve learned throughout the series, helping to chart out the most promising courses forward for colleges and universities seeking to initiate impactful change in their future.

Stay tuned on the Future(s) website for Vice Provost Randy Bass’s final synthesis about what we have learned – and what we have accomplished – through this series.

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.

Reinventing the University: Sessions 1 and 2

We’ve launched a new set of discussions on how universities could teach, prepare and empower the whole person in the 21st century—a central aim of the Future(s) initiative.

By partnering with the Reinventors Network, a media startup specializing in innovation, the Future(s) initiative is bringing together leaders from across industries and higher education to discuss and debate how best to achieve this goal.

The first conversation focused on “The Whole Opportunity”—the opportunity for universities to recognize the type of person that the future demands and to imagine how universities can best prepare students to succeed and adapt in an information-driven and interconnected world.

This first panel agreed that future students will have to be agile, collaborative and creative in how they approach and solve for complex problems.

According to the conversation’s first anchor, Salim Ismail, the founding Executive Director of Singularity University, students need to have gathered a bank of knowledge from which they can “pull down information in order to accomplish the task at hand.”

The panel also discussed a variety of ways to promote this type of learning. “You learn holistically when there is a big problem to solve with others,” added Rebecca Chopp, President of Swarthmore College. One framework to develop adaptable, empowered learners is to place students in small, collaborative and diverse clusters and to challenge them with a complex problem at the onset of their academic career.

Expanding on this discussion, the second conversation, “Next Skillsets,” focused on the skills that will be needed to thrive in the workplace of tomorrow.

Universities, the second group agreed, need to orient education away from a model that prizes information delivery and retention and towards one that focuses on teaching students to think critically and develop a capacity for highly creative and collaborative problem solving.

The “Next Skillsets” panel also highlighted the need to rethink essential skills now that data driven technologies and powerful computing capabilities have meant that skills needed to harness these new tools are more important than ever.

Peter Felton, Assistant Provost and Director of the Center for Engaged Learning at Elon University, challenged the group to recognize the value of learning that draws on these new technologies and the creative human intellect. “What are the things that we can do together…that computers can’t do yet?” he questioned.

Michael McPherson, President of the Spencer Foundation, also stressed how future students must develop the ability to solve novel and complex problems that demand creative thought—not mechanical habits of mind. Cultivating a creative faculty for practical and moral judgment, he suggests, is where future students and universities are uniquely poised to focus their energies.

You can visit here to learn about Georgetown’s collaboration with Reinventors, including previous roundtables and participants.

Stay tuned for continued updates of the conversation here on the Future(s) website.

“Reinventing the University for the Whole Person”

Georgetown is partnering with Reinventors—a media startup founded by two Georgetown alumni—to bring leading thinkers and innovators together to discuss higher education today. These digital roundtables will work to shift the debate on American colleges and universities, refocusing on how universities can and must educate the “whole person.”

With Randy Bass, Georgetown’s Vice Provost for Education, Reinventors is co-hosting a series of six Google hangout discussions, each focusing on a specific subject—ranging from learning environments and metrics, to new skillsets for the whole person, to strategies in organizational change.

You can tune into the first hangout on May 6 at 2:00 p.m EST.