For the first forum of the Digital First initiative our goal was to initiate a conversation about teaching and learning in the digital era and what OSU’s response should be to emerging technologies and opportunities. Dr. Matt Stolzfus spoke to the transformative potential of learning technologies in the classroom and beyond. I focused on the external landscape, developments in the MOOC-driven marketplace, and implications of recent partnerships between public universities and private businesses.
Our hope was that by introducing a broad range of topics it would both provide multiple avenues of engagement during the forum and suggest directions for future conversations. Opinions varied on how well we achieved these goals. The technology was balky. My presentation was hard to see. But we did have a wide-ranging, sometimes intense discussion and, from my perspective, a number of critical themes emerged.
Learning Outcomes and Best Practices
While the prevailing opinion was positive about the value of educational technologies, concerns were raised about their impact on learning outcomes. There was a brief discussion about research supporting the effectiveness of hybrid online and in-person instruction, but there was a clearly expressed desire for research and best practices to inform future sessions. There is a growing body of research concerning online teaching and learning, but for a recent overview, see: http://www.sr.ithaka.org/research-publications/interactive-learning-online-public-universities-evidence-randomized-trials
Faculty, Administration, & Support: Use Case Studies
The issue of how faculty work in online education will be supported and evaluated by their units was a concern expressed by several. The need for clear guidelines from university leadership was mentioned. Dr. Lewis Ulman recommended that we focus a future session on examining a “use case,” in which a faculty member who has developed (or is developing) an online course would be joined by a member of their unit administration, and technical staff to discuss the entire process of course development, how that work was facilitated and subsequently evaluated by the department. Concerns about support and valuation of online course development are a common thread in conversations across campus, as well as everywhere in higher education where the idea of a “digital faculty” is emerging.
Two surveys, jointly conducted by Inside Higher Ed and Babson Research, address these and other faculty concerns and are available here: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/survey/conflicted-faculty-and-online-education-2012 and here: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/survey/digital-faculty-professors-and-technology-2012
Landgrant to the World?
The implications of public course offerings and current MOOC-based initiatives proved to be the most controversial topic. Some pointed out that using open access courses to enhance OSU’s brand demanded direction from senior leadership to be effective. Others were concerned by the emphasis on educational economics in general and my discussion of the “$10,000 Bachelor’s Degree” at the University of Texas, in particular. To me, perhaps the most surprising aspect of this discussion was the evident tension between a desire for administrative leadership to define OSU’s online brand and mission and expressing a strong faculty voice in developing digital education initiatives.
This, more than any other, was the subject of individual discussions I have had since the forum. For example, in addition to his comments on the implications of MOOCs at the forum, Dr. David Goss, has forwarded the following: http://money.cnn.com/gallery/pf/college/2012/08/31/college-education.moneymag/index.html for our consideration.
How best to respond to the opportunities, challenges, and potential threats of MOOC-driven partnerships is, in my view, an urgent question, and one that I believe is best developed collaboratively by faculty and leadership working together. I look forward to future discussions and the planning and implementation of a coordinated response that enhances OSU’s educational mission and brand.
Several of you stayed after the forum for sidebar discussions that were engaging and informative. Others have emailed comments and phoned with additional information that I very much appreciate. These detailed communications are evidence of the depth and power of the intellectual capital of OSU and I look forward to continuing these discussions.
I want to thank everyone who attended, participated in the discussion, and took the time to provide evaluative comments. Your ongoing comments and suggestions are very much welcomed. Please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Finally, my presentation is available here: http://prezi.com/af7bfrndaslf/osu-digital-teaching-and-learning-landscape/