The most important higher education story of 2015 will, ironically, be a story published at the end of 2014. This is the 12/26 NYT’s story by Richard Prichard Pérez-Peña Colleges Reinvent Classes to Keep More Students in Science.
Every educator (both faculty and non-faculty) that I speak with is involved in some aspect of large enrollment class re-design. Free open online education and scale (MOOCs) have caused all of us to re-think the purpose and affordances of a residential education. The drop of the cost of a high quality lecture to zero dollars has upended the traditional value proposition of the course. Any college or university that bases a significant part of its business model around an information transfer model will be first irrelevant, and then quickly insolvent.
Larger enrollment courses are being re-thought as opportunities to invite students into the knowledge creation process. Advances in learning theory have taught us that we don’t retain what we don’t manipulate, create, and explain. Advances in digital learning platforms have enabled us, with significant investments in instructional design and course planning, to bring more active and collaborative methods to classes that were traditionally based on lectures and high-stakes assessments. Any course that does not move a significant portion of the content to beyond the time and space where instructors and students gather will feel anachronistic in an age of blended learning. Any course that does not take advantage of adaptive platforms for frequent low-stakes assessment will be forgoing opportunities for authentic learning.