Monday, October 20, 2014

Teaching & Learning: Getting Ahead of the Future That’s Already Here

"The future ain’t what it used to be."  The quote attributed to Yogi Berra could not be more meaningful these days.  We can easily get caught in our own thinking ruts – using linear thinking and mental models that are increasingly, if not already, outdated by a world that is changing faster than most anyone of us can comprehend.  It is all too easy to make assumptions from our individual and collective experiences that simply extrapolate the past into the present, while thinking the future will be best met through similar approaches to those that have worked in the past. Rut thinking and stale mental models limit our thinking; inhibits a mindset of abundance; and minimizes options for problem solving.

The future is here.

No area is free from the crushing presence of the future that is already upon us.  This includes the core of our enterprise – teaching and learning.  Fortunately, MVCC has a long history of amazing faculty members who are drawn to the craft of teaching and is fortunate to have a number of faculty currently pushing the envelope by experimenting with the latest developments in the art and practice of teaching.

We have enrichment and professional development for faculty and staff through a nationally recognized program of outstanding and robust offerings. Continuous learning for ourselves is critical when we consider how quickly changes in the educational setting are accelerating. 

Research on the human brain over the past decade has demonstrated the consistent finding that learning occurs best when students experience a shift of some kind every 12 minutes – mini-lecture; video; individual reflection; small group discussion; mini-lecture; video; etc.  What does that require of classrooms, technology, furniture, faculty, students, or materials? 

Massive Open Online Courses where thousands can enroll in a single section of a free online course offered by well-known universities are a disruptive innovation.  While their immediate threat to traditional education seems to have transitioned to providing access to education in lesser developed countries, they represent a new educational delivery brought to scale. 

Open educational resources (OER) leverage the wealth of information that is available for free on the Internet.  OERs in full form take the shape of the “free textbook” – replacing the traditional textbook with guided links to all the necessary information that can be found on the web in one form or another.  Nationally, average textbook costs equal more than 70% of community college tuition making this a financial imperative toward reducing educational costs for our students. 

The “flipped classroom” combines brain research and OERs with intentional mini-lectures and facilitates students accessing the traditional information outside the classroom and doing their traditional homework inside the classroom through guided activities following an initial mini-lecture to set the stage for very active learning. 

Hybrid offerings combine the best of traditional classroom learning with the best of online learning in a convenient and intentionally designed curriculum delivery.

I’m proud to say we have a number of faculty already applying many of these concepts in their classes, but the challenge with any change is how to bring it to scale to maximize the benefits that can lead to further innovations.