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Learning Innovation = Residential Education + Online Learning

What would happen if every residential course was designed in the same way as our best online courses?

June 24, 2018
 
 

Last week at the Summit for Online Leadership and Administration + Roundtable I was asked to define learning innovation.

My answer came in the form of an equation:

Learning Innovation = Residential Education + Online Learning

Ask a group of any 4 academics to define learning innovation and you are bound to get at least 5 different answers.

“Innovation" may be the least meaningful word in the contemporary postsecondary conversation. Well, maybe “disruption”, but “innovation” is right up there.

This is why I want to make the concept of learning innovation concrete. And this is why when I think of learning innovation, my thoughts go to online education.

I have 2 goals in my academic career:

Goal 1: Work with people smarter than I am to create new online programs.

Goal 2: Work with people smarter than I am to bring the culture, methods, and practices of online learning to residential education.

I like online education. I like that online programs make learning and credentialing accessible to people with jobs and families. I think that the only way that we are going to make big leaps in improving accessibility and lowering costs for higher education will be to invent a new type of quality online education at scale.

But I don’t love online education.

I love the magic that happens when professors and students get together.

I love the intimacy of small courses.

I love the place where the art and the science of teaching intersect.

I love the promise of aligning learning science with teaching practices.

I love the potential to use data to continuously improve course design and student learning.

I love all forms of active and experiential learning.

I love the idea of treating course development as a design challenge.

I love an education that is personal, and designed around the learner rather than the content.

And I particularly love the idea of teaching as a team sport.  When professors work as colleagues with instructional designers and librarians and media educators to design and re-design courses and programs.

All of those things I love are embodied in online education.

If you have ever worked in a quality online education program you know all this to be true.

Anyone who thinks that higher education is not student obsessed and learner focused has not worked in online education.

Anyone who believes that higher education is slow to change has not worked in online education.

What would happen if every residential course was designed in the same way as our best online courses?

What would happen if all the courses in a major were developed in relation to one another, just as courses in quality online programs are today?

Would you object that this vision is too expensive? That bringing a team approach to residential education will only raise costs?

I’d argue that what is actually expensive is students not graduating.

I’d argue that what is really expensive is not attracting or retaining students.

I’d argue that if your institutional brand depends on a quality residential education experience, then it makes sense to align your brand with proven methods to create high quality courses and programs.

The fastest way to improve learning on your campus is to translate the methods and practices of online learning to residential education.

What has been your experience bringing together online and residential education?

How would you define learning innovation?

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