Our Ed-Techie In-Chief

It's time to get President Obama at EDUCAUSE.

August 25, 2013

These are the best of times for us ed tech geeks.  

Does it get any sweeter than when the President of the United States gives us a giant shout out? How cool is it to be name checked by Commander-in-Chief?

In his 8/22 speech at the State University of New York in Buffalo the President enthused:

"So let me talk about some alternatives that are already out there. Southern New Hampshire University gives course credit based on how well students master the material, not just on how many hours they spend in the classroom. So the idea would be if you’re learning the material faster, you can finish faster, which means you pay less and you save money."

"Universities like Carnegie Mellon, Arizona State, they’re starting to show that online learning can help students master the same material in less time and often at lower cost. Georgia Tech, which is a national leader in computer science, just announced it will begin offering an online master’s degree in computer science at a fraction of the cost of a traditional class, but it’s just as rigorous and it’s producing engineers who are just as good."

In the FACT SHEET on the President’s Plan to Make College More Affordable: A Better Bargain for the Middle Class (released by the White House on the same day as the speech), learning technology gets lots of ink.

In a section titled: Use Technology to Redesign Courses, the text reads:

"Redesigned courses that integrate online platforms (like MOOCs) or blend in-person and online experiences can accelerate the pace of student learning. The National Center for Academic Transformation has shown the effectiveness of the thoughtful use of technology across a wide range of academic disciplines, improving learning outcomes for students while reducing costs by nearly 40 percent on average. Carnegie Mellon University’s Open Learning Initiative has developed a hybrid statistics course used at six public universities, and its students performed as well as their peers in a traditional course in only 75 percent of the time. Arizona State University’s interactive algebra lessons helped students perform 10 percent better, despite meeting half as often, and at a lower cost.  The University of Maryland redesigned an introductory psychology course, reducing costs by 70 percent while raising pass rates.  New York’s Open SUNY initiative brings together every online program offered system-wide, helping students complete more quickly."

And in another section called, Use Technology for Student Services:

"Online learning communities and e-advising tools encourage persistence and alert instructors when additional help is needed. Technology is enabling students from across campuses and across the world to collaborate through online study groups and in-person meet-ups. MOOC-provider Coursera has online forums in which the median response time for questions posed by students is 22 minutes. To help students choose the courses that will allow them to earn a degree as quickly as possible, Austin Peay State University has developed the “Degree Compass” system that draws on the past performance of students in thousands of classes to guide a student through a course, in a similar manner to the way Netflix or Pandora draw on users’ past experience to guide movie or music choices."

It is like the EDUCAUSE has moved into the West Wing.   

How should our community best capitalize on all this attention?

What can those of us working in the trenches of where learning meets technology do to further the President's agenda around utilizing technology as a catalyst to promote innovation?

How can we get more visibility for the educational technology innovations that we have been pursuing on our own campuses?

What can the learning design community do to get the message to the Department of Education and the White House that educational technology is only a bridge (or a tool), and that the most essential elements for learning continue to be our passionate faculty?

How do highlight the idea that technology is a means, not an ends, and that what the learning technology community is really about is collaborating with faculty in our shared goals of enabling effective student learning?

What opportunities do we have to ask President Obama if all students deserve the same sort of higher education that he and the First Lady want for Malia and Sasha, an education characterized more by the opportunity to develop relationships with faculty than to log on to a MOOC?

How can we further the President's agenda for greater innovation (through new educational model and new technologies), better affordability (more manageable student debt), and accountability (through changes in federal student aid policies) - while at the same time holding true to core values as educators and learning technologists?    

How can our educational technology community play an active role as the federal government transforms its relationship to higher education?

How can we get President Obama, our E-Techie In-Chief, to come to EDUCAUSE?


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