Friday, June 27, 2014

More than MOOCs

Academe
June 2014

   On August 13, 2013, William C. Powers, the president of the University of Texas at Austin, sent out a campuswide e-mail about educational technology. While campuswide e-mails seldom make news, this one did because few university presidents ever address this particular subject. “Rapidly advancing technology is changing virtually every aspect of our lives,” Powers wrote, “and education is no exception. The changing landscape presents challenges, but it also gives us great opportunities. We need to lead change in higher education, both for ourselves and for the future.” Powers highlighted a series of pedagogical innovations such as flipped classrooms, blended learning, and massive open online courses (MOOCs). His emphasis on these developments served as encouragement to faculty to stay at higher education’s technological cutting edge.
   Traditionally, individual faculty members have had almost complete control over how they teach. Powers indicated that he had no intention of interfering with this traditional faculty prerogative. “Without compromising our deep commitment to the academic freedom of a world-class faculty,” explained Powers, “we should recognize that these technologies amplify the visibility and impact of individual faculty and staff as representatives of the University on a global scale.” While such language is reassuring, maintaining this balance between academic freedom and efficiency is more easily said than done.

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