Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Financially Sustainable Deep Learning Approach

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Student learning and undergraduate education have been NAU’s key mission components since the institution became a university in 1966. Over time we have developed and maintained a reputation as a school where professors know students’ names, where most instruction is delivered through small classes, and where the students participate in a variety of co-curricular programs. This deep learning, high encounter approach permeates the campus community culture, and we rightfully take pride in it.

In today’s challenging economic situation, how do we maintain NAU’s signature experience of deep learning and high encounters with faculty for our undergraduates?
Some ideas related to this topic to consider:

  • How do we know that our students are truly acquiring or experiencing a rich education? Is it an index of what is taught or what is learned?
  • Research shows that very little information in a traditional classroom lecture is retained by students. When the information is made active, through some sort of experience or ‘hands on’ encounter, retention of the information is quite high. How can we make learning more active in a single course that we teach?
  • How can we (or should we?) integrate co-curricular learning experiences as part or a compliment to (and not a substitute for) learning experiences in the major?
    How can faculty take the next step to more effectively mentor undergraduates

How can we financially sustain delivering this deep learning student experience? A few more questions to consider:

  • How important is class size in the learning process? Are we making wise decisions about which classes to keep small? How do we assess their effectiveness?
  • Do the costs associated with NAU’s deep learning strategy impact our ability to offer more competitive salaries for faculty and staff?
  • Can we use technology to help make this learning strategy more cost-efficient?

We are hoping that this month’s topic will trigger an interesting and lively discussion.