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.


Anonymous said...

I have always wondered why there is so much emphasis on a class size. Small classes don’t guarantee quality instruction and large classes are not necessary bad if properly structured. In today’s world we have an array of technology that we are not taking advantage of—most of it is very inexpensive or even free to both students and instructors.

Anonymous said...

NAU seems to be a great setting for incorporating some of the state-of-the-art techniques for more involved and engaged classroom learning: "studio classrooms" that integrate lab, lecture, and recitation activities, or mini-lab and inquiry activities embedded in a large lecture. We ought to encourage some leading faculty members to visit such classrooms in action, and then to help us obtain grants or gifts to implement them here. -- administrative faculty

Anonymous said...

I am in a great agreement that student learning should include various forms of instruction and experiences. This supports the question that co-curricular experiences and active learning techniques should be added to courses across campus, to all disciplines from major/minor requirements to liberal studies requirements.

Student learning has much to do with involvement, in my opinion and experiences. Not necessarily "extra curricular” involvement, but involvement within subject content, self-motivation, and interest. The ability to provide rich educational experiences for students will result in heightened engagement at NAU at the undergraduate level.

My recommendation is to introduce service-learning techniques and service-learning courses in the undergraduate curriculum. Service-learning is a form of active experiential learning where community service experiences are integrated with classroom objectives and content through a critical reflection process. The goals of service-learning reflect greatly with the liberal studies goals here at NAU. With faculty and administrative support, this pedagogy of teaching and learning can enhance student experience, which will enable learners to understand how knowledge can be used to benefit society, one of the purposes of higher education.

Anonymous said...

Keep blog postings shorter and issues separate. That way more people will participate. The Q&A section on the president's budget web page is a good model.


Anonymous said...

I can't speak for other units on campus, but I feel that research is not managed effectively by my unit. People get by with doing nothing or next to nothing, which demotivates those that do research. It's like a manager who doesn't discipline lazy employees--employees who take pride in their work at some point realize they really don't need to work so hard (and feel foolish if they do). It would be nice if we could find some method of making sure that those who have the responsibility to publish, do so.