02 January 2010

Optimized University

Carl Wieman put together a "think piece" on a new model for post-secondary education, which he called the Optimized University. Here are some of the highlights:
  • The Optimized University will focus on the desired student education outcomes rather than number of courses / credits students need to graduate with. There will be a switch in focus from processes to outcomes.
  • The instructor's role will primarily be an educational designer who continually assesses student's development with the assistance of technology and provides targeted feedback and challenges to the students to optimize their learning rather than simply a one-way transference of knowledge to students.
  • Clearly delineated educational goals will be created by relevant faculty in consultation with other stakeholders such as industry, educational systems, and government.
  • IT will be used to accurately diagnose student preparation, conceptual knowledge, beliefs, and epistemologies. IT will also be used for new teaching methods (interactive simulations, intelligent tutors, sophisticated diagnostic capabilities, clickers), improved class organization and management systems, archiving systems for educational materials and data, deployment of new modes of presenting material and enhanced communication by linking students with each other and faulty.
  • The Optimized University will have sophisticated pedagogical content knowledge - knowledge on how the content and skills are best learned, common student difficulties, approaches most effective in helping students overcome those difficulties, and how to motivate students to master the subject.
  • Validated assessments of desired deep understanding of material rather than a simple memorization of facts and problem solving recipes will be in place.
  • Technology will be used to make classes more intellectually engaging and educationally effective. Research has shown that there have been demonstrations of classes of 200 or more achieving very good learning gains using clickers and peer instruction in the lectures, computer graded homework systems, student-student collaboration (on / off line), extensive course webpages, and survey systems.
  • Carefully constructed diagnostic exams will be used to assess student preparedness and to reduce large hidden cost in instructor's time to provide the unprepared students with extra assistance and in dealing with the repercussions of failing students.
  • Student support will range from peer support and intelligent tutoring system, to trained undergraduate and graduate TA, to the expertise available from the faculty.
  • Students will have authentic research experience upon graduation.

Wieman, Carl. (n.d.) A New Model for Post-Secondary Education, the Optimized University. Retrieived on January 2, 2010, from here.

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