Learning transcends teaching in tech transformation

Laura Huenneke

          by Laura Huenneke, Provost

This past Monday, the Arizona Board of Regents hosted a workshop on the transformative impacts of technology on higher education. The university presidents organized panels of presenters from across the country, highlighting opportunities as well as challenges.

Lots of thoughts emerged, but first message to highlight is this: We are now in a world that focuses more on learning and the student than on our teaching activities.

Drop by and chat
Scholar’s Corner, Cline Library, 4-5 p.m. Wednesday, March 13. Let me buy you a cup of coffee.

University of Arizona President Ann Weaver Hart and NAU’s President Haeger, among others, emphasized that the focus is increasingly about learning. As students have more (and less expensive) options, we must demonstrate that students derive value from their NAU education. So we have to articulate what we intend for them to learn—learning outcomes—then demonstrate that students really do attain the knowledge and capabilities, through assessment.

It’s a major cultural shift for many of us. If we learned anything at all about college teaching in graduate school, we focused only on our activity—lecture content, delivery, textbooks—and not about the impact on student learning. And assessment long was something driven by outside accreditors, rather than our own desire to be more effective.

NAU has at times been a real leader in this area. Our commitment to defining learning outcomes was recognized with a national award in 2009, for example. But the state of the art is evolving, and we need more of our programs to articulate outcomes and map the curriculum and the learning activities designed to help students achieve them.

We have some terrific support for faculty taking on this challenge, and some of our colleagues are national experts. What are your current thoughts and impressions about our community doing this collective work?