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This Week at the Center - April 8, 2014

Home > News & Updates > This Week at the Center - April 8, 2014

What are the possibilities beyond MOOCs for open online learning experiences? On April 1, Columbia math and physics professor Brian Greene visited the Center to talk about how his new World Science U platform explores ways the online medium can advance teaching and learning beyond the structure of a course.

In its current form, World Science U offers three types of content: hundreds of short (30 second to 1 minute) video answers to questions; 2-3 week “Short Courses” with no homework or prerequisites; and 8-10 week “University Courses” that offer the full online course experience.

This conversation brought together what have been two important threads in the Center’s work over the past fifteen years, the purposeful use of technology to advance teaching and learning and a rethinking of science education. Our portfolio of science projects includes very early work with Brian Greene, among other Columbia faculty, and continues today with support of projects such as WACEP, Brownfield Action, and our pioneering partnerships with schools at the Medical Center campus. Similarly, we have been deeply involved in explorations of online learning as they continue to evolve, producing MOOCs on both the Coursera and EdX platforms in addition to our portfolio of other types of online learning experiences.

Not surprisingly, Greene’s conversation with Center staff focused on pedagogy, particularly his use of technology to improve the quality of in-person classroom time in his largely freshman introduction to physics course. His experience reinforces other recent findings that the efficacy of educational technology products largely depends on their support of changes in classroom practices.

These findings in turn echo the dominance of “hybrid” -- a blend of face-to-face and online -- practices in the top trends identified in the New Media Consortium’s 2014 Horizon Report for Higher Education. Perhaps the emerging consensus that materials and practices from online learning can be complementary to the traditional classroom experience is why both sides in the recent Intelligence Squared debate at Columbia’s Miller Theater over More Clicks, Fewer Bricks: The Lecture Hall is Obsolete found so much common ground.

Also This Week: CCNMTL staff members attended Barnard College’s fourth annual Faculty Reflections on Teaching with Technology symposium on April 4th. The well-attended event was hosted by Barnard’s Instructional Media and Technology Services (IMATS) group and featured project presentations from a dozen BC faculty members. The sessions highlighted their successes in the classroom, but also left space to highlight some lessons learned, which peers will use to avoid pitfalls when implementing technology in their own teaching.

Coming Up: The conversation shifts from the sciences to humanities on April 9, when Jim Grossman, Executive Director of the American Historical Association (AHA), will lead a discussion with Center staff on the topic of a recent issue of the AHA's magazine, Perspectives, titled Historians Respond to MOOCs.

The Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning is a hub for information exchange on teaching, learning, and technology. This space provides a weekly roundup of discussions and events at the Center in the context of the wider conversations about educational technology.