Future of Higher Education Conference

I’ve been attending the past few days….it’s here at George Mason. Of course the theme has been systemic change in the way we deliver content to undergraduate learners. In spite of all the talk of MOOCs and learning management systems, I’m struck by two things that aren’t changing: first that in science, the theoretical framework (Professor Jim Trefil mentioned this yesterday) stands apart from the mass of regular course content, waiting to be “discovered” by students enabling them to make sense of so much that must otherwise be memorized (think finally understanding enough quantum mechanics to make sense of organic chemistry). Second, that also in science, today’s factual content is tomorrow’s unreplicated result, religated to the wastebin of history–experiments and the scientific method go on 24/7 and theories (and even the framework!) are on a constantly evolving trajectory.

Technology can help teach science–I use it a lot in my own hybrid cellular neuroscience course for undergraduate majors here at Mason–but it doesn’t solve the problem of getting to the aha! moment when the learner sees a glimpse of the underlying framework that makes sense of all that, otherwise, scattered content.