The online learning revolution holds incredible promise across the University, offering a convening “force” to bring together the campus and its schools to further convey how they are leading innovators in teaching and learning.
What makes this unique is that it is truly a “bottom-up” movement, a response to interest by faculty to teach in new and novel ways.
A Convening Moment
To that end, Harvard is building resources, expertise, and bringing together our schools, centers, and institutes to truly elevate teaching and learning through technology. The underlying goal is to come together to support online Harvard courses and modules for distribution and for use in Harvard residential and extended online education.
At the same time, we want to use what we learn to conduct research on the effects of pedagogical and technological innovations, and how these influence learning outcomes.
Faculty will be able to adapt their practice to accommodate teaching and learning innovations that emerge. An important goal is to represent the full range and diversity of instruction across all Harvard Schools, from undergraduate and graduate programs to executive education and freestanding lessons and multimedia resources.
With the President’s emphasis on excellence in teaching and learning, the creation and evolution of HarvardX, an understanding of needs from the Harvard Academic Computing Committee, and best practices stemming from teaching and learning activities within the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and throughout Harvard’s schools, now is the time to nimbly and smartly respond to burgeoning faculty interesting in:
- translating the Harvard experience into the online space and visa versa;
- using technology to enhance student learning on-campus, online, and beyond; and
- learning about learning, or conducting rigorous pedagogical research.
Currently, the sum of Harvard’s collective efforts are not greater than the individual, often disparate parts. Our aim is to look beyond. We do not want to create yet another initiative or center or centralize related endeavors through top-down leadership, but instead focus on seamless integration, offering a coherent, clear network to support faculty innovation.
Teaching & Learning Goals
Harvard does not have a specific vision for teaching and learning, instead the aim is to enable experimentation and discovery, all guided by broad aspirations:
- be a leader in learning;
- respond nimbly to our pioneering/innovating faculty (who have long been pioneers);
- convene faculty together to look for synergies;
- support our students (in an age where learners are in the drivers seat);
- enhance the residential education experience with new resources and tools (flipped classrooms/blended learning);
- define, explore, and lead the science of learning; and
- engage practitioners in higher education worldwide with what we learn (open access).
Challenges & Opportunities
The online learning revolution and Harvard’s decision to embrace it is not without risk. Our challenges include:
- remaining an effective institution;
- straying from the mission of residential education and research;
- ensuring consistent high quality; and
- continually improving pedagogy.
But, there are amazing and evolving opportunities:
- leading the transformation;
- reimagining teaching & learning;
- engaging alumni in new ways (i.e. HarvardX for Alumni); and
- “raising all boats” in higher education.
Moreover, investing in new education technology is just that—an investment—requiring tapping into existing resources and supporting entirely new ones. With that in mind, HarvardX and edX were founded with a commitment to achieving financial sustainability beyond philanthropy.
Setting the Standard
As we accumulate a vast collection of data on students and their performance, and as we experiment with new pedagogies and technological tools, we will continue to learn more about learning.
We will refine well-established teaching methods and develop new approaches that take full advantage of traditional and emerging technologies. We will build on our newfound insight to enhance the educational experience of students who study in our classrooms and laboratories here at Harvard.
This is the opportunity to share with the world what we do well – educate and lead.