Exciting Time in Higher Education
Dear Faculty Colleagues,
This is an exciting time in higher education. Technologies that enhance educational experiences are advancing at a rapid pace. Exciting opportunities to apply these technologies to research and instruction abound.
The University of Oklahoma is a leader in the application of new technologies. I am aware of programs in each of our colleges that are at the forefront in the exploration of learning innovations. For example, last semester our Gaylord College of Journalism was one of eight programs nationally to be awarded Apple's Distinguished Program Award. This fall, students will experience the first set of classes offered in our new Active Learning Classroom in the Stephenson Research Center.
Our direction for implementing emerging learning technologies is clear. We embrace on-line classes as a way to educate students who are simply not physically able to participate in the dynamic learning experience in our classrooms. However, technology can never substitute for the learning that takes place in our classrooms, laboratories and studios. When distance is not a consideration, we should not adopt technology to replace classroom learning but, rather, we should use new technologies to enhance the overall educational experience for our students. Students should be encouraged to be present for lectures and class sessions through attendance policies while also accessing technology enhancements. We must continue to emphasize the importance of personal interaction in the classroom and in other forms for discussion. “Virtual” experiences alone cannot create the strength of community which is so needed in our society.
I am aware of the actions of other excellent universities that are placing course content on the Internet for the world at large. While we also answer the call to broadly advance the frontiers of knowledge, I am very excited about the opportunities brought by new technologies to individualize and improve the educational outcomes for the students who fill our classrooms. While some digital strategies make course content available to an ever greater population of learners as in mass production, we must challenge ourselves to use technology, through videos and dynamic on-line course materials, to make more time available in the classroom/laboratory for discussion, student engagement, hands-on experiences, active peer learning and undergraduate research. In this digital age, an OU education can be more unique, more individualized, and more powerful than ever. Our role as a leader in the implementation of emerging technologies and commitment to dynamic classroom instruction will distinguish our digital initiatives from those of our peers.
This fall, the Provost and I will meet with every dean to explore opportunities to advance our digital programs in this spirit. To mention one initiative I hope to discuss, I think opportunities exist to use open-content on the Internet and additional presentations by our own faculty to reduce our reliance on some expensive textbooks. We can lower student costs while creating a learning experience that is designed for our OU students and that unlocks the unique expertise, interests and personalities of each OU faculty member. In fact, I am starting to work on additions to my own course materials for my political science class in this spirit as a way to enrich experiences and reduce textbook costs. I will also name a task force to coordinate and advance our academic and administrative digital initiatives.
I hope that you enjoy the rest of your summer. I am excited about the return of our students and the beginning of another academic year. I hope to see you at freshmen convocation to welcome another class of truly outstanding students. Thank you for all that you do to strengthen our University.
David L. Boren