Walking across the campus, I can feel the anticipation, energy and bustle that herald the beginning of a new academic year. The afternoon marching band rehearsals provide a familiar soundtrack and rhythm for the fall that is well underway.
We love our traditions and seasonal rhythms, but we are also energized by the forces that are converging to reshape the higher education landscape. MSU must boldly march to a different drummer as we become the university that defines the relevance of the land-grant mission for the 21st century.
In 2005 I launched the Boldness by Design initiative to ensure that MSU would remain on the cutting edge of innovation as we stepped forward into the 21st century. This year I started a new campus conversation around what we’re calling Bolder by Design that reiterates the original five “Boldness” imperatives but adds a sixth: advancing our culture of high performance. Our challenge then is to foster high performance as we consider how to approach each of our five core initiatives in bolder, more innovative ways.
One example of our ‘bolder’ approach is our planning for transforming the educational experience through appropriate uses of technology. These plans are not around how to substitute technology for the faculty/student relationship, but how to use these tools to broaden access, to teach us how our students learn, to expand the range of possible educational experiences, and to maximize the value of the time faculty spend with their students.
Of course, MSU has been at the forefront of the use of technology to enhance learning for the last several decades. In 1992 MSU developed an online learning content management system called LON-CAPA. Today it is used by us and more than 160 other institutions. LON-CAPA blazed the trail for CourseWeaver and Drawbridge, two recent MSU spin-off companies focused on the online learning market.
Since 1996, Michigan State has offered online courses. And, remember, at that time only about 45 million people worldwide were using the Internet. Today MSU offers more than 100 online courses, from accounting to zoology, and more than 30 graduate degrees in online or hybrid programs.
In 2013, some experts are predicting that so-called massive open online courses (MOOCs), will reshape the college educational experience for students by bringing the best instructors, regardless of location, to a student’s laptop, anywhere, anytime, for little, if any, cost.
Michigan State University is not only “marching with the MOOC beat” we are establishing our leadership in some very uncharted waters of teaching and learning. For example, Dr. Jeff Grabil and Dr. Julie Lindquist taught a MOOC of 2000 participants on “Thinking like a Writer” designed to prepare students for college-level writing. They are researching how students learn to write and how technology can be used to improve writing.
At MSU, technology is a vehicle for advancing the land-grant ethos. Before we were downloading, live streaming, or logging on, Michigan State University pioneered off-campus knowledge delivery at the turn of the 20th century by employing extension agents, later by teaching “off campus” courses, then using our public television capacity to broadcast information. In this generation, we will use new technologies to facilitate research, education and outreach. We’ve led our peers in the use of technology to transform teaching and learning for much of our history, and we’ll work to do that in even bolder ways over the next decade.
I look forward to sharing other examples of what Bolder by Design is accomplishing as we take what is true about MSU and recast it to address 21st century realities. Spartans Will.
Lou Anna K. Simon, Ph.D.
President, Michigan State University