The Faculty Committee on the Future of Technology-Enhanced Education at NYU was formed by President Sexton and Provost McLaughlin in December 2012. The members of the committee were appointed in consultation with all the Deans and the Faculty Senators Council; the committee is very broadly representative of NYU schools and includes three Faculty Senators. [See Appendix A: Membership List.] The committee’s charge was to set forth principles and parameters that can guide the University in using technology to support its academic mission and further its commitment to innovation in the service of excellence in teaching and learning, pedagogical practice, and research. [See Appendix B: Committee Charge.]
Co-chaired by Rick Matasar (Vice President for Enterprise Initiatives; SCPS) and Matthew Santirocco (Senior Vice Provost for Undergraduate Academic Affairs; FAS, Classics), the committee began meeting in January 2013 and met eight times over the course of the spring semester, including an extended final meeting in mid-May. (Meeting summaries and minutes can be found online on the committee’s website.)
It should be noted that this period witnessed an explosion of activity worldwide in the area of technology-enhanced education (hereafter TEE), particularly online courses and programs. Some universities’ forays into online education have encountered strong criticism from faculty, who have felt disengaged from the decision-making process. Rather than being discouraged by the experiences of those institutions, we believe that they validate the deliberate and broadly consultative approach that we are taking. We also recognize that, while we engage in this deliberative process, we should encourage experimentation and pilot projects in order to inform the strategic choices that will ultimately be made by the faculty and deans of each school.
In what follows, we offer a brief overview of the actions that were taken (section II, “Actions”), make a number of observations and recommendations, based on the discussions that took place in our meetings (section III, “Observations and Recommendations”), and summarize our plans for next year (section IV, “Next Steps”).
The actions taken by the committee this semester were as follows:
1. Committee Website: In mid-February, a website was created, with both public components (charge, membership, and meeting schedule) and password-protected components accessible to all members of the NYU community (meeting summaries and minutes, an inventory of current online and technology-enhanced courses and programs at NYU, and selected literature on technology and education)
2. Consultation: Also in mid-February, the committee sent an email update to the NYU faculty, announcing that plans for consulting the University community were under development and inviting colleagues to submit comments through the committee’s website or directly to individual committee members.
In late February, a Subcommittee on Faculty Consultations and Engagement (chair: Gigi Dopico-Black, FAS Spanish and Portuguese) was created to develop strategies for consulting with faculty about TEE (see below, section III.2: “Consultation Process”).
In April, Rick Matasar and Matthew Santirocco asked the Deans to identify the most appropriate venues in their schools for in-person faculty consultations. All of the Deans’ replies were forwarded to the subcommittee.
Finally, in mid-April, Rick Matasar and Matthew Santirocco met with the University Committee on Student Life to get student input. The students expressed a strong desire to be represented on the committee, whether as observers, members of subcommittees, or plenary committee members. The committee will discuss this matter when it resumes its deliberations in September.
3. Best Practices: In April, a second subcommittee, on Best Practices for Teaching and Learning in the 21st Century (chair: Tom Augst, FAS English), was created to synthesize current knowledge and identify research needs in the design and assessment of TEE. The work of this subcommittee will be key to the faculty consultations that the committee will begin in the fall (see below, section III.2: “Consultation Process”).
4. Course and Program Inventory: In June, Global Technology Services (GTS) completed the process of documenting the existing online and hybrid/blended courses and programs that NYU schools have mounted; the updated inventory now includes over 300 credit-bearing courses. The majority of these are offered by Law, NYU-Poly, SCPS, and Stern. Many have been in place for a number of years. They use a wide variety of technological enhancements and provide a backdrop against which new initiatives can be measured. Although most courses in the current inventory are offered in graduate programs, a few are offered to undergraduates (e.g., in the McGhee Division). Over the summer, the inventory will be updated further to include several hundred additional non-credit courses, both tuition-based and publicly available (the latter on multiple platforms, e.g., YouTube Edu and iTunes U).
As our newly revised inventory reveals, there is already a great deal happening at NYU in the area of TEE. The focus of this committee, however, is on the future of TEE at NYU. With this in mind, the committee makes the following preliminary observations and recommendations:
1. Faculty Support: There was consensus within the group that there is a broad continuum of TEE, stretching from in-person lecture courses and seminars with digital enhancements, to “flipped classes” that deliver lectures or other “content” online and reserve in-class time for discussion, to fully online courses, as illustrated below:
Credit-Bearing - Traditional - Traditional classroom (lectures and readings)
Credit-Bearing - Hybrid - Traditional class with digital enhancements (e.g., supplemental instruction, ePortfolios)
Credit-Bearing - Hybrid - Flipped class (lecture online, in-class interaction & exercises)
Credit-Bearing - Hybrid - Hybrid course with multiple global classrooms
Credit-Bearing - Hybrid - Hybrid course with peer tutoring
Credit-Bearing - Digital - Fully online course (with proctored exams)
Non-Credit - Digital - Massively open online course (MOOC)
Committee members agreed that NYU faculty would benefit from a better understanding of the various technological enhancements that are possible at all points on the continuum, and that NYU (both at the University and at the school level) should continue to explore activities at different points along the continuum and then support those that the faculty and Deans of each school believe would best serve their respective educational missions.
Currently, however, the support that exists at NYU for all types of TEE is extremely uneven. At the University level, faculty support for TEE is primarily offered by the Digital Studio, which is staffed by a joint Libraries and Information Technology Services (ITS) group. GTS also provides significant expertise in the use of instructional technology. But there is still confusion among faculty about which University units to approach about specific requests. Until recently, there has also been confusion both within and among these units, which have often operated in silos, without a common knowledge base or a common set of service descriptions that could facilitate referrals. In addition, there has not been a venue where faculty could exchange ideas about TEE. Finally, the Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE) as part of its mission to nurture effective teaching and learning at NYU, can play a greater role in connecting faculty with instructional technology support, and its activities should be better coordinated with the units that provide services in this area.
Similar issues exist at the school level, where there is great unevenness in the support that is provided to faculty. Some schools invest heavily in this area; while others have historically invested relatively little. Given the lack of TEE support within many schools, the support provided at the University level will not be enough to meet the needs of the increasing numbers of NYU faculty who want to innovate and experiment with instructional technology.
The committee recommends that this situation be addressed. To that end, we note that an affinity group has been created, led by Ben Maddox (Associate Vice President for Global Technology), and consisting of representatives from the Libraries, ITS, GTS, and the CTE. With the oversight of Carol Mandel (Dean of Libraries), Marilyn McMillan (Vice President for Informational Technology and CITO for NYU NY), Tom Delaney (Vice President for Global Technology), and Cybele Raver (Vice Provost for Academic, Faculty, and Research Affairs), this affinity group is developing an approach to coordinating and enhancing the TEE-related services that the University provides through its offices. In addition, a fundamental part of this process will be to determine which responsibilities for providing TEE support to faculty lie with the individual schools, which lie with the University, and how to coordinate across the institution.
2. Consultation Process: The Subcommittee on Faculty Consultations and Engagement agreed that the process of consultation should be robust and meaningful and that it should make simultaneous use of several avenues: some already existing venues (e.g., departments or divisions, standing committees, Faculty Senators Council, DUS and DGS meetings, Deans’ and general faculty meeting) and other new, ad-hoc venues (e.g., town hall meetings, online surveys or polls, etc.). By fall 2013, the subcommittee will make recommendations for various modes of faculty consultation to the full committee, and visits will begin shortly thereafter.
As noted above (section II.3, “Best Practices”), the work of the Subcommittee on Best Practices for Teaching and Learning in the 21st Century will be key to this consultation process. In the spring, the subcommittee drafted forty recommendations pertaining to effective learning and innovative teaching at the course, school, and University level, outlining priorities that might guide the development of classroom tools, the evaluation of student competencies and learning outcomes, and the engagement of faculty in the development of curricula and pedagogy. It also drafted FAQs for use in faculty consultations. Both documents will be refined before being shared during the consultation process in the fall. While elaborating and disseminating recommendations about how technology can facilitate new ways of learning, this group will seek in the coming year to advance NYU's global leadership in the design of technology-enhanced education by engaging the entire University community in conversations about what it needs to teach and learn at a GNU in the 21st century.
As part of its concerted, community-wide consultation efforts, the committee has also expressed interest in organizing workshops on the use of instructional technology, both broad-based and tailored to teaching objectives within specific areas (e.g., humanities, social sciences, natural sciences). One possibility might be to ask the CTE to organize a conference on teaching with technology, in late fall or early spring, along the lines of the successful (and well-attended) February 2012 conference, which was co-sponsored by the CTE and the Teaching Technology Committee. Such an event would enable NYU faculty to continue to learn from their colleagues about the range of possibilities within TEE. These events are important, but more permanent venues for faculty exchange around TEE are also necessary.
Finally, in addition to in-person consultations, the committee expressed an interest in exploring the strategic use of crowdsourcing in its outreach to the NYU community. Crowdsourcing is a new technique for soliciting input electronically from large numbers of people, including those who might not otherwise have an opportunity to participate in a particular discussion. It is not a mechanism for making decisions, but rather a potentially effective method for informing such decisions. The committee will take this up at its first meeting in the fall.
3. Pilots: The committee recognizes the need for experimental initiatives at NYU across the TEE continuum. Such pilots can give us a better understanding of how “best practices” in TEE can be realized. The primary goal of these pilots should always be to enhance teaching and learning, including assessment. But in addition, some of them might also serve other goals, such as promoting flexibility in terms of time and space (e.g., for students who are studying abroad, holding down jobs to earn money, or pursuing internships or other experiential learning or clinical training opportunities); increasing access to NYU (e.g., by offering qualified students unable to attend NYU in person a way to begin their studies through technology-enhanced courses); and/or furthering the University’s Open Education efforts, which not only provide a free service to the public but also promote NYU’s academic excellence and may even help to recruit students. These diverse goals spurred an important discussion among the committee, with members having varying opinions about them.
We believe strongly, however, that four conditions must be attached to these pilots:
4. Open Application Process: Over the past academic year, several faculty members, departments, and schools have asked for and received support for developing online and hybrid/blended courses. While these pilot projects began before the committee was appointed, they reflect many of the goals for pilots noted above and are being implemented to adhere to the four conditions that the committee has attached to these projects (see above, section III.3: “Pilots”). The committee recommends that these faculty- and school-generated pilots be completed. But for the future, it may be advisable to establish, at the University and/or school level, an open and transparent application process for soliciting and vetting proposals from individual faculty, departments, or schools for online and hybrid/blended courses. When the committee resumes meeting in September, it will discuss criteria that may be used to select projects for development, and will discuss the appropriate process and venue for selection (the latter may or may not be this committee).
5. Platform: For the purposes of this report, we use the term “platform” to describe the undergirding technology that supports the University’s teaching and learning needs. NYU Classes, the University’s new, Sakai-based learning management system (LMS), is a flexible, open-source platform that facilitates faculty innovation at multiple points along the TEE continuum. Integrated with the University’s login services and its student information system (SIS), the NYU Classes platform serves as a user-centered “front-door” to a wide range of digital teaching tools that can either be developed or hosted there. The University’s partnership with Amazon EC2 cloud services, for example, will allow for future innovation in TEE tools that can be scaled and deployed globally. The range of activities that the NYU Classes platform could potentially support is vast. Faculty could, for example, engage students in web chats or synchronous video, adaptive assessments, or interactive animations and simulations. A model could potentially be manipulated in 3D space, tagged with notes and discussions, all during a real-time web video chat. Further along on the continuum, the University is also exploring how to extend the NYU Classes platform to develop the kinds of technological enhancements that can support fully online courses. Finally, the committee recognizes that enhanced learning analytics will be increasingly important to our community, which includes a rich diversity of learners and learning styles. This should also be a priority for the future development of the NYU Classes platform.
6. MOOCs: Over the past several months there has been extensive discussion internationally about “massive open online courses” (MOOCs). These online courses provide a way of reaching significantly larger numbers of students and of extending the global reach of academic programs, thus providing a showcase for institutions’ teaching excellence. The committee has not yet expressed a view on whether NYU should offer MOOCs, and opinions vary among the members. But it does not think that it is necessary at this time to make a University-wide commitment to offering MOOCs. This discussion will be continued next year. In the meantime, schools should continue to explore their own strategic approaches to this question.
Although the committee does not yet have a recommendation about whether to make a University-wide commitment to MOOCs at this time, the committee believes that the University should continue to explore ways of offering an Open Education experience at NYU. One of these might be to produce relatively short, open, online experiences aimed at drawing current or potential students into courses and programs at NYU These experiences would engage students in interactive, immersive activities, using puzzles, paradoxes, and intellectual content as gateways into NYU programs in which students could explore the subject more fully. Such open, online experiences could last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours and would be an invitation to deeper learning and a chance to highlight the diverse faculty and curricular options across the schools and departments of NYU. Faculty and academic advisors could point to these online experiences as resources for students to explore as they consider new intellectual venues.
7. Partners: There are two types of relationships that various institutions have been entering into in their efforts to build and market online courses: (a) joining a consortium of schools (e.g., Coursera, which is for-profit, and edX, which is non-profit); or (b) partnering with a full-service online provider (e.g., 2-U, Pearson Embanet).
(a) Consortia: Many well-regarded colleges and universities have joined consortia to help them develop and distribute MOOCs. The proponents of such consortia note their substantial benefits: the pioneering use of adaptive learning approaches that allow students to learn in ways most appropriate to their learning styles, the ability for students to learn at their own pace, and the varied new ways in which colleagues can collaborate. Without passing on the legitimacy of various concerns about these consortia, the Committee notes that they have been criticized for: (a) not providing for deep interaction between faculty and students; (b) having been driven by top-down decisions from university administrators; (c) failing to offer meaningful evaluations of many students; (d) being focused on providing content and not on learning; (e) having no sustainable business model; and, (f) if they involve efforts to market courses or services for a fee, taking a disproportionate share of that fee.
(b) Full-service online providers. These companies have engaged in partnerships with several universities to build, host, and market online degree and certificate programs. Such providers (typically large, for-profit companies, and, increasingly, academic book publishers) regularly approach the NYU administration, as well as individual schools and departments, about entering into relationships in which they would provide these types of services for specific academic programs, in exchange for a share in the revenue that the programs generate. Several high-profile universities have already established such partnerships, which have led to significantly increased enrollments and enhanced revenue for their programs. These partnerships have been criticized for a number of reasons—e.g.: (a) for ceding academic control to for-profit entities whose foremost concern may not be educational quality; (b) for giving an excessively high percentage of the proceeds to the providers; (c) for relying on substandard tools; and (d) for having primarily financial, rather than educational aims.
The committee believes that before these types of broad institutional commitments can be made, a clear set of strategic objectives needs to be identified by NYU. This must involve extensive consultation with schools, departments, faculty, and students, a process which will not begin in earnest until the fall. In the meantime, however, the committee believes that individual schools should be free to explore (in consultation with the Provost) whether to enter into such partnerships, since these may enable them to meet school-specific strategic and financial goals. (Non-degree programs, for example, might benefit from the kinds of distribution channels or other services that such providers can offer.) But these decisions, like all decisions regarding TEE, must be made through the school-based and faculty-governed processes.
8. Compensation: Late in the spring, Rick Matasar presented to the committee for informational purposes a tentative set of guidelines that had been developed to deal with faculty compensation, in load and out of load, for demonstration projects begun before the committee had been appointed. In addition, he reported on the University’s current intellectual property rules and discussed the process by which these are being reviewed by a faculty committee. The Deans will be discussing compensation issues with the Provost over the summer and into the fall. We recommend that individual schools that currently offer online and/or hybrid/blended courses be free to develop or retain their own compensation policies for faculty who teach these courses (e.g., teaching relief, additional monetary compensation). We anticipate that Rick will report back to the committee on this matter in the fall.
The committee’s primary objectives in the fall are as follows: (a) to have robust and meaningful consultations with the NYU community, through in-person meetings but possibly also using electronic means, such as crowdsourcing; (b) to organize workshops and/or a conference to enable the community to learn more about the potential for the use of technology in teaching and learning; (c) to develop a process for soliciting (through an open application) and vetting proposals for online and hybrid/blended courses from individual faculty, departments, or schools; and (d) to continue to refine strategic goals and pilots for technology-enhanced education.
The committee expects that its final report will be ready shortly after the end of the fall semester.
Faculty Committee on the Future of Technology-Enhanced Education at NYU
[see Appendix A for committee membership]
New York University
Faculty Committee on the Future of Technology-Enhanced Education at NYU
The charge for this group is to set forth principles and parameters that can guide the University in using technology to support its academic mission and further its commitment to innovation in teaching and learning, pedagogical practices, and research.
To that end, the group will consult broadly with faculty, students, and other members of the NYU community, as well as external leaders in educational innovation.
Among the questions that the group should address are:
On the basis of these conversations, the group will prepare a written report for the University’s Teaching Technology Committee, which will disseminate it widely for consideration across various units of the University and will then prepare a final recommendation to the President and Provost.