- Penn State University announced this week that it is leading a group of 19 colleges in an effort to explore how emerging technology can be used to shape teaching and learning. The project, called the CoAction Learning Lab, involves a mix of public and private colleges including Arizona State University, the University of Central Florida and Western Governors University.
- The group's first goal is to curate an online library of openly licensed resources to help institutions integrate new technology into their teaching. The collection could include sets of questions for colleges to ask vendors about learning analytics or how to implement more open-source materials in the classroom, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported.
- To ensure the group is listening to diverse perspectives, each institution will be represented by a team of at least one tech leader, one learning facilitator and one student. The group includes colleges from Australia, Canada, Malaysia and the U.S.
The digital age is poised to change higher education instruction for the better, but adoption of emerging technology has been measured.
Several headwinds can slow a college's path to creating the classroom of the future. For one, efforts to take part in the digital revolution can be sidelined by other pressing concerns, such as declining undergraduate enrollment and shrinking state support. Colleges may also be limited in the scale of projects they can take on due to a tight budget or resistance from faculty members.
As a result, college leaders want to be sure of the return on investment before making major moves in new technology for instruction and tracking student outcomes. Pooling knowledge, such as with the CoAction Learning Lab, could help.
Other similar efforts have emerged in recent years, such as e-Literate's Empirical Educator Project. The venture supports collaboration within higher education by highlighting successful evidence-based teaching practices others can test and use. Likewise, two of the Learning Lab's listed values are to share data that demonstrate how different technologies impact student learning and to share product and company reviews of ed tech vendors.
Interdisciplinary collaboration can be critical to successfully launching emerging technology projects, ed tech leaders and college administrators said during the annual Educause conference held last week in Denver. For example, incorporating augmented and virtual reality into a curriculum often requires people who have a range of expertise, including IT staff, software developers, instructional designers and game designers, according to a 2018 report from Educause.
Where these technologies have been integrated into the curriculum they are reshaping the way students learn. At Hamilton College, students learn human anatomy with simulations of human body organs in virtual reality. And at the University of Arizona, courses on topics such as African dances are taught using 3D motion capture technology through its recently launched Center for Digital Humanities.