Saturday, June 04, 2011

A lesson in change

"USC's 21st Century Virtual Classroom":
In the spring of 2008, John Katzman, the founder of the Princeton Review, approached the Masters of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program at at the University of Southern California with a revolutionary idea. USC could increase its graduates by a factor of ten without building another room.... It's three years later, and 1,500 aspiring teachers are now earning Masters degrees in teaching at the University of Southern California -- more than the Masters programs at Harvard (972) and Stanford (415) combined. Since USC and Kaztman teamed up to create the country's first online course for a Masters in teaching, called MAT@USC, the school that graduated only 100 students in 2007 is on pace to become the country's largest not-for-profit teacher prep program by 2013. "Teachers and students uniformly love it," said Melora Sundt, associate dean of academic programs at USC's Rossier School of Education. "We're bringing people from all over the world into the same classroom." Now in 45 states and 25 countries, including Turkey, Japan and South Korea, USC's online education has gone global.

The centerpiece of MAT@USC is a virtual "classroom" accessible by laptop, smart phone or iPad.... Professors can post slides or discussion questions on the screen, students press a button to virtually "raise their hand," and everybody can watch recorded of past sessions....The school still accepts students selectively, still charges the same tuition and still requires 20 weeks of in-classroom practice. Students upload daily videos of their work in classrooms from their home city....

SC's biggest critics are faculties at other universities. They say you have to be in the classroom to learn teaching. USC responds: You do have to be in the classroom, but you don't have to be in Los Angeles. "Everything about this program pushes definitions about what is a semester, what is the university, what is a classroom, and where do the faculty belong?" Sundt says. "We presented our program to another large research university for their business, law and education school deans. They said they had an online course in committee for two years. Two years! They couldn't believe what we did. Their comment was: 'How did you make this happen?'" Sundt laughs and says, "This is the future, guys. I kept thinking, this train is going to run right over you."(Original source)
A great story of an institution, committed to change, grabbing the opportunity and making it happen. By challenging its own operating assumptions, its traditional ways of doing things, the definitions of the core functions of the institution. And by not getting bogged down in bureaucracy. Food for thought for institutions seeking change.