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Interviews

  • Interview with Dr. Raj Raghunathan


    Dr. Rajagopal Raghunathan is the author of one the world’s most popular online courses, a MOOC offered by Coursera entitled ‘A Life of Happiness and Fulfillment’. He is Professor of Marketing at the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas. WUC interviewed him in the midst of his world tour sharing his experiences on how to develop and deliver successful educational content online.

    1. What are the major limitations of the current education system in preparing youth for life in the 21st century?

    Education systems vary by country and culture of course—e.g., the system in Germany, Netherlands and some other European countries allow for students to self select into “professional” vs. “skilled labor” tracks during high school. However, by and large, most education systems fail us by not providing an overarching framework for understanding why being educated is useful. I would imagine that most people would agree that education is useful because it helps enhance everyone’s well-being, and I think this overarching goal needs to be made explicit from Day 1 and reaffirmed through out one’s education. Courses on the topic of "well-being” need to find a way into the curriculum and should play a very central role.

    2. Is it possible to shift from a subject centered to person/student centered learning?

    Yes, we currently have the technology to be able to do so. Online platforms can more easily enable students to delve deeper into a particular topic of interest.

    3. What are the strategies to shift from passive to active learning?

    Students differ from one another in how they learn. Some students learn well by listening, others by reading, and most learn best by actually doing—or teaching to someone else. The online medium provides greater opportunities for active learning. For example, students could be asked to videotape the various things that they did for an assignment and upload it on to the course website. Or, they could be asked to teach a particular topic to someone who is not knowledgeable about that topic. And, of course, they could be periodically tested through “in video quizzes”; findings show that such quick tests can enhance learner-engagement and learning.

    4. What are the advantages of the online classes? What are your suggestions for creating an effective course?

    The online medium offers several significant advantages over the offline (face-to-face) medium. One such advantage is efficiency. You can convey more information per unit of time and add other elements like images and music that enhance learning. It’s easier to integrate quick assessments in online contexts. You can bring in guest speakers and subject matter experts more easily in online videos. It’s more expensive and effortful to do it in face-to-face contexts.
    That said, there are some key disadvantages of the online medium. It can be frustrating if the internet connection is bad. It also does not as easily allow for exchanges between learners. I think it is very important to have a few face-to-face meetings to complement the online content.
    The key element that will make an online course a success is that it needs to offer information in smaller bits than is typically done face-to-face. Given that the online medium has more reach and therefore attracts students from a more diverse set of backgrounds, the message needs to be communicated differently—more directly and using simpler language.

  • E-interview with Dr. Yuko Okubo

    Dr. Yuko Okubo, a social research scientist of Fujitsu Laboratories of America, explores the intersections of education, technology and culture. With a broad background that encompasses education, ethnography and anthropology, she is conducting research on curation learning to explore novel ways of learning in the digital age. Fujitsu Laboratories has a rich 50 year history of cutting edge innovation and research, from the first relay-based mainframe to one of the fastest supercomputers. Open Education Solutions Group of Fujitsu aims to build a new educational platform by making full use of innovative technology, cloud computing, security, advanced language processing and artificial intelligence.

    1. What deficiencies do you find in the present approach to learning in higher education?

    In higher education, teaching/learning through a lecture style is still prevalent. To enhance learning, an interactive learning environment is necessary. This can be done with the use of technology, or designing a course that incorporates more interactions -- between learning content and learners, between learners and instructors, and among learners, through learner-centered instructional methods such as project-based learning, discussion, and group presentation, etc. More interactions may help students to become motivated and self-directed learners.

    In social sciences and humanities, developing 4C skills – critical thinking, creativity, communication, and collaboration – besides mastering content knowledge is set as a learning goal, but how we accomplish these goals are treated separately as it is challenging to design a course that enables learners to develop these skills while mastering content knowledge.

    Currently, there is no system to keep track of the learning progress of each student and to guide each student using data throughout college years. By connecting students with experts from post-graduate schools and the real world, and by integrating the latest information from each field of interest, students may be able to get the real-time guidance to reflect on their progress. With the development of technology and infra-structure, this could be done in the future.

    2. What is curation learning and in what ways is it intended to address these deficiencies?

    Curation Learning facilitates learning by enabling learners to find their connections to the world by Searching the information, Creating a curation from the searched and selected information, and by sharing the curation and Engaging in communication with others. In Creating a curation, we want learners to contextualize the information by adding their perspectives and frameworks to the selected information. By emphasizing the importance of adding one’s perspectives to the information, we hope that learners can find their own voices and their connections to the world.

    Other benefits of Curation Learning is that learners can learn the latest information and expert knowledge from the real world by conducting search in curating on their topics of interest, create and organize learning contents with ease, and develop skills necessary to curate effectively. As learners may discover new ideas from checking other curations of their interests in curating, Curation Learning can enhance social learning as well.

    3. What would be the new role of teachers in the student-centric classroom of the future?

    In a Blended Learning environment, we hear that teachers are becoming facilitators, coaches, or mentors. Teachers can facilitate class activities as facilitators, check learning progress of each as a coach, or assist and guide students with their personal and academic growth. Human figures are necessary for social development of students, especially when they are struggling with understanding the content.

    4. What are the questions about the future education that need to be answered by further research?

    How can we transcend the “digital divide” that is not limited to an access but pertains how people use technologies that is shaped by our environment and/or cultural capital and embedded in our everyday life.

    Cognitive and non-cognitive aspects such as perseverance, motivation, and grit are some of the cultural capital that is associated with learning, I think.

    5. If you were asked to design a world-class system of higher education available to people everywhere, what key elements would you include and how might it differ from the MOOCs that are rapidly developing today?

    Use of learning analytics – there is a ton of data on MOOCs platform and much research is carried out on MOOCs and how to create a more effective learning environment. The effective analysis of these data would guide teachers and learners for learning.

    Engagement of learners becomes higher when the learning process is more interactive. More interactive MOOCs, not only interactive in terms of clicking links and buttons, would be desirable. What creates more meaningful interactions for each learner will be a key.

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