MARC12 Wrap-up and Keynote Highlights

#MARC12 was my first regional Educause conference, after many years of attending the big annual Educause Conference. I could only stay one day, but I came away with lots of good info and would recommend the regional conference to anyone looking for an informative (and more intimate) Educause event. Here are some resources; please share yours in the comments!

Keynote: Disrupting Ourselves: Cherished Assumptions, New Designs, and the Problem of Learning in Higher Ed

The conference opened with a great keynote by Randall Bass of Georgetown University. Bass is a very engaging speaker with a delightful habit of using pop culture movies and TV to illustrate his ideas (sharing, for instance, an anecdote about the debut Blackboard Collaborate on campus launched a series of “Groundhog Day” conversations – I could instantly imagine what those might sound like). Here are some highlights from the session:

  • “Our concept of learning has expanded at a rate far outpacing our notion of teaching.”
  • “At the same time as we are getting serious about being accountable for what students are learning…our understanding of learning is expanding in ways that are at least partially incompatible with our structures.”
  • He believes that we are moving into the “post-course era,” away from the course/curriculum as the center of the learning experience.
  • Outcomes associated with high-impact learning experiences (integrate and synthesize, patterns, applying knowledge in diverse situations, viewing issues from many perspectives) are associated with practices like collaborative assignments, study abroad, undergraduate research, and internships – most outside the standard classroom curriculum. His question: Can we continue to operate on the assumption that the formal curriculum is the center of the undergraduate experience? Pithy quote: “low-impact practices – formerly known as the curriculum.”
  • He described the features of a participatory culture – low barrier to entry, sense of connection to other members, ownership, and asked “how often do students feel that something is at stake in the standard curriculum?”
  • So how do you disrupt the status quo to bring more of those experiences into the curriculum? One option is to make the courses more like high-impact practices – more participatory, virtual labs, social tools.
  • “We are so invested in changing FACULTY. We need to change the course.”
  • He described a fundamental and strategic shift from changing faculty to changing course structures so that faculty are changed when they teach them. Moving toward a team-based design – technologists, classroom instructors, library and content management, instructional design – all parties working to improve the course, to structure it around the learner.
  • He also spent some time discussing ePortfolios as a “bridge and integrator of the delivered, the experienced and the lived curriculum.”

At the end of his keynote, Bass shared part of an essay from a colleague who had passed on. I spent some time trying to recreate it from memory for these pages, but it wasn’t the same. You’ll have to trust me that it was worth it. I wish you could have been there listening with me!

P.S.  If you find this interesting, some of the same themes were explored in Bass’ ELI 2011 session, available on podcast here.

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