Page 38 - Campus Technology, August/September 2017
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C-Level View
to keep a focus on this core, essential activity of bringing learners into contact with a wide variety of experts who can offer different modes of learning experiences. You’d be right to ask: How will the institution facilitate a sense of just how big the world is and what the opportunities might be for learners to pursue?
This is one place where an exploration of our digital opportunities is badly needed.
CT: Does there need to be some kind of balance between learners’ perception of what they need to pursue and the guidance of the institution and the faculty?
Campbell: That’s a good question, but the answer may still be need to be drawn from the learner: What does a learner need to pursue in any given course of study, and who determines that? The specific challenge to formal learning is finding ways to develop a richer sense of these needs within the learners themselves — this is essential for what we call self-directed learning.
The learner, upon entering what we have as our classic four-year undergraduate program, may have some sense of what he or she needs, but that sense will probably
be incomplete. It will usually be undeveloped, but if the environment fosters a sense of curiosity and intellectual
excitement, there will be a kind of awakening for the student. And that light bulb moment in itself is an important part of the adventure of the college experience.
The bottom line: Expert-directed study and expert- facilitated encounters will be a crucial part of the conceptual framework in which we find self-directed learning.
CT: Don’t most students already have that awakening you just spoke of, when they begin their college careers?
Campbell: Yes, of course, in many cases. In my own case, it was a primary part of the experience: being awakened to needs and desires that, at that point in
my intellectual progress, I had no idea about. Before I entered the college environment, there was no way for me to encounter all this ... where else would I find a place where all of these areas of expertise would be gathered together for me to experience? It is something that is uniquely valuable and present in a college or a university. The challenge now is to include rich digital opportunities within that awakening, and to make that light bulb moment of essential insight available to every student in higher learning, not just those lucky enough to attend the most prestigious universities.
CT: It’s really not a simple task to offer a self-directed learning program, is it?
Campbell: It comes with difficulties on many different levels. For example, offering self-directed learning means that sometimes we will prescribe things for the learner because we want to awaken a sense of possibility — but to the learner it may simply look like some kind of requirement to get out of the way. We also know that students who come from disadvantaged circumstances have a harder time with self-directed learning in many cases.
CT: Then what do you do?
Campbell: Don’t give up. Engage the student even more.
They have a lot to offer us, too. The big question for me is, how do we bring the learner into our wider conversation about mission, conceptual frameworks, and the digital opportunities we now have to facilitate this very important aspect of the learner’s awakening? This conversation with students is what will help us eventually get to that balance you asked about, between the learner’s perception of what they need to pursue and the guidance of the institution and faculty.
CT: What is it like to try to facilitate a really useful conversation on that level?4
CAMPUS TECHNOLOGY | August/September 2017

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