On-line education at Yale

July 15, 2013

Although the academic rhythm shifts in the summer, it is certainly still busy on campus. I am getting settled in at Woodbridge Hall, moving books and files from the Office of the Provost and the Department of Psychology to my new office. From the windows I can see numerous groups visiting on campus, admissions tours in full force, and Yale Summer Session students from all over the world.

About 650 of these students are enrolled in over 70 summer courses on campus. Another 270 Yale undergraduates are studying abroad with members of the Yale faculty. And a few Yale faculty members are teaching seminars on-line this summer. I am pleased we are experimenting with the use of new technologies in teaching. Last year, I co-taught a “flipped seminar” in which our students viewed on-line lectures outside of class so that we could use class time for face-to-face discussion and debate. For someone who has spent more than 25 years lecturing behind a podium, teaching in this way was an exciting change.

Faculty and students who have participated in the summer on-line courses have been enthusiastic about the format and impressed by the quality of the Yale offerings. Our on-line courses have a live component; students and faculty can interact, converse, work together on shared images and problem sets, and raise their hands “electronically.”  Those of you who have sampled one of the Open Yale Courses will likely agree that digital learning is another way for us to fulfill one of the key components of our mission: by helping our gifted faculty to be that much more accessible and effective in disseminating knowledge and stimulating learning.

Many institutions are entering the digital marketplace these days, with various aims and goals (and a certain amount of “hype”). For Yale, the most important question is how effectively our students learn in courses with on-line components. The faculty members who are teaching these on-line courses are clear that the quality of the student experience must be consonant with our expectations for all teaching and learning at Yale. And we must use these new digital tools to enhance learning. The technology that supports this pedagogy is always evolving, and our faculty will continue to assess what works best for Yale. The Committee on On-Line Education, co-chaired by Professors Craig Wright (Department of Music) and Paul Bloom (Department of Psychology), stated clearly that any online initiatives must complement and enrich traditional teaching. After all, this is the very heart of what we are about. (Please see their report here.)

If you are not regularly in a Yale classroom and you would like to have a tiny taste of the wealth of expertise, knowledge, commitment, and scholarship of our faculty, please take a look at some of the Open Yale Courses. And, of course, your feedback is always appreciated as we continue to experiment with new approaches to teaching and learning.