A University Without Lectures or Classrooms

campus sketchup

How would a university without majors, lectures, and traditional classrooms look and operate? Those are questions that Christine Ortiz will be dealing with the next few years after she leaves her jobs as Professor of  Materials Science and Engineering and Dean of Graduate Education at MIT. She wants to start a nonprofit university that will be radically different from the university we know now.

In a recent interview with chronicle.com, she discussed some of her early ideas.

At its core, it will be project-based learning with longer rather than shorter-term projects. She sees it as closer to the graduate-education model, though it is for undergraduate study.

It will be virtually online, but there will be a physical campus and buildings. rather than "classrooms," there will be large, open spaces and big centralized laboratories where no one really has their own individual laboratory - an "integrated giant laboratory."

Taking inspiration from the MOOC, the traditional lecture is chunked into many smaller (5-10 minutes) learning objects.

The academic structure is transdisciplinary without departments. 

She sees tenure as a mismatch for this type of university and wants to investigate alternative models, She also sees many talented doctoral students and postdocs that are unable to secure jobs in academia as a pool of potential faculty.

Ortiz mentions that this radical approach has been talked about before. She references a former MIT president, Charles M. Vest, who spoke more than a decade ago about the emergence of the "metacurriculum." This would be a virtually open metacurriculum that would be emerging and some will say has already has begun .

Call it Education 2.0 or a way to address The Disconnected. It is an evolution that Ortiz is hoping to get into early. 


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