Faculty Needs to Be Drivers of Institutional Change

Covid accelerated higher education to adopt new ways of teaching to match the new ways students are learning. Colleges and universities need to continue to innovate and embrace hybrid learning moving forward to empower their faculty to be drivers of transformative change.

That was the crux of the keynote address by Michael M. Crow, President at Arizona State University, and Nancy Gonzales, Executive Vice-President and University Provost at Arizona State University, from REMOTE: The Connected Faculty Summit, which was hosted by ASU.

“We’ve used Covid as a moment for intensification in our innovation process, intensification in our design enhancement process for the University; we’ve used the last two years to learn how to be more creative pedagogically, to be more impactful pedagogically, to reach out to K-12 communities, to help with PCR testing, […] while maintaining continuity at the University,” said Crow.

New ways of learning require new ways of teaching

Crow shared how ASU has built Virtual Reality (VR) learning platforms with the help of Dreamscape Immersive, their partner from Los Angeles, and how with the help of Dreamscape they created a new entity that they call Dreamscape Learn. “We are now finding that everyone can master Biology! I mean everyone,” he said. 

Crow talked about lessons learned during the last couple of years and offered attendees some advice on things they can apply for advancing their own institutions and new kinds of educational enterprises as things move forward.

Moving at the speed of change

Change and the speed of change took a rather predominant role in his remarks. “The speed of change and the importance of responding to high-speed change is not going to de-accelerate, it's only going to accelerate,” he said. That means change in all things: 

  • The design of the institutions 
  • The social construct 
  • The ability to embrace technology 
  • To work the university not only as a place but as a force

Everything is changing rapidly: 

  • The individual technology empowerment
  • The movement towards personalized learning 
  • The movement towards career changes that occur rapidly 
  • More rapidly job changes and social changes

Universities and colleges cannot sit back, relax, and not move at the speed of change. They cannot move only slowly. They need to move at different speeds, and this includes very fast. 

Crow also emphasized the need for higher education to find ways to become more adaptive to the new kinds of learners, to new social constructs, to the speed of change, and to the challenges that lie ahead. “We need faster adaptation,” he said. 

Faculty empowerment as a way to move forward

Crow believes there is a need for more faculty freedom, more faculty design empowerment, more ability for faculty differentiation at all educational levels. He believes there is too much replication and too little faculty empowerment, and this must change. 

Finally, he emphasized that students need to be both learners and originators, they need to be learners and creators. Institutions must find a way to bring students as collaborators in all the things that the university is working on. Institutions need to bring other collaborators, too, to work around them such as social enterprises, public enterprises, business enterprises, creative enterprises. For Crow, when all these are blended together as part of the learning process they create the conceptualization of learning along the way. 

Gonzales took on the virtual stage and emphasized how ASU’s ability to teach and learn virtually has evolved into an opportunity to reach more learners exactly where they are in their lives. “The pandemic forced us to re-examine how we use technology to best serve our students, and it identified the gaps that exist on two fronts within our own University services offerings and modalities, and within our own personal and professional development,” she said. “Paramount to all of these efforts is ensuring that we close the gap on educational equity and access.” 

As Gonzalez cites a newly updated study, which states that the total number of students in higher education will climb from 250 million in 2020 to 377 million by 2030, with nearly 600 million university students enrolled by 2040, she offers four ideas that can guide faculty members thinking and problem-solving during the conference. “I encourage you to take them back to your academic communities in the next academic year and use them to frame the solutions you design for your students,” she said. 

  • By building a space for more learners to thrive and connect we stand to cultivate global national and local benefits: Imagine training more healthcare workers who deliberate with faculty and classmates in different countries, the cultural competencies they would gain and knowledge of different health systems would unlock new ways for approaching global health
  • To succeed in building an inclusive higher education community: We need to design alongside communities of learners instead of designing for different types of learners
  • The role of an educator is also to be a mentor and guide: This relationship is vital to student success, as effective learning is based on a fundamentally important human relationship. We need to create ways that foster that relationship even if we are not physically  together in the classroom with our students
  • Technology plays a far greater role than just delivering content for four years: ASU has used data and technology to identify early warning signs that trigger faculty or advisor intervention for many students

Gonzalez closed her remarks by encouraging attendees to continue collaborating on new ideas to advance the vision for better and more equitable higher education.

Access to the REMOTE virtual lobby and to all the presentations, including this keynote, are now available on-demand and free of charge for six months by registering and logging in here.  

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