President William Powers Jr. said faculty input was a critical element of transforming undergraduate education at the University during a Campus Conversation with faculty in the Etter-Harbin Alumni Center on Tuesday.
The faculty-only meeting, also hosted by executive vice president and provost Gregory Fenves, focused on encouraging a continued dialogue regarding the progress and transformation of the University’s undergraduate curriculum. The meeting highlighted opportunities to use technology to improve learning opportunities for students and allow teachers to reach a larger audience, such as online courses and massive open online courses, commonly known as MOOCs, for the public.
Powers acknowledged the magnitude of these endeavors and said the process is a years-long conversation before a decades-long transformation. Powers also said faculty and department involvement will be crucial for decisions regarding the format of classes and the style of teaching, personalizing the courses instead of implementing blanket policies.
“The faculty owns that curriculum,” Powers said. “That’s a privilege, but it’s also a responsibility.”
Fenves said these model changes are necessary in order to stay competitive, citing the flexibility of a first-year medical school program — which doesn’t use semester hours, has a loose interpretation of courses, lacks lectures and emphasizes flipped classrooms — as inspiration for the University’s undergraduate work.
Mechanical engineering associate professor Michael Webber instructed “Energy 101” as a MOOC this fall, and said the experience made him a better professor, despite the eight months it took to put the class together.
“It forced me to think more carefully about what I was thinking,” Webber said. “It forced me to be global and not just think about the Texas perspective … Now I’ve got really good material for me to use with my class from now on.”