Last week, six students graduated from Georgetown’s first-ever online-only offering, a master’s nursing program that lets participants take classes through video chats and submit assignments over the Internet without ever leaving their clinical posts.
But the nursing program — which has grown to an enrollment of over 600 since it was launched in March 2011 — is only the first in a series of efforts to integrate technology into the Georgetown education.
Building off the success of this early foray into online learning, Provost Robert Groves recently announced an initiative to bring a new wave of technological innovation to the rest of campus.
According to an Oct. 5 email Groves wrote to the campus community, the university’s Georgetown Technology-Enhanced Learning initiative will aim to expand Georgetown’s online presence and the use of technology in on-campus programs.
Included in the email was a Sept. 19 document titled “Technology-Enhanced Learning: Determining the Georgetown Way,” which lays out the principles that will guide the expansion.
The document cites as one of the university’s main goals the optimization of the use of digital resources and other technology-assisted learning strategies so that faculty members can better help and interact with students. It also highlights the potential for online technology to provide real-time feedback to professors about what course material students find particularly difficult.
According to Groves, this initiative could eventually lead to the redesign of large introductory courses, increased emphasis on student research and more online course offerings. In these early stages, however, administrators are seeking feedback from students and faculty before moving forward.
“This initiative will have several phases, but this first phase is seeking input on whether we’re headed in the right direction for evaluating and implementing new uses of learning technology,” Groves wrote in an Oct. 10 blog post.
Seeking to foster communication between administrators and the rest of the Georgetown community, Groves plans to create what he calls the Working Group on Technology-Enhanced Learning, a forum for students and faculty to share ideas and provide feedback.
“The students and faculty are the heart of the university. They are the font of innovation. The role of a provost is to provide the environment for both of them to thrive. Successful university initiatives depend on the creativity of students and faculty,” Groves said.
Though Groves was enthusiastic about the increased role of technology in on-campus programs, the university currently has no plans to expand its online-only courses.
In this regard, the university lags behind many of its peer institutions, who have more readily incorporated technology into their educational model. Brown, Columbia and Stanford, for example, are among a growing number of universities that now offer online courses through Coursera, a startup online education company. According to a Sept. 19 article in The New York Times, online course offerings have become such a sign of prestige that some university presidents feel their reputation will be damaged if they do not offer these programs.
According to Georgetown College Dean Chester Gillis, university administrators are responding to the growing trend with caution.
“We’re not opposed to it. We’re not afraid of it. But if we are going to embrace it, we want to make sure that we are going to do it appropriately and carefully,” he said.
Groves added that any addition of technology to university curricula will be implemented in a manner that is mindful of Georgetown’s approach to education.
“The Georgetown way on this score will be to evaluate when online experiences assist the learning and when they don’t,” he said. “We want to preserve what is special at Georgetown but make it even better.”