Professor explores technology in education
Gabriela Malespin | Tuesday, October 7, 2014
Elliott Visconsi, Notre Dame’s chief academic digital officer and associate professor of English and law, discussed the importance of online and digital learning in a presentation titled “Online Learning and the Future of Higher Education” as part of the Snite Museum’s Saturday Scholars series.
Visconsi discussed the way technology has not only transformed human communication and interaction, but how it has also changed higher education and its trajectory in the 21st century. He said the advent of online education has helped universities examine how they can “contribute to human flourishing through education.”
“The information ecosystem we inhabit not only as citizens and individuals but also as universities has been profoundly transformed by the internet,” Visconsi said. “In the last few years, the rise of the cloud and the rise of high quality broadband and the ability to stream video to massive numbers around the world has unlocked profoundly what we as educational institutions can do.”
Visconsi also discussed Notre Dame’s inclusion in the EDx consortium, a non-profit online initiative founded by Harvard University and MIT that aims to enhance the accessibility of education around the world through MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses).
Visconsi is the University’s inaugural chief academic digital officer of the recently-created Office of Digital Learning, a campus organization that will coordinate with professors and faculty members to create online courses beginning in the spring 2015 semester.
Visconsi also discussed several issues related to the development of online courses, such as course accessibility, privacy and piracy issues and the transformation of the traditional classroom experience.
Visconsi said online learning will be able to enhance rather than replace the traditional classroom experience, as the benefits of online learning complement the principles of a liberal arts education.
“The [traditional] university experience is very important,” he said. “What we think we can do with online digital tools is improve the quality of what happens in class and give students more of what they came for.”
Visconsi said the benefits of higher education include greater global accessibility to quality higher education. However, rising tuition costs and the development of digital platforms will force administrators to confront questions about the true value of a college education, he said.
“I believe in the value of what we offer at Notre Dame and I believe [in] what the value is for that at many other institutions, but this is a question that as the price [of tuition] continues to go up, we’re going to need to have a fantastic answer to that question,” Visconsi said.
Overall, Visconsi said the impact of digital learning will provide a positive transformation to universities and help university faculty evaluate and restructure current educational practices.
“If we can profoundly transform and enhance the quality of teaching … if all of our institutions are working together and are benefiting from the advances of digital and online learning, the entire sector will thrive,” he said.