Hello, world

In SLAllen, who took the snapshot to the right, emailed and reminded me of this short piece I wrote for our alumni magazine (Quinnipiac Magazine) last fall. Here it is:

Hello World! Technology opening classroom doors

University campuses often reflect the character of their community, and that feels especially true here in the shadow of the Sleeping Giant. That giant is stirring, and as Quinnipiac establishes two new campuses, and more faculty and students use online technology, it is natural to wonder what other changes this portends.

A significant part of that change involves opening up our campus and our students to the world. Like other great universities, Quinnipiac must take up a role that is national and global in scope, and build on a reputation of excellence in its new venues. This requires that we shift our focus from what happens on campus to how we affect and are affected by the broader national and global community.

The traditional view of the classroom as a place apart, largely isolated from business, politics, and the culture of the community is quickly falling away.

Being a student now bleeds into other parts of our lives–it is no longer a place, or a time, apart. To be an effective citizen, and to be at the leading edge of most professions, requires a commitment to learning that goes beyond the classroom walls, and beyond four years at the outset of one’s career. Rather than choosing to be a professional, a parent or a student, many of us are all three simultaneously, and the structure of education has been changing to adapt to this way of living.

Online learning is an important part of this, but even traditional on-campus courses now incorporate online components. In many of my graduate courses, for example, students keep public, online blogs in which they write about the field of interactive communication. Through these blogs–as well as a presence in online social networking sites, virtual worlds, and other venues–they often enter into conversations with the authors we are reading and practitioners at the top of their field, as well as students and professors in other universities. For most professionals, the ability to develop an online learning community that bridges from the University to other venues is vital to their careers.

Some think that opening the gated garden of a university reduces its value. On the contrary, some of the best universities in the world have embraced the idea of open access to knowledge. MIT’s OpenCourseWare program, for example, provides anyone with access to lecture notes, syllabi, exams and other materials from more than 1,700 of their courses. There are institutions that turn their back on the world, closing access to the intellectual work of a university, and treating education as a mere commodity. The gardens behind those walls do not flourish.

Quinnipiac is already contributing to a global conversation. The work of faculty, alumni, students, staff, the Polling Institute and the Albert Schweitzer Institute, among others, already places Quinnipiac in the public’s mind, particularly as it appears more frequently in the national media. As more of our course work and community move online, we will be opening doors to a greater diversity of students and faculty whose feet are planted firmly in both the academic and professional worlds.

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