Last week, by unanimous vote, the Regents approved our partnership with three of the nation’s most prestigious universities – MIT, Harvard, and the University of California at Berkeley – in an online initiative that will enrich the educational experiences of our students, help them graduate on time, and lower the cost curve of a college education.
The initiative is called edX, and it is a not-for-profit enterprise that offers online interactive learning to millions of people around the world.
EdX was founded by Harvard and MIT, and they have since added UC Berkeley – and now, The University of Texas System and our 15 academic and health institutions. We are honored to be the first public university system in the consortium.
We will use the edX platform already in place to improve the way our courses are delivered at UT institutions, offering a variety of technology-enhanced instruction – face-to-face classes, accelerated classes, hybrid classes, and fully online classes. In addition to showcasing our departments and centers of excellence, we will redesign general education and traditional entry-level courses.
EdX will provide students with a wealth of innovative resources, including interactive laboratories, virtual reality environments, and access to online tutors and tutorials. Students will be able to participate in online forums, network with instructors and fellow students, and take part in collaborative projects. EdX will help us envision a new model for public higher education in the 21st century: visual, virtual, interactive.
One virtue of edX that gives me great personal satisfaction is its ability to provide more tools and more opportunities to help our students excel, using a web-based skill set with which they are already familiar and comfortable. It will also allow us to diagnose and address student learning difficulties more effectively.
Another virtue is that edX is run by academics. The program will help us better understand what approaches work best in strengthening student learning. It will give faculty an opportunity to share thoroughly tested innovations. And they will be able to devote more class time to mentoring, intellectual inquiry, problem-solving, and project-based learning.
The UT System brings a large and diverse student body to the edX family. We also bring special expertise in analytics – assessing student learning, online course design, and creating interactive learning environments.
For some of our universities and health institutions, this is an opportunity to showcase their exceptional faculty members. For others, it will be an opportunity to re-position their institutions and create a new model for higher education in the 21st century.
When considering the partnership, edX was particularly pleased to add UT System medical schools and health science centers, because health institutions were not yet involved in the online consortia. Practicing health professionals the world over will benefit from the expertise of UT health institutions in education, research, and treatment.
EdX will be administered through UT System’s new Institute for Transformational Learning. We have hired Dr. Steve Mintz to serve as the first executive director of the Institute and to provide leadership and guidance for our System-wide efforts to become a national model for blended and online learning. Dr. Mintz is an award-winning author, teacher, and nationally recognized expert in the field of innovative learning practices. Prior to joining our staff, he served as director of the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences Teaching Center at Columbia University.
One of the reasons we are ascending onto the world stage in blended and online learning is because Chairman Gene Powell and his fellow members of the UT System Board of Regents have made this one of their top priorities. They recognized the tremendous potential of online learning and web-based instruction early on, and they have supported this new technology with a generous allocation to the Institute of Transformational Learning. We thank the Regents for their vision and wise investment.
The University of Texas System aspires to be an active, national leader in impacting how faculty members teach, how students participate, and how course content is delivered. This moves us in that direction.
With great respect and gratitude for your support,
Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D.