Albrecht asks Legislature for higher ed cash
USU’s experimental learning techniques, which include massive open online courses — MOOCs — and open-entry, open-exit courses, had the attention of lawmakers during President Stan Albrecht’s presentation to the Utah legislature’s Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee on Friday.
Albrecht said the university opened its first MOOC last fall and ended up setting the cap at 500 students when the class filled up well before the closing date. The class was an introduction to multimedia course.
“The challenge here is going to be how do we deliver these MOOCs, but at the same time deal with the issue of assessing student learning and providing credit as a result to that,” Albrecht said.
MOOCs are typically open to anyone to take online, have a large number of students and do not always offer credit. Universities across the U.S. have been opening MOOCs, including Stanford University and Harvard.
Sen. Howard Stephenson, a member of the committee, asked Albrecht why USU chose to use its own resources rather than lectures from universities like Harvard.
“Are we embracing what’s already out there rather than creating our own video classrooms that’s not a perfect lecture?” Stephenson said
Albrecht said the reason USU is creating its own MOOC is to find better ways to teach those types of courses.
Another way the university is looking to make education more accessible is through open-exit, open-entry courses, which will be available this fall, Albrecht said. Students can start a class after the semester starts and still finish in time to join full classes at the beginning of the next semester. A student could also finish a class sooner.
Albrecht said this will allow returned missionaries to get started on college as soon as they come home rather than wait for the next semester to begin.
USU is tailoring its education offerings to meet changing industry needs by designing more courses in energy, life sciences, financial services, outdoor recreation and computer sciences, Albrecht said.
Sen. Stephen Urquhart, who chairs the committee, commented on the good this would do.
“This is a huge position for our committee,” Urquhart said.
Albrecht said the university is changing admission weights to better reflect high school students. Additional credit will be given for finishing Math 1010 or having high Advanced Placement Test scores.
Albrecht said the university is considering having students take a math diagnostics course, where math is presented in a modular form and they take the part of the course they struggle with.
Albrecht ended his presentation with a request for funding for USU’s graduate program, which provides the workforce for much of the research done by the university, including on the USTAR campus. The wirelessly charged electric Aggie Bus, recently awarded Innovation of the Year at the Governor’s Energy Summit, came out of USTAR, Albrecht said.
In order for USU to continue to be competitive and receive the kind of research grants and contracts it does for commercialization, it needs more graduate seats, Albrecht said.
There is an additional benefit to having a large graduate workforce, Albrecht said. USU recently added a sports medicine graduate program, allowing a trained sports medicine person to be at every athletic practice and event on campus. This came in handy when basketball forward Danny Berger collapsed at a practice last December.
“Had there not been an immediate response by someone who was a product of this program, Danny Berger would not be with us today,” Albrecht said.
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