New technologies and employer expectations are pressuring traditional colleges to innovate instruction. Despite predictions of higher education disruption, “smart and agile institutions will respond and even thrive alongside new competitors in this changing environment,” says Sandra Loughlin, Smith School’s director of learning and innovative instruction, the Office of Transformational Learning. “The key is to provide appropriate faculty and program support.”
The school’s Innovo Scholars program addresses this challenge. Launched in spring 2015, Innovo partners elite students with interested faculty to transform undergraduate courses and programs. They work together with Loughlin to identify and implement new approaches to instruction that equip Smith School students with the problem-solving skills that employers want.
Innovo represents a broader move to infuse critical analysis into Smith’s curriculum, says Smith professor Rebecca Ratner, assistant dean for academic affairs.
“Sandra is essentially coaching faculty to give students practice imposing structure on complex, otherwise unstructured problems, rather than for faculty to focus simply on conveying information,” Ratner says.
Smith professor Brent Goldfarb says he expects the Innovo Scholars to “dramatically improve learning” by identifying and solving challenges in targeted courses. “First, it provides an opportunity to get a dedicated student who has taken the course to improve it,” Goldfarb says. “Second, the framework this student learns allows him or her to critically evaluate elements of the course and offer actionable suggestions to improve it. Third, the student actually does the work.”
Loughlin, Goldfarb and other participating professors handpick the students. Among them is newly graduated Nick Gholami ’15, who designed and incorporated peer-to-peer and mentor-to-mentee assessments, plus team brainstorming sessions to a once-a-week class focused on venture capital and entrepreneurship.
“As a finance major, I never imagined becoming a player in the changing landscape of higher education and feeling passionate about it,” he says. /GM/