Professors in the 21st Century LO23827

From: Arun-Kumar Tripathi (
Date: 01/25/00

Dear Org Learners,

The following essay is written by Dr. Theodore Panitz, Professor of
Mathematics and Engineering of Cape Cod Community College. Your thoughts
are welcome on the essay. --Arun

Date: Mon, 24 Jan 2000 08:09:31 -0800 (PST)
To: tomorrows-professor@lists.Stanford.EDU
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The posting below is an abstract from a paper presented at a conference in
the Fall of 1999 at the University of Massachusetts on "Reconstructing
Knowledge in the University in the 21st Century." The author is Dr.
Theodore Panitz, professor of Mathematics and Engineering Cape Cod
Community College, and the full paper can be found at

The conference organizes have encouraged authors to disseminate their
papers to as widely as possible, thus Panitz's submission to Tomorrow's
Professor Listserv. I encourage others who have written papers of
interest to a broad academic audience to submit abstracts to me for
possible posting on the Listserv.


Rick Reis
UP NEXT: Ten Changing Demands on College Teachers in the Future

                          Tomorrow's Academy
                ----------------- 1,051 words -----------------

by Dr. Theodore Panitz
Professor of Mathematics and Engineering
Cape Cod Community College

College professors are at a crossroads. We are under increasing pressure
to incorporate technology in our courses and to offer extraterrestrial
learning environments commonly referred to as cyberspace or internet
courses. Simultaneously we are expected to teach students how to think
critically and interact socially in preparation for the workplace.
Something is missing from the discussion on how higher education should be
changing to meet societal changes. The question which should be driving
this debate is "what is the underlying philosophy of education and the
learning experience?"

Several questions spring to mind and should form the basis for discussions
about the future of higher education. They are:

*Should we facilitate learning through student centered courses or focus
on information transfer to students and thus let computer companies take
over higher education teaching responsibilities through information
delivery devices such as CD-Roms, the internet, and video courses?

*Is education a matter of convenience of time and place or should we
encourage students to deal with the hard work and difficulties associated
with student centered learning?

*Should we provide our students with as much information as possible,
usually through a professor centered expert lecture with the student as a
receptor, or should we use student centered approaches to learning which
provide students with the capability and desire to understand what
information they need to make a decision and how to get and use it?

*Do we wish to create learning environments where the students never see
each other or "talk" to the professor except in electronic chat rooms, or
should we focus on harnessing the power of learning though social
interactions within the classroom and outside of the class?

The author believes that the rush, throughout the world, to infuse
technology in every course and provide asynchronous internet courses to
all students seriously threatens the social aspects of learning and the
need for human interaction which enables students to become productive
members of the various academic, social and workplace societies they wish
to join. For example people become mathematicians, historians, writers,
etc. by learning the vocabulary and culture of their chosen field(s) of
study. They must learn how to communicate their ideas to their peers and
people outside of their field through writing and oral persuasion.
Argumentation, discussion, and consensus building through human
interaction is the most effective learning paradigm developed to date.
Student centered classes accomplish this in every class.

Communicating over the internet is only one small tool available to us and
because it does not come close to providing the human interactions that
classrooms do it should not become the primary delivery system in higher
education. I want to be in the classroom with students, to observe their
reactions to learning experiences. I want to observe their body language
when they interact with their peers and myself. I want to have individual
discussions with students in real time in order to share our experiences
regarding learning and life in general. I am not impressed with internet
discussions where a smily face a computer screen replaces a real smile or
capital letters are used to emphasize shouting, etc.

Cyberspace and asynchronous distance learning are being presented as the
savior mechanism for all of higher education and the future delivery
system for colleges and universities. What is the driving force behind the
effort to infuse technology into college courses? Initially distance
learning was promoted as a way of reaching a few students in remote or
inaccessible locations. This is no longer the case. Economics now drives
the rush to cyberspace. College administrators each envision the internet
as a mechanism to reach a vast pool of applicants throughout the world. As
they consider the potential market available to them the dollar signs in
their eyes grow exponentially, blinding them to the real basis for
learning, human interactions. The fallacy in their reasoning is that it
only takes one organization or company to develop and deliver internet
courses. Computers and education technicians will take care of the
delivery. Information, exams, paper grading, chat rooms, etc. can all be
delivered through a single computer. Technicians can be hired as tutors
instead of faculty. The real driving force into cyberspace is the
privatization of higher education through corporate America.

We in higher education cannot compete with the big computer software
companies in the production of technology oriented bells and whistles
meant to enliven the transfer of information to students. We can compete,
however, by changing our pedagogy by moving away from the lecture format
and making students the center of the learning experience. There are many
interactive learning paradigms which could be used to create student
centered courses, giving professors a choice in their approaches to

Lecturing is used by most professors in higher education as their
principle teaching strategy. This has created the rationale for replacing
lectures with information delivered by computers. If we can replace
professors with teaching assistants in recitation sections then the next
step is easy, replace professors with videos of the best lecturers and use
computers and technology assistants as teaching assistants. Lecturing is a
flawed approach to teaching and must be replaced by more effective
teaching paradigms.

Administrators from the president of each college to department chairs
must set a new tone in the discussion of what learning means by
encouraging faculty to learn about student centered learning paradigms and
by providing the resources to make this discussion and transition a
reality. Faculty development efforts should move in this direction by
providing the means for faculty to become informed and trained in the use
of interactive learning paradigms. Faculty need to be encouraged to
involve students in every aspect of the teaching/learning process and move
away from the sage on the stage role they now play. If administrators
spent half the time and energy they now use to promote technology instead
to encourage faculty to use student centered learning paradigms we could
transform our colleges and universities into true institutions of

This position paper will explain the benefits of student centered learning
paradigms, provide examples of interactive learning structures, and
analyze the problems associated with lecture and technology based
information delivery teaching systems. A series of policy statements will
be presented. These policies are needed for colleges to facilitate
changes necessary for student centered learning to become a reality.

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