Innovation

New Year’s Revolution

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To say we are thrilled to announce our new, multi-tenet, immersive, integrated, learning ecosystem, “Lions SHARE” is an understatement.  We have just launched, for all 15,000 students at Saint Leo, the infrastructure that will help Saint Leo transform learning and I dare say, showcase how it could be done for all of higher education.

If all of this is just blah, blah, blah to you, and you want to see the product first, by all means – check out the introductory video found on YouTube:

But if you want to know why we say this system is our New Year’s Revolution, then it’s likely important to know some assumptions we make about education.  Some of these may be controversial, some may seem theoretical, but we believe them to be well researched and crucial to the success of the modern university.  Whatever the case, here is why and how Saint Leo is starting the higher education revolution in 2017.  This is how we will change our spots…

1. Higher Education has not proven to be the “Great Leveler” for society.  Based on a bevy of recent research and analysis, from Krugman to Krueger to Corak, it is now clear that most college students do not move out of their parent’s social or economic status by attending a University or College.  Yes, attending Harvard or Yale may change one person’s situation, but that is likely not because of academics and more the affiliation with the brand or network.  Plus, that only covers a tiny percentage of college graduates.  For most students, whether attending a “Flagship” state university or a community college, while they may have more success than a non-degree person, they likely will not have any more success than their parents.

Shouldn’t a college or university help change that?  Shouldn’t a school be able to show a student how they will be able to change their own potential in life through the knowledge and skills they have acquired in school?  Shouldn’t there be an indication that graduation from a university correlates to movement of income bracket or socio-economic success?  Shouldn’t a university be able to show you how you learn and how you have changed your capacity to learn over time?

Lions SHARE is designed to be the richest analytic system learning has seen.  With most pieces of traditional learning and many new learning elements having been digitized for the first time, Lions SHARE is setup so that any variable might be compared, contrasted, or correlated against any other variable, in real time.  In other words, our anecdotal suggestions that Saint Leo graduates have more upward mobility can be seen and proven if indeed accurate.

2.  Active Learning is not just an idea, it’s a strategy Go to any university’s website and you will see a nod to active learning.  You will read wonderful mission statements, goals, or program descriptions of simulations at work in the classroom.  Yet, if you survey the students taking those classes (like the Student Engagement Survey from 2009) you will see that 50% of classes are  reported to be lecture based.  If a student is in certain degree programs, that number could be as high as 97%.

Lions SHARE actually empowers professors to leverage tools designed to enhance active learning.  Not only that, the tools also provide efficiencies like time savings or easier grading.  Therefore, like most people, the professor doesn’t have to learn a new tool in order to achieve active or engaged students without a win of their own.  So, when tools like Whiteboard are employed in the classroom, it’s a true win-win.  Students deepen their understanding of concepts through strategies backed by neuroscience (that they also report as enjoyable), faculty have far richer conversations in their classrooms, and teachers also have the added benefit of less prep time or grading.

3. As Social Networking is to society, Social Learning matters in education.  If you doubt the power or impact of social networking or social learning in 2017, after Facebook helped shape a Presidential election, I don’t know that I can provide more compelling information to persuade you.  I might point you to Danah Boyd’s, “It’s Complicated” to potentially see socialness in a very new light.  But from our perspective, socialness and community has to meld with formal, informal, and non-formal learning.  We believe this is backed up by neuroscience findings as well.  From Medina to Lieberman to historical underpinnings by Vygotsky and Dewey, the power of peers in learning has been promoted for years.

Yet here we are in 2017, with students still acting mostly autonomously, with almost no help or promotion for new literacies that students face in life, and with little to no socialness built into the learning experience.  After all, isn’t content king?  Isn’t the professor the ruler of the learning experience?  Isn’t rigor simply about harder stuff in less time?  “Social” isn’t even in the equation for most learning experiences, despite the research.

In Lions SHARE, Social is the “front door” to the experience.  Out of the gate, students, faculty, and staff can start safely communicating across all of Saint Leo, which includes Center locations in 7 states, online students logging in from Vietnam or Dubai, being able to connect personally.  As well, students can connect organizationally, joining a club, following an office, or subscribing to an event.  And those same activity feeds can will be peppered with academic conversation too.  Students will see their course conversations, more and more over time, intermix with their non-academic conversations.  Students can get help from teachers and tutors with a click, but now students can reach out and get help from peers too.  Learning starts to look a lot more like it does in the real world.

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That’s not all, but it’s a good primer for why we have done what we have done.  What started as the loss of an LMS turned into the opportunity of a lifetime.  If you have read some of the other posts on this site, you will know that there is a healthy nod to neuroscience, nudges, data analytics, learning design and constructivism layered throughout the system architecture.  After all, if you don’t leverage the capabilities of a platform, what’s the point?  Likewise, in the near future you will read more about how we are empowering our peoplethe true agents of disruption – to make use of what is really just a set of tools, to change the future of learning at Saint Leo.  Over time you will also see how this infrastructure move allows for greater flexibility for students and professors, how our completely integrated helpdesk is a cornerstone to success, and be on the lookout for a blog detailing how to assemble your own team of Avengers.  Yes, we believe this will impact retention, enrollment, and brand awareness.  But much more personal to us, we think this changes learning – at scale – period.

The future is bright.  There is an excitement here that I hope you can feel.  We are changing our spots, but more importantly, we are changing what learning looks like.  Come back for more and follow our progress.  And importantly – Welcome to Lions SHARE.

Good luck and good learning my friends.

Dr. Jeff D. Borden
Chief Innovation Officer
Saint Leo University

About Jeff Borden

My title at work is ‘Chief Innovation Officer.’ So I'm trying to transform teaching and learning at scale. How do I do that? Through my "life" jobs. Primarily, I'm a dad and husband. But I'm also a professor, writer, professional speaker, comedian, researcher, lifelong learner, musician, dog-owner, and even a ranked disc golfer... I've spoken to, trained, or consulted with hundreds of thousands of educators at all levels, in numerous countries, K-20, about how to teach and learn effectively in the 21st Century.

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