Driving Productivity in Postsecondary Education Through Innovation

Innovation Symposium

Secretary Arne Duncan and Assistant Deputy Secretary Jim Shelton discussed discuss technological innovations to improve higher education. Official Department of Education photo by Joshua Hoover.

The Department of Education (ED) seeks to encourage innovation in higher education teaching and learning to drive productivity, quality, and equity. To contribute to the national conversation in this arena, ED, in collaboration with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, convened 175 people at Georgetown University this week to discuss technological innovations that can be instrumental in transforming teaching and learning.

The group was intentionally diverse: college and university leaders; innovators in the education technology space; foundation officials; associations and accreditors; researchers and policy analysts as well as state and federal officials. Participants were encouraged to talk across sectors and blur any real or perceived boundaries.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan kicked off the symposium by challenging the participants to continue to be innovative and to push ED to support innovation.  “We need to catalyze innovative changes that can be sustained and have the potential to dramatically increase completion while enhancing quality and gaining productivity,” he said.

The need to discuss innovation in teaching and learning for higher education has never been more pressing, with at least three dynamics converging at this moment in time. First, we know more than ever before about the learning sciences. Second, there is a proliferation of innovative resources that aim to transform teaching and learning, many of which take advantage of rapidly changing technology. And third, it is a time when colleges and universities are being asked to do more with less, in a climate of increased attention to affordability.

While participants reported leaving with new energy and armed with new information and tools, the symposium was not just a series of conversations. Its success is measured by the commitments made and actions taken after the event.  Near the end of the day, participants had the opportunity to gather with one another to discuss collaborations, partnerships, and commitments.  ED collected these written commitments and will follow-up with the participants to ensure that this symposium is a catalyst toward creating new momentum and broader action around innovation to drive productivity, quality and equity.

Tweets from the day:

Rosemarie Nassif is a special advisor to the Assistant Secretary in the Office of Postsecondary Education, and David Soo is policy adviser to the Under Secretary of Education