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Top>Education>Looking toward the Next Generation of University Education -The Shape of Learning in Diversified Forms of Education-


Masatake Saito

Masatake Saito [Profile]

Looking toward the Next Generation of University Education
-The Shape of Learning in Diversified Forms of Education-

Masatake Saito
Associate Professor of Technology Management, Systems Engineering and Information Education, Faculty of Commerce, Chuo University


For a two year period from April 2009, I took advantage of the overseas research system and was allowed to research overseas at Boston University in the eastern part of the United States. In my time there, I could grasp the present situation of online learning. I could see that this is spreading at a rapid pace in universities across the U.S. by becoming a project member to analyze and evaluate online lectures of Computer Science Department in Metropolitan College at Boston University (Project Chief: Professor Lubomir Chitkushev). I could feel close to the passionate feelings that teachers held in regard to lectures and lecture management at U.S. universities. Moreover, there is a rapid diversification in the form of education through public knowledge of universities which is the genesis of Open Course Ware (OCW) that was started in 2002 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. How should we provide places of learning for students as university teaching staff?

University knowledge is made public for free

Currently, in America, various universities have prepared programs so that it is possible to acquire credits for lectures which have been made available online (lectures where lecture video distribution, text distribution, quizzes, discussions and examinations take place on the Internet) and where it is possible to acquire a degree only online. Boston University also started distributing the online lectures in 2003, and there has been an annual increase in the number of lectures and the students taking these. Due to the increase in numbers, substantive and qualitative assessments on the online lectures have been taking place as well as comparisons with regular lectures and lectures which are a blend of both in three types of lecture qualities. In particular, in online lectures, there is a focus on online discussions. In addition to the teaching staff, there is one facilitator (a teaching staff assistant between the teacher and TA) for every seven students taking the lecture. These facilitators support the teaching staff and control the progress and balance of debate. Trial and error is repeated in this new form of education.

On the other hand, we can also see the spread of OCW by MIT since 2002, which makes information public on the Internet at no cost. OCW makes public lecture syllabi, lesson contents, handouts, lecture slides and test details which take place regularly and depending on the teaching staff, videos of their lectures are also available to the public. Although in 2004, the number of courses available was 500, by 2010, 1900 courses were available. This is virtually all the undergraduate and graduates subjects. The number of visitors from around the world is around one million a month. This MIT initiative of OCW has been endorsed by 200 universities throughout the world and these have become organized into the Global OCW Consortium (GOCWC). As you may be aware, MIT requires annual tuition fees of 40,000 dollars. In spite of that, aren't there any problems on distributing lectures online for free? However, MIT has not set up the means for participants to come into contact with professors and authors of the materials through the OCW contents, nor is it possible to communicate between those listening. Of course, there is no entitlement to obtain certificates or proof of participation though the educational institution. In other words, the value obtained from interaction with professors and other students, as well as being involved in research on campus (e.g. everyday experience in laboratories), is grounded in the concept that this cannot be replaced with OCW.

In the public knowledge of universities which started with MIT, it is possible to see further expansion in line with the spread of Internet video distribution, such as YouTube. On Academic Earth, which was selected by the U.S. Time magazine for the 50 Best Websites of 2009, it is possible to listen to lectures for free online of those from prestigious universities across America, including Harvard, Princeton, Stanford and Yale. In addition, environments are being prepared where it is possible to access lectures of universities simply and for free. Examples include iTunes U, distributed by Apple, and YouTube EDU of YouTube. Although these are predominately in English, U.S. universities have obtained a global educational market without borders due to these online lectures.

Further Stimulating Students

In this way, in America, an environment has been prepared where it is possible for students to select their education form, but how is the actual attitude toward the students of the lectures and how is the support for the teaching staff?

In general, it is said that students in U.S. universities approach lessons seriously, possess a love of learning and during lessons often proactively ask questions to their teachers. However, American students were not as glaring as I had thought. Instead, I had a sense that they were quiet and obedient. There were also a number of students with intelligence at a level where they could discuss with the teaching staff as well as ambitious students who would prepare for lessons every hour. However, there are also an increasing number of students who won't ask questions unless called upon by their teacher. While this has not yet reached the level of Japanese students who are called herbivorous animals (i.e. docile, with little proactivity), this idea of infantilized university students and the image of students that go with the path of least resistance is being discussed in magazines and similar. Nevertheless, students in America who study with all their might to acquire credits depend on the efforts of the teaching staff. In addition to after-hour workshops by TAs to promote understanding and the creation of an environment where it is possible for students and teachers to get access any time during the lecture, there is constant pressure in relation to lectures on students, such as the imposition of large amounts of homework, quizzes virtually every time and supplementary lessons. Rather than putting more emphasis on the attitude of students whether they attend and listen to the lecture seriously, teachers don't spare any efforts in teaching with a variety of methods in order to increase the understanding of the lecture contents.

Exploring the Place of Learning

Several new experiments have been conducted in response to the stimulus I witnessed myself to the diversification of education which is spreading in this way in America.

First, in regards to lectures, there have been schemes to make it possible to learn through fieldwork, with lectures have been held by bringing in lecturers from the outside and programs have been implemented which allow for proactive participation, such as extramural-related events and tours.

Second, I placed my seminar in the first period, so there are now "power morning seminars" by bringing in breakfast, from eight o'clock in the morning where the gates of the school open, instead of power breakfasts. At first, the seminar students were reluctant to attend these, but it now seems that they have become used to getting up early once a week. Moreover, from the significance held in interaction with external seminars, joint seminars have been held with other schools and there has been participation in seminar exchange meetings. Furthermore, there have been conference presentations of graduation research. Thanks partly to morning seminars, in presentations at the Social Sciences University Specialist Seminar and Seminar Exchange Meeting 2011, held by the West Kanto Branch of the Japan Industrial Management Association, an Excellence Award could be won and motivation was increased in the activities of the seminar students.

In addition, in order to realize the education form that utilizes information technology, including online learning, where U.S. universities are leading the way, people, things (systems) and money are required, such as the development of educational infrastructure and the creation of educational content, so I hope that it is possible to address this within the scope allowable.


Let's finish with one-way lectures from the faculty to students.

At Chuo University, our interdisciplinary-themed experience project study, like the Faculty Linkage Program, which has been conducted since 2003, has been achieving a certain level of results. Universities should seek interactive education and prepare a diversified education form. While providing stimulus to students, this may be a time when teachers and students think about place of co-education where they can develop together. At that time, new co-educational forms should be created by making good use of information technology. Currently, centered on the Tama IT Center at Chuo University, an experiment is being conducted related to the co-educational use of tablet devices, including iPads and smart phones like the iPhone, called the "White Gate Project." This is an attempt to create a new place of education, asking questions such as how to prepare and use educational content including e-books.

I think that for universities providing services of replacement education, it would be good to communicate a new form of learning with the knowledge and wisdom of teaching staff.

Masatake Saito
Associate Professor of Technology Management, Systems Engineering and Information Education, Faculty of Commerce, Chuo University
Born in Nagano Prefecture in 1968. Graduated from the College of Science and Engineering in Aoyama Gakuin University in 1991. In 1998, withdrew at the expiration of the Doctoral Program of Industrial Engineering at the Graduate School of Science and Engineering at Aoyama Gakuin University. Ph. D in Science and Engineering.
Worked as an assistant in the College of Science and Engineering in Aoyama Gakuin University and a full-time lecturer at the Faculty of Commerce in Chuo University. Currently, an associate professor in the Faculty of Commerce in Chuo University. A visiting researcher at Boston University (2009-2011).
At present, conducting research in areas relating to manufacturing and information technology as well as a broad range of topics from those relating to technology management to those about information education (on-line learning).
In addition, his principal publications include Industrial Engineering (co-author, Minerva shobo, 2010), Information and Intention Transmissions Systems that Support Corporate Management (co-author, Soseisha, 2007), among others.