Harvard Looks Beyond Lectures to Keep Students Engaged

If the school's new effort is a success, the days of bored students checking Facebook during lectures could be over.

With some Harvard students saying they'd rather check Facebook in class than listen to another dry lecture, the university's faculty have been clamoring for better ways to engage students. Unfortunately, professors with serious academic expertise sometimes don't know the best teaching methods. And, given the pressure to publish or perish, many are forced to emphasize their research over instruction.

However, with the launch of the Harvard Initiative on Learning and Teaching (HILT), the nation's oldest university is proving that it's committed to catalyzing some much-needed innovation. The initiative kicked off last week with a symposium attended by over 300 faculty and education experts, individuals who are focused on improving the quality of education across all of Harvard's schools, centers, and departments.

According to Harvard Magazine, one of the speakers at the symposium, Carl Wieman, the associate director of science at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, noted that researchers already know what works to promote deeper thinking and learning and it's not sitting in lectures, taking tests, and then moving on to the next topic. Instead, students need the opportunity to make meaning of what they've learned and apply it to real-world challenges.

But how will Harvard determine which approaches actually help faculty improve and produce better results with students? HILT is funded by a $40 million gift from two alumni, Gustave and Rita Hauser, and a good chunk of that money will give grants to faculty-initiated pilot programs. Erin Driver-Linn, the university's director of institutional research, shared that HILT has already received "255 letters of intent to apply for grants." She also explained that the initiative will test the innovations the grantees come up with through a cycle of engagement, experimentation, evaluation, and extension in order to figure out what really works.

While individual professors and departments at other colleges and universities are also attempting to alter the higher education landscape, what sets HILT apart is that it is a system-wide effort to change things. If Harvard can pull off a wholesale transformation of teaching, it can provide a model for other schools. And, given Harvard's prestige, other schools might feel the pressure to get on board with its innovations in order to stay competitive. If HILT can produce some fresh approaches to higher education, the days of checking Facebook in class could be over.

Photo via (cc) Flickr user Patricia Drury

via Real Time with Bill Maher / YouTube and The Late Late Show with James Corden / YouTube

A controversial editorial on America's obesity epidemic and healthcare by comedian Bill Maher on his HBO show "Real Time" inspired a thoughtful, and funny, response by James Cordon. It also made for a great debate about healthcare that Americans are avoiding.

At the end of the September 6th episode of "Real Time, " Maher turned to the camera for his usual editorial and discussed how obesity is a huge part of the healthcare debate that no one is having.

"At Next Thursday's debate, one of the candidates has to say, 'The problem with our healthcare system is Americans eat shit and too much of it.' All the candidates will mention their health plans but no one will bring up the key factor: the citizens don't lift a finger to help," Maher said sternly.

Keep Reading Show less

There is no shortage of proposals from the, um, what's the word for it… huge, group of Democratic presidential candidates this year. But one may stand out from the pack as being not just bold but also necessary; during a CNN town hall about climate change Andrew Yang proposed a "green amendment" to the constitution.

Keep Reading Show less
Me Too Kit

The creator of the Me Too kit — an at home rape kit that has yet to hit the market — has come under fire as sexual assault advocates argue the kit is dangerous and misleading for women.

The kit is marketed as "the first ever at home kit for commercial use," according to the company's website. "Your experience. Your kit. Your story. Your life. Your choice. Every survivor has a story, every survivor has a voice." Customers will soon be able order one of the DIY kits in order to collect evidence "within the confines of the survivor's chosen place of safety" after an assault.

"With MeToo Kit, we are able to collect DNA samples and other tissues, which upon testing can provide the necessary time-sensitive evidence required in a court of law to identify a sexual predator's involvement with sexual assault," according to the website.

Keep Reading Show less

Villagers rejoice as they receive the first vaccines ever delivered via drone in the Congo

The area's topography makes transporting medicines a treacherous task.

Photo by Henry Sempangi Senyule

When we discuss barriers to healthcare in the developed world, affordability is commonly the biggest concern. But for some in the developing world, physical distance and topography can be the difference between life and death.

Widjifake, a hard-to-reach village in northwestern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with a population of 6,500, struggles with having consistent access to healthcare supplies due to the Congo River and its winding tributaries.

It can take up to three hours for vehicles carrying supplies to reach the village.

Keep Reading Show less
via Keith Boykin / Twitter

Fox News and President Trump seem like they may be headed for a breakup. "Fox is a lot different than it used to be," Trump told reporters in August after one of the network's polls found him trailing for Democrats in the 2020 election.

"There's something going on at Fox, I'll tell you right now. And I'm not happy with it," he continued.

Some Fox anchors have hit back at the president over his criticisms. "Well, first of all, Mr. President, we don't work for you," Neil Cavuto said on the air. "I don't work for you. My job is to cover you, not fawn over you or rip you, just report on you."

Keep Reading Show less