How then do we teach Generation C?

Following up to the discussion on ‘Generation Cand the implications for education, there is a burning question that begs an answer, ‘Given this connected, communicating, content-centric, computerized, community-oriented group called Generation C, how then do universities and higher education institutions go about educating them? What do educators need to do? Good question…..

There are educators who have put forth answers, even solutions; some with bold and innovative programs, some with thoughtful and visionary ideas, of which I’ll share here. I’ve compiled all into three categories, 1) innovative pedagogy and teaching methods, 2) bold  educational programs and ventures that challenge the university model, and 3) ideas to ponder, contemplate and mull over.

1) Pedagogy and Teaching methods for Gen ‘C’s

The ‘Flipped’ Model
What is it?  A teaching model that is inverted, or “flipped,”, a.k.a  active learning, where students are exposed to the content prior to classroom instruction,  then practice, apply it by discussing with their peers with guidance of the instructor. I first thought this was exclusive to K12 education, but digging deeper, I discovered  Eric Mazur, Physics Professor at Harvard, is not only an advocate for the model, but shares his method with professors around the world. Mazur also created Learning Catalytics, software to support student use of mobile devices in the class.

A fundamental dimension of Mazur’s model is “teaching by questioning and not telling”. Yet at the same time, Mazur encourages involvement by having students answer questions with their web-enabled device, either cell phone, smart phone, iPod or laptop. See Mazur in action:

Harvard is not the only University flipping the classroom on its head, University of Northern  Colorado is also on board, with Vodcasting in the Flipped Classroom.

Using the WWW as a Teaching Tool : Blogging
I watched this unique course unfold online over ten weeks. The program consisted of a group of graduate students enrolled in Communicating Science through Social Media course as part of a  Public Health program at the University of Michigan. The students were required to post weekly articles to a blog [Mind the Science Gap] about a complex science topic that a broad audience could understand and appreciate. The course instructor invited and encouraged readers of his personal blog to be ‘mentors’ and give feedback. Genius.

“The course will use the public science blog as a forum where participants can develop and hone their communication skills through experience and public and peer feedback.  For ten consecutive weeks, each participant will select a recent publication or emerging area of scientific interest related to public health, and post a weekly blog on the website aimed at a non-expert and non-technical audience.  As the ten weeks progress, participants will be encouraged to respond to comments and critique and to develop their own style.”

2) Innovative Models providing a ‘different’ University Education

Floating University, per ampliora ad altiora [from [through] breadth to height].

A unique and notable concept, though I had to consult several other resources to get a handle on how this program The Floating University works and what its mission is  – it’s not spelled out clearly on their website. Though I appreciate the concept, which is using distinguished and exceptional professors from Yale, Harvard and Bard university lecturing on their area of expertise.

From what I gather, the program, launched in 2011, has plans to offer courses both to college students at Yale, Bard and Harvard for credit, and in the form of e-seminars to anyone on the Web (fee based). The first course, available now “Great Big Ideas: An Entire Undergraduate Education While Standing on One Foot” is essentially a  survey course featuring 14 video lectures of professors from various universities. Here’s a YouTube video giving a sampling:

Though I think there is potential for this model, (as the idea is also to license various courses to other universities, as well as offer courses to the public), the marketing will need to be tightened up and re-packaged to communicate more effectively what they offer. As it stands now, though it looks attractive and slick, is vague in its purpose.

The Minerva Project. An ambitious plan, started by Ben Nelson, the founder of  Snapfish. Nelson received $25 million from Benchmark Capital to launch what is claimed to be the first Online elite American University.  What is also unique, is that students will still gain the ‘college experience’, by living in urban dorms in cities around world (a requirement). This has been a major drawback to online learning for students wanting the ‘college experience’ of living away from home.  There are skeptics, though many agree that the model is a sign of institutions to come. Read more here.

MITx: MIT, known as being the first universities to offer all course content online, for free, though opencourseware recently launched MITx. An initiative which will offer a roster of MIT courses (for free), but with the addition of student support and feedback through online discussion boards and other tools that encourage collaboration and interaction, a missing component to opencourseware. There is also plans for MIT to offer a type of credential. Details have yet to be worked out. How this will be accomplished will be accomplished, yet another ‘new’ method challenging higher-ed.

Given that the first course offered through MITx,  6.002x: Circuits & Electronics,  signed up 120,000 students since March 2012, there is no doubt a segment of Generation C learners may find this learning method desirable.

3) Thought provoking ideas about the future of learning..

 Dr. Lawrence Summers, former president of Harvard University shared several ideas for higher education reform in a speech given recently, of which excerpts were printed in The New York Times article, What you (Really) Need to Know.

“… Suppose the educational system is drastically altered to reflect the structure of society and what we now understand about how people learn. How will what universities teach be different? Here are some guesses and hopes [summarized].

1. Education will be more about how to process and use information and less about imparting it.
2. An inevitable consequence of the knowledge explosion is that tasks will be carried out with far more collaboration. As just one example, the fraction of economics papers that are co-authored has more than doubled in the 30 years that I have been an economist.
3. New technologies will profoundly alter the way knowledge is conveyed. Electronic readers allow textbooks to be constantly revised, and to incorporate audio and visual effects.”

I’ve presented much in this post, much to consider and contemplate. How then will we teach Generation ‘C’? How will we engage, challenge and inspire? A good start is by reading, thinking, learning, building on strengths, collaborating, and doing. Sound familiar? Thanks for reading and being part of the learning journey.

Keep Learning 🙂

Further Reading:
“Ending the Tyranny of the Lecture”, Featuring Eric Mazur
“Reinventing the Ivy League”, Dan Primack, Fortune
Minerva Project, San Francisco Business Times

11 thoughts on “How then do we teach Generation C?

  1. You guys should really check out They have 40 courses, and 6 of them are going live on April 23rd. I just signed up for CS 101, which is being taught by Nick Parlante who has taught at Stanford for over 20 years.


    1. HI Scott. Thanks for the info about, . This looks very interesting. I like the interface, and the selection of courses look varied and robust! I would very much want to have our college change over to a new LMS, however easier said than done :(. Migrating to a new system is a tremendous undertaking, even for a small college such as ours (currently both the traditional and online courses use the Moodle platform. However you did get me thinking — we could pilot a select number of courses, perhaps two or three
      and move on from that point. Thanks for your comment! 🙂 I appreciate you taking the time to share. Let us know how the course is, I’d love to hear how you like it and your thoughts. My email address is Thanks!


  2. I have been thinking about this for the last couple of weeks. A better way to reach students so that they actually learn and have understanding is obviously necessary because the students of today are not always intrinsically motivated. The only way to help them learn is to extrinsically motivate them, which hopefully will lead to instrinsic motivation for future learning. Great resources – Thank you!


    1. Hi Susan. Thanks for your comment. Yes I agree with you, helping students to be extrinsically motivated it key. I also think when we offer students methods that appear relevant to them, they are more likely to be engaged. Thanks again for commenting and sharing. 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s