Students and staff reTHINK PSU

Written by | November 30, 2012

Campaign looks to overhaul education experience

Students, faculty and administration at Portland State now have the opportunity to think of the institution’s academics as a blank canvas.

It’s a chance to question the status quo.

A campus-wide initiative was recently launched, titled reTHINK PSU, bringing a challenge from the provost of Academic Affairs to bring pioneering change to PSU.

“The idea of the challenge is to deliver education in different, more innovative ways. We’re encouraging each department on campus to think creatively,” said Sona Andrews, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs.

Schools often experience incremental change over time—meaning they’ll make one change and adjust to it before moving on to the next. Incremental changes are more accessible, but they don’t necessarily allow for continuous improvement.The aim of reTHINK is to allow departments to explore new options and focus on how to keep the innovation flowing.

“ReTHINK PSU was really thought of out of the question: if you could really rethink your curriculum in an innovative way, what would it be?” Andrews said.

The concepts are brief, and any ideas submitted must be about a program with more than just a single faculty member behind it. Anyone can comment or inspire ideas, and it’s an opportunity for people to share their proposals for change.

Students who are here today may not reap all of the benefits of this challenge, Andrews said. It won’t come all at once and it won’t affect everybody; some departments will be chosen to lead the changes first, she explained.

A website has been set up so that anyone with a PSU ODIN account can comment on individual proposals featured online.

“We’d like to change how faculty engages with students, and to have closer interactions between students and faculty. I personally think that this is the kind of work that faculty should be doing. It’s really important that the faculty have this opportunity to make these changes,” Andrews said.

This is a project that involves all of the academic leadership around campus.

“PSU is rethinking the curriculum. We will take what we already do and make it better. What are the big ideas that will be relevant two, three, four years from now? You have to continue to invest. We should be looking at the next thing. PSU has always been an innovative institute, and I’m confident that we can do this,” explained Andrews.

“We’re trying to be very forward-thinking. This is about us figuring out a phenomenal PSU experience.”

Marilyn Moody, the head librarian at PSU, is also very involved in the process. She is trying to work with departments to set up a system that will not only incorporate the library into more of the programs offered on campus but also help departments figure out and submit their
proposals.

“I have two jobs: The first is helping to think about how the library can be more involved with everyone on campus; the second is being part of a team looking at proposals and making recommendations and suggestions.”

Moody then goes on to explain that MOOCs—Massive Open Online Courses—could be one example of possible changes.

This would involve offering students the opportunity to do heavy, study-intensive learning outside of class, allowing a more hands-on learning process in class.

“It’s a chance for departments, colleges and groups of faculty interested in working together to come together for this challenge. I’m pretty excited about it,” Moody said.

Professor Ann Marie Fallon, director of the University Honors Program, was able to provide several examples of how reTHINK PSU may be able to change the program.

“There have been huge innovations in higher education, and PSU is looking to find a way to be a leader.

“What we can do is to continue to honor high-achieving students by changing out learning objectives and investigating MOOCs in combination with what we already have.”

This will happen through the use of online courses and innovative changes incorporated between programs.

This challenge is still in its infancy stage, but within a month there will be proposals posted online on the PSU website, where students and faculty can propose, edit and comment on the ideas put forth to advance our university. Those proposals that seem the most feasible will be the ones receiving the small monetary awards to make them happen.

Check out reTHINK PSU at pdx.edu/oaa/rethinkpsu.

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