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Students as Producers: Initiatives at Other Universities

Posted by on Monday, March 3, 2014 in News.

by Derek Bruff, CFT Director

Last month, I reported that the 2014 Horizon Report on current trends in educational technology identified as one of its six key trends a shift from students as consumers (of information, of content, of knowledge) to students as creators. From the report:

“A shift is taking place in the focus of pedagogical practice on university campuses all over the world as students across a wide variety of disciplines are learning by making and creating rather than from the simple consumption of content.”

I was honored that our “Students as Producers” initiative was cited in the report as an example of this trend. Most of the other examples cited in the report are what I might call “Students as Makers” initiatives, focusing on the use of 3D printing and other technologies to engage students in creative construction of physical objects. I’m not aware of any maker spaces at Vanderbilt, although I’m a fan of the maker movement and my kids and I had fun at Nashville’s Mini Maker Faire last fall.

Our “Students as Producers” theme takes a big-tent approach, going beyond maker spaces to include a variety of ways students can become creators and producers of knowledge.  As we’ve been exploring the theme this year, I’ve learned about similar initiatives at other universities. Here are a few, providing further evidence that the Horizon Report is on to something:

  • Lincoln University (UK) – Lincoln’s Student as Producer initiative provided inspiration and some of the theoretical framework for the CFT’s “Students as Producers” initiative. I learned about Lincoln’s program from a keynote by its director, Mike Neary, at a 2011 conference in Ireland. Student as Producer is a campus-wide effort to engage students in research and research-like activities across the curriculum. It began as a grant-funded project in 2010, but it seems to have taken on a life of its own at Lincoln, continuing to inform curriculum and course development to this day. You can see some examples of course (re)design supported by the initiative at the Student as Producer in Practice blog.
  • University of British Columbia (Canada) – As part of their Flexible Learning Initiative, UBC put out a call last year for internal grant proposals aimed at undergraduate course transformation. Several themes emerged from the funded proposals, including the flipped classroom, community-engaged teaching, and students as producers, all themes we’re very much interested in here at the CFT! You can read about some of the students-as-producers course transformation projects in this blog post from November.
  • George Mason University (USA) – George Mason’s Office of Student Scholarship, Creative Activities, and Research (OSCAR) coordinates the Students as Scholars initiative. Many of the Students as Scholars activities are focused on undergraduate research and creative projects outside the classroom, but they also focus on course development that involves engaging students as producers. Like UBC, they have an internal grant program aimed at this, and like we’re doing this year with our Celebration of Learning, OSCAR has an end-of-year Celebration of Scholarship event. You can see a list of George Mason’s Students as Scholars courses here.

Students as producers, makers, scholars. Knowledge acquisition is certainly important, but our students are capable of much more. I’m glad to see other universities prioritizing this aspect of undergraduate education.


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