In recent years, JSU has taken a look at its slogan, “Where You’re Going,” and decided that it should go towards the future of education. The school’s Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) requires that JSU have a strategic five-year plan that enhances the learning experience in some way.
“A few years ago, they started what they call the Red Balloon Project here at JSU,” says QEP Committee Co-Chair Mark Camp. “Basically it was to discuss the future of JSU and where we’re going. One of the results of that was that if you look at JSU’s officially posted policies, you’re going to see that it will prominently mention that we are a learning-centered university.”
The current plan, for the years 2011-2016, is designed to make courses at JSU more learning-centered. The learning-centered approach involves hands-on learning and focuses on teaching students how to think critically. The university plans to equip freshman students in 2015 with iPads and offer faculty the opportunity to incorporate that technology into their classrooms.
“We all really believe that with technology and what the 21st century student, the 21st century citizen, has at his fingertips, being able to think critically and discern between quality information and information that’s not quality requires great critical thinking,” says Gena Christopher, the QEP Committee’s other Co-Chair. “That’s a skill we all need, so that’s why we chose critical thinking as our QEP.”
Christopher says that students have expressed concern over whether or not their critical thinking skills were ready for life after college, and Camp thinks that the learning-centered approach will help students to think more critically during their time at the university as well.
“When these students are entering their majors, what we see is, ideally, students walking in with better critical thinking skills,” Camp says of the 2015 freshman class. “We want to give the majors better-prepared students, and I think that’s going to make them more successful.”
Christopher says that the committee has proposed that the university provide the iPads to the students because many of JSU’s students receive some sort of financial aid. “We knew that we couldn’t say, ‘You must come to college with an iPad,’ because some students have a difficult time purchasing their textbooks,” she explains. She says that the university would like to issue each new student an iPad when they enroll, and if the student successfully completes five contiguous semesters at JSU, the iPad becomes his property as a scholarship.
“There’s research that shows that, when properly used in a learning-centered classroom, technology can further enhance learning,” Camp says. “That’s how we ended up with the idea specifically of iPads in the classroom. We’re going to make this change to a learning-centered environment; let’s give them all the tools available.”