DartmouthX: Four Questions


Josh Kim, Dartmouth’s director of digital learning programs, and Alan Cattier ’86, director of Academic Computing, spell out why DartmouthX—the College’s newly announced association with online learning platform edX—is a winning venture for Dartmouth students and faculty, and for learners everywhere.

Alan Cattier ’86, left, director of Academic Computing, and Josh Kim, director of digital learning programs, are responsible for leading Dartmouth’s efforts to innovate with learning technologies. (Photo by Eli Burakian ’00)

Even a quick glance at edX offerings makes it clear these aren’t correspondence courses by email, or a collection of taped lectures. But they also aren’t like face-to-face Dartmouth classes. What’s different, and why does that matter?

JK: I think of edX courses in particular, and open online learning in general, as the next evolution of teaching materials. These courses are building interactive and social textbooks for a digital world. But even the very best edX course will offer a qualitatively different learning experience from how Dartmouth approaches teaching and learning. A Dartmouth course, whether it be fully face-to-face or a combination of online and residential learning, is all about the learning relationship that our faculty and students create. Our faculty know our students well, and they work to create as individual and personalized learning experiences as possible.

Dartmouth Partners With edX to Enhance Teaching and Learning

Dartmouth announced that it has joined edX, the nonprofit online learning platform founded by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The partnership underscores the College’s commitment to leadership in the use of technology to enhance teaching and learning.

Read the full announcement.

AC: EdX, and experiments like it, potentially create learning communities where learning can occur in multiple dimensions. Students may teach each other, they may work in teams, they may teach across cultures or nationalities or affiliations. In a best case, they bring their world to the course as opposed to just having their course delivered to them. And because the environment is digital, it can respond to the learner as they navigate the material, giving them feedback as to how they are doing as they move through the content. In edX, as a learner, you see yourself needing to reengage material, and you see it as you are learning, not just when you take a final, summative exam.

What does Dartmouth want to gain from edX?

JK: Technology has disrupted every industry that it has touched, and the key for Dartmouth is finding ways that we can leverage the potential of technology to build on our unique strengths as a leader in both education and scholarship.

AC: Joining edX represents a moment where we deepen our discussion of our commitment to teaching based on the experience online, at the service of the digital learner on Dartmouth’s campus and in Dartmouth’s classroom. We experiment, we assess, we learn, and we continue the tradition of excellence in teaching and learning by joining this consortium and leveraging it on behalf of our current teaching and learning community.

So Dartmouth is poised to benefit from being part of edX. We’re getting a lot; what are we giving back?

JK: We are committed to ensuring that the Dartmouth courses that will be taught for life-long learners on the edX open online education platform will be of the highest quality. EdX is very particular about who it invites to participate in its consortium, and it is important to everyone at Dartmouth that we utilize the edX opportunity to openly share with the world some of the knowledge that is being created and taught here in Hanover.

How are Dartmouth faculty already teaching in new, technology-enabled ways?

AC: There are faculty members across Dartmouth who are using class capture and tablets and games and mobile applications in innovative, groundbreaking ways. The entire campus is currently moving to a new on-campus learning management system, Canvas, bringing a new range of innovative, practice-changing tools and capabilities that have never been available to our faculty. This forms a perfect complement to partnering within edX to begin a dialogue on how Dartmouth’s tradition of excellence in the classroom can be extended.

Kelly Sundberg Seaman