Information available at the touch of a button. Nearly universal access to the internet. Computers as common in classrooms as textbooks.
These are just facts of life for our undergraduates, most of whom were born in the late 1990s and have come of age in our hyperconnected world. But technology has created a teaching and learning environment that is dramatically different from that of just a generation ago.
That is why it is crucial for today’s educators to adopt teaching methods that reflect the new ways students receive, understand and apply knowledge.
That need is only heightened by the rapidly changing demographics of student populations at UCLA and other research universities. With students coming from a wider range of backgrounds than ever before, the onus is on teachers to become more fully attuned to students’ classroom experiences and to develop a range of teaching methods that help them thrive in college.
From their first quarter until their last, UCLA undergraduates can enroll in small seminars taught by senior faculty, gain exposure to emerging fields of study and develop teamwork and leadership skills. And they can take advantage of our location in Los Angeles by conducting research focused on our dynamic city or by integrating volunteer service or professional internships into their coursework.
Along the way, UCLA provides an array of support services — through academic counselors, peer mentors and tutors — to ensure that each student has the resources to thrive.
UCLA is leading the way in developing and implementing new approaches that we believe will shape university teaching for years to come. For example, in 2015–16, the UCLA College received a $5 million grant from the Mellon Foundation to fund faculty in the humanities who are studying and testing new methods to better teach our students. The Excellence in Pedagogy and Innovative Classrooms project will examine students’ changing learning styles and guide faculty and graduate students to teach as effectively as possible. Faculty members leading the project will develop a certificate in teaching excellence for graduate students and forge new collaborations with community colleges to better meet the needs of incoming transfer students.
Of course, these efforts also extend to faculty in the sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics, where our Center for Education Innovation and Learning in the Sciences has become a hub for teaching excellence. A special focus of CEILS is to help faculty foster inclusive classrooms — an essential component of how we will continue to attract students from underrepresented communities to the sciences.
Given the massive influence of technology on education, we also have an interdisciplinary team of faculty and staff engaged in integrating technology into undergraduate courses. The group’s main emphasis has been hybrid courses — classes that combine online and classroom learning. “Flipped classrooms,” for example, enable students to watch video lectures on their computers and then devote class time to discussion, simulations or group projects.
As we move forward, data analysis will help us better understand the conditions that support academic achievement for all students. By gaining new insights into what happens inside our classrooms, we can take steps to give all students an equal opportunity to succeed.
UCLA is committed to ensuring that our students have the skills, confidence and commitment to meaningfully engage in work, family and public life. And we have a responsibility to share what we learn with institutions of higher learning across the world.