2016 State of the Campus Mobile Navigation Open

Leading the way to a richer student experience for an evolving landscape in higher education

male student in white lab coat looks on as female student in white lab coat takes vial from professor in blue lab coat male student in white lab coat looks on as female student in white lab coat takes vial from professor in blue lab coat
Professor Tracy Johnson welcomes undergraduates to her research lab, where she explores gene-splicing mechanisms. Johnson was recognized by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute for her breakthrough research and innovative approaches to undergraduate education.

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.

student in baseball cap, goggles and blue lab coat appears to be assembling a sandwich; he stands next to a professor in shirtsleeves, in front of a blackboard scrawled with chemistry diagrams Chemistry professor Neil Garg (right) is known for emphasizing the creativity and problem-solving that organic chemistry requires and its relevance to students’ lives.

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.

Professor gestures to students in class; blackboard behind him shows Chinese characters white-haired man in plaid jacket holds a box as he talks to four students
(Left) Professor Jack Chen of the UCLA College humanities division leads a discussion with students in his classical Chinese class. (Right) Henry Winkler, known to students for his series “Hank Zipzer: The World’s Greatest Underachiever,” visits a Fiat Lux seminar on collaboration in Hollywood. (Top) Professor Jack Chen of the UCLA College humanities division leads a discussion with students in his classical Chinese class. (Bottom) Henry Winkler, known to students for his series “Hank Zipzer: The World’s Greatest Underachiever,” visits a Fiat Lux seminar on collaboration in Hollywood.

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.

group of eight students cluster around a large computer screen; some are seated on an orange upholstered bench, others in modern-looking orange or green upholstered chairs The Charles E. Young Research Library offers flexible technology-enhanced “pods” for individual research and group collaboration.

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.

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Read other stories

Female African-American student Female African-American student
Admissions: Ensuring that UCLA reflects the communities we serve
Corner of building showing glass and brick Corner of building showing glass and brick
Transforming Our Campus: Building a better UCLA for our second century
Female student-athlete in blue and black UCLA jersey Female student-athlete in blue and black UCLA jersey
Athletics: Celebrating our 113th NCAA title and continued academic success
Man in lab coat Man in lab coat
Research and Discovery: Creating new innovations that will shape our future
Woman with young man in orange t-shirt Woman with young man in orange t-shirt
Service and Advocacy: Improving lives throughout L.A. and beyond
African American girls head African American girls head
Our UCLA Community: Strengthening our campus community, bridging differences
Graphic treatment of words “Let There Be . . .” Graphic treatment of words “Let There Be . . .”
Centennial Campaign and Alumni: Building broad-based support en route to 2019
Women wearing a blue cap and light blue t-shirt Women wearing a blue cap and light blue t-shirt
Our Global Footprint: Fostering understanding and developing new knowledge
Man on balcony Man on balcony
Financial Summary: Successfully and conservatively managing UCLA’s resources