MINERVA’S PROJECT: Founded by Ben Nelson. Minerva majors include are: Social Sciences, Computational Sciences, Natural Sciences, Arts & Humanities, and Business. Each one of these offers six different concentrations. Minerva uses the Active Learning Forum™, a platform that allows students to interact online. Instead of building a campus, Minerva chooses to invest to students co-living in a same physical setting, one that changes each semester across continents, while learning occurs only online.
The courses may occur online but they are not massive, says Graeme Wood, a journalist that reported on Minerva back in 2014 for the Atlantic. Wood joined a course of inductive logic ran by professor Eric Bonabeau (physicist, Minerva’s dean of computational sciences). All of the courses in Minerva assume the form of online seminars. They do so however, by profiting from the existence of MOOCs. Ben Nelson, the founder, likens MOOCs to publishing and considers them to be in the future sole providers of content in terms of lectures.
Nelson bases the Minerva layout to his belief that ‘when you have a noncurated academic experience, you effectively don’t get educated’. He also insists that ‘the lectures’ model is dead, soon to be completely obliterated’. Kosslyn, a former Harvard dean and a renowned cognitive neuroscientist who has joined Minerva as a founding dean, also claims that lectures might be ‘cost-effective but they are pedagogically unsound’. Kosslyn in particular, says Wood, in his 32 years at Harvard has realized an extended research on education and cognitive science and that now he has the chance to put this research into motion.
Claire Cain Miller from New York Times claims that Minerva’s faculty concluded that a key skill is being able to apply learning in new and different contexts. Toward that end, students keep blogs during their travels about how they’re using the concepts they learned freshman year. “As we define it”, adds Nelson in Bized Magazine, “fully active learning means that 100 percent of students must be engaged at least 75 percent of the time in every class.”
Wood’s article is the most thorough of all but is inconclusive as to whether this initiative will prove strong enough to alter the current educational practices of the ivy league institutions. It is also unevenly written as strangely enough, the author concludes the article with the ambitious expectations of Nelson instead of his stronger initial remarks in regard to Minerva’s courses seminar-alike setup:
For one thing, it was exhausting: a continuous period of forced engagement, with no relief in the form of time when my attention could flag or I could doodle in a notebook undetected (…) I was forced, in effect, to learn. If this was the education of the future, it seemed vaguely fascistic. Good, but fascistic.
Three years later, in April 2017, the Minerva project is still on. In fact what started timidly with a small cohort of 33 students, was strengthened in 2015 with a cohort that reached 100 students, while this year, 150 new students have enrolled (Minerva accepted only 1.9 percent out of 16,000 applicants).
- the Minerva Project webpage
- Wood, G., 2014, The Future of College?, Educause
- Cain Miller, C., 2015, Extreme Study Abroad: The World Is Their Campus, The NY Times
- Bisoux, C., 2016, Global and Campus Free, Bized Magazine
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