Institute Explores MOOCs and More

Massive open online courses (MOOCs) and other digital learning platforms are the focus of a new institute being launched this fall. The Institute for Digital Learning will be led by Douglas Fisher, associate professor of computer science and computer engineering at the School of Engineering. It will be housed in the newly renovated Alumni Hall.

The institute’s creation was one of the recommendations made by the Chancellor’s Committee on Social Media and the Internet, assembled by Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos in February 2012.

“With this new institute and Doug’s leadership, we will explore how best to leverage and shape these tools to increase our own students’ engagement and exposure into research and discovery, and also to bring the knowledge generated by our faculty to traditional and nontraditional students around the globe,” says Zeppos.

The institute will focus on strategy related to digital learning for courses offered on campus and those offered through MOOCs and other platforms. In addition, the institute will study the medium itself to promote innovations in teaching and will support faculty and student research on MOOCs.

Fisher is a frequent speaker and writer on the topic of digital learning and is seen as a thought leader on the concept of “flipped classrooms,” in which students learn core material outside the classroom through video and other digital tools and spend classroom time on collaboration and discussion. His research focuses on artificial intelligence, particularly machine learning, computational models of creativity, and applications in environmental sustainability.

“The institute represents a commitment by Vanderbilt to understand the changes that are coming, to anticipate them as best we can, and to design for change—most notably for the benefit of our students, as well as opening new areas of research, in education, in ‘big data,’ and other areas we still aren’t sure about,” says Fisher.

Learn more about Vanderbilt’s digital learning efforts.