An interdisciplinary course at the University is offering students the chance to rethink higher education.
Titled “Education by Design,” the class centers on the idea of the “Campus of the Future” and aims to allow students the chance to reinvent the university experience through real-world solutions.
Materials Science Prof. Joanna Mirecki Millunchick, who co-directs the course alongside Political Science Prof. Mika LaVaque-Manty, said now is an exciting time for learning at a university. She noted both emerging technologies, along with increased accessibility.
“Historically, universities were the keepers of knowledge, but now information is readily available,” Millunchick said. “College used to only be available to the elite, and now about 65 percent of all high school graduates enroll in college. Lectures consisted of sage professors soliloquizing to a group of rapt and silent students. But now we know that the best kind of learning is interactive and loud.”
LaVaque-Manty said the Multidisciplinary Design Program, housed in the College of Engineering, allows students of all disciplines to engage with the topic. He said this effort allows anyone interested in questioning the purpose of college or wanting to shape the future of the institution, regardless of a student’s academic pursuits.
“It gives the students an opportunity to understand better their own experience at Michigan,” LaVaque-Manty said. “They learn what’s unique about Michigan, what is not unique about Michigan, what the challenges facing higher education are and what kinds of strategies there might be to deal with them.”
The course began with a focus on the history of the University, as well as some common ideas about where it might be heading. The class later moved into a discussion about aspects of the college experience students were interested in examining or modifying.
Students chose to work on projects ranging from increasing engaged learning on campus to alumni engagement.
LSA sophomore Lauren Shepard said the class has allowed her to develop concrete suggestions to improve the undergraduate experience at the University.
“I have gotten to critically examine the credit system, the physical spaces in which students learn, and the way that the courses are actually taught,” Shepard said. “I think that the class teaches you to think about higher education in a completely different light.”
LaVaque-Manty said the purpose of the class is to allow students to think critically about both current education system and their own academic experiences.
“Part of our goal in the course is to think about the academic infrastructure of the University — the credit hour economy, grades, majors, disciplines, degrees,” LaVaque-Manty said. “Do they make sense? Do they still make sense?”
LSA junior Eni Kruja, who is currently enrolled in the class, said she believes the course is especially important because of its student-centered approach.
“We, the students, are not just given a syllabus, the required tasks for passing, and period instructions — we work with the professors to decide the direction of the class based on what we recognize as our needs for success and what the professors see as important resources for us to use,” Kruja said.