Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Howard-Online @ Gig.U

"The University Community Next Generation Innovation Project, or Gig.U, is a broad-based group of over 30 leading research universities from across the United States. Drawing on America’s rich history of community-led innovation in research and entrepreneurship, Gig.U seeks to accelerate the deployment of ultra high-speed networks to leading U.S. universities and their surrounding communities. Improvements to these networks drive economic growth and stimulate a new generation of innovations addressing critical needs, such as health care and education." (This description is from Gig.U's home page)

When Howard University (Washington, DC) joined Gig.U in 2011, Howard-Online became one of its participating components. Howard-Online is the university's recently established administrative unit that promotes the expansion of the university's reach beyond its physical campus to non-traditional students in the global academic market via online and blended courses offered via the Internet. (Click this link to reach Howard-Online's home page)

This note provides brief descriptions of two initiatives to which Howard-Online is giving serious consideration as part of its participation in the university's Gig.U program.

Support for the Public School System in Washington, DC
Howard University has a long-standing, historic relationship with DC Public Schools (DCPS). Its School of Education has trained many of the best teachers and highest level administrators in the DCPS. It has also provided support for curriculum design, assessments, and other efforts designed to improve the quality of the instruction received by DCPS students.

Working with the university's School of Education, Howard-Online proposes to use broadband technologies to extend this support via the development of MOOCs for "flipped classrooms" that will contain high definition multimedia elements -- e.g. video clips, animations, and educational games -- that DCPS students will find more engaging than traditional computer-based educational materials.  

Note: In "flipped classrooms" most course content is delivered via the Web outside of regular class hours; class time is reserved for hands-on experiences, discussions, and Q&A. See GradHacker, "Flipping out? What you need to know about the Flipped Classroom "(Inside Higher Ed, 2/21/12) for a more complete description.
  • Howard-Online is already planning to develop materials for two series of massive open online courses (MOOCs) for its post-secondary degree and certificate programs, and "lite" versions of these MOOCs that could be used in high school and middle school courses. This initiative is described on its eLearning Innovations Hilltop MOOCs pages and College Prep pages.

    -- The first series will cover "black" subjects, e.g., Black History, Black Music, Black Poetry, Black Dance, Black Studies, etc -- subjects in which Howard University's position as a global leader is unchallenged.

    -- The second series will provide introductions to STEM subjects in order to encourage young black students to consider fields based on STEM as career options.
  • As currently planned, the College Prep MOOCs could be delivered to DCPS student workstations via standard broadband connections. However, if Howard University's participation in Gig.U results in higher speed broadband Internet access by the University itself and by selected computer labs in the DCPS, Howard-Online would produce customized editions of its planned MOOCs in high definition formats.
  • Higher speed broadband access would also enable the teachers-in-training enrolled in Howard University's School of Education degree programs to participate in DCPS flipped classes as discussion group leaders, tutors, and mentors via two-way video communications instead of text-based chat rooms, instant messaging, and tweets.
A High-Tech Incubator for Washington, DC Minority Entrepreneurs
A second initiative that might be included as part of Howard-Online's contributions to the University's Gig.U program is the extension of Howard University's high tech incubator for applications developers, the Howard-Apps-Dev Group, from its current focus on Howard University's students to provide support for black and other minority high tech entrepreneurs throughout the Washington, DC area. The home page of the Howard-Apps-Dev Group provides a complete description of its activities. (Cooperation between Howard-Online and Howard-Apps-Dev is facilitated by the fact that the Director of Howard-Online is also the Coordinator of Howard-Apps-Dev.)
  • Students on campus currently gain access to the software development kits (SDKs) and other tools via hands-on dedicated workstations in various computer labs. However, higher speed  broadband access would enable non-campus members of the incubator group to develop and test their mobile apps and other software creations via remote access to the workstations in our labs or, preferably, to virtual developers' workstations in the cloud.
  • Higher speed broadband access would also make it easier for non-campus members of the incubator group to participate in developers' meetings via two-way video communications instead of text-based chat rooms, instant messaging, and tweets.
  • Howard's incubator could also form virtual partnerships with other HBCUs that had access to higher speed broadband access, thereby providing student entrepreneurs enrolled at partner HBCUs with direct exposure to the Washington area's rapidly developing market for apps for mobile platforms and other high tech services. This powerful partnership could transform the Washington, DC area into a "black Silicon Valley", with Howard and its virtual partners playing roles comparable to Stanford University and UC Berkeley.
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