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Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Learning Engineering: Making Education More "Professional" | Features - Campus Technology.

A Q&A with Ellen Wagner


Learning engineering has taken many forms since the term was coined by Herbert Simon back in the 1960s, explains Mary Grush, Editor and Conference Program Director, Campus Technology. 

"The evolution of ed tech has always demonstrated that as tech platforms get more complex, product teams turn to other disciplines to get the expertise they need."
Photo: Ellen Wagner
Ellen Wagner, who chairs IEEE's ICICLE SIG on Learning Engineering Among the Professions offers some perspective — from Simon's original insight to LE's application and potential today.

Mary Grush: Some 50-plus years ago, Herbert Simon (who we remember today as a famed economist and Nobel Prize winner), coined the term "learning engineering" — a term we are hearing a lot these days. What was "learning engineering" in Simon's original context?

Ellen Wagner: Back in 1967 Herb Simon shared a radical vision that colleges and universities could improve their professionalism by increasing the use of scientific methods and business processes in university administration and operation. In today's era of accountability, analytics, "big data", and performance funding, Simon's recommendations sound almost quaint, don't they?

But by increasing the use of scientific methods and business processes, Simon believed it would be possible to improve the returns on investment in college infrastructure and operational management, which in turn would lead to increased efficiency and better outcomes in curricular development, teaching, and ultimately, in student learning. Does this sound more familiar? Maybe even a bit more like performance-based funding, something that is already in place in 34 states?

Among his suggested strategies for making colleges and universities more professional settings for teaching and learning, Simon believed there might be value in providing college presidents with a "learning engineer" [see Simon, "The Job of a College President," p. 77] — an expert professional in the design of learning environments.

As Simon envisioned this role, the learning engineer would be an institutional specialist with several responsibilities related to optimizing university productivity: Specifically, they would be responsible to work collaboratively with faculty to design learning experiences in particular disciplines. They would also be expected to work with administration to improve the design of the broader campus environment to facilitate student learning and faculty improvements. And, they would be expected to introduce new disciplines such as cognitive psychology, along with learning machines and computer assisted instruction — remember, this was 1967 — to various disciplines on campus.
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Source: Campus Technology


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