Those who attended the 2010 Summit of the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education (NITLE) will recognize the theme of this issue of Academic Commons: “Advancing towards Liberal Arts 3.0.” Conceived by the planners of that event, the theme gestures toward the great change we are seeing in technologies and the information environment. As the planners of the NITLE Summit observed, “…technology is decentralized, virtualized capital. It is accessible and ownable by individuals, not just institutions. Social media and collective intelligence have changed how we interact with technology, information, and each other, and the cloud and mobility make information and the tools to use it ubiquitous.”
As we “advance towards liberal arts 3.0” within this changed and changing environment, how are we to understand how liberal education functions, what it means, and what it will become? One Summit planner, Michael Spalti, associate university librarian for systems at Willamette University, offered this: “The challenge I see is not defining the future conceptually but promoting the kind of risky behavior that will create it.”
With this challenge in mind, this issue of Academic Commonspresents case studies of four projects that are seeking to create the future of liberal education. Each of these projects received a NITLE Community Contribution Award in December 2009. Notably, each connects integrally with the student experience: students’ actual engagement with research, with texts, with learning partners. Students actively engaged with the learning process, we understand, learn better. Yet even as they return to principles at the core of liberal education, these projects re-frame those principles by making use of and accounting for the impact of the technologies that surround us.
We invite you to read these studies, offer comments, ask questions, and share them with colleagues.