Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Minerva: a non-traditional for-profit university

This article from the 1 Sept 2014 issue of The Atlantic discusses an alternative to MOOCs being offered through a new for-profit university: Minerva. No bricks and mortar institution here. Rather students live in a different part of the world each year and attend online real-time classes - not lectures. And enrolment is selective, not massive. What I do like about this approach is that it does away with the traditional lecture assuming that students are smart enough to google things they don't know and instead uses class time (online) for applying the knowledge. Pre-class reading is encouraged by short quizzes administered at the beginning of each class in a similar manner to Team-Based Learning. To encourage that students remain focused throughout the class, students are warned that sometime during the class there will be a surprise pop quiz on the material being discussed. Students work in teams on problems that apply the material learned outside of class. Sounds like Team-Based Learning to me.

I still believe that being in the real-time physical presence of instructors and fellow colleagues improves learning - humans are a social species. However, I do think that moving rote learning out of the classroom and instead using class time for active learning activities will produce deeper learning. There is ample published evidence to support this claim. Interesting that students of Minerva indicate that attending class is exhausting because there is never a moment when they can let their attention wander - active learning requires focus on the task at hand whether that is solving problems or discussing learned concepts with fellow students. Forty-five minutes of exhaustive focus on learning, however, will likely pay dividends later when the learning, knowledge, skills are still deeply embedded within students, accessible when needed during their post-university lives.


Wood G. 2014. The Future of College? The Atlantic, [Internet] August 13. Available from