Innovative interactive education prepares students to change the world.
Last month we launched the Class of 2002 at our 196th Commencement exercises here on campus. It was a wonderful day full of celebration and hope, as we sent into the world graduates who have been prepared by the Institute to prosper, to face the inevitable challenges of life, and to make the world a better, safer, more humane place.
A key component of their education experience at Rensselaer has been interactive learningan innovative and creative approach to instruction that readies students to become the discoverers, inventors, and groundbreaking researchers of tomorrow.
The 21st century, with its online, real-time, high-speed economy, presents an unprecedented demand for students with the right technological skills: the ability to collaborate, communicate, and work effectively in teams; and the capability to apply knowledge and think independently. In this respect, Rensselaer is a pioneer in the education of the future. Our students learn through studio-based classroom experiences and hands-on design and research opportunitiesall available at the undergraduate level.
At Rensselaer, classes of 35 to 60 students are engaged at wired workstationsusing cutting-edge tools like Web-based technologies, full-motion video, computer simulation, and other laboratory resources. An instructor and a teaching assistant move from workstation to workstation, observing and coaching. Students download course materials onto their laptops, and communicate with other students and faculty members through electronic discussion groups. It is an innovative blend of discussion and skill-building, high-tech inquiry and problem solvingpreparing scholars to succeed in the new business world.
Interactive learning has been infused throughout all of our undergraduate disciplines in more than 35 studio classrooms, with more being built all the time. In these classrooms, knowledge and application are intertwined seamlessly. For example, in the LITEC (Laboratory for Introduction to Embedded Controls) studio classroom, students build remote-controlled cars in a project-based, team environment. In the Circuits Studio, students develop and test their own circuits. In the O.T. Swanson Multidisciplinary Design Laboratory, students work together in a state-of-the-art facility to tackle challenging real-world problems, often provided by corporate sponsors, from conception through prototype fabrication. All of these labs offer students the opportunity to gain experience in the way industry works today.
Our innovative model for educationwhich earned the first Pew Charitable Trust Award for the Renewal of Undergraduate Education and the first Boeing Outstanding Educator Award, among othershas been talked about, honored, and emulated. Rensselaer also was named to administer a Pew Foundation program, The Center for Academic Transformation, to fund cost-effective educational innovation at other universities in the United States.
Of course, the very thinking that enabled Rensselaer to initiate interactive learning is the same mindset that keeps the Institute pressing forward with The Rensselaer Plan. Rensselaers Anderson Center for Innovation in Undergraduate Education was founded 11 years ago with the continuing mission of making Rensselaer a leader in innovative pedagogy. More recently, the Rensselaer Academy of Electronic Media has become the spawning ground for highly creative visualization software that enables students to learn scientific and engineering principles in ways never before possible. With a grant from the GE Fund and support from the AT&T Foundation, educational technology and new course structures and materials are being developed to accommodate different student learning styles. At the end of the two-year project, a Next-Generation Studio Classroom model will be proposed that will combine modern educational technology with enhanced classroom experiences.
Rensselaer continues to look for new and better methods to evolve educationmeeting the present and future needs of our students, faculty, and global businesses.
Our students are the leaders of tomorrow. They expectand they deservea compelling education experience, grounded in the strong fundamentals for which Rensselaer is known. We continue to breathe life into Amos Eatons vision for hands-on education, a vision that takes on greater importance and urgency in this uncertain world.