Student success through quality instruction
04-12-2021 08:33am

Student success through quality instruction

By Jonathan Gyurko, Association of College and University Educators

This Viewpoint is part of an ongoing series, “Building a brighter future: Big ideas for postsecondary education.” In this series, we ask innovators what could make a difference to learners in 2021 and beyond.    

Jonathan Gyurko is president and co-founder of the Association of College and University Educators.


So here’s the latest: college students are thrilled to return to campus. Who wouldn’t be excited to see friends, go to socially distant parties, and get out of homes made crowded by the pandemic?

But as for class, we’re hearing that many students would rather log-on from their dorms and stay in pajamas.

It’s not because online courses are consistently high quality. For sure, there are some amazing online offerings. But many colleges and universities struggled last Spring to fully “go remote” and provide faculty with a modicum of training to teach online.

We suspect that students struggle to see the value in physically going to class. If they can sit in the comfort of their room and watch a professor lecture, why trek across the quad to see the same thing?

Advocates of online learning and disruptive technologies likely applaud students’ candor. It’s evidence, some may argue, that place-based learning is dead and should be replaced with courses that happen anywhere and anytime. The argument is not without its merits.

We take away a different lesson. Research has identified teaching practices that trigger engagement, promote active learning, engender collaboration, and develop new knowledge and skills whether in-person, online, or in blended environments. But broadly speaking, students aren’t experiencing this caliber of instruction — in any modality — because most faculty have had little training in it. Faculty are world-class researchers and subject-matter experts. But for generations, and through no fault of their own, the nature of their preparation gives teaching short shrift.

It may seem obvious, but a truly transformational idea, made plain by the pandemic, is to prepare and credential the country’s 1.5 million college educators in evidence-based instruction. By empowering faculty with proven teaching practices, many more students will be better prepared for rewarding lives and careers.

The Association of College and University Educators (ACUE) is leading this movement, offering the only standards-aligned and evidence-based college teaching credential in the United States. Major initiatives are underway, including work funded by the Charles Koch Foundation with Cal State, Texas A&M, CUNY, and in Missouri, through the National Association of System Heads. Ninety-eight percent of faculty find ACUE’s training relevant. They’re learning and implementing dozens of proven approaches. Their students are earning higher grades, completing more courses, and closing equity gaps. Many ACUE-credentialed faculty report that the experience is career-changing.

For years, higher education has emphasized “access,” “affordability,” and “innovation.” It’s time to add “quality” to the list. Quality transcends any medium. It gets students logged-on early and actively engaged. It deepens learning and empowerment. And it draws students and faculty together.

The Charles Koch Foundation partners with social entrepreneurs to drive societal progress through academic research and innovations that help all learners realize their potential. Read more about the Foundation’s support for education.  

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