• Cutting Edge

Inside ASU’s ‘paradigm shift’ for learning

As online learning becomes more of a mainstay in higher education, Arizona State University is looking at the changing definition of what a “learner” is, says university Chief Information Officer Lev Gonick.

Last month, the university announced a new program called Study Hall, created in partnership with YouTube and Crash Course. The program allows learners to enroll in classes that start on YouTube and could end in college credits. Learners pay $25 to sign up and take a full online course through ASU, and they can pay $400 to receive college credit after completion.

As leader of the university’s IT office, Gonick’s job includes making programs like Study Hall work at an ever-increasing scale. It also includes another recent project in which the university created a digital wallet that uses blockchain technology to house credentials and credits. The university wants to scale its work globally, Gonick says.

“One of the other major initiatives that we’re involved in is actually helping to facilitate and orchestrate a global conversation which we call the Trusted Learner Network,” Gonick says. “Like all these emergent technologies, it’s really complicated and messy.”

The Trusted Learner Network will facilitate sharing and ingesting of credentials from one university to another, Gonick says. The digital credential efforts, along with Study Hall and the university’s work in the metaverse, add up to a changing perspective on what it means to serve learners in higher education, the CIO says.

“It is a paradigm shift, no doubt about it,” Gonick says. “I think it’s in many ways trying to live up to our own ethical core, which is around accessibility. It doesn’t say trying to support student access and success for those who only get degrees. Our mission is actually to support the needs of our state and more broadly the needs of learners all over the country and beyond.”

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Every two weeks, the Cutting EDge Podcast will bring you the latest in higher education technology news and analysis. The program will explore trending topics in depth and highlight news across the campus IT landscape. Each episode will feature conversations with top executives across higher education on things like hybrid learning, emerging technology, cybersecurity and modernization.

Hosted by Jake Williams

Jake Williams is the vice president of content and community for StateScoop & EdScoop at Scoop News Group. Williams has spent nearly a decade in the government IT market, covering the ins-and-outs of state and local government as well as higher education. Williams started his journalism career in regional journalism in his native Pennsylvania, and also worked as a reporter for Campaigns & Elections magazine.