Leveling The Learning Curve


Creating a More Inclusive and Connected University
Please explore below free online classes, video cases, and interviews with leading thinkers on the future of digital education.



The definitive guide to post-covid digital education. Based on interviews with 50 leading EdTech and digital learning thought leaders.

Leveling The Learning Curve

"A must-read for university presidents, provosts, and deans looking to chart their institutions' digital futures"

Anant Agarwal Founding CEO, edX

"A crucial book at a crucial time"

Judith Rodin Former President Rockefeller Foundation and UPenn

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MAY 2023


Please see below images and videos from the May 4th and 5th 2023 Leveling The Learning Curve Conference at Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs. See below for speaker bios and links to panel discussions.








Anant Agarwal
Founder and CPO
edX, a 2U company
Dan Avida
John Baker
Nelson Baker
Georgia Tech
Jonathan Becker
Vice Chancellor
Sally Berkowitz
Senior Director
Christopher Booker
Rovy Branon
Vice Provost
University of Washington
Andrew Delbanco
Teagle Foundation
James DeVaney
Associate Vice Provost
University of Michigan
William B. Eimicke
Founding Director, EMPA Program
Columbia University
Philip Fedchin
Technology Strategist
Armando Fox
UC Berkeley
Camille Funk
Director of Learning and Innovation
UC Irvine
Justin Harding
Executive Director
EdPlus at ASU
Jay Hatcher
Senior Vice President
Wiley Educational Services
Andrew Hermalyn
President of Partnerships
Dina Hossain
BRAC University
Meggan Houlihan
OSUN/OER Project
Soulaymane Kachani
Senior Vice Provost
Columbia University
Nurzhamal Karamoldoeva
American University of Central Asia
Erica Kaufman
Joshua Kim
Paul Krause
Vice Provost
eCornell University
Katie Kurtz
Global Head of Learning
Kristin Lehner
PBS Learning Media
Nora Lewis
Vice Dean
University of Pennsylvania
Robin Lewis
Jeff Maggioncalda
Mike Malefakis
Anna Medri
Senior Programme Officer
Ben Nelson
Minerva Project
Matthew Rascoff
Vice Provost
Jilliene Rodriguez
Associate Dean, SIPA
Columbia University
Jeff Rubenstein
Product Manager Educational Cloud
Alexsandra Sanford
Chief Operations Officer
Columbia SIPA
Dhawal Shah
Class Central
David Shein
Vice President
Bard College/OSUN
Adam Stepan
Director, PCDEG
Columbia University
Dan Terris
Al-Quds Bard College
Julia Titova
European Humanities University
Michael Trucano
Global Lead for Innovation in Education
World Bank
Sandesh Tuladhar
Associate Provost
Columbia University
Asaf Weiss
Dumaine Williams
Vice President
Bard College
Catherine Zabriskie
Senior Director
Brown University




Please join us for coffee and breakfast at SIPA's 15th Floor Lobby!

Jilliene Rodriguez

Dean Jilliene Rodriguez welcomes guests and explains the format of the days' events

Do universities have an obligation to share knowledge with those beyond the boundaries of the campus gates? Most university charters say yes to this question, and include the mandate to contribute to the public good, and address the pressing issues facing society in their mission statements.

Can digital tools help universities fulfill this obligation?

On this panel, we will explore how Cornell and Stanford, two leading universities, address these issues. We will also look at two important networks looking to share information widely - The Open Society University Network, a network of 45 universities worldwide, and edX, and global MOOC platform with over 3,500 courses and 40 million global users.

Moderated by: Dean Nora Lewis

Panel: Matthew Rascoff, Anant Agarwal, Sally Berkowitz, Jonathan Becker

Many studies have shown that there exists a "digital divide" - wealthier students and countries have better connectivity, and often better access to digital services, including education. During Covid, this meant that underserved communities suffered even more learning loss.

But is there also a potential "Digital Dividend" to be realized? Can the tools of digital education also help level the learning curve for those who come from underserved communities?

In this panel, we explore ways in which digital tools support increased access. These include Georgia Tech's groundbreaking $7,000 Master's in computer science, World Bank programs to support connectivity and digital learning, Dartmouth's efforts to create "digital scaffolding" for first generation college students, and PBS Learning Media efforts to improve K-12 learning via content sharing.

Moderated by: Dean Jilliene Rodriguez

Panel: Joshua Kim, Nelson Baker, Michael Trucano, Kristin Lehner

William B. Eimicke

Jonathan Becker

Jonathan Becker, Vice Chancellor of the Open Society University Network, shares his vision for a network of institutions focused on sharing and expanding democratic freedoms and liberties. He discusses how OSUN uses the tools of digital education to connect researchers and learners across the 45 universities of the OSUN network.

Becker shows how digital tools can expand peer-to-peer engagement and active, project based learning, both in in-person and online classes.

Creating and managing high quality digital education programs often require skills and expertise that many traditional brick and mortar universities do not have in-house. These include expertise in online course design and management, media production, digital marketing, creation of learning frameworks, and long-term digital education strategy issues. Online Program Managers (OPMs) have stepped in to fill these gaps.

How can universities best partner with outside OPM partners? What competencies and expertise should universities build in-house, and what services make sense to outsource? This panel will include a conversation with leaders from 2U/edX, Wiley Educational Services, Emeritus and the Minerva Project, and reflect on engagement and partnership models.

Moderated by: Soulaymane Kachani

Panel: Jay Hatcher, Andrew Hermalyn, Mike Malefakis, Ben Nelson

One emerging model that some universities have developed is what some call the "In-House OPM Model". This involves the creation of a central business unit that offers central digital education services to schools across the university.

These units often grow to have hundreds of employees, and millions of dollars in revenues. They often have their own teams of dedicated marketing teams, media production units, and full time in-house television studios which produce hundreds of hours of educational content for thousands of online and on campus students.

In this panel, we discuss the structures and challenges of four leading In-House OPMs: eCornell, Arizona State University's EdPlus, University of Washington's Continuum College, and University of California Irvine's Division of Continuing Education.

Moderator: Adam Stepan

Panel: Paul Krause, Justin Harding, Rovy Branon, Camille Funk

Dean Jilliene Rodriguez leads a panel discussion with William B. Eimicke, Soulaymane Kachani, and Adam Stepan, co-authors of the forthcoming Columbia University Press book Leveling The Learning Curve; Creating a More Inclusive and Connected University.

In this panel the authors discuss the research process of the project, which included over 50 interviews and demos with digital education leaders in the United States and abroad. They also discuss the launch in the summer of 2023 of three MOOC's related to the book and conference: "The Blended Learning Toolkit", "Digital Case Method", and "The Public Policy Lab".

Moderator: Jilliene Rodriguez

Panel: William B. Eimicke, Soulaymane Kachani, Adam Stepan

Cocktail Reception.

Please join us in the lobby of SIPA's Kellogg Center on the 15th floor for drinks and hors d'oeuvres.

Introduction by: Andrew Delbanco, Dan Terris

Preview of documentary film on teaching liberal arts remotely with digital tools across the 45 campuses of the Open Society University Network. Followed by Q&A with filmmakers.




Please join us for coffee and breakfast at SIPA's 15th Floor Lobby!

One of the most exciting elements of digital education classes is the ability to scale and share. By investing in high-quality digital content, universities can create sharable assets that can then be locally adapted and delivered. Classes can also be delivered simultaneously across geographies, allowing for rich peer-to-peer learning to happen both between groups of students and instructors.

How does such network learning happen? What are the benefits of teaching in networks? What are the challenges?

In this panel we will explore four cases of networked classes; UC Berkeley's computer science classes, Open Society University Networks Network's Collaborative Course model, the United Nations Development Program's innovative "Learning For Nature" network, and the programs that Stanford Digital Education is developing with high schools across America.

Moderator: Catherine Zabriskie

Panel: Armando Fox, David Shein, Anna Medri, Matthew Rascoff

One of the exciting frontiers for the development of innovative forms of learning are new digital platforms for student engagement. How can higher education move "Beyond Zoom" and allow rich peer-to-peer learning to happen online?

In this panel, we will explore the new zoom alternative Engageli, a tool which blurs the lines between synchronous and asynchronous interaction, Brightspace, a learning management system (LMS) which is designing itself around student-to-student engagement. We will also explore Bard College and OSUN's use of tools such as Padlet and Perusal to allow its writing rich pedagogy to happen online.

Moderator: Dumaine Williams

Panel: Dan Avida, John Baker, Philip Fedchin, Erica Kaufman

MOOCs stormed onto center stage in 2012 and 2013 promising to disrupt higher education in the same way that platforms such as Amazon, Uber and Facebook had disrupted other industries. Within a few short years, promised one MOOC CEO, most traditional universities would be extinct, replaced by online MOOC platforms.

This did not happen, and in the media, the narrative that MOOCs had failed took hold. MOOCs, the story was told, flashed and fizzled.

But MOOCs have evolved and adapted, and many would now argue that they are poised to have a "MOOC 2.0" moment. MOOCs have proven powerful tools for students both on-campus and off, and MOOC platforms have been used to create national digital education programs in countries such as India and Israel. In this panel, we will hear from the leaders of the two largest MOOC platforms, edX and Coursera, and learn about two leading national programs.

Moderator: Joshua Kim

Panel: Anant Agarwal,Jeff Maggioncalda, Asaf Weiss, Dhawal Shah

Presentation: William Eimicke and Adam Stepan

William B. Eimicke and Adam Stepan provide an overview of the digital case programs they have helped develop at Columbia University and now with the 45 member strong Open Society University Network.

Professor Eimicke will explain how case method forms a core part of his teaching at SIPA, and share examples of how video and written cases allow students to grabble with complex policy issues. Filmmaker and Picker Center for Digital Education Director Adam Stepan explains how the program moved from one based on working with PBS professionals, to one focused on training student filmmakers. Stepan will explore how - with digital support and minimum funding - fantastic cases can be created by professor/student teams.

Will short, modular "Digital Case Studies" be the "Ted Talks" of academia? How can student filmmakers best be teamed with professors to make short documentary style films that explore key issues under study?

In this panel we will hear from digital storytelling professors from Columbia and across the OSUN network on how to set up and run a network of student filmmakers and connect them with faculty for the creation of digital cases.

Moderator: Robin Lewis

Panel: Dina Hossain, Christopher Booker, Nurzhamal Karamoldoeva, Julia Titova

Tools such as ChatGPT and other AI powered "bots" exploded onto the consciousness of most university professionals in November 2022. The initial reaction was one of widespread panic. Would AI make traditional homework, evaluation, and assessments of learning irrelevant? How could these new tools be detected and removed from campuses?

By early 2023, a new narrative emerged which explored how AI may enable long held goals such as truly adaptive learning. For content creators and those sharing Open Educational Resources, or OER, new AI tools could finally open the door to the creation of custom-made learning experiences for individual students.

In this panel we will learn about how industry leaders Google and YouTube view the AI movement and its impact on digital education. We will also hear from leaders at PBS Learning Media and the OER project of the Open Society University Network on how AI will impact their sharing and use of digital assets.

Moderator: Adam Stepan

Panel: Jeff Rubenstein, Katie Kurtz, Kristin Lehner, Meggan Houlihan

Soulaymane Kachani

Columbia's senior Vice Provost will close our event and make concluding remarks.




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