President's Perspective on Creative Learning

Thoughts on Creative Learning and Trends

As President Martin begins to close out his time with Roberts Wesleyan College, we asked him to reflect on some of the significant changes that have occurred in higher education since he originally joined Roberts.

You’ve seen a lot of change since you originally joined Roberts. What jumps out for you?

Well, there just has been so much change; it’s hard to know where to start. The entire education industry is so very different from 15 years ago. The increasing pace of technology, as well as changing public perceptions of higher education, has just created monumental changes in the sector.

Technology is the most obvious, and even when I arrived, the need to adapt to rapid changes in email and Internet infrastructure was there. And now today, with an increasing shift to online learning, it’s entirely changing the face of education.

The other change that jumps out is in our facilities. There have certainly been many physical changes and additions to the Roberts campus during my time, and that’s reflective of ensuring that students have the proper space for learning.

What about the general public’s perception of the value of higher education?

That has changed significantly, as well. There are no longer nearly as many people who view higher education as something to be achieved for its own sake. The expectation of what people want from college has shifted quite a bit. Most people now view college as job preparation. A higher education today simply has to have practical value for one’s career. So while we still very much belief in our liberal-arts core, we know that it’s a competitive environment, and we have to prepare men and women for professional careers. This is really reflected in the recent trend that we now give many more B.S. than B.A. degrees. People are looking for professional degrees.

That’s not a bad thing, though. This has really freed us up to develop practicum, internships, graduate capstones and more that lead to much deeper community involvement, and that’s certainly a good thing.

This is also evident in Roberts’ move toward offering more and more adult, time-shortened programs. When we started our focus in this area, we were really the only ones. We started with one program and now have addedmanymore, from strategic marketing and leadership to accelerated nursing and the like. But there’s been a lot of new ground for us to break in that process. These are professionally oriented programs designed for full-time working adults — with all the demands that brings to one’s life. But these are changes, in my opinion, that have done our campus good. Having adult learners as a more involved part of the Roberts community has added tremendous diversity and experience to our learning community, and I’m really proud of that.

What’s next in the world of education? Where are things headed? Trends?

Well, the most obvious is online education. It really has become an integral part of higher education. But, that said, it does not replace the need for community. And I think that’s what Roberts continues to do so well, is to offer a vibrant, diverse learning community.

We’ll continue to see a growing blend of online and in-person courses — cohorts, MOOC lectures and the like. But there is still very much a need for campus life and college-based culture and community. There is just something so powerful about in-person, cohort-based education that is so personal and transformative. These experiences truly translate into professional and personal connections that go far beyond the classroom.

The other big shift is that outcomes-based credits are gaining critical importance. And they should be. People have so many competencies that they bring with them, so seat time is becoming a little less relevant and a skills-based approach is becoming more relevant. That trend will certainly force colleges and universities to rethink how they approach education.

Finally, what sets Roberts apart?

Roberts has been innovative in a lot of areas and, I think, has stayed true to its mission and core despite seeing a lot of growth, change and expansion. But I think the thing that really sets us apart is that we understand the need for spiritual formation and service. That is a unique perspective that we bring to learning, and it really does bond people together uniquely with a common purpose.