11 leaders shaping the future of higher education

[Listed in alphabetical order by first name]


Name/Title: Brian Lukoff, Program Director for Learning Catalytics at Pearson Education

Bio: Previously a Postdoctoral Fellow in Technology and Education at the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard University, Lukoff was also co-founder and CEO of Learning Catalytics, which Pearson acquired in 2013. He has also taught mathematics at Harvard University and Boston University. He received a Ph.D. from the Stanford University School of Education where he studied educational measurement and technology. He also holds an M.S. in statistics from Stanford University and a B.A. in mathematics from Cornell University.

The game changer: The willingness of faculty to rethink the lecture format and to embrace active learning approaches, including the flipped classroom, peer instruction, team-based learning, and more. A key long-term benefit of these approaches is the “network effect” that is created when a critical mass of faculty at a particular institution adopt active learning strategies, because that will help reset students’ expectations about what should be happening in the classroom and about the nature of learning more generally.

Future trend: A move towards more alternatives to traditional higher education institutions. But the challenge is in credentialing—I don’t think the alternatives will truly take off until an alternative certification provides the same benefits as having a college degree on a resume.

Passion: Assessment. Assessment naturally drives learning—what is tested is what gets taught—and so I think improving the ways in which we assess students is the essential avenue to improving learning outcomes.  In particular, I think it’s important to shift from a mindset of “knowing” to “doing” as the assessment of the latter will not only tell us much more about students’ capacity to apply the skills they have learned but will also push students to learn more deeply.

Hobby: I love playing the piano.

Quote/Belief: “Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.”  — Albert Einstein


Name/Title: Crystal Sands, Director of the Online Writing Lab at Excelsior College.

Bio: Sands has worked for nearly 20 years teaching college writing and began teaching online ten years ago. She has served as a writing program director, led writing across the curriculum initiatives, and worked as a curriculum designer and teacher trainer for several institutions. She has also published textbooks and articles on a variety of issues in writing, reading, literature, and education.

The game-changer: Open-source resources. While MOOCs remain controversial, I think the lessons they can teach us about engaging students online are important and can inform those of us who are not teaching in such large online settings. Open-source textbooks and resources like free online writing labs provide teachers and students with opportunities to reduce some of the costs of college. They also provide incoming college students with free opportunities to prepare for their college experiences.

Future trend: Again, open-source resources. As tenure and promotion committees realize the value of this kind of contribution, I think more academics, those who see the benefits of open-source resources for students, will be able to devote more time to creating these resources. Perhaps idealistically, I foresee a ‘Maker Movement’ of sorts in higher education that has the potential to change the way we teach, even in our face-to-face classrooms.

Passion: As a writing teacher and first-generation college student, I am probably most passionate about writing and what we as educators can do to help improve students’ writing skills to ensure that students learn how to use those skills in a variety of situations. We know that writing skills make an important difference in employment and promotion. When we teach students to be strong, flexible writers, we are arming them with tools that can change their lives.

Hobby: I am a foodie! I love to cook from scratch. My husband and I also have an organic garden where we live in Maine. I am fascinated by the power of seed, sun, and water to make the food that sustains us.

Quote/Belief: “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” — Henry David Thoreau