A new coalition of former college presidents and higher education experts, announced today, will help colleges and universities more effectively use technology to spark students’ intrinsic curiosity and improve academic outcomes. Convened by the pioneering inquiry-based engagement platform Packback, the initiative, known as the Academic Innovation Board, will surface new ideas and best practices for institutions and faculty as the COVID-19 pandemic accelerates the need for effective online learning.

“The impact of COVID-19 is requiring the majority of college students to continue their education online. It is critical that they have access to the highest quality and most effective teaching and learning experiences,” says 

  • Muriel Howard, former President at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) and former President at SUNY Buffalo State College. “I am excited about working with my colleagues to help formulate and review the best practices and strategies that will offer each student a more supportive, and effective learning environment to improve academic outcomes.”

    As the impact of the pandemic continues to unfold on campuses around the country, many institutions are simultaneously managing an ongoing shift to remote and hybrid courses while also addressing the public health needs of their communities. To support faculty and administrators through this volatile period, the Academic Innovation Board will meet regularly to provide timely and actionable insights that will facilitate better use of technology and more effective pedagogy in online settings. Made up of institutional leaders and expert researchers from 2- and 4-year institutions, policy and advocacy groups, and nonprofit membership associations, the Board is designed to bring diverse and divergent perspectives to bear on addressing an increasingly urgent challenge in higher education.

    “At a time when the need for effective online learning has never been greater, we have a unique and urgent opportunity to bring together academic leaders and technology experts to create more intentional online pedagogy,” said Dr. Eduardo Padrón, President Emeritus of Miami Dade College. “Packback is uniquely positioned to lead this effort because of its own commitment to developing technology in collaboration with faculty and administrators, and building an effective and unique platform that maximizes student engagement in the learning process.”

    The Board will be convened and organized by Packback, whose AI technology enables inquiry-based online discussion for over 3,000 instructors and over 634,000 students, who have posted 12 million questions and responses to date. Rooted in extensive research about the strategies that lead to intrinsic motivation among students, Packback’s platform will serve as the foundation for the Board’s discussions about effective pedagogical practice in online learning. A soon-to-be-released study conducted in partnership with 10 higher education institutions indicates that students in classes that use Packback write longer posts, cite more sources, and earn higher course grades than those who use traditional discussion platforms.

    “EdTech companies play an enormous role in the future of education, particularly in the time of COVID-19. From privacy considerations, to pricing, to design decisions around what tools will be most impactful in the classroom, the choices made by EdTech companies have material impacts on the students and instructors who use them,” said 

  • Jessica Tenuta, Packback’s Chief Product Officer. “Accordingly, EdTech needs to be guided by and held accountable by the education community. This board presents an opportunity for Packback to come together with the most respected leaders in higher education across state systems, four-year institutions, community colleges, and fully online institutions to design the intentional educational technologies of the future.”

    The members of the Academic Innovation Board include:

    • Barbara Brittingham, Former President, New England Commission of Higher Education
    • Chris Bustamante, Former President at Rio Salado College
    • John Cavanaugh, Former President at Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area (D.C.); Chancellor Emeritus at PASSHE
    • Marie Cini, Provost Emerita at University of Maryland Global Campus, Chief Strategy Officer at Ed2WORK
    • Rufus Glasper, President and CEO of the League for Innovation, Chancellor Emeritus at Maricopa Community College District
    • Marshall Hill, Former President at NC-SARA
    • Kathleen Ives, Director of Higher Education Transformation at NLET, Former CEO at Online Learning Consortium
    • Ann McGee, President Emerita at Seminole State College
    • Rich Pattenaude, President Emeritus at Ashford University; Chancellor Emeritus at the UMaine system
    • Mick Starcevich, Former President at Kirkwood Community College
    • Muriel Howard, Former President at AASCU; Former President at SUNY Buffalo State College
    • Eduardo J. Padrón, President Emeritus of Miami Dade College; Presidential Medal of Freedom honoree
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    eCampus News staff and wire reports