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Princeton is well-known as a dynamic research university that focuses on undergraduate education. The University’s faculty members are not only experts in their respective fields but also educators who share their knowledge and expertise with students. In order to facilitate the learning experience, several departments throughout the University have begun to implement alternatives to the traditional in-class lecture, including innovative learning methods such as video lectures, online discussion boards and beginner’s precepts. Princeton prides itself on the diversity of its student body, not just in the geographic sense, but also in terms of intellectual interests. In this same spirit of academic diversity, the Board encourages departments to expand the use of these innovative learning methods.

The University’s computer science department is the prime example of a department that has made great strides in experimenting with its learning methods by offering all three of the mechanisms mentioned previously. This fall, the department is offering COS 226: Algorithms and Data Structures in two formats — a general lecture with a typical size of 200-250 students, as well as a second lecture, provided as an alternative to the first, with enrollment capped at 30 students. In order to be placed into the latter lecture, students had to apply during the first week of classes. In this alternative version of the course, students have the ability to watch video lectures prior to class. During class time, students are able to participate in “short presentations, discussions, and individual or group problem solving exercises,” according to the University’s Office of the Registrar. The department has also implemented beginner’s precepts in introductory courses such as COS 126: General Computer Science and utilized the forum Piazza as a complement to the instructor’s lectures and an aid during studying.

The Board believes that diversification of academic learning should be occurring in more departments outside of computer science. Learning is not a uniform experience and we should not limit ourselves as a university by attempting to educate individuals, who each learn and think differently, under one defined standard of instruction. Video lectures, online discussion boards and beginner’s precepts have shown to be effective mechanisms for learning in several of the courses offered at the University. As opposed to in-class lectures, video lectures give students the ability to access online lectures at all times through Blackboard. This feature allows students to review material covered in class and professors to increase class time for discussion by assigning lectures ahead of time. Similarly, allowing for the creation of a beginner’s precept would enable the instructor to move at a pace that fits each student’s experience level more accurately. Moreover, beginner’s precepts serve to increase the diversity of perspectives in a class by attracting students from a variety of majors. While numerous departments have already adopted the interactive online forum Piazza as a tool for learning, most departments are not as aggressive in adopting new technology as they should be.

The University educates thousands of students with a wide range of academic interests and backgrounds, and advances in technology have and will continue to allow instructors to provide students with the best learning environment possible. These innovations can ensure that Princeton maximizes flexibility in learning so that both students and professors get the most out of their courses. The Board encourages the departments of the University to expand upon these academic innovations so that more students are able to benefit from these learning mechanisms.

TheEditorial Boardis an independent body and decides its opinions separately from the regular staff and editors of The Daily Princetonian. The Board answers only to its Chair, the Opinion Editor and the Editor-in-Chief.

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