*** Empire State College is in the process of moving to an open source learning platform (called Moodle). During this transition the Project for Critical Inquiry will be on hiatus. The project will return in 2013. Stay tuned!***
The Project for Critical Inquiry is an Empire State College venue for interdisciplinary work in an open learning environment. Increasingly, educational resources– electronic books, public domain lectures via video, online encyclopedias (not to mention, wikipedia), and thousands of other sources of information– are freely available to students. It is common wisdom that the internet has allowed anybody and everybody to “become an expert” merely by being able to use a search engine. This common wisdom is wrong. Or, perhaps it is not “wrong” so much as it vastly oversimplifies the relationship between information, knowledge, wisdom, and education. Expertise is a complex phenomenon, and building expertise in an academic sense takes serious work, and ongoing guidance. At Empire State College that guidance usually comes from a faculty mentor. Faculty mentors do not confer their own (usually extensive) expertise, they help you to develop your own expertise over the course of your studies. Critical inquiry into your chosen area of study can help you move from being a passive consumer of information to being somebody who understands the context, use, implications, and even history of that information.
As the old path to expertise is challenged by technological, sociological, and economic transformations, it would be a mistake to renounce the concept of expertise entirely. Critical Inquiry takes advantage of the increasingly open educational environment and combines the advantages of openness with a rigorous model of 21st century education. The Critical Inquiry approach has these features:
- Students are encouraged to engage in multi-term investigations of academic issues, problems, topics, or interests. The Project attempts to break the “iron triangle” of credit, calendar, and courses by allowing students to engage in learning both formally (i.e. for registered credits) and informally (in which case credits can be evaluated once the learning is complete).
- Each academic year will have a theme which will be investigated from a number interdisciplinary perspectives. The theme for 2011-2012 is “Freedom”.
- The affiliated faculty are committed to maintaining high standards of critical thinking, research, writing, and thoughtfulness. Not only are these the consummate elements of a college education, they are also skills highly prized by employers.
- By using a social learning approach, students have embedded in their PCI education the information literacy, media navigation, and analytical skills to succeed in the networked and rapidly evolving media environment of the global economy.
- Although PCI students will be expected to develop the ability to understand complex conceptual schemes, the PCI is an intensely “hands on” experience. As a student, you will be pushed to excel, and to contribute to a community of learners.
The Project for Critical Inquiry is currently hosted in a social learning environment called GoingOn. This online environment uses versions of the social networking features found in Facebook, Google+, and countless other imitators, but GoingOn was built specifically for academic communities and networks. For more information, please contact Dr. Frank Vander Valk at Frank.Vandervalk@esc.edu.