Interactive University project wins national acclaim

By Diane Ainsworth, Public Affairs

12 September 2001 | Berkeley’s Interactive University project — a groundbreaking, technology-based Internet program to explore ways of making university resources more accessible to K-12 teachers and students — has been awarded the prestigious Educause Award for Exemplary Practices in Information Technology Solutions.

Educause, which represents more than 1,800 colleges, universities and educational organizations, gives the award to information technology projects that have identified and solved significant problems with creativity, efficiency and effectiveness worthy of emulation.

“The key idea behind the Interactive University project is to use the Internet to open up and connect the research content and community of the Berkeley campus to K-12 schools and the public at large,” said David Greenbaum, director of the Interactive University project. “But one of the most important accomplishments has been to break down barriers and bring together campus faculty, students and staff with K-12 teachers and curriculum specialists in collaborative and respectful partnerships.”

“Berkeley’s Interactive University project has greatly contributed to one of my highest priorities, that of enhancing the student academic experience,” added Chancellor Berdahl in congratulating project members.

The Interactive University project was launched five years ago to address the growing need for more ways to reach out to Bay Area schools and fulfilling Berkeley’s institutional mission of public service. The IU, a unit in the campus’s Information Systems and Technology division, is led by Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Paul Gray and has included more than 40 campus units as partners.

Since 1999, the IU has been building an “ecosystem” for technology-mediated university and K-12 education projects designed to be scaled up to meet demand from the educational community.

“The Interactive University project is one of the few campus-wide efforts in the country to use technology to engage a research university with K-12 and the public,” Greenbaum said. “We are trying to build a model of how the university as a whole can use the Internet and partnerships to democratize its knowledge and community.”

In 1999, in partnership with the Oakland and San Francisco Unified School Districts, the project raised several millions of dollars of federal and state grants, as well as receiving support from the UC Office of the President, the Chancellor’s Office, and corporate donors. The IU then funded more than 25 campus units in a dozen IU Internet Learning Community Projects. In these projects, campus faculty, staff, and students work with K-12 teachers and curriculum specialists to build and share digital learning materials based on Berkeley content.

“One of the most important aspects of the Interactive University has been the partnership of many different units on campus,” Greenbaum said. “Berkeley’s partners are the key to IU’s work. The involvement of faculty, academic departments, organized research units, and museums and libraries from the sciences, social sciences and humanities has been critical to bringing a rich array of people and content to K-12 teachers and learners.”

For its next major phase of work, which will begin in the fall of 2002, the IU is proposing to build a Berkeley Open Learning Environment that will give K-12 teachers a “digital box” of Berkeley educational materials from which they will be able to assemble Web “learning objects” to support classroom learning and access integrated K-12 curriculum. Through this environment, the IU hopes to allow many schools to participate in Web events in which Berkeley researchers and students interact with large numbers of elementary, middle and high school teachers and/or students.

Besides its distinction of being a remarkably comprehensive model for the integration of research, teaching and service, the Interactive University “is also exemplary in its skillful leveraging of resources through collaboration, and its sensitivity to the decentralized, distributed academic culture,” Educause representatives said.

“Because of the extraordinary work of the campus and school partners in the project, the IU has had a noticeable impact on teacher professional development, student achievement and systemic partnerships with Bay Area school districts,“ Greenbaum added.

Visit for information on the Interactive University project and the campus and school partners who are part of it.


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