BYU-Idaho: Leading by innovation

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  • blam ,
    June 20, 2012 3:19 a.m.

    Sorry you and your kids had a poor experience. I recently graduated from BYU-I, and loved my experience. I heard very few complaints. Those I did hear fall into two categories.
    First, students that gave insufficient effort. Some accepted responsibility. But many blamed the school for shortened semesters, or the learning model, rather than lack of personal preparation. I know, because sometimes I failed to prepare and whined about the system. Sure it's difficult, but college should stretch us. Blaming others can seem easier than taking personal responsibility.
    Second, students that pushed the limits of a dress or honor code they freely committed to live upon enrolling. It's interesting that I've never heard anyone complain about the code when they first arrive, only after they violate it and are reminded of their commitment. I am not preaching here because I was reminded more than once to be clean-shaven. I, predictably, whined. But the failure to keep my commitment wasn't the schools fault. They kept their commitment to me. I decided I should keep my commitment to them.
    My take... Great experience. Great faculty. Great education. Great school. And private rooms were readily available.

  • RexburgMom REXBURG, ID
    Oct. 20, 2011 9:23 a.m.

    Being among students and faculty who share your beliefs and standards is unique and rewarding. My kids made some great friends, learned from excellent teachers. You can get a great undergraduate education at BYU-I. But after a few years my own kids and their friends have seen and personally experienced the negatives that are behind the projected image.

    Some faculty are open about their frustration with their friends privately. I am friends with faculty and spouses in my ward and in town; also with other parents of students who attend. There is cynicism, burnout, stress, discouragement and distrust of the administration.

    Theres a weird feeling of being controlled here at BYU-I. Every little move is regulated. For example, to avoid temptation, everyone is required to share a room with a roommate. Most students must live in dorms or apartment complexes so that they might teach one another like the Learning Model requires. Forget about your own preference to rent your own room off campus for privacy and quiet. And if you dont report a roommates infractions of the honor code, you are in trouble and called before the honor committee to answer for it.

  • welcomethemall Nampa, ID
    Oct. 19, 2011 3:17 p.m.

    Armstrong has a great question... documentation is always good.

    All I can offer is personal anecdotes.

    My daughters are having a tremendous experience on that campus. My oldest is graduating having had presitgious internships in DC and New York (obtained through the school -- no help from daddy) and has qualified for grants to attend a serious law school. She's the kind of kid who would have done that anywhere... but BYUI didn't seem to hold her back.

    The next daughter is just finishing her frshman year - but seems to be on a similar track. And everyone's testimonies seem to be just fine.

    The things I hear from all the grumpygusses here are the same things I hear from people at the university where I teach (as an adjunct) in the graduate business school. The professors don't care, the students are stupid, the administration only cares about money, there is not enough/too much religion... blah blah.

    I am impressed with the significant risk the University has taken in trying something new. The jury will not be in for years, when the alumni start ponying up the dinero... but it looks like a good start.

  • John Armstrong Buena Vista, VA
    Oct. 19, 2011 10:40 a.m.

    The goals were to expand access, keep costs down, and improve the quality of student learning. The series of articles provided evidence of the first two but not of the third. Showing that student evaluations of instructors have inched up does not count as evidence of improved student learning since course evaluations have been shown to correlate with the grades the students expect in the course but not with how much students learned in the course.

    The third article mentions the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA). Does BYU-Idaho administer the CLA to its students? If so, what have the results been? Comparing pre-innovation and post-innovation CLA results would help determine whether the quality of student thinking and writing has gone up or down in recent years. CLA results for BYU-Idaho would also show how the university compares to a national sample of colleges and universities with regard to these important skills.

  • RexburgMom REXBURG, ID
    Oct. 19, 2011 9:57 a.m.

    Shortened 13-week semesters cause real problems. Content has been cut in order to fit, meaning less time for reading, research, projects, and writing. Everything is condensed and intense for both teachers and students. More students can attend, but education quality is worse.

    BYU-Is Learning Model doesnt work in large classes or subjects like math or science. Professors try to do group projects and presentations but there are always slackers who try to coast on the work of a few. A lot of time is wasted with these gimmicks.

    Nothing is new here. Remember peer teaching? Trends in education come and go. Good teachers already lead discussions in class, help the students learn to think, read, study, and work on projects with their peers. To be effective, a good teacher should be allowed to teach in the way that fits their personality. But at BYU-I professors are forced into the Learning Model.

    My son told me about frustration in his calculus class for both teacher and students. Finally the teacher returned to his favorite way of teaching and the class improved greatly. I hope other schools dont try to copy this failed experiment.

  • gatsby Murray, utah
    Oct. 19, 2011 9:19 a.m.

    I thoroughly enjoyed these articles!! I applaud all who seriously, and bravely look at changes in ways to make a college education more affordable and more accessible, although I don't agree that everyone needs to go to college. As someone who pursued a Ph.D. with the intention of becoming an academic, I also am amazed at faculty who are willing to do without all the "trappings" of academia i.e. tenure, publishing etc. Universities anywhere, that truly focus on undergraduate teaching should be applauded.

    Thanks to the Deseret News for calling my attention to what is happening up at BYU Idaho. The "results" remain to be seen, but surely such efforts are worth noting.

  • sdavis1960 Rexburg, ID
    Oct. 19, 2011 8:49 a.m.

    To RexburgMom and BYUI Professor, who curiously sound like the same person, I have a daughter attending, a son who just graduated, and a daughter-in-law also a recent graduate and their collective experiences are vastly different than what you have described. My son even changed majors three times and had exceeded the credit guideline, but the university was generous in working with him. Regarding 13 week semesters, they have had no complaints and while they did have to work hard (novel idea), they had 26 weeks in school and 26 weeks to work and participate in internships. As BYU-Idaho is a church school with a mission to "build testimonies" it should be no surprise that the gospel is front and center and if someone feels it is crammed down their throats, they probably should consider a secular school that likely is better fit for their values and standards.

    To Larry M., the online web page states 15 resident credits is the minimum (not 30) and students in the Pathway Program start their online degree through BYU-Idaho with no resident credit requirement and a tuition of $65 per credit and no cost for the religion courses.

  • RexburgMom REXBURG, ID
    Oct. 19, 2011 8:22 a.m.

    Nothing that BYU-I is doing can be or should be copied by public schools. The value of online classes is limited. Some students do well with online classes; some do their best learning in a regular classroom. Online courses are only helpful for certain types of classes. I can imagine an English literature class online, but not a chemistry or physics class. And in a literature class, a student can gain more understanding as the teacher explains and as the students share their ideas. All that interaction is missing online. Can you imagine learning physics without the teacher using the chalkboard, answering questions, and demonstrating principles of physics with experiments?

    Human beings are generally social and thrive when they can interact with others in a positive learning environment. Even the quiet students (like I was) who avoid speaking in class, can learn and benefit as they listen carefully to everyone else.

    Ive taken a few long-distance courses; I did learn, and I enjoyed some of it. But its easy to get distracted and its really second best. Nothing can replace being with other students learning from an effective teacher.

  • RyanWhiting OREM, UT
    Oct. 18, 2011 9:27 p.m.

    Another informative article. Thanks for teaching us about this university. It is great to see how BYUI has grown and managed that huge growth in a positive way.

    I have had many friends go to BYUI (I went to a different university) and they all loved their time there. I am excited to see the growth in the city with the university, the temple, and other economic/business developments. This has been a great underdog story!

  • junkgeek Agua Dulce, TX
    Oct. 18, 2011 9:14 p.m.

    Eyring and Christensen (from Harvard) are basically proposing "solutions" that will reduce the competition to the elite schools.

    Other elite universities (I do not include BYUI here) have looked at these solutions for years and they are *not* rushing to implement this. Just because Christensen says it's 'disruptive' means nothing. Just because others label it "innovative" doesn't mean it is. When the Ivies start implementing this, then we can talk.

  • junkgeek Agua Dulce, TX
    Oct. 18, 2011 8:58 p.m.

    The *only* reason students agree to the summer model is because they are *desperate* for the BYU label. Are the top professors teaching in the summer?

    Graduate schools and employers have a very jaundiced view of "distance"/"online" learning.

  • mightymite DRAPER, UT
    Oct. 18, 2011 6:46 p.m.

    Not much innovation here. The articles read mor like an advertisment then a news story. BYU-I is secong rate and gets the left overs of those not admitted to BYU. This series of articles will surely be a yawner, just another ad campaign for the church.

  • FDRfan safety dictates, ID
    Oct. 18, 2011 5:50 p.m.

    In addition to having online classes beamed in from remote sites why not beam out classes to other places. The church school system could hire the best physics professors and have them teach to a local site as well as sites at other church schools. Long distance classes with interactive TV are happening elsewhere. Morehead State University in Kentucky has been doing this for several years. This could eliminate the duplication of programs and give the best education possible to all LDS students attending church schools.

  • Larry M Chicago, IL
    Oct. 18, 2011 5:38 p.m.

    Again, not much innovation here...the online bachelor degrees are only available to those with 30 credits previously completed on-campus. That's straight from the BYUI website so don't write comments that they're available to all.

    The tuition is definitley a bargain, but the non-LDS tuition is a better comparison. At around $300 per credit (non-LDS), it's a great deal but closer to tuition at some private colleges in small towns.

    You want innovation? BYU-Hawaii quietly offers online classes for $50 per credit (LDS or not). Now that's unheard of for a university.

  • procuradorfiscal Tooele, UT
    Oct. 18, 2011 5:26 p.m.

    Re: "The D-News is on the "reform" bandwagon that vouchers and the internet will magically improve public schools."

    Whoooeeee -- UEA/NEA are really touchy about anything that might contradict their legislative agenda and bargaining position aren't they?

    They insist we ignore the elephant in the room -- their declining levels of performance -- unless it validates their precious status quo and involves throwing more money at them.

    They're apparently incensed, believing DN has violated some obligation to suppress news of anything that might threaten improvement to horribly overpriced and dreadfully underperforming public schools -- unless it also calls for more money for their members.

    Well, at least it demonstrates their real level of commitment, both to our kids' education, and to their personal pecuniary interests.

  • BYUI Professor REXBURG, ID
    Oct. 18, 2011 4:52 p.m.

    Im a faculty member at BYU-Idaho concerned by the portrayal of BYUI as Zion. There are good points, e.g. faculty whos primary interest is the student. However, theres also a dark side, and, though I teach here, I would not have my children attend this university, despite a huge tuition break. Ive watched many students arrive as freshmen excited to study at The Lords University, only to part as cynics, questioning not only the inspired nature of school administrators, but that of Church leaders in general. In my attempts at damage control, Ive found three overriding reasons for discontentment: 1) a low credit cap that forces them into a major before theyre ready and to remain in that major after they've discovered the mistake, making them feel like cattle being forced through a chute merely to make room for others; 2) an environment in which religion is pushed down their throats ad nauseam; and 3) a setting so tightly controlled and monitored that they couldnt make a mistake if they tried. What good is a BYUI Experience," if that experience leads students away from, rather than toward, the gospel?

  • RexburgMom REXBURG, ID
    Oct. 18, 2011 4:19 p.m.

    Im appalled by the biased articles about BYU-I. Three of our kids attended. One son and his wife graduated. The others transferred elsewhere. All were damaged by their experiences. The students are wonderful and the faculty are excellent. However, I would never encourage others to come and regret sending my own. Here are a few reasons: semesters shortened to 13 weeks, cutting seriously into course content and preparation time; replacement of GE with Foundations, in which faculty teach out of their knowledge areas; the Learning Model, in which students replace faculty as instructors; mandated online courses, which students hate and which are seriously inferior to the in-class experience they paid for; a low credit-hour cap, locking students into majors they find too late they do not want to pursue and preventing them from taking courses out of pure interest; a highly artificial, so-called, spiritual environment; and monitoring of their every move to make sure that not one is lost to honor code infractions. My children entered excited to learn in a gospel-centered environment and left cynical about the school and the Church. I sent them to strengthen, not weaken, their testimonies.

  • *maybe* Orem, UT
    Oct. 18, 2011 12:55 p.m.


    These are articles meant to justify huge classes in Utah's K-12 public schools because "innovative" online learning will fix everything.

    I agree with the BYU-Idaho teaching emphasis over research, but that doesn't apply to K-12 schools. They're already doing that with a completely different population than BYU-Idaho. The D-News is on the "reform" bandwagon that vouchers and the internet will magically improve public schools.

  • Cats Somewhere in Time, UT
    Oct. 18, 2011 11:39 a.m.

    These articles have been fascinating. I had no idea that all these incredible innovations have been going on at BYU-I. This is truly an inspired program.

  • Red Salt Lake City, UT
    Oct. 18, 2011 8:48 a.m.

    Thanks for helping stem the tide of rising costs without any real benefits. It's great to have options like this that make sense.

    Great Leadership. Love it.

  • oldcougar Orem, UT
    Oct. 18, 2011 8:40 a.m.

    I would like to be a pert of this!

  • Foxtrot Mountain View, CA
    Oct. 18, 2011 8:16 a.m.

    I guess I don't get the rationale for the "sell job" that the DN is trying to provide BYU-Idaho. Is year round school and distance learning really innovative? Isn't it possible that the rapid growth of the campus has something to do with exactly this article talks about? Making it EASIER to get through college?