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An Interview with Lucy Rose: Ayn Rand Institute Campus

May 21, 2013 by

ARI CampusMichael F. Shaughnessy

Eastern New Mexico University

Portales, New Mexico

 

1)      Lucy, first of all, can you tell us about yourself, and your education and experience?

I have a B.A. in English from Columbia University in New York City.  I’ve also been a student in the Objectivist Academic Center, an educational program offered by the Ayn Rand Institute.

Prior to moving to Southern California to join ARI’s staff, I was working in a marketing and communications department of a large engineering/architecture firm.  I was in a role that involved liaison work with the staff programmers and thinking about both the user interface of a program or database as well as the structure required on the back end.  That was some of the experience that has been useful on the ARI Campus project, where our team developed an online learning website, including a course player, from scratch.  I didn’t want to be a classroom teacher, but I’m passionate about education and Ayn Rand’s ideas, and I love getting to think and learn about technology (in this case, e-learning).

2)      Now, what would you say you do at the Ayn Rand Institute?

I’m the e-learning manager on the ARI Campus program at ARI. My role has transformed over the three years I’ve been on the project, but at present I’m responsible for two things:  1) making sure the courses have appropriate e-learning content in the form of images, conceptual graphics, and interactions and 2) overseeing the student relations activity on the site to encourage engagement. I get to work with a great team of colleagues who have a wide range of functional expertise; it’s a fun and exciting project to be a part of!

3)      What first got you interested in her work?


I happened upon
Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead on a bookshelf at a friend’s house when I was 15.  I was intrigued by the titles and then by the blurbs on the back covers.  I loved to read and was not at all daunted by the books’ lengths.  I think I read them in pretty quick succession, within a few weeks.  I definitely remember a few very late nights, staying up reading until 3 a.m. and then staggering in to school the next day, and I remember carrying them with me and reading in every spare moment during lunch, study halls, etc.  They are exciting, inspiring stories; I’ve reread them many times over the years.  

4)      Now, I understand that there is an Ayn Rand campus or University- can you clarify this for me?

ARI Campus is ARI’s new online learning platform, where free courses on Rand’s novels, philosophy, and life are offered for students of all levels.  We launched in late 2012 as a beta site with nine courses—that number will grow.  The site offers discussion boards, a profile area, and other ways for students to connect with others and share ideas.  For example, not only is there a note-taking function built into the course player, but you can share your notes with others, if you choose. 

5)      Is there a prescribed course of study or a list of books, or is there a physical building?

We launched with nine courses categorized by subject– philosophy, education, literature, and Ayn Rand.  For example, we have beginner-level courses on three of her novels: TheFountainhead, Anthem, and We the Living. “Ayn Rand: A Writer’s Life” is a nice introduction to Rand’s career and accomplishments as a writer. “Philosophy: Who Needs It” offers an enhanced version of her 1974 West Point commencement speech where she seeks to explain the importance of philosophical ideas. “Philosophy of Education” presents intermediate-level content and might be of special interest to your audience.

In the future, course offerings will expand to include categories such as history, economics, law, etc.  While there is no prescribed course of study, we do identify the courses by beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels.  And as the number of courses increases, we’ll likely develop optional tracks of study, to help guide students through a curriculum in a certain area.

It’s a completely virtual campus, so there is no physical building; however, we do try to replicate certain elements of a “real” campus.  For example, we have a discussion board and other ways in which students can interact with each other and with us.

6)      Is there some sort of diploma or certificate one could get?


There is currently no diploma or certificate available for taking courses on ARI Campus.  

7)      Are there formal instructors? Is this an on line or in person only approach?

Each course does have an instructor. In some cases, the instructor creates new content and develops it from scratch—including interactions and quizzes, supplementary material for students who want to learn more (“More to Explore”), FAQs, etc.  In other cases, we have a staff instructor overseeing the development of existing content, such as recorded lectures by Ayn Rand or other subject matter experts. 

Students see the results of their quizzes and interactions and have access to all the content chosen by the instructor. The courses consist of recorded modules with audio, video, text, images, etc. for a rich learning experience. The modular approach lets students take the course at their own pace and on their own schedule.  Students can submit questions, which instructors may choose to respond to in the FAQ section.  Each course has a discussion board where we encourage the students to discuss the course with each other, raise questions, and explore the ideas presented by the instructors.

 

The courses are offered online and are currently available “on demand” (or in the common online learning terminology, ARI Campus courses are “asynchronous”).  All you have to do is register as a student, enroll in a course (for free!), and dive in.  In the future, we may have special live offerings that would be broadcast through the site. 

8)      Is there anyone specific that this is for? Or just interested adults?


Some of our key audiences are students, teachers/professors, and other intellectually-curious people; however, we have courses for the casual fan of Ayn Rand’s works, for newcomers to her novels or philosophy wanting to learn more, and, of course, for serious students of Rand’s philosophy, Objectivism.

       9)      Is there a web site to get more information?

The site itself is the best place to learn more.  Visit campus.aynrand.org to get a flavor for ARI Campus–once you do the quick and easy (free) registration, you can explore the courses. While you’re there, drop us a line and let us know what you think!

10)   What have I neglected to ask?

Why would ARI create an online learning site to focus on this specialized content?  ARI has a limited number of instructors doing all the teaching across the Institute, but we reach tens of thousands of students each year through our essay contests and other large outreach programs.  Many of these people want to learn more, but educating thousands of students with traditional modes of instruction was not feasible. ARI Campus is our solution to that education gap; it’s the Institute’s way to provide educational content on Rand’s life, novels, and philosophy to anyone who is interested, at any level of knowledge. 

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    Readers should be aware that the Ayn Rand Institute was created several years after Ayn Rand’s death. Personally she has nothing to do with the organization.

    Indeed when it comes to some important applications, far from promoting her philosophy the so-called Ayn Rand Institute misrepresents it. For examples see ARI Watch.

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