Friday, April 22, 2016

Exploring the Next-Generation Digital Learning Environment: Opportunities and Challenges

On Wednesday and Thursday, April 27-28, FITS will be sharing sessions from the Educause Learning Initiative Online Focus Session - Exploring the Next-Generation Digital Learning Environment: Opportunities and Challenges. 

The schedule for the entire two-day event is linked below. The following sessions may be of particular interest to DePauw faculty members: 

W 1:10-1:55, Learning Analytics, Advising and Learning Assessment 
W 2:50-3:20, Accessibility and Universal Design for Learning 
Th 3:00-3:20, Community Observations on the Next-Generation Digital Learning Environment 

Please consider joining us for any of these sessions.

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How To Get Tenure (If You're a Woman)

Interesting piece in Foreign Policy on the challenges of attaining tenure if you're a woman.

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Three Critical Conversations Started and Sustained by Flipped Learning

The flipped learning model of instruction has begun to make the transition from an educational buzzword to a normative practice among many university instructors, and with good reason. Flipped learning provides many benefits for both faculty and students. However, instructors who use flipped learning soon find out that a significant amount of work is sometimes necessary to win students over to this way of conducting class. Even when the benefits of flipped learning are made clear to students, some of them will still resist. And to be fair, many instructors fail to listen to what students are really saying.

Most student “complaints” about flipped learning conceal important questions about teaching and learning that are brought to the surface because of the flipped environment. Here are three common issues raised by students and the conversation-starters they afford. 

Student comment: “I wish you would just teach the class.” 

Conversation-starter: Why do we have classes? 

This issue is often raised once it becomes clear that class time will focus on assimilating information, not transmitting it. For many students, the only kind of instruction they have ever known is the in-class lecture, so it is quite natural for them to conflate “teaching” and “lecturing”. Hence, students are perhaps justifiably unsettled to see their teacher not “teaching”. When students raise this concern, it is an opportunity to have a conversation about why classes meet—or for that matter, why they exist—in the first place. 

When students want the professor to “just teach”, the professor can pose the following: We can either have lecture on basic information in class, and then you will be responsible for the harder parts yourselves outside of class; or we can make the basic information available for you prior to class, and spend our class time making sense of the harder parts. There is not enough class time for both. Which setup will help you learn better? 

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What I Learned from Student-Created Learning Taxonomies

My assignments are often inspired by things I learn about from my Personal Learning Network (PLN), and this particular assignment is inspired by several people. The assignment I recently gave my students (who are largely freshmen learning about educational game design as part of a core curriculum course on creativity) is to develop their own learning taxonomy, in any shape or form, with any items that they feel are important to their learning. 

The idea of the assignment was inspired by a an activity Sean Michael Morris created where we hacked (well re-thought) Bloom’s Taxonomy during the recent #MOOOCMOOC Instructional Design. It was also partly inspired by Amy Collier’s keynote here at Digital Pedagogy Cairo (recorded here) which referred to a recent presentation by Gardner Campbell using a taxonomy of engagement which focused on love. 

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Love Letter to Blended Learning

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology tasked with examining the future of online education have returned with a simple recommendation for colleges and universities: focus on people and process, not technology. Back in 2013, an MIT task force presented a vision of undergraduate education at the institute in which students spend half as much time on campus as they do today. Freshman year would be fully online, and instead of a senior year, students would take online continuing education courses to refresh their knowledge and add new skills. That vision leaned heavily on MIT’s work with edX, the massive open online course provider it founded with Harvard University. 

The buzz around the report led to the creation of the Online Education Policy Initiative, also known as OEPI, funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. While the 2013 task force looked specifically at MIT’s future, the OEPI took a step back to look at online education in general. The OEPI released its final report earlier this month, focusing on four major online education recommendations that span research, teaching and organizational change. “Focused attention in these areas could significantly advance our understanding of the opportunities and challenges in transforming education,” the report concludes. But the report is as much about the shortcomings of online education as it is about its potential. Most importantly, it recommends online education play a supporting role as a “dynamic digital scaffold.” Online education can offer personalized pathways through course content with short lecture videos and well-timed quizzes that help students retain knowledge, the report reads, but it is most effective in a blended setting where students regularly interact with faculty members face-to-face.

 “Technology will not replace the unique contributions teachers make to education through their perception, judgment, creativity, expertise, situational awareness and personality,” the report reads. “But it can increase the scale at which they can operate effectively.” In fact, on four separate occasions, the report makes that same argument. Faculty members and their work are “essential and irreplaceable … in ways that a computer program can never be.” In the classroom, they “[provide] context and mentoring, and [foster] reflection and discussion.” Their feedback provides “invaluable input … that online tools struggle to match.” For more, see 

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Friday, April 15, 2016

Community Engagement Forum

The next community engagement forum will be held on Tuesday, April 26, from 11:30-12:20; Location TBA. Samantha Sarich and Doug Harms will lead a discussion about the relationship between Community Engagement activities and power, privilege, and diversity. A light lunch will be provided. More information and details to follow.

Faculty Forum with Dr. Mark Seifert, Dean of Acadmic Programs, The School for Field Studies - Engaging Undergraduates in field-based research: examining successes using an active learning/action research framework

We will use a few field-based case studies to demonstrate how good teaching, careful mentoring, and active participation of learners deliver rich academic experiences that build skill sets, provide practical application of discoveries, and offer opportunities for meaningful student reflection.


Friday, April 8, 2016

More Professors Say Undergraduates Need to Hone Research Abilities, Survey Finds

This latest edition of a survey that is conducted every three years found an uptick in faculty members who believe undergraduate students are arriving at college with inadequate research skills. Many faculty members believe their institution’s library plays a critical role in helping students develop those skills. Scholars increasingly see it as their responsibility to support their undergraduate students, with an emphasis on competencies and learning outcomes. 

Now in its sixth cycle, the survey included more than 9,000 scholars in the fall of 2015 at four-year institutions in the United States, and found, among other things, that: 

Fifty-four percent “strongly agreed” that their undergraduate students have “poor skills related to locating and evaluating scholarly information,” up from 47 percent in 2012. 

The share of scholars who think libraries help students “develop research, critical-analysis, and information-literacy skills” is up 20 percentage points from 2012.

. . . Faculty members are more willing than ever to publish their research as free and open access online, and more than half agree they would support journals trading in their traditional print edition for electronic-only editions. When it comes to undergraduate students, the professors are more concerned than ever about students’ inability to conduct research adequately.

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Showcasting Digital Student Work

Digital projects have been at the center of a number of ProfHacker posts: the easy and free availability of cool tools for making things gives us all sorts of possibilities for the classroom. However, works produced in the classroom often have a very small audience, with peers and the professor serving as the only guaranteed audience. Creating opportunities for showcasing digital student work for outside audiences can provide incentives and recognition for great student work while also creating conversations. However, digital works present technical challenges that don’t accompany more traditional project showcases, like the photography and drawing exhibits that tend to fill the corridors of art departments.

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Small Changes in Teaching: Giving Them a Say

Check out this interesting Chronicle piece about allowing students to direct their own learning. 

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Research Facutly Forum with Marnie McInnes and Harry Brown, "Fire and Ice"

Come listen to Marnie and Harry delve into the subterranean dimension of American environmental thought. Their short presentations were originally part of a panel called “American Burial Grounds” at the 2015 conference of the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment (ASLE).


Teaching Roundtable, "Using Narrative to Make Arguments"

For this roundtable we will discuss two chapters from Thomas Newkirk's book Minds Made for Stories: How we Really Read and Write Informational and Persuasive Texts (Heinemann 2014). 


Friday, April 1, 2016

Designing Next-Generation Universities

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Library and Academic Technology Advisory Committee Seeks Your Input on Roy O. West Renovation and Technology Center Creation

You are invited to join with members of the Library and Academic Technology Advisory Committee for a lunchtime meeting on upcoming renovations to academic spaces. We will provide an update on progress toward a renovation of the Roy O. West Library that reflects the vision of access, collaboration, and community. 

We will also provide an update on plans for launching the Tenzer Technology Center, and we seek your input on these projects, which will inform next steps.

Please join us on Friday, April 8th from 11:30 a.m. - 12:20 p.m. in the Julian Auditorium. To help us plan for lunch, please RSVP by Monday April 4th if you plan to attend.

Study Highlights Importance of Multimodal Communication in Higher Ed

Research from North Carolina State University finds that “multimodal” communication – using a mix of words, images and other resources – is important for students and faculty in higher education, a finding that argues for increased instruction in multimodal communication for undergraduates. 

At issue are “modes” of communication, with each mode being a different means of communicating information. For example, speech, the written word, sound, physical gestures and graphic images are all different modes of communication. Multimodal communication is communication that takes advantage of multiple modes, such as a PowerPoint presentation or a television commercial.

“We wanted to know how relevant multimodality was to academic writing instruction,” says Gwendolynne Reid, a Ph.D. student at NC State and lead author of a paper on the work.

 “We know, from previous research, that multimodal communication is important for professional and civic life, but we wanted to know if it was also important for success in academic life,” says Robin Snead, a lecturer at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke and co-author of the paper. Snead worked on the project while a Ph.D. student at NC State. 

The researchers surveyed 65 faculty members in multiple disciplines at a large university. The survey collected information on the study participants, the communication assignments they gave their students and the types of communication they did themselves.

The researchers found that, across all disciplines, more than half of study participants assigned multimodal communication work to students – and more than 70 percent did multimodal work themselves. 

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The inquiry-based approach to higher ed that could prevent college students from dropping out

There may be a more democratic way of learning than declaring a traditional college major. A growing body of research-based evidence shows that student learning communities (SLCs) can provide an effective path to increased academic achievement as well as student engagement and retention. 

Student learning communities are curricular programs designed by faculty and instructional design staff working together with a group of students. These students (known as “the cohort”) take a shared set of courses that are usually connected by a common theme or overarching set of questions or learning outcomes – a key feature of inquiry-based learning . . . 

The learning activities and content from one course are usually designed by a faculty member independent of the learning activities and content of courses taught by other faculty, even within the same program. This puts the onus of figuring out how to link the theories and principles from one course to the other almost entirely on the students. 

While some highly self-motivated students are able to make these connections, others are less able to do so. At best, students who are not able to make the cross-course connections are not able to maximize their learning experience, and at worse, students may feel frustrated and underperform academically or even drop out of school. Connecting different theories and principles across courses is very important because that is where higher order learning occurs and it is the heart of academic inquiry. It is in the analysis, synthesis, and evaluation of different bodies of knowledge that higher learning takes place. It is for these reasons that student learning communities have started to become more popular on college campuses.

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Liberal arts are where we learn how to be citizens

Education has become almost exclusively a linear pursuit to secure employment, at the expense of other crucial factors. Education at the secondary, postsecondary, and even high school has become a training ground for developing human automatons. 

There is little room for studying the arts in its myriad forms. No time to read Melville, too busy for Federalist No. 10, and why take jazz or art appreciation if it does not get me in the door of a large company in Silicon Valley? 

Some governors have actually advocated doing away with liberal arts education in its state institutions. This may be well intentioned, but the unintended consequence will be the systematic dumbing down of society. 

The etymology of education includes the definition to “bring out.” Moreover, there are benefits to liberal education that are undeniable.

I’m not suggesting that one forgo a business degree to become a philosophy major. I am suggesting, however, the ethics that is taught in business school will be bolstered greatly with an understanding of and appreciation for Plato’s Republic. 

Liberal arts can remove one from the naivety of believing that the human condition is black and white, but rather multiple shades of grey. It is where students learn critical thinking and find comfort while existing in the discomfort of ambiguity. It is to pretend that objectivity is the exclusive coin of the realm, while subjectivity garners a value equivalent to the Confederate currency circa 1866.

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