Remote Learning at a Residential College

by Steven Taylor, Vassar College.

Steven Taylor, EdD is the Director of Academic Computing at Vassar College, where he has been since 1998. Previously, he was Director of the Faculty Information Technology Center at Emory University. (sttaylor@vassar.edu.)

Background

Since shortly after the web was developed, colleges and universities have used it for conducting distance education programs. Leaders in the practice included public institutions, whose mission included serving a wide geographical area of non-traditional students, and large universities, which were challenged to provide alternatives to courses taught in huge lecture halls. The emergence of MOOCs in 2012 brought more attention to the practice.

It has not been obvious, however, how distance learning technologies could benefit small, private, residential, liberal arts colleges. Many have doubted that an online course could offer a better learning experience than a face-to-face course with a small student/faculty ratio. A 2011 report from the Pew Research Center found that four-year, selective private colleges were the least likely of any type of higher education institution to offer online courses.[1]

There have been some explorations, of course. Wesleyan, for instance, began offering MOOCs in 2013.[2] And while there were some indirect benefits to their enrolled students,[3] the initiative’s target populations were alumni and prospective students.[4]

Other liberal arts colleges have explored the use of online courses for more limited audiences. The Associated Colleges of the South (ACS) has founded the New Paradigms Initiative, through which students in its 16 member schools will be able to cross-register for online and hybrid courses, in order to “broaden and enhance academic offerings for students.”[5] Many of these courses are on topics that would not draw sufficient enrollment at any one school. In some cases, the instructor has a specialized knowledge not found in the faculty of the other schools. In effect, each of these schools is enhancing the opportunities of its own students by facilitating their ability to take courses offered by other schools.

At Vassar College, a recent experience has identified a use for distance learning technologies that borders on the ironic: a residential college connecting with its students when they’re not in residence; an institution known for small class sizes interacting with a student cohort of 670. We’re using online tools to enhance our summer common reading program for incoming students.

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Capturing the Visible Evidence of Invisible Learning

by Randy Bass and Bret Eynon

Randy Bass is Assistant Provost for Teaching and Learning Initiatives at Georgetown University, where he is also Executive Director of Georgetown’s Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship (CNDLS) and an associate professor of English at Georgetown. In 1998-99, he was a Pew Scholar in the Carnegie Academy for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, and from 2000-2008, he served as a consulting scholar with the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Dr. Bret Eynon is Assistant Dean for Teaching and Learning at LaGuardia Community College (CUNY) and the executive director of the LaGuardia Center for Teaching & Learning. With CUNY’s American Social History Project from 1983-2000, he wrote acclaimed textbooks, produced award-winning documentary videos, and founded and led for 6 years ASHP’s national New Media Classroom program. A national faculty member for the Association of American Colleges & Universities, he recently founded LaGuardia’s new, FIPSE-funded initiative: the Making Connections National Resource Center on Inquiry, Reflection, and Integrative Education.

Originally Posted January 7th, 2009

Note: This is a synthesis essay for the Visible Knowledge Project (VKP), a collaborative project engaging seventy faculty at twenty-one institutions in an investigation of the impact on technology on learning, primarily in the humanities. As a matter of formatting to the Academic Commons space, this essay is divided in three parts: Part I (Overview of project, areas of inquiry, introduction to findings);Part II  (Discussion of findings with a focus on Adaptive Expertise and Embodied Learning);Part III (Discussion of findings continued with a focus on Socially Situated learning, Conclusion). A full-text version of this essay is available as a pdf document here

Here, in this forum as part of Academic Commons, the essay complements eighteen case  teaching, learning, and new media technologies. Together the essay and studies constitute the digital volume “The Difference that Inquiry Makes: A Collaborative Case Study of Learning and Technology, from the Visible Knowledge Project.” For more information about VKP, see https://digitalcommons.georgetown.edu/blogs/vkp/

Déjà 2.0 
Facebook. Twitter. Social media. YouTube. Viral marketing. Mashups. Second Life. PBWikis. Digital Marketeers. FriendFeed. Flickr. Web 2.0. Approaching the second decade of the twenty-first century, we’re riding an unstoppable wave of digital innovation and excitement. New products and paradigms surface daily. New forms of language, communication, and style are shaping emerging generations. The effect on culture, politics, economics and education will be transformative. As educators, we have to scramble to get on board, before it’s too late.
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Shaping a Culture of Conversation: The Discussion Board and Beyond

by Edward J. Gallagher, Lehigh University. Edward J. Gallagher is Professor of English and former Lehigh Lab Fellow at Lehigh University. Five of his web sites have recently been published under the general title of History on Trial by the Lehigh University Digital Library. He is currently exploring the educational uses of Second Life.

Originally Posted January 7th, 2009

The Backstory: Discovering Community1
I can still remember the exhilaration with which in 1997 (before Blackboard and WebCT) I approached my first discussion board as part of the Lehigh English Department’s participation in the groundbreaking Epiphany Project. I had long used such methods as “reaction cards” to engage student involvement, so the move to discussion boards was a natural evolution. But evolution to what? Today the discussion board signifies class community for me. But that was not overtly so in the beginning. Influenced greatly by a seminal College English article by Marilyn Cooper and Cindy Selfe (I had attended Selfe’s Computers in the Writing-Intensive Classroom workshop at Michigan Tech in 1996), my statement of goals for the Epiphany project discussion board had a “radical” tinge to it, with rather stentorian claims about a free space for students and liberation from the teacher’s agenda or ideas. But that approach was a mistake. It led to using the discussion board as a bulletin board (I am tempted to say soap box) on which students posted individual, discrete messages that others were supposed to read but, by and large, didn’t, at least with much palpable impact. There was no “epiphany” that I can remember, just a gradual awareness over time as VKP approached that there was no meaningful “discussion” on my discussion board and that, without interaction, I was not fully tapping the potential of the new technology.

That potential was to create a community of learners, and gradually “community” replaced rebellion and resistance–that is, the cultivation of the individual voice–as my signifier. In fact, the most important thing I discovered (or uncovered) through this VKP project on discussion boards was the depths of my passion for community, a passion that has quite visibly informed my pedagogy ever since, especially in a second experimental course that I will talk about later. Achieving community is the continual worry in the personal blog that I kept during the VKP course–indeed, causing two serious blow-outs with the students midway through. In my VKP final report I frankly admitted that I sometimes felt “obsessed with the need for community,” felt embarrassed by the ranting way I talked about it, but felt more and more “the pressing need for people to talk with each other, to get beyond difference, to work together, to get along.” The “Improving the Discussion Board” VKP project, then, would in reality be about the creation of community.

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