Collaboration: A Primer

Prepared for the ACS Strategic Planning Committee

by Amanda Hagood, Director of Blended Learning, Associated Colleges of the South, and Grace Pang, Program Officer, National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education

Introduction

This primer was developed from a study of sixteen case studies in digitally-mediated collaboration and the liberal arts published by the Associated Colleges of the South (ACS) and the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education (NITLE) in the summer of 2014. Though the case studies covered topics as diverse as designing and implementing a hybrid course in Asian Studies or launching a program in digital humanities, each provided a fascinating example of how small institutions can marshal their oftentimes limited resources and personnel to achieve extraordinary things. The key to each project’s success lies in the strategy of collaboration—though, as we will demonstrate, collaboration exists along a continuum consisting of many different modalities for working together. This primer, drawn from a thoroughgoing analysis of these projects, will present four exemplary projects and will ask you to consider how their goals, strategies, and tactics reflect upon the goals, strategies, and tactics that should appear in the ACS’s 2020 Vision.

The aims of this primer are threefold:

  • To report why and how faculty and staff within and across ACS institutions are collaborating
  •  To explore how the goals, strategies, and tactics used by these practitioners align with the ACS’s mission to support the liberal arts by creating collaborative opportunities that improve the quality, while reducing the cost, of liberal arts education.
  • To stimulate the Strategic Planning Committee’s thinking about why and how our member institutions could collaborate.

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A Catalyst For Change: Developing A Blended Training Model For The Liberal Arts Institution

AUTHORS

SchulzCarrie Schulz is the director of Instructional Design and Technology at Rollins College.

 

 

 

jvargasJessica Vargas is currently an instructional technologist at Rollins College.

 

 

 

annalohausAnna Lohaus is currently an instructional technologist at Rollins College.

 

 

 

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Beginning as an institutional experiment, Rollins College developed a professional development program to assist faculty in redesigning an existing course as a blended offering. This training program asked faculty to use the best delivery methodologies for objective-based learning in their blended course design. It is in this training that faculty learned how to divide their class time between online and face-to-face while incorporating technology to augment learning.

This case study explores the process developed at Rollins College for providing professional development to faculty who are interested in building blended courses. It also evaluates the implementation of said program. This case study specifically addresses the program’s successes and areas for improvement using the results from an institutional survey conducted during summer 2013 and multiple summative evaluations collected during various instances of blended learning training program.

Student data collected in spring 2013 tentatively indicated that the program resulted in increased levels of student engagement as well as the amount students felt they learned. Data collected from faculty observations also coincided with this result. Finally the authors address the current progression of this program and the future effects on the faculty, students, and the culture of the institution. Such analysis can provide other institutions with the resources necessary to begin developing an institutional model for blended learning while still identifying the common challenges and benefits involved in this particular adaptation.

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Digital Projects and the First Year Seminar: Making Blended Learning Work at a Small Liberal Arts College.

Authors

Pete Coco is the digital learning strategist at Wheaton College in Norton, MA, where his work focuses on faculty development with a technological bent. He holds an M.F.A. from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and an M.S.L.I.S. from the University of Illinois.

Leah Niederstadt is assistant professor of museum studies/art history and curator of the Permanent Collection at Wheaton College in Norton, MA. An anthropologist by training, she holds postgraduate degrees from the University of Michigan and University of Oxford. Her research focuses on expressive culture in Ethiopia and on the management and use of academic collections.

Coco_Niederstadt

Photo credit: Jack Brotherton, Wheaton College Class of 2017.

Executive summary

To blend her first-year seminar at Wheaton College, Assistant Professor Leah Niederstadt collaborated closely with Digital Learning Strategist Pete Coco and other technology and library staff to deliver a course focused on digital projects. As the seminar explored the concept of cultural property, students spent considerable time on two digital projects tracing provenance, the chain of custody for cultural objects, and repatriation, the process by which misbegotten cultural objects are returned to their rightful owners. By altering the goal of blended learning away from reduced seat time and toward enhanced seat-time, Niederstadt and her students were able to succeed in creating two ambitious digital projects without losing class time for other important uses. These included student-focused discussions, training relevant to the course’s core digital projects, field trips, and workshops led by a variety of staff, all covering content germane to the course topic and to the process of adjusting first-year students to college.

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Adapting Content from a Massive Open Online Course to a Liberal Arts Setting

Fowler_BioRyan Fowler, adjunct professor at Franklin and Marshall College, the Lancaster Theological Seminar, and the University of Southern Maine and a fellow at the Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington, D.C.

 

Meinking_BioKristina A. Meinking, assistant professor at Elon University

 

 

Morrell_BioKenny Morrell, associate professor of Greek and Roman studies at Rhodes College

 

 

Norman Sandridge_BioNorman Sandridge, associate professor of classics at Howard University and a fellow at the Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington, D.C.

 

Walker_BioBryce Walker, assistant professor at Sweet Briar College

Summary

Sunoikisis (www.sunoikisis.org) offered S-Iliad in the spring of 2014, involving faculty and students from an online humanities course of twenty-five students at the University of Southern Maine, a five-person introductory classics course at Elon University, a lecture course with forty-seven students at Howard University, and a seminar for fourteen first-year students at Sweet Briar College.

Participating faculty members collaboratively designed the course on Homer’s Iliad, incorporating and supplementing content from CB22.1x: The Ancient Greek Hero, a MOOC offered by Gregory Nagy through HarvardX (www.edx.org). Once underway, students completed reading assignments on their own and met with their respective professors by arrangement or according to institutional schedules. They collaborated as members of cross-institutional working groups and posted written responses to a writing prompt each week, and all students and professors participated in weekly synchronous meetings using Google Hangouts on Air.

This case study discusses efforts to (1) achieve a productive, equitable, and consistent level of participation from each student over the course of the semester, (2) establish inter-institutional connections and foster an inclusive sense of community, and (3) generate a meaningful, collaborative engagement with the poetry through moderated conversations, peer-to-peer commentary, and direct feedback from professors.

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Blended Learning: The “Hazards & Risks”

 

GawronskiVincent T. Gawronski is associate professor of political science at Birmingham-Southern College in Alabama. He received his B.A. in history and Spanish from the University of Texas at Austin (1987) and his M.A. (1993) and Ph.D. (1998) in political science from Arizona State University. He is currently the coordinator of the Latin American Studies program at Birmingham-Southern and chair of the Teaching Committee of the Consortium of Latin American Studies Programs. Dr. Gawronski’s area of expertise is Mexico and Central America, where he has maintained primarily four research tracks: 1) political and socioeconomic development, 2) disaster risk reduction, 3) “politics of disaster,” and 4) push-pull migration factors. Dr. Gawronski has contributed to several sponsored projects focusing on disasters and political change in the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador. Dr. Gawronski has authored or co-authored publications in International Studies Perspectives, Peace Review, Hemisphere, International Journal of Mass Emergencies and Disasters, Mexican Studies/Estudios Mexicanos, Cambridge Journal of International Affairs, and Latin American Politics and Society. vgawrons@bsc.edu

HoltWilliam G. Holt, Ph.D./J.D., is coordinator of the Urban Environmental Studies Program at Birmingham-Southern College. Holt received his B.A. in geography from the University of Georgia where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa. Holt has a Master’s in city planning from Georgia Tech where he worked on the 1996 Summer Olympics planning efforts. Holt was a community planner with the National Capital Planning Commission in Washington, D.C., working on the 2050 Monumental Core Plan update of the 1791 L’Enfant Plan. Holt received his Ph.D. in sociology from Yale University and his J.D. from Vermont Law School specializing in energy law. He edited two books: Urban Areas and Global Climate Change (Emerald 2012) and From Sustainable to Resilient Cities: Urban Efforts/Global Solutions (Emerald, forthcoming 2014).

Executive Summary

Birmingham-Southern College (BSC)’s Exploration Term in January affords instructors and students opportunities to create innovative projects that might be developed into semester-long courses. Drawing on BSC’s Urban Environmental Studies Program (UES), we planned this course to cross our traditional subject boundaries in political science and sociology with the natural sciences. The course focused on environmental hazards (tectonic-earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanoes, weather extremes, hydrological flood and droughts as well as disease epidemics) and urban social risks (poverty, war, starvation, and crime). We employed blended and flipped learning strategies as well as games and simulations. We conducted several field activities in the Birmingham metropolitan area as well as a three-night trip to New Orleans to examine post-Katrina redevelopment. The project drew upon academic publications, resources from local, national, and international governmental and nongovernmental organizations, and guest experts; we also relied heavily on Internet resources. The compressed January Exploration Term created some scheduling and pedagogical challenges. For example, it was not always possible to schedule remote class visits. Students had shorter times for class preparation and reflections, and we had little time to overcome technological problems. We realized our goals were too ambitious for a four-week session. We plan to offer the course again as full-summer term course to address time constraints and make use of better weather for field excursions. Indeed, there was a learning curve for both the professors and the students, but we are confident we successfully introduced and reinforced the course learning outcomes.

I would definitely take a blended learning course again. I learn best by watching, listening, and interacting. Blended learning almost seemed to cater to my ability to focus and learn.
–Student Comment

This course was different from many other classes that I have taken so far since our learning came from many different sources, trips, guest speakers, simulations, and lectures.
–Student Comment

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The Lecture Hall as an Arena of Inquiry: Using Cinematic Lectures and Inverted Classes (CLIC) to Flip an Introductory Biology Lecture Course

by David J. Marcey, Fletcher Jones Professor of Developmental Biology, Biology Department, California Lutheran University

marcey@clunet.edu

Keywords: flipped classes; flipped classroom; active learning; online lectures; cinematic lectures; blended learning; blended teaching; flipped pedagogy; hybrid learning; hybrid courses

ABSTRACT

Two sections of an undergraduate introductory biology lecture course were run in parallel as a pedagogical experiment. One section (32 students) was taught in a long-established, traditional manner, with lectures delivered during class, readings assigned in a textbook, and access to lecture graphics/slides provided via the online syllabus. The other, “flipped” section (16 students) lacked both required reading assignments and in-class lectures. Instead, students were assigned online cinematic lectures (cinelectures) for viewing outside of class. These cinelectures, delivered via YouTube, incorporate multimedia elements. In class, students were broken into small groups and engaged in active learning assignments. Accounting for all sources of content, the subject material covered was the same for both sections and assessments of learning were identical quizzes and examinations. Statistically significant differences in learning were observed during the first third of the semester, with the flipped-class students performing better on all tests and quizzes. These differences disappeared during the second two thirds of the semester, coincident with a large increase in the number of views of cinelectures recorded on the course YouTube channel. Survey of the traditional class revealed that approximately 3/4 of the students had learned of the cinelectures at this time and had added viewing of these to their study, providing an internal, if initially unintended, control sample to the experiment. These results, along with other, subsequent applications of the flipped model I term CLICing, provide evidence that supports the conversion of traditional biology lecture classes to an inverted format.

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Teaching with Twitter: Extending the conversation beyond the classroom walls

by David R. Wessner, professor of biology, Davidson College

photograph of David R. Wessner, author of "Teaching with Twitter: Extending the conversation beyond the classroom walls"

Executive Summary

Robust classroom discussions augment the learning process greatly and improve the critical thinking skills of our students. Our discussions, however, necessarily are limited. We are limited to the knowledge, experiences, and perspectives of the members of the course. With the use of social networking platforms like Twitter, we can overcome this limitation. We can extend the conversation beyond the members of the class, beyond the classroom walls, and the beyond the appointed class hours. In this case study, I describe how I incorporated Twitter into my class with the express goal of having my students interact with a broader audience. The results were encouraging. First, several non-class members regularly tweeted using our class hashtag. Each of them provided an expertise that augmented our class discussions and furthered our understanding of the material. Second, the use of Twitter allowed me to more intentionally integrate information literacy into my class. The students thought more critically about sources of information. Finally, this approach to broadening the classroom conversation may allow students at different institutions to interact with each other. Separate classes, at separate institutions, could partner to form a larger virtual community, thereby providing our students with a richer educational experience.

Rationale

Many studies have shown that various forms of active learning improve student outcomes (Ebert-May et al. 1997; Freeman et al., 2007; Knight and Wood, 2005). While active learning can take many forms, most examples involve some form of discussion. In the think-pair-share model, for example, instructors ask students to contemplate a particular question or problem, talk about the issue with a fellow student, and then present a synthesized answer to the larger group (Lyman, 1981; Tanner and Allen, 2002). The success of this approach seems quite obvious. Each student needs to clearly articulate his or her viewpoints to his or her partner. Both students then must evaluate each other’s answer. Finally, together, the students must synthesize a new answer that may or may not perfectly reflect either of their original answers.

While the benefits of discussion-based learning may be obvious, the approach is necessarily limited. Whether we have a class with twelve students, twenty students, or fifty students, our discussions ultimately will be confined to the knowledge, viewpoints, expertise, and experiences of the class members.

So how do we overcome this limitation? How do we increase the viewpoints, expertise, and experiences brought to our discussion? We could make our classes infinitely large. Obviously, that solution is not feasible. Social media platforms like Twitter, however, may allow us to solve this problem. By using social networking in our classes, we can create an infinitely large, and presumably more knowledgeable and informed, virtual discussion group. Moreover, by involving actual practitioners, we can create for students a community of practice (Lave and Wenger, 1991).

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