Thursday, February 26, 2015

Reflections on the Educause Learning Initiative Annual Meeting

Two weeks ago, it was my privilege to attend the Educause Learning Initiative (ELI) annual meeting.  As a newcomer to the meeting, I was not quite sure what to expect.  What I found was an exceptional environment that blended large, small, public, and private institutions of higher learning.  We all came together to discuss the impact of technology on teaching and learning and to engage in a thoughtful dialogue that centered on how to meaningfully students and encourage faculty development in higher education.

I found myself wishing that there were several of me there in order to take in all of the information being shared.  The first event was an orientation to ELI and a preview of things to come.  Then there were the poster sessions.  There were so many intriguing posters, but it was very hard to engage the presenters due to the sheer amount of interested people crowding around each one.  Some examples of the topics covered can be found on the meeting website.

Obviously, there is too much information for me to share in this blog post concerning the conference.  However, I do want to highlight an observation and one event I attended.  First of all, one thing that struck me right from the start was the difference in definitions between large colleges and universities and the small Liberal Arts college.

This is no more clear than in the definition of blended or hybrid learning.  In the large schools, it is seen as a way to stretch classroom space and increase enrollment by reducing face to face instruction and moving more resources into the virtual space.  For small Liberal Arts colleges, the idea of reducing "seat time" is not even a consideration.  On the contrary, any blending of online resources is seen as a way to enhance the relationship of faculty members and students and to maximize the value of in class discussions.

As a continuation of this idea, I was honored to be a part of a Liberal Arts Institutions Roundtable, which discussed the ways in which Liberal Arts colleges can contribute to the mission of ELI and ways in which ELI can better support the mission and goals of these institutions.  A few of the takeaways that will be refined and submitted to ELI include:
  • Facilitating change in faculty teaching practices to encourage hybrid/blended learning that maximizes the impact of face-to-face interactions where student-centered learning shifts the dynamic and Developing active learning pedagogies, and the technology and classrooms that support it.
  • Defining the unique niche for liberal arts colleges in a changing higher ed landscape - specific track in the conference (sharing what is done in our classes, in advising). 
  • Research from LAC institutions (including partnerships w/ R1/schools of Ed, postdocs) on teaching/learning.
  • Creating partnerships that maximize resources and minimize costs, including outsourcing online course development, while keeping in mind trade offs (that could not otherwise be done at small colleges, LAC R1 partnerships).
Thank you to Barron Koralesky for providing me with a copy of the list we discussed and reduced from an original 12 topics.  While this is not an exhaustive list of benefits that Liberal Arts colleges can offer ELI, it constitutes a good starting point and directly addresses the differences between large institutions and the private residential experience.  It will be interesting moving forward to see what ELI does with the information that was shared.  I hope to see even greater collaboration in the years to come.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Innovation Throughout the ACM - Part Three

Update: Information concerning Lake Forest's Brown Technology Resource Center was accidentally omitted in the original post.  This has been corrected below.  I apologize for any inconvenience.

In our latest installment looking at innovation across the ACM, we will focus on Monmouth and Lake Forest.  As with my earlier posts, I want to thank the instructional technology teams and others at each ACM member institution for contributing photos and text.  Individual credit is given at the bottom of the post.


Monmouth has a large classroom in their newest building which is devoted to business and sciences.  Along with a dedicated PC, document camera, and lectern, they have one short-throw projector that acts as a Smart board with Epson digital ink software, and projects onto a glare free white dry-erase board.  There is a second much larger screen and projector that mimics the other one.  They are using the Lifesize videoconferencing system  that provides lecture capture.  A bridge can be engaged that will allow for as many as 5 parties to join simultaneously.  The room also includes six speakers, two built-in cameras (one facing the front of the room and one facing the audience), and three hanging microphones.  They plan to do a shared classroom with a Scottish college soon.  A few pictures of the space are below:

Also at Monmouth, courses called Triads combine faculty from the Sciences, Humanities, and Business to study one topic.  This interdisciplinary approach allows for students to examine a single topic from multiple perspectives in the hopes of providing a practical answer to the applicability of their education to the real world.  In addition,  Monmouth is also using a custom designed tutoring software to assist students with writing and help to collect data for faculty to be able to provide early interventions where necessary.  This includes student tutor reports, and aggregated data surrounding the reasons for visits.

Lake Forest

At Lake Forest, students in Theatre 225: Acting for the Camera use an interactive studio, complete with  green screen technology to create film projects that are used for "in-depth critiques of self and peer performances."  Other components of the course include "viewing and analysis of modern and contemporary film works from the early twentieth century to the present by noted authors and filmmakers. Acting projects center on the performance of scenes, monologues, voice-overs, and commercials."  Below are some pictures of students using this space:

Also at Lake Forest, the Brown Technology Resource Center allows faculty, students, and staff to work with a variety of software tools, hardware, and seek assistance concerning using technology.  The center is overseen by an Academic Technologist and has 10 student workers with specific expertise.  There are Mac workstations that can be booted in either Mac OS or Windows environments.  The center also makes netbooks, camcorders, and digital cameras available for loan on a first come first serve basis. 

Monmouth - Bridget Draxler, Chris Buban, and Marcie Beintema 
Lake Forest - Jim Cubit and David Levinson

Stay tuned for more stories of innovation across the ACM...

Friday, February 6, 2015

Innovation Throughout the ACM - Part Two

In our latest installment looking at innovation across the ACM, we will focus on Luther, Lawrence, and Cornell.  As with my earlier post, I want to thank the instructional technology teams at each ACM member institution for contributing photos and text.  Individual credit is given at the bottom of the post.


The Digital Media Center is located on the lower floor of Preus Library.  The multimedia lab consists of an open learning space with high-end computers for faculty, staff and students to edit and create media projects such as audio, video, photography and more.  Included in this space are 20 Mac workstations, presentation equipment (flat panel TVs, HD LCD projector, podium, control system, speakers, whiteboards), checkout equipment (external hard drives, headphones), and media conversion equipment (VHS to DVD, LP to digital, cassette tape to digital).  Some of the software includes: Final Cut Pro X, Motion, Compressor, Logic Pro X, Adobe CS6 and Creative Cloud, MS Office.  The multimedia studio is an acoustically designed space with a flexible lighting and backdrop system for use in photography, video and audio recordings.  In the control booth, a digital mixer gives users the ability to do multitrack recording. It is also equipped with a video switcher for live production and broadcasting.  This technology provides the user with hands-on experience directing and producing media projects.  There are also trained technicians available to assist with any of the technology in the space.  Photos of the Digital Media Center are below:

Multimedia Studio
Multimedia Studio

Multimedia Lab student workers     Control Booth
                                      Multimedia Lab Student Workers                   Control Booth

Luther's summer workshop entitled “Enhancing Student Learning Through Information Literacy and Technology” offers faculty an opportunity to collaborate with LIS team members to consider and enhance integration of critical thinking and technology proficiency into coursework. Three workshop tracks allow faculty to target an appropriate level of engagement, while the LIS support teams – including the library liaison and technology experts – can tailor the experience to faculty needs. A technology allowance is provided for faculty participating in the more in-depth tracks, and can be used for teaching-related equipment or software. Participants engage in a week-long combination of workshop time, project time, and presentations.


The Hurvis Center at Lawrence combines a state of the art video production studio with classroom and lab spaces to allow students, faculty, and professionals to collaborate on creative projects.  The center has a computer lab that allows individual student workstations to be shared and also projected on screens on the surrounding walls while another higher-end edit lab features a setup for students to mix audio in surround sound.  In addition to the classrooms and viewing rooms, the production studio features a green screen and a multitude of lighting options from the grid including soft florescents, two sizes of LED Fresnels, color LED's, and ellipsoidals.  The studio was recently used with Hollywood film makers on an indie film, giving students a firsthand look at the film making process.  A picture of a scene from "Squirrels" (set in the 1960's) along with other photos of the studio and one of the computer labs are presented below.

Lawrence is also in the process of building a summer preparation course for their incoming Conservatory of Music students.  The course, being built in Moodle, makes extensive use of a music theory plugin developed by Eric Brisson.  As shown in the screenshot below, students can answer quiz questions by directly manipulating music notation.



At Cornell, they have recreated Monte Alban's Tomb 118 and its objects using Cinema 4D and Unity.  This 3D virtual environment allows the Zapotec tomb to be populated with artifacts from descriptions provided in the historical record.  According to the project website, the goal for this project "was to recreate Tomb 118 and the artifacts excavated and recorded by Alfonso Caso and his team. We want to be able to use the recreation to be able to look at a Zapotec tomb with all of artifacts placed where they were found. Not only would this help look at the tomb at a brand new way, but also give a chance to interact with artifacts that have been broken or whose colors have faded over time."  Some images of objects and the virtual environment are below:

Luther - Matt Baumann, Andi Beckendorf, Diane Gossman, and Ahmed Muaz 
Lawrence - David Berk and Kevin Summers
Cornell - Brooke Bergantzel 

Stay tuned for more stories of innovation across the ACM...