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.

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