News and Features

Welcome.  The partners of the Liberal Arts Consortium for Online Learning represent the highest standard of student-centered education. Through our collaborations, we are exploring the future of teaching and learning in a networked world to support our mission as residential liberal arts institutions.

For highlights from our campuses and our collaborative work, browse the articles below or filter by Partner Schools, Working Groups,  Events or Projects.

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Dr. Bryan Alexander @ LACOL 2017 Consortium-wide Workshop

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Dr. Bryan Alexander
Dr. Bryan Alexander

LACOL is delighted to welcome Dr. Bryan Alexander as a special guest and speaker at the consortium-wide workshop LACOL2017 to be held June 15-16 on the campus of Vassar College.  Bryan is a highly regarded and exceptionally thoughtful futurist, researcher, writer, speaker, consultant, and teacher.  He focuses in particular on how technology transforms education.

At the June workshop, Bryan will share his insights and expertise in the form of presentations and informal consultation with LACOL’s working group members.  A creative and experienced facilitator of liberal arts collaboration, Bryan is well known to many from his work with the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education (NITLE) from 2002 to 2014, and more recently for his Future Trends in Technology and Education forum, among other projects.

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Hack-a-thon Toward a Collaborative Language Diagnostics and Refresher Framework

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In May 2017, LACOL’s Language Instruction working group held a 3-day intensive workshop (also known as a hack­-a­-thon) to prototype a shared online diagnostic and refresher framework. The face-to-face event was organized by Mike Jones, Director of the Language Resource Center and Media Lab at Swarthmore College, guided by a core team of faculty and language technologists at the participating institutions.

Workshop Program: click here

Special Guest:
Christopher M. Jones
Teaching Professor of French and Computer-Assisted Language Learning
Carnegie Mellon University
Dr. Chris Jones, CMU
Dr. C. Jones, CMU

Christopher M. Jones is Interim Head and Teaching Professor of French and Computer-Assisted Language Learning in the Department of Modern Languages at Carnegie Mellon University. He was Director of the Modern Language Resource Center from 1993 to 2016 and founder and Director of the Masters in Applied Second Language Acquisition from 2010 to 2016. He has spoken, published and consulted widely in the area of technology-enhanced language learning. His materials development experience includes textbook authoring, CD-ROM design and programming, and on-line courseware creation in French, Chinese, Spanish and Arabic. He was a participant in the interdisciplinary Pittsburgh Science of Learning Center and continues to be an active member of the Open Learning Initiative at Carnegie Mellon.

Goals for the LACOL Language Instruction hack-a-thon:

1. Explore development of shared diagnostic and bridge/refresher framework for language instruction that could support students in identifying and closing gaps in knowledge and skills.
2. Engage faculty as content creators, working with professional staff and students for technical support and data input.
3. Build prototypes of a diagnostic test and refresher module; these could serve as models for further development of online testing and teaching materials for sharing across the Consortium.
4. Document results and recommendations for continued collaboration.

Background and Rationale:
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Digital Storytelling for Liberal Arts Teaching and Learning (June 15 Panel)

storytelling circle copy
Digital storytelling is a powerful narrative form for imagining, analyzing, and informing that typically combines images, text, recorded audio, video clips, and music.  The educational uses are many.
As Bryan Alexander says, storytelling just might be the most important cognitive tool of the 21st century.

This panel discussion at the LACOL2017 workshop will highlight how faculty and students at liberal arts colleges are using media-rich storytelling to spark creative expression in teaching, learning and research.  The basics of digital storytelling are well known.  By comparing experiences with “applied digital pedagogy”, the panelists will share approaches to their own learning design and process in different disciplinary contexts. Through dialogue, several questions will be explored. How are assignments introduced to students and how do they respond? How can faculty foster interaction and collaborative engagement through storytelling?  How do faculty and technologists partner effectively to support digital media creation?  How might media-based approaches be shaping our culture of teaching and learning?

Moderator: Bryan Alexander, educator, futurist and author of The New Digital Storytelling

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Social Annotation with Stanford’s Lacuna (meet up/demo)

Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 11.25.21 AM

Screen Shot 2017-05-01 at 3.32.52 PMOn Monday, June 19th, join the Active & Engaged Reading and Effective Teaching & Learning working groups for an online meetup and discussion of Lacuna, a platform for digital annotation and social and collaborative reading developed at the Poetic Media Lab in the Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis at Stanford.  

https://poeticmedia.stanford.edu/lacuna

Several academic reading groups at Stanford and beyond are using Lacuna for collaborative reading and annotation.  The development team is working on release version 3.0 which will include a more robust analytics dashboard for readers to reflect on what kinds of critical thinking are represented in their annotations.  Join this meeting to learn more about the pedagogies and digital tools for reading.

Event: Web conference in Zoom
Title: Lacuna Conversation and Demo with Brian Johnsrud & Amir Eshel from the Stanford Poetic Media Lab
Audience: All LACOL members are welcome
Date: Monday, June 19
Time: 3:30-5pm Eastern

For details on how to join the web conference, contact Liz Evans

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Cracking an old chestnut? Brainstorm on shared collections for liberal arts teaching and learning.

repository

LACOL 2017 Session 5: Group Brainstorm
Presenters/Facilitators: Sean Fox, Brian Alexander
Date & Location: June 15 on the Campus of Vassar College (see program details)

S. Fox, Tech. Dir. SERC
S. Fox, Technical Director
SERC

Open educational resources and shared collections are hot topics; at the same time, these concepts have been with us for years. For LACOL, opportunities to develop shared resources (repositories) are frequently proposed … but how can we develop useful collections while avoiding common pitfalls? In this brainstorming session, Sean Fox, Technical Director of the Science Education Resource Center (SERC) at Carleton College will frame the issues as we invite all workshop participants to brainstorm on the what, the why, and the how of shared collections.

Key questions include:

  • What are common faculty strategies for seeking and finding teaching resources?
  • Can we foster effective processes to develop useful collections* through LACOL?

*these questions are pressing for the QS and Language Instruction working groups, but other opportunities exist for LACOL.  What do YOU think?

 

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Visualizing student storymaps on the web

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LACOL 2017 Session 9: Visualizing student storymaps on the web
Presenter: Mary Ann Cunningham, Associate Professor of Geography, Vassar College
Date & Location: June 16 on the Campus of Vassar College (see program details)

M. Cunningham
M. Cunningham

Web maps, map apps and other emerging applications are making it easier to visualize, share, and publicize spatial data. A principal advantage of these approaches is that we can make visible the issues that matter to us, and that we discuss in classes, from digital access to energy resource impacts to neoliberal development policies. In this talk Mary Ann Cunningham discusses how students in her spring 2017 Geography course, Web Mapping, developed story maps to aid in making visible a variety of issues they wanted to share. In the process of finding and processing data, they developed their data management abilities, and in the app design they practiced prioritizing and organizing narratives.

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A new LACOL collaboration will develop Qbits to support students with quantitative skills and reasoning

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M. Eblen-Zayas
Above: Physicist M. Eblen-Zayas, Carleton College

Top: Mathematician M. Stoicu, Williams College at the 2017 QS Hackathon

To assist our students with readiness for their quantitative work across the curriculum, LACOL’s Quantitative Skills working group is launching a multi-campus initiative, nicknamed QLAB. Through this collaboration, faculty and technologists are teaming up to build a shared framework for curating, implementing and assessing instructional modules for quantitative skills (QS) and quantitative reasoning (QR). The strategy draws on a body of research in higher education and experience at our institutions showing that online modules can be a beneficial component of an overall QS/QR support program.

According to project co-lead Melissa Eblen-Zayas, Associate Professor of Physics and Director of the Perlman Center for Learning and Teaching, Carleton College:

The QLAB project addresses a challenge that many of us are facing — we want all students to be successful regardless of their high school math preparation. Currently, each faculty member teaching a course that makes use of basic quantitative skills (QS) must find ways to support students with weak QS preparation. Rather than having faculty members develop all of their own support resources, this project will develop shared online modules – Qbits – that can be deployed for just-in-time review and skill-building in a number of disciplines.

Developing online resources that can be used in multiple contexts to help students strengthen their quantitative skills serves two purposes. First, by showing how these skills are relevant in various disciplinary contexts, students learn to view quantitative skills as fundamental and transferable skills that they can draw on in many areas of their liberal arts experience. Second, as a consortial effort, we will have more students using these modules in a variety of contexts so that we can collect meaningful data about the effectiveness of the various modules, and improve them accordingly.

Groundwork for the project was laid during the QS Framework Hack-a-thon held at Carleton College in January 2017.  At that workshop, faculty and technologists created module prototypes and explored research questions based on the common needs and challenges the partner schools experience as small, residential liberal arts institutions.
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Sharing Courses in Self-Instructional Language Programs through Online Conversation

SILP

In an increasingly globalized world, students are seeking ways to learn languages that are not commonly taught at schools in the United States. While self-instructional language programs (SILP) afford many opportunities to explore lesser-taught languages like Hindi, Korean, or Swahili, the scope of each program is limited. A new online collaboration will allow each program to tap into resources that other colleges in the consortium have, e.g. native speakers in the community that can serve as tutors, or advanced level instruction in certain languages. Students will have additional opportunities to explore new paths within their liberal arts education.

Many of the colleges within the consortium offer some form of guided self-instruction of lesser-taught languages already. The new LACOL project will launch a collaboration between the Self-Instructional Language Programs at Pomona, Vassar, and Williams College, using online synchronous classroom-to-classroom interaction. As Lioba Gerhardi, Vassar’s Coordinator of the Self-Instructional Language Program and Adjunct Assistant Professor of German Studies says:

By sharing resources, the partners will be able to increase the number of self-instructional languages available to students in an innovative and cost-effective manner.

The self-instructional component of each language course will remain unchanged. Each student will enroll for the course at their home institution. For speaking and listening practice, students will join conversational tutorial sessions at a partnering college via video conferencing software, such as Zoom.

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From Blended Learning to Digital Pedagogies in the Liberal Arts?

LACOL 2017 Session 7: From Blended Learning to Digital Pedagogies in the Liberal Arts?
Presenter: Jennifer Spohrer, Manager of Educational Technology Services, Bryn Mawr College
Date & Location: June 16 on the Campus of Vassar College (see program details)

6OwLaEI4When Bryn Mawr College first proposed experimenting with “blended learning in the liberal arts” back in 2011, we conceptualized it as a combination of “traditional,” face-to-face, liberal arts instruction and online tutorials that assessed and gave students feedback on learning. However, in the initial calls for proposals, it became quickly apparent that liberal arts college faculty were incorporating other types of digital technologies into their teaching, and doing so ways we had not anticipated. This presentation surveys the digitally enabled teaching approaches that have been included under the “blended learning” umbrella since 2011 and identifies “digital pedagogies” that might connect them.

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Where’s my remote? Shared upper level math courses across schools

LACOL 2017 Session 7: Where’s my remote? Shared upper level math courses across schools
Speaker: Steven J. Miller, Assoc. Professor of Mathematics, Williams College
Date & Location: June 16 on the Campus of Vassar College (see program details)
Related Links:

S. Miller
S. Miller, Williams College

As small institutions cannot always offer the classes our students need at the time they need them, several people at various LACOL schools have been exploring how to remotely share classes. While there many not be enough demand at any one place for a certain topic, by combining students from several schools we can have a course. There are many challenges, especially keeping the small liberal arts feel and having all students engaged. We report on the beta test, Miller’s Problem Solving class at Williams. We’ll discuss the technology used, emphasizing how the content was delivered and connections were made between students and faculty, and the challenges in coordinating a course across several campuses.

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Mini-Workshop: Digital Storytelling for Liberal Arts Teaching and Learning

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On Friday, June 16, seats are available for a Mini-Workshop entitled Digital Storytelling for Liberal Arts Teaching and Learning. This hands-on, face-to-face session is open to registered participants at the 2017 LACOL consortium-wide workshop at Vassar College.

Facilitators:

  • Faculty co-facilitator (TBA)
  • Baynard Bailey (Academic Computing Services, Vassar College)

Mini-workshop Topics:

  • Intro and examples: What is Digital Storytelling?
  • Brainstorming: How might I use this in my teaching?
  • Tools and techniques:
    • Hands-on time with tools like WeVideo, Final Cut Pro
    • Voiceover and microphones
    • Importing editing still images
    • Importing and editing video
    • Adding music and sound
    • Exporting and Sharing

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The 2017 Lightning Round @ Vassar College

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Picking up from last year’s wildly popular 2016 Tech Lightning Round at Haverford College, this year’s consortium-wide workshop LACOL2017 at Vassar College will feature THE RETURN OF THE LACOL LIGHTNING ROUND over lunch on Thursday, June 15.

star2017 Lightning Round: The Lineup
Moderator: Steve Taylor, Director of Academic Computing Services, Vassar College

In the lightning round, LACOL faculty and staff are invited to share an idea for a short pitch – JUST FIVE MINUTES EACH – on a digital tool or technique you’re trying in your online/hybrid classroom.

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Adaptive Learning (and Adaptive Teaching) in a First Course in Applied Statistics

LACOL 2017 Session 9:  Adaptive Learning (and Adaptive Teaching) in a First Course in Applied Statistics
Date & Location: June 16 on the Campus of Vassar College (see program details)
Speaker: Denny Garvis, Professor of Business Admin & Mgmt, The Williams School at Washington & Lee University

D. Garvis, Washington & Lee University
D. Garvis, Washington & Lee University

This presentation coming up in June 2017 serves as a practical follow-up to the Candace Thille keynote from LACOL 2016. Specifically, adaptive learning courseware originally developed in the Online Learning Initiative (OLI) at Carnegie Mellon University has been used in the Applied Statistics course in the Williams School at Washington and Lee since 2014. Pedagogical advantages, trade-offs in teaching, and student learning outcomes from using the OLI Statistical Reasoning courseware, now hosted by Stanford EdX, will be discussed.

Additional Resources:

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On the Math Fundamentals Program: QS meet-up April 7

On April 7, LACOL QS members are cordially invited to join a one-hour web conference with the leads of the Math Fundamentals (FIPSE) Program, Faculty PI and Professor of Physics Elizabeth McCormack and project management lead Jennifer Spohrer, Manager of Educational Technology Services, both at Bryn Mawr College.

Math Fundamentals is a multi-year, multi-campus initiative investigating the use of blended, just-in-time “sandwich” modules for math review in STEM. The research partners (including LACOL members Bryn Mawr College and Vassar College) are currently field testing several faculty-authored modules in calculus, chemistry and physics. (more…)

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You Are the New Gatekeeper of the News

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video gallery button_edited-1Event: Online Pop-Up Discussion, April 4th 2017
Title: You Are the New Gatekeeper of the News
Discussion Leader: Aly Colón, Knight Professor of Media Ethics, Washington and Lee University
Audience: Students, Faculty, Staff, Alumnae/i
Background Reading: You are the new gatekeepers of the news (The Conversation, Feb 7, 2017)

Aly Colón, Professor of Journalism Ethics, W&L
A. Colón

Discussion Topic: News consumers today face a flood of fake news and alternative information. In this online meet-up, journalism ethics professor Aly Colón explores forces of change in the new media landscape as we become responsible for deciding how we filter what’s news and what’s not. Professor Colón frames the conversation with historical examples and point to emerging trends in the digital age of news where Velocity + Volume = Volatility. As an ethical agent of journalism, how can you cultivate a mindset of open inquiry and deepen your capacities to handle challenging or uncomfortable views, especially in online settings?


Highlights (9:52)

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Project Update: Upper Level Stats shared course pilot added for Fall 2017

Jingchen (Monika) Hu, Assistant Professor of Statistics at Vassar College
Jingchen (Monika) Hu, Assist. Prof. of Statistics, Vassar College

In connection with LACOL’s Upper Level Math collaboration, Assistant Professor Jingchen (Monika) Hu at Vassar College is opening her Fall 2017 Bayesian Statistics course to students from across the consortium.  As the course unfolds, Prof. Hu plans to share bi-weekly lectures and screencasts with the class and engage with remote students via video conferencing and online office hours.  On each participating campus, a local faculty liaison will be on hand to guide students as needed.  Technical support will be provided in partnership with instructional technology/academic computing groups on each campus. In exploring the opportunity for the pilot experiment, Hu said:

To me, this shared/hybrid model can be a great way to get students on our campuses the access to upper level statistics courses. After collecting some data, I am very amazed at how rich the upper level statistics offering [across LACOL] could be if we can share the resources in some way. 

Stephan Garcia, Associate Professor of Mathematics, Pomona College
S. Garcia, Assoc. Prof. of Mathematics, Pomona College

The Bayesian Statistics pilot will complement another hybrid/shared offering in Real Analysis from Associate Professor Stephan Garcia at Pomona College. Because sharing Garcia’s course lectures will require capture of his mathematical notations on several blackboards, he is testing a robotic camera rig that can be positioned to record high definition video all around the classroom.

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