Welcome. The partner colleges 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 colleges.
For highlights from our campuses and our collaborative work, browse the articles below or filter by category.
A major highlight of Saturday’s plenary session at the June LACOL workshop was a presentation from Carleton College on their new online/hybrid bridge program called ‘Carleton Undergraduate Bridge Experience’ or CUBE. Associate Dean and Professor of English George Shuffelton opened the session with some background on the motivations for designing the new program to support incoming students with their quantitative skills and reasoning which pilots this summer. Director of Academic Technology Janet Russell has worked closely with the program’s director, Physicist Melissa Eblen-Zayas, and the Carleton IT team to guide the learning design for the first cohort of ~24 students. Janet described various elements of the program, including on-campus and online mentoring, videos and connections through social media. Workshop participants, especially those involved with the Quantitative Skills working group, applauded this excellent presentation and are excited to learn from Carleton’s initial experiences this summer. The QS group is exploring various ways the colleges might collaborate to support students with quantitative skills and reasoning as they arrive on campus and progress with their studies.
Carleton’s G. Shuffelton and J. Russell share a look at the CUBE for QS/QR.
At the June LACOL workshop, Swarthmore Classics Professor William Turpin gave a presentation during the Adaptive Learning breakout on his investigations into various digital tools to support students with learning and practice of Latin and Greek. As shown in the short slideshow below, Turpin is experimenting with platforms such as Fluenz and Smart Sparrow which offer a variety of modes for presenting interactive content and adaptive drills to students.
Alongside presentations from two other speakers in the session, Turpin’s experiments sparked a robust Q&A on the useful applications for supporting student learning through adaptive tools, and also concerns regarding data and content portability when considering the use of proprietary software. It is clear that the promises and potential pitfalls of adaptive learning for the liberal arts will remain a keen focus of interest for the Consortium.
Slides (no audio) from William Turpin’s investigations into adaptive tools for Latin learning.
At the June LACOL workshop, Associate Professor of Chemistry Casey Londergan demonstrated his techniques for flipping the chemistry classroom as part of a multi-disciplinary panel on faculty and student experiences with online, blended and active learning.
In a Physical Chemistry class primarily for juniors, Londergan and his colleague Joshua Schrier have experimented with a mixture of just-in-time and active learning techniques with their students in order to maximize the use of class time for problem solving work. Content delivery through readings and videos happens mostly through the LMS so more active learning can happen in the classroom. Modular videos allow students to re-watch sections of the lecture. Pre-class questions in the LMS also help Londergan adjust each class to focus on the areas where students have the most questions.
For students, the active classroom learning design pushes them to focus and improve in the most challenging areas. Using a tablet and stylus linked wirelessly to the projector, Londergan is free to move around the class and help individual students and groups get “unstuck” as they work on problems together.
Prof. Casey Londergan demonstrates his flipped chemistry classroom at Haverford.
At the LACOL workshop in June, classicist Chico Zimmerman from Carleton College shared a short plenary talk entitled, “Toward a better Latin placement test”, also known as, “A Tale of Two Arcadian Friends, a Homocidal Innkeeper, and a Pile of Manure.”
In their teaching, faculty strive to meet students where they are, but often must ask, where exactly ARE they? For incoming students at Carleton, the Classics department found that their Latin placement test was not giving enough granular diagnostic information, especially for less experienced students. To address this need, Zimmerman and his colleages are investigating a variety of adaptive tools and platforms with the potential to help them better understand and guide their students at the appropriate level.
In the video clip below, Zimmerman shares details on Carleton’s experiments thus far with Moodle, Assistments, Smart Sparrow, and other tools. Similar themes of adaptive and digitally-enhanced support for language instruction and other disciplines were explored in sessions throughout the two-day workshop program.
Chico Zimmerman explores tools for better language placement at the LACOL workshop.
At the June LACOL workshop, Ben Ho, a behavioral economist and faculty member at Vassar College, presents several ways that online games inspire his students to learn through modeling of real data in the classroom. New pedagogies in the field of economics allow for a more experimental approaches that can lead to deeper understanding. For example, participatory games and simulations that use student-generated can add an emotional component that enriches some of the traditional and more mathematically-based modeling techniques.
Ho particularly likes a web-based software platform called MobLab that can be used on a smartphone which most students have in their pockets. This makes it easy to incorporate the online games with learning in the classroom. Watch the short video below for more details from Prof. Ho on the power of games for teaching and learning.
Video: Behavioral economist Ben Ho presents at LACOL 2016
In Saturday’s plenary session at the 2016 LACOL workshop, Instructional Designer hari stephen kumar from Amherst College illuminated a key workshop theme: what are new pedagogical frameworks that can help us integrate place-based and digital learning in positive ways for the liberal arts? Kumar explores three emerging practices which can transform the learning and teaching in small residential liberal arts settings:
• deep(er) learning as a disruptive liberal art
• threshold concepts and limnal learning
• inclusive pedagogies
Kumar goes on to consider other high-impact practices and emerging ideas in pedagogy that have the potential for reshaping liberal arts education to better serve a wider population and to tackle complex global challenges. Watch the video and download the linked slides from hari’s presentation below.
Video: hari stephen kumar plenary talk June 17th at the LACOL workshop
Faculty have started exploring Apple’s new IPad Pro and its companion Pencil for teaching, presenting, grading and even classroom activities. Initially prompted by a faculty member in Swarthmore’s French section, Technologist Alexander Savoth has been exploring various ways to incorporate these new technologies into the classroom. The following video is a brief screencast, which highlights three particularly useful apps. This screencast was created for the tech lightning round at 2016 LACOL workshop in June.
Screencast demo of three teaching tools: Notability, Zen Brush and MyScript Memo.
Vassar College hosted its first DataFest, an American Statistical Association sponsored weekend-long data analysis competition from Friday April 8 to Sunday April 10, 2016. Student response was enthusiastic; approximately 40 students (9 teams) representing 9 different single majors and 6 different double major combinations participated in DataFest. Generous support was provided by Vassar administrative offices and academic departments across disciplines, as well as external companies.
On Friday evening, the large and messy datasets from Ticketmaster were revealed to the students in a kick-off event. Over the next 48 hours, each team developed their own research question and worked together to analyze and gain insights into the data. Throughout the weekend, over a dozen Vassar faculty members and professionals from the Poughkeepsie area volunteered as consultants. On Sunday afternoon, each team presented their findings to the other teams and a panel of volunteer judges.
The weekend involved challenging and multi-dimensional problem solving. Students faced such questions as, How to formulate an appropriate research question? Can a subset of variables in the dataset answer the research question? How to best visualize the data? Do we need any external sources to complement our analysis, and if so, can we access them? What are the best statistical methods to tackle the question? How to implement the chosen methods on a large dataset using statistical software? What key messages to conclude from our findings? How to most effectively communicate our findings to a judge panel and other participants, in 15 minutes? How to work with others with different skill sets and background? How to best utilize the strengths of all team members? How to work under time pressure and make compromises, if necessary?
Overall, participating in DataFest involved scientific reasoning, critical thinking, teamwork, communication and more. Such an experience is valuable for students in any stage of their academic career.
The Liberal Arts Consortium for Online Learning (LACOL) hosted a Consortium-wide workshop on June 17-18, 2016 on the campus of Haverford College. Browse the posts on this page for details on the program, videos and workshop resources.
1. The Consortium as incubator for learning research and effective pedagogies
2. Student perspectives on digital approaches and online/blended learning
3. From high school to college; preparing and supporting our students
4. Techniques and tools for collaboration, how can we work together?
5. LACOL working groups – team meetings and presentations
On April 27th, five expert panelists from across the Consortium gathered online with an audience of faculty, technologists, and campus administrators for a discussion entitled, “Learning Data. What do we know? What do we want to know?” The session began with some thought-provoking remarks from the panelists, followed by two case studies, leading into free flowing conversation around several themes noted below in the video highlights.
The goal of this online conversation was to set a broad frame for faculty perspectives on learning data as it is useful in guiding teaching and student success in the liberal arts. As indicated by audience feedback, this area has rich possibilities for exploration and potential collaboration as a Consortium. We will be looking for opportunities to foster further conversation and collaborative investigation on specific aspects of this important topic.
Video Gallery – Online Panel
The who of learning data for the liberal arts.
• Dr. Audrey Bilger, Professor of Literature and Faculty Director of the Center for Writing & Public Discourse, Claremont McKenna College; incoming Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of the College, Pomona College
Levels of data that may inform teaching practice and institutional structures.
• Dr. Catherine Crouch, Associate Professor of Physics, Swarthmore College
How can liberal arts colleges collaborate on data that guide teaching and learning?
World-renowned open learning pioneer Dr. Candace M. Thille (Stanford University) delivered a captivating keynote address on the campus of Haverford College on Saturday, June 18th. This talk was a major highlight on the program of LACOL2016, a two-day, consortium-wide workshop organized by the Liberal Arts Consortium for Online Learning. In her remarks, Dr. Thille shared thoughtful and provocative commentary on the opportunities and risks ahead as we move further into the blended, digital future of teaching and learning for the liberal arts. She invited faculty, staff and students at small liberal arts colleges to engage and contribute to shaping a more positive, open and transparent future.
Speaker: Dr. Candace Thille, Stanford University Keynote Talk: The Science of Learning, Technology, and Student Success in Liberal Education Date: Saturday, June 18th Time: 11:30am-12:30pm Location: Stokes Auditorium on the campus of Haverford College
Candace Thille Keynote, “The Science of Learning, Technology, and Student Success in Liberal Education” LACOL 2016, June 18, 2016 at Haverford College
Q&A with Candace Thille: algorithms, feedback and measuring the unmeasurable
Following discussions and collaborations mostly via Zoom in the fall of 2015, Mark Andrews, Baynard Bailey, Thomas Parker of Vassar College and Virginie Pouzet-Duzer of Pomona College are looking for new LACOL partners who would be interested in adding a digital storytelling element to their fourth semester French classroom.
French Digital Storybook created by Vassar students Rafaela Vega del Castillo, Rose Clarfeld & David Sparks.
The current project started at Vassar College when Susan Hiner (Dept. French and Francophone Studies) received a grant to create a course for teaching intermediate French based on authentic French and Francophone story books.
The premise is that during the semester students learn French in the same way a Francophone child would through authenticate cultural material. During the semester, students “grow up,” beginning with illustrated nursery rhymes, songs, fairy tales, myths, and fables then short stories, bandes dessinées, animated movies, and concluding with adolescent literature.
Attached to these texts, the course proposes grammar and writing exercises combined with interpretative and creative exercises, all launched through a digital platform. Most importantly, the course features a student-authored semester-long storybook that students write, illustrate, animate, and narrate in French on a digital platform.
The course has been through several iterations as part of a collaborative effort in Vassar’s FFS department, primarily between Susan Hiner, Mark Andrews, and myself, Thomas Parker, with the active involvement of a succession of French Language Fellows (visiting French assistants). We have been having much success with students who adore the creative element of the course (the book writing), the strong visual emphasis and engaging content of the authentic source material (children’s books), and the different elements and non-traditional pedagogical strategies it provides.
For the technology aspect, we’ve worked closely an instructional technologist – Baynard Bailey. He works with the students to help them to construct their storybooks in Final Cut Pro X. Most students make illustrations by hand, scan them and then import the images into their digital books. Students then record their voiceovers, adding sound effects, music and animation to complement their stories. The videos are exported and uploaded to YouTube, and the scripts go into the closed captions. We’ve refined the process over the years and the evolution of the student work can be seen at http://pages.vassar.edu/ffs-digital-storytelling.
Now we are seeking partners and support to improve the course with colleagues. Our first partner is Virginie Pouzet-Duzer at Pomona College. In the fall of 2016, she is planning to incorporate several features from our version of French 206 into her French 44. She is going to keep the focus on fairy tales, but her syllabus partially let go of the texts originally aimed at a younger audience. Also, she is planning on adding a remote presentation of the final projects, having students from Pomona and Vassar share with each others using Skype or Zoom. (more…)
Carleton College has been using Moodle for nearly 10 years without having ever done a real evaluation of our use. Recent data from our participation in the MISO survey suggest some dissatisfaction with Moodle on our campus. And many current conversations (this Educause white paper is a great place to start) in ed-tech are centered around the changing role of the LMS or even whether an LMS is really needed anymore. But how do we know? And how do we know what we need?
That is why we are taking a step back and trying to engage the campus on attempting to understand our use of Moodle on a deeper level. The Moodle Evaluation & Needs Assessment project is designed to answer this question:
Does Carleton College need to investigate new technologies to support the functions currently provided by Moodle? Before we can answer this question, we are carrying out an assessment to gain a deeper understanding of the how we are using Moodle now, how we feel about it, and what it is that we actually need.
I’ve designed this evaluation project to try to assess Moodle from a number of different angles in order to get a more complete picture. There will be database diving, surveys and oh, so many focus groups!
Survey to assess the satisfaction with Moodle
A survey was distributed in March 2016 to all faculty at Carleton and also to staff who have logged into Moodle more than 5 times in the last year at Carleton. A separate survey was also distributed to a representative sample of Carleton students. I have some anecdotal information on general feelings towards Moodle, but it will be so much better to get some quantifiable feedback to specific features of the system.
Survey to assess the importance placed on features typically served by tools like Moodle
This is arguably more important than the questions about satisfaction, and is the heart of the needs assessment portion of this study. I’m hoping to get responses from everyone, even those who don’t use Moodle so that we can understand more about what it is that we need.
I am spending a lot of time up close and personal with the Moodle database. Moodle tracks a lot of information, and so I’m hoping to take advantage of that to understand our current usage patterns. Some questions I will be looking at include:(more…)
I own and use the Graphics Codex. Is it a reference tool, a companion to a textbook, an alternative to a textbook, or a self-study guide? It can work in any of these roles, but I think it is in fact a new thing. It’s a thing we’ll be seeing a lot of…dollar for dollar, it’s the best scholarly information I have ever purchased.
Prof. Peter Shirley (University of Utah)
coauthor of Fundamentals of Computer Graphics
As befits its subject, the hot new graphics textbook isn’t available on paper. It is pure digital. It covers the essential undergraduate and graduate topics, works on any screen from phone to projector, and adapts to your favorite equation style, programming language, and APIs. It costs your students only $10, and will never be out of date because it updates every month for free.
1. The Codex
I wrote the Graphics Codex (http://graphicscodex.com) as a textbook and reference for computational graphics. It draws on two decades of teaching and research experience in academia at Brown University and Williams College and in industry at companies like Activision and NVIDIA. The materials lines up with the latest ACM-IEEE curriculum, on which I consulted.
Through 13 chapters and hundreds of encylopedia-like articles, it covers all of the typical graphics syllabus topics such as ray tracing, OpenGL and GPUs, and virtual reality. What sets the Graphics Codex aside from other educational resources is that it fully embraces its digital medium to provide:
Web (for Android, Windows, Linux, and OS X) and iOS App versions
Always up to date: free monthly updates with new content and corrections
Accessible to all: costs only USD $10 from Amazon or Apple
Nonlinear, searchable content
All diagrams licensed for reuse in the classroom and presentations
Reader-selectable programming language and math conventions
All code samples are copyable
Automatic layout adjustment for every screen
The Graphics Codex is designed either to stand alone as your only text or to work as a supplement alongside a traditional book. In the past ten years I’ve taught courses in each style, and provide a suggested syllabus mapping from chapters in the top three graphics textbooks to related topics in the Graphics Codex.
A huge advantage of the web and mobile app packaging is that students always have the book with them. I pull up topics on the projector in lecture in response to questions. Students easily check the authoritative resource for the course whether they’re programming in lab or completing a problem set in on a blanket in the quad on a sunny day.