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 School, Working Group,  Events or Projects.


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Inclusive Pedagogies & Measuring Complex Domains of Learning for the Liberal Arts – 2 workshops

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Emerging pedagogies for inclusion are keen topics of interest across the liberal arts. Our Teaching & Learning Centers, and our academic support colleagues have a growing body of experience – what works and what doesn’t work – when it comes to supporting our diverse student body academically and as whole persons. Collaboration around these insights and measurements across LACOL has seemed like a useful idea to many. To advance these conversations, two interrelated workshops will be held in the Spring of 2018:

WORKSHOP 2: Measuring Complex Domains of Learning (Inclusive Pedagogies)

  • Date: Friday, April 27
  • Location: Davidson College
  • Register: Davidson Workshop Registration & Housing (register by 4/1)
  • Workshop Leads:
    • Dr. Brent Maher, Director of Academic Assessment, Davidson College
    • Kristen Eshleman, Director of Digital Innovation, Davidson College
    • Prof. Paul Youngman, Chair of the Digital Humanities Working Group and Professor of German, Washington & Lee University
  • Program: https://emergentedu.org 

WORKSHOP 1: LACOL Dialogue on Inclusive Pedagogies

  • Date: Friday, March 9
  • Location: Haverford College
  • Speakers*:
    • Prof. Verna Case, Assoc. Dean of Faculty, Director of the Teaching and Learning Center, and Beverly F. Dolan Professor of Biology, Davidson College
    • Prof. Jyl Gentzler, John Cooper ’64 Presidential Teaching Professor of Philosophy and Faculty Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning, Amherst College
    • Dr. Riley Caldwell O’Keefe, Director, Center for Teaching and Learning, Amherst College
    • Prof. Jonathon Kahn, Assoc. Professor of Religion, Vassar College
    • Dr. Andrea Nixon, Program Director, Division of Undergraduate Education, National Science Foundation and Director of Educational Research, Carleton College
  • Program: Agenda
  • Logistics: Workshop Info

Background and Purpose:

The goal of these paired workshops is to start a dialogue across our stakeholders around issue of access and inclusion, and to consider ways in which both qualitative and quantitative assessments might be used to jointly study this aspect (and others) of the liberal arts experience. (more…)

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Depolluting the Web: Information Environmentalism in Education

Hands-On Mini-Workshop @ LACOL 2018

Name: Depolluting the Web: Information Environmentalism in Education
Date: Thursday, May 31st
Time: 2pm-4pm
Location: Weitz Center for Creativity at Carleton College (room tba)

  • Amy Collier, Associate Provost for Digital Learning, Middlebury College
  • Sundi Richard, Lead Instructional Designer, Davidson College

Session Description:

A. Collier
A. Collier

The web is polluted. The digital platforms where we learn and connect are replete with misinformation and threats to our wellbeing and privacy. We know that toxic digital information environments impact our daily lives, and the lives of our students, in everything from politics, to policy, to interactions in public and private spheres.

What can we do? What does informed participation or activism look like in these polluted web platforms?

S. Richard, mini-workshop co-lead
S. Richard

In this hands-on session, we’ll “get our hands dirty” to better understand the drivers of mis/disinformation on the web (i.e., how our digital information environments become polluted) and begin to take actions to clean up those environments. Dubbed “Information Environmentalism” by Mike Caulfield, this work aims to depollute the web platforms where we find (mis)information and where we connect for social and educational purposes.

Information environmentalism embraces agency–rather than hopelessness and withdrawal–and because of this, we think it is a necessary part of digital literacy education in a liberal arts curriculum. (more…)

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Pop-up MOOC: Engagement in a Time of Polarization

Mini Mooc
Prof Deckard in pop-up MOOC studio
Prof. Deckard in the pop-up MOOC Studio

From tweetstorms to troll farms, social media has become deeply polarized; a force that is frequently unpleasant and may even pose a threat to democracy. What to do? A new pop-up MOOC from Davidson Now invites students to explore active solutions.

Productive, participatory engagement builds communities and builds networks that support real interaction and change.  When meeting face-to-face is no longer necessary, what does engagement look like in a democratic society?

– Prof. Natalie Delia Deckard, Davidson College

On Feb. 12, Davidson College will launch “Engagement in a Time of Polarization,” a free, two-week online course that will engage learners in a conversation about active, effective collaboration in a divisive media ecosystem.

Students will:

  • Learn about historical models for creating an informed, engaged citizenry from professors Natalie Delia Deckard of Davidson College and Bonnie Stewart of the University of Prince Edward Island
  • Evaluate the implications of polarization–and participatory engagement–for educators, government and media; and
  • Participate in real-time discussions with leading voices in media literacy, disinformation and polarization.

This is the third class from Davidson Now, a digital learning series from Davidson College on edX.org. (more…)

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In Awe: A Virtual Reality Experiment at Hamilton College

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Pictured above: Study participant Jeff Greenwald, Hamilton ’17

Researchers studying awe in a lab setting can’t take participants to awe-inducing locations like mountaintops, and the standard of watching videos of those situations has limitations. To help solve this problem, Hayley Goodrich ‘17, a Psychology concentrator at Hamilton College, and Educational Technologist Kyle Burnham recently set out to explore the use of Virtual Reality (VR) for Goodrich’s thesis project on the experience of awe.

A vague theoretical connection between awe and meaning exists in the awe literature. According to Goodrich:

awe arises when something in the environment is vast and cannot readily be incorporated into one’s existing meaning frameworks.

Goodrich wanted to explore if awe really did emerge in response to a violation of some meaning-making structure. Studying such a connection necessitated that she first make participants feel awe. (more…)

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Bryn Mawr’s Blended Learning in the Liberal Arts Conference, May 2018

cropped-blendlac_logo_resized-2A call for proposals is open for the Blended Learning in the Liberal Arts Conference, held at Bryn Mawr College May 23-24, 2018. Our definition of blended learning is quite broad, encompassing many types of digital pedagogy projects. We invite interested LACOL faculty and staff to attend.

Bryn Mawr requests proposals by February 15, 2018

More details here: http://blendedlearning.blogs.brynmawr.edu/blended-learning-conference/


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Language Skills Diagnostic Dashboard: 2018 Faculty Workshop and Pilot for French

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C. Born, Carleton College, presents at ELI in Jan 2018
C. Born, Carleton College, presenting at ELI
Jan 2018

To advance the LACOL Language Skills Diagnostic Dashboard Framework, a three-day hands on-workshop will be held in spring 2018 at Swarthmore College, leading to a pilot study of the emerging prototype in French.  

The workshop and pilot are the next step in a sequence that began with the Language Skills Hack-a-thon at Swarthmore College in May 2017 and the Dashboard Prototype Technical Workshop at Carleton College in October 2017.  With groundwork laid at these previous events, the team is well positioned to put forward a working prototype in French that can be piloted with faculty and students for placement and advising in the summer/fall of 2018. (more…)

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Active Learning – Strategies & Spaces

carleton active learning classroom

Workshop Session: Active Learning – Strategies & Spaces

Description: The purpose of this session is to start a discussion about Active Learning Spaces at Liberal Arts Colleges, and explore if there is an opportunity and mechanism through LACOL to share approaches and lessons about the design, technology and support of these classrooms.  

Come to share insights on experimental, flexible learning spaces on your campus.  What is the intent of those space?  How are they used?  How are they assessed?

Session Leaders:

  • Michael Jones, Director of Language and Media Centers, Swarthmore College
  • Ashley Turner, Academic Technologist, Swarthmore College


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Digital Competencies at the 2018 LACOL Summer Workshop

G. Siesing, Bryn Mawr College

For faculty and staff across LACOL to build upon foundations laid at the Think Tank on Digital Competencies last fall, an interactive session exploring digital competencies across the curriculum will be held at the the 2018 Summer Workshop at Carleton College.

This discussion will focus on how digital competencies connect with faculty priorities and practices for teaching and learning in the physical and virtual classroom, and how digital competencies support and relate to higher order learning goals.

Session Lead: Gina Siesing, Chief Information Officer and Constance A. Jones Director of Libraries at Bryn Mawr College

Pre-workshop activity: Group annotatation of the Bryn Mawr Framework!

See: http://lacol.net/digital-competencies-annotate-bmc

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Digital Competencies – annotate the Bryn Mawr Framework

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The activity described below is linked to the Digital Competencies session at the 2018 LACOL Workshop

The concept of digital competencies (also known as digital fluencies, literacies or dexterities) reflects the need for students to develop digital skills and critical perspectives as lifelong learners prepared for scholarship, work and life in the 21st century.  Recently, Bryn Mawr College has developed a digital competencies framework focused on these five areas:

  • Digital Survival Skills
  • Digital Communication
  • Data Management and Preservation
  • Data Analysis and Presentation
  • Critical Design, Making, and Development

Bryn Mawr’s framework served as the basis for the excellent Think Tank on Digital Competencies last fall at Davidson College which attracted a vibrant group of faculty, librarians and technologists from across the liberal arts.

Digital Competencies Session at the LACOL Summer Workshop

For faculty and staff across LACOL to build upon foundations laid at the Think Tank, an interactive session exploring digital competencies across the curriculum will be held at the 2018 Summer Workshop.  This discussion will focus on how digital competencies connect with faculty priorities and practices for teaching and learning in the physical and virtual classroom, and how digital competencies support and relate to higher order learning goals.  

Pre-Workshop Activity – Group Annotation of the BMC Framework

As input to the workshop discussion, we are inviting groups of faculty, staff and students to annotate a copy of the Bryn Mawr Digital Competencies Framework using a collaborative annotation tool called Hypothesis.  This tool is easy to use and allows everyone in a group to add and comment on annotations overlayed on top of any web document through a shared view. Shared annotation for the BMC Framework can help to reveal key trends and themes that will serve as a starting point for face to face discussion at the workshop.


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Shared Grammar Resource – New Exploration

There is an emerging plan for collaboration toward Shared Grammar Resources for Beginning Language Students. This concept has been discussed with enthusiasm in some earlier LACOL meetings, and Carleton Professor of Classics Chico Zimmerman has drafted a proposal to articulate more of the vision – see link above and below.

If this proposal interests you, you are invited to join an upcoming web conference where a multi-campus group of faculty and technologists will be discussing the realm of possibilities that Chico has outlined.

Meeting: Shared Grammar Resource (Exploratory Conversation)
Date: Thursday, January 25th
Time: 1:30-2:30pm Eastern
Location: Zoom (see sign-up sheet)

Meeting Agenda:
Prof. Chico Zimmerman (Carleton College) will share the proposal to highlight key ideas
Group will explore opportunities and possible next steps for collaboration (more…)

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Digital Competencies – two meetups @ EDU-PLACE in January

BMC digital comp

In October 2017, Davidson College hosted a LACOL event called the Think Tank on Digital Competencies. A mix of faculty, campus leaders, librarians, technologists, and instructional designers from liberal arts colleges across the country focused first on the Bryn Mawr College Digital Competencies Program (https://www.brynmawr.edu/digitalcompetencies), tracing its history, motivations, and impacts for students, faculty, and the institution.  Design thinking was then used to explore how digital liberal arts leaders may approach similar goals on their campuses.  

To follow up on a great think tank, the two webinars described below are being offered in January 2018 as a way open up this work on developing a Digital Competencies Framework to those who could not attend the in person event and to continue this conversation.

PLEASE JOIN! These webinars are open to everyone through PLACE, the Partnership for Liberal Arts Collaboration and Exploration, https://p-lace.org.

Workshop 1: Overview of Bryn Mawr’s Digital Competencies Framework

Tuesday, January 9 | 3pm – 4pm Eastern

(The Workshop 1 event has past; check the EDU-PLACE list for related resources)


  • Beth Seltzer, Educational Technology Specialist, Bryn Mawr College
  • Gina Siesing, Chief Information Officer and Constance A. Jones Director of Libraries, Bryn Mawr College
  • Jennifer Spohrer, Director of Educational Technology Services, Bryn Mawr College

In this session, Bryn Mawr College staff will discuss why and how the college developed and launched a digital competencies program. This institutional focus on digital competency reflects our commitment to ensuring students develop digital skills and critical perspectives as lifelong learners prepared for work and life in the 21st century. We will talk about how to develop a framework that’s meaningful within your institutional context, ways to leverage college partnerships and build on campus initiatives, and approaches to integrating digital competencies across the student’s curricular and co-curricular experience.

This is the first of two related workshops; the next is “Hands-on Digital Competencies Program Design” on January 16.

Workshop 2: Hands-on Digital Competencies Program Design

Tuesday, January 16 |  2pm – 3pm Eastern

(The Workshop 2 event has past; check the EDU-PLACE list for related resources)

  • Kristen Eshleman, Director of Digital Innovation, Davidson College
  • Sundi Richard, Lead Instructional Designer, Davidson College

verbs of dcThis is an active session that is meant to follow the “Overview of BMC’s Digital Competencies Framework” session on January 9th. We recommend you join this session with a group of 3 – 5 people, as you will be doing timed design thinking activities together. Each group will work through a guided ideation process to establish the goals and components for an institutional digital competencies framework and map out next steps for local program development. The facilitators will provide prompts and examples each step of the way.


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George Siemens Keynote at LACOL 2018

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George Siemens
Dr. George Siemens

How to stay human in a digital age.

LACOL is honored to announce that George Siemens will keynote the 2018 LACOL Workshop at Carleton College.

George Siemens researches, technology, networks, analytics, and openness in education. Dr. Siemens is Professor and Executive Director of the Learning Innovation and Networked Knowledge Research Lab (LINK) at University of Texas, Arlington. He leads the development of the Center for Change and Complexity in Learning (C3L) at University of South Australia. He has delivered keynote addresses in more than 35 countries on the influence of technology and media on education, organizations, and society. His work has been profiled in provincial, national, and international newspapers (including NY Times), radio, and television. He has served as PI or Co-PI on grants funded by NSF, SSHRC (Canada), Intel, Boeing, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Soros Foundation.  He has received numerous awards, including honorary doctorates from Universidad de San Martín de Porres and Fraser Valley University for his pioneering work in learning, technology, and networks. He holds an honorary professorship with University of Edinburgh.

Dr. Siemens is a founding President of the Society for Learning Analytics Research (http://www.solaresearch.org/). He has advised government agencies Australia, European Union, Canada and United States, as well as numerous international universities, on digital learning and utilizing learning analytics for assessing and evaluating productivity gains in the education sector and improving learner results. In 2008, he pioneered massive open online courses (sometimes referred to as MOOCs). He blogs at http://www.elearnspace.org/blog/ and on Twitter: gsiemens

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The American Prison Writing Archive at Hamilton College

Access, collaboration, and prisons – three words one is unlikely to see in the same context. Yet the American Prison Writing Archive (APWA) works collaboratively to provide access to the witness borne by people in prison today. Directed by Doran Larson, Walcott-Bartlett Professor of Literature & Creative Writing at Hamilton College, the APWA is a continually growing online archive of essays written by incarcerated people and prison workers. The APWA provides access to the lived experiences of those inside these closed systems. These essays unveil the prisons we have constructed. We expect them to mete out justice. What we find in each essay is something much less noble.

Reading any single essay is a powerful experience; reading across essays offers the outlines and interiors of a city just smaller than Chicago.

While emerging from the American archipelago of over 6,000 carceral institutions, the cityscape we discover is as cohesive as that of our Chicago, LA, or New York. But this is a city dedicated to the production of pain. (See Larson’s Fourth City: Essays from the Prison in America, and his MOOC on the history of prison writing in the US.)

PI Larson working with student researchers.
PI D. Larson working with student researchers.

Larson began working with the Digital Humanities Initiative (DHi) at Hamilton College to develop an online, open access archive of prison essays in 2010. In December 2017, the APWA reached two important milestones: 1) over 1000 essays are now online; and 2) a transcription tool was developed to crowdsource transcription of the primarily handwritten essays. The transcription tool increased the ability of transcribers anywhere to request an account and contribute to transcriptions that allow full text searching of the archive. With over twenty new essay submissions and associated signed permission questionnaires per month, the APWA team has focused on processing submissions, correspondence, digitization, and metadata entry. Volunteer transcribers continue the practice of collaboration that fuels every aspect of the APWA. The NEH grant Larson received this past year contributed to the development of this transcription tool and also supports an administrative assistant working for the archive. Collaboration is woven into all of the work of this archive: from Larson’s work within and across institutions to maintain prison writing programs, to the team ethos of the DHi Collection Development Team in developing and sustaining the growing archive, to the research of undergraduate students, faculty and graduate students who can use the archive from other institutions. (more…)

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LACOL Teaching with Tech Lightning & Thunder Round @ Carleton College

lightening round auidience

Picking up from last year’s wildly popular 2017 Tech Lightning Round at Vassar, this year’s consortium-wide workshop LACOL2018 at Cartelton College will feature THE RETURN OF THE LACOL LIGHTNING ROUND over lunch on Thursday, May 31st.

star2018 Lightning Round: Lineup coming soon
Moderator: TBA

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 classroom or online.

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Q-bits discussion at the Annual NNN Conference

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In November 2017, Dr. Laura J. Muller, Director of Quantitative Skills Programs and Peer Support at Williams College and a member of the QLAB core team*, gave a presentation on the Q-bits Pilot to an audience of educators at the annual National Numeracy Network (NNN) Conference in New York.

Muller (pictured above right at the 2017 QS Hack-a-thon alongside Prof. A. Honig, Amherst College) has been at the forefront of Q-bits module design and implementation as part of a multi-year, multi-campus collaboration called QLAB. Given Laura’s teaching background and expertise in peer support and tutoring for Quantitative Skills and Reasoning, she’s interested in assessing the potential for online modules like Q-bits which can provide just-in-time support to help students brush up on, and apply, quantitative methods and concepts across the curriculum.

At NNN, Laura focused on issues of meta-cognition, student confidence, and transfer of QS/QR knowledge and skills across different context.

A distinguishing features of the Q-bits design is the opportunity for students to see that it’s worth investing time in learning certain foundational concepts that they will see over and over in their academic career.


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