Working Group on Effective Teaching and Learning


LACOL’s Effective Teaching and Learning Working Group explores creative online and blended pedagogies for liberal arts teaching and learning.

Activities and Interests of this group include:

  • Study group on emerging pedagogies for liberal arts teaching and learning
  • Exploration of online and blended approaches relevant to our mission as residential liberal arts colleges
  • Matchmaking for inter-campus collaboration
Effective Teaching and Learning – Intranet Home:


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Think Tank on Digital Competencies for the Liberal Arts (Oct. 28)

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video gallery button_edited-1Welcome! Registration is open through October 1st.  Full description and event details are below.

Event: Think Tank on Digital Competencies for the Liberal Arts
Location: Davidson College
Date: Saturday, October 28th, 11am-3pm
Travel: Davidson College Visitor Information
Recommended Hotel: Homewood Suites (group rate available if you reserve before Oct 6th)
Registration Required:

  • Kristen Eshleman, Director of Digital Innovation, Davidson College
  • 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

October 28th Program:

  • Part 1: A workshop exploring the strategy and design behind the Bryn Mawr Digital Competencies Framework & Program (
  • Lunch: A group lunch hosted by Kristen Eshleman and Sundi Richard, Davidson College
  • Part 2: A facilitated discussion of digital competency/dexterity/fluency program goals and components across our institutions including guided design thinking activities to support participants’ articulation of next steps in local program development and collective brainstorming around the potential for building a liberal arts community of practice related to digital competency/dexterity/fluency programs.

Description: The concepts of digital competencies and digital fluency reflect the need for students to develop digital skills and critical perspectives as lifelong learners prepared for work and life in the 21st century. There is growing recognition of the importance of integrating these skills into a well-rounded liberal arts education. 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

At this one-day think tank event hosted at Davidson College in October 2017, participants will focus on the Bryn Mawr College Digital Competencies Program and allied endeavors at peer institutions. Using the BMC framework as a case study, attendees will explore related interest across our institutions, many of whom are exploring and building similar kinds of programs and looking for frameworks to share and adapt. Faculty, academic technologists, leadership and career development center directors, and others engaged in thinking through digital competency frameworks for the liberal arts are encouraged to participate.

The main outcomes for this workshop will be to create a community of practice around design, development, and facilitation of digital competency/dexterity/fluency programs in the liberal arts and to identify ongoing ways of sharing program models and resources. Individual institutional teams will also be able to adapt and expand Bryn Mawr’s digital competencies framework as appropriate for local contexts. We hope that LACOL might also at some point endorse the BMC digital competencies framework as an expression of foundational capabilities that we agree on across liberal art institutions as relevant for scholarship, learning, work, and life in the digital age. A shared framework can provide a pathway to accelerate stated LACOL goals for creative collaboration in digital experimentation, faculty development, and research.

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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 at Vassar College

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

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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.

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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Learning Data. What do we know? What do we want to know?

Highlights of the April 27th panel discussion

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.

Bilger, Crouch, De Veaux, Jilani, Nixon
Left to Right: Panelists Audrey Bilger, Catherine Crouch, Richard De Veaux, Saleha Jilani, Andrea Nixon
For full details about the panelists and the program, see the Panel Announcement

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?


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Perspectives on Learning Data (Panel)

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Learning Data. What do we know? What do we want to know?

Format: 1.5 h web conference, multi-disciplinary panel
Date: Wednesday, April 27
Registration required: registration closed, this event is in the past.


  • Dr. Audrey BilgerProfessor 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
  • Dr. Catherine Crouch, Associate Professor of Physics, Swarthmore College
  • Dr. Richard De Veaux, Professor of Statistics, Williams College
  • Dr. Saleha Jilani, Assistant Professor of Economics, Haverford College
  • Dr. Andrea Nixon, Director of Educational Research, Carleton College

(see more below on the panelists’ perspectives)

Topics in brief:

  • Learning data generally: What do we mean by learning data? How is such data collected? Where does it live?
  • Faculty perspectives: What data sets are typically available to faculty? What insights can be gained? What other kinds of data might be useful?

Mini Case Studies:

  • Student course responses at Williams College: As part of a year long look at teaching evaluations, Dick De Veaux analyzed 10 years of data from Williams, about 100,000 student course responses. Some of the results were as expected, others were more surprising. He’ll summarize some of the things he’s learned from the analysis and point to what it says about the possible future of teaching evaluations at Williams.

  • Evaluating ALEKS at Carleton College: Andrea Nixon will share an overview of Carleton’s approach and the insights gained in assessing their pilot of ALEKS, an adaptive online tool for supporting students with Quantitative Skills.


  • The second half of the session will be devoted to discussion among the five panelists with opportunity to take questions and gather additional views from the online audience.

About the Learning Data panel:

The focus of this online conversation is 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. This area has rich possibilities for exploration and potential collaboration as a Consortium. Although related, this panel is not intended as a discussion of “learning analytics” methodologies/tools, or assessment as it may relate to accreditation.

Panelist Perspectives:

Dr. Audrey Bilger, Incoming Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of the College, Pomona College. Professor Bilger is interested in the human face of learning data. How are the “unmeasurable” aspects of learning captured and reflected in faculty teaching practice? Can narrative inquiry contribute in useful ways?  She is also interested in communicating the value of learning data to faculty who may resist the idea of quantifying the unquantifiable.

Dr. Catherine Crouch, Assoc. Professor of Physics, Swarthmore College. Professor Crouch has led numerous research projects evaluating instruction and also seeks to be guided by data from the discipline-based education research community on best practices for teaching. Her experiences with these projects have also made her aware of the constraints that individual faculty face in gathering data to evaluate their courses and curriculum, as well as the institutional challenges that faculty face in implementing research-based pedagogies and practices.

Dr. Richard De Veaux, Professor of Statistics, Williams College. Professor De Veaux is deeply engaged with faculty and IR colleagues at Williams to develop more meaningful statistical analyses of teaching performance. Rethinking the design of student course evaluations can lead to better insights for faculty and for the institution. As a textbook author, he is interested in the evolution of student performance metrics and the increasing reliance of faculty on these assessments.

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Getting started with math videos by Professor Mark Huber at Claremont McKenna College

When I began creating videos, I had a very limited application in mind. It wasn’t the case that I planned to flip the classroom. Instead, my motivation was that I found myself repeating certain basic concepts over and over again in office hours, and wanted to give students short videos (under ten minutes) explaining particularly hard-to-get concepts.

After creating a few of these videos, I decided to have my students create videos explaining some basic problems. Seeing the myriad of different types of videos that my students produced really opened my eyes to the different possibilities. Here’s my breakdown of the most common ways to get started with videos, and the pros and cons of each.

1) The sage on the stage—now in video form!

The simplest way to get started is to use that skill that all math lecturers have: stand in front of the board and record the lecture. This is probably the easiest way to get started, but isn’t an especially good way to create a short video. Drawbacks include that the speaker is often blocking the board, much of the time the material on the board cannot be read due to distance. It is also tempting in this format to include too much material, and not concentrate on the key ideas.

Definitely this video is going to need some closeups to be able to read what’s going on!


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