Project Summary: QLAB / Q-bits Framework for Quantitative Skills Modules

To assist our students with readiness for their quantitative work across the curriculum, and to investigate the role that online resources may play in this, the Liberal Arts Consortium for Online Learning (LACOL) has kicked off a multi-campus development and educational research initiative, nicknamed QLAB. The QLAB project provides a framework for creating a series of modules called Q-bits. Each online Q-bit module focuses on a particular quantitative skill or concepts and provides instructional and review content that is “wrapped” by pre/post knowledge and confidence checks, contextual guides, and applications problems in several disciplines.

In developing Q-bits, the instructional content is hand-selected by our faculty in order to achieve of an appropriate scope and level for students. In many cases, faculty are able to draw on existing high-quality materials, especially on a set of polished instructional videos shared by our collaborators at Yale University through their ONEXYS program. In some cases, faculty are adding custom introductory or instructional components to provide cues for students so they see how each Q-bit relates to their studies in different disciplinary contexts.

In testing Q-bits, LACOL faculty and instructors are well positioned to assess the effectiveness of the online modules in the context of in-class assignments, as refreshers alongside a class, or in the context of mentoring by academic support staff or peer tutors.

Project Leads:

  • Melissa Eblen-Zayas, Assoc. Professor Physics, Carleton College
  • Adam Honig, Professor of Economics, Amherst College
  • Laura Muller, Director Peer Instruction, Williams College
  • Janet Russell, Director Academic Technology, Carleton College

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Project Summary: Course Sharing for Self-Instructional Language Learning (SILP)

Colleges within the consortium offer some form of guided, self-instruction of lesser-taught languages. In Fall 2017/Spring 2018, Vassar College and Williams College launched a collaborative exploration to share online, synchronous classroom-to-classroom interactions across their across their Self-Instructional Language Programs in Portuguese.  Through online web conferencing, the classes on each campus shared a tutor and teaching resources for students learning practicing their Portuguese pronunciation and conversation skills. 

Learning Design:

  • Two one-hour synchronous sessions each week with all students and the tutors
  • Up to ten hours of independent study in preparation for the tutorial sessions

Students enrolled in a Self-Instructional Language Course meet twice a week with their tutor and other students in the course. Each student is expected to prepare thoroughly for these sessions, using detailed study guides, a textbook, and multimedia materials. The focus in SILP lies on communication, not on grammatical analysis and literary study. Hence tutorial sessions are conceived as review sessions, unlike more traditional language instruction where new material is often introduced during class.

The tutor’s role is to facilitate the active use of words and structures learned by students beforehand, and to model the use and pronunciation of the language. A shared course differs from a regular course in SILP only in the addition of remote learners to the host institution’s class. All students and the tutor interact with each other in real time via videoconferencing technology. In addition, tutorial sessions are recorded and may be used for further review.

– Project lead L. Gerhardi (Vassar College)

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Project Summary: Upper Level Math & Stats Course Exchange

As one possible avenue to expanding curricular offerings for math and stats majors, partner schools in the Liberal Arts Consortium for Online Learning (LACOL) have been exploring ways to remotely share classes using hybrid/online delivery modes.

Math/Stats Pilots: In Spring and Fall of 2017, several LACOL colleges collaborated to pilot three shared course offerings for advanced mathematics and statistics:

  • Putnam Problem Solving, Spring ‘17 (Prof. S. Miller, WIlliams College)
  • Advanced Real Analysis, Fall ‘17 (Prof. S. Garcia, Pomona College)
  • Bayesian Statistics, Fall ‘17 (Prof. M. Hu, Vassar College)

The goal of this exploration is increase the wealth and frequency of the advanced classes our students need, both for graduate study and to delve deeply in the subject.

Learning Design: For these shared courses, each professor opened their course to students across LACOL, sharing lectures, assignments and other class activities through both asynchronous (e.g. recorded lectures and screencasts) and synchronous (e. g. online problem solving sessions and office hours) means.

In these pilots, students reported positive experiences and some adjustments to learning through digital modes:

Before I took Professor Miller’s class, I was already very interested in problem-solving and participating in math competitions […] I was really excited to hear that there was a professor at Williams who was teaching a class on Putnam. I wanted to improve my problem solving skills systematically. The biggest advantage was that I could watch the videos whenever I wanted, and take classes that I otherwise could not fit in my schedule at Swarthmore. I also watched Professor Miller’s other videos, including the ones on number theory or complex analysis, to fill in gaps of my knowledge.
– John Fan, Swarthmore ’19

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Project Summary: Language Skills Map & Diagnostic Dashboard

Faculty and Technologists from the Language Instruction Working Group are working toward  a Collaborative Language Diagnostics and Refresher Framework, including a visual dashboard to help faculty and students efficiently assess language proficiencies.

Two recent workshop (see below) have recently made concrete steps toward realizing the framework, and additional steps are planned for spring 2018.  For more information, contact Mike Jones, (mjones1@swarthmore.edu) or Carly Born (cborn@carleton.edu)

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