Finding Your Unicorns: Creating a Data-Informed Culture
This article first appeared in Academic Leader on January 1, 2018 © Magna Publications. All rights reserved. A recent article, “Higher Education’s Data Experts Face a Crossroads,” in the Chronicle of Higher Education examines the changing profile of institutional researchers. Akin to the characters in the movie Ghostbusters, historically, they were the people you called…
Understanding and Managing Perceptions of Academic Rigor
This article first appeared in Academic Leader on August 25, 2017 © Magna Publications. All rights reserved. Faculty and students are not on the same page about what makes a course rigorous. Draeger, del Prado Hill, and Mahler (2015) find that “faculty perceived learning to be most rigorous when students are actively…
Four Strategies to Improve Faculty Buy-In for Online Education
As an online administrator, I can tell you that it feels like we have been talking about ways to improve faculty buy-in for online education for the past 10 to 15 years. And we have. While online courses and degree programs are becoming more accepted and mainstream at many institutions,…
Moving from Courses to a Curriculum
What does it mean to offer students a curriculum as opposed to a series of related courses? How does a program, major, or minor encourage students to make meaningful connections between courses so that they develop strong professional identities? I’ve been thinking a lot about these questions. I used to teach at a larger, public university where students tended to take an “à la carte approach” to completing a program of study. Recently I started teaching at a smaller, liberal arts college, and here students follow a more prescribed sequence of courses, and they’re required to make connections between courses. Teaching here, I’ve learned that it’s not necessarily the sequence of the courses (which our students mostly take in cohort groups) that matters most—although that does add program coherence—rather, it is the intentionality with which instructors provide opportunities for students to make meaningful connections between their courses. In our department, courses are seen as comprising a curriculum.
Differentiating Instruction in an Online Classroom
Diversity is becoming common in our college classrooms. Not just diversity of race and ethnicity, but diversity of developmental levels and cognitive abilities. With our students’ diverse skills and experiences, faculty members find themselves teaching varied groups of students within one course. This raises the problem of finding a way to reach all groups. One answer, differentiated instruction, involves providing personalized learning for each group with content and processes that align with each student’s needs.
Using Formal Program Review for Continuous Improvement
Drexel University uses a Program Alignment and Review (PAR) process to help ensure relevance, quality, and measurable achievement of its academic programs. It’s a formal review process that includes a self-study, external review, and action plan.
The (Surprising) Benefits of e-Textbooks: A Study
In recent years, the soaring cost of college textbooks has added a new and significant financial burden to the rising costs of tuition for students. In the face of this reality, many students simply forgo textbook purchases. One study found that fewer than half of students purchase textbooks for their courses. Against this backdrop, the open textbook movement is making textbooks available to students for free. Dr. Andrew Feldstein, professor of marketing in the Reginald F. Lewis School of Business, Virginia State University, along with four colleagues, conducted a year-long pilot study during which 991 students in nine core courses in the VSU business school replaced traditional textbooks with openly licensed books and other digital content.The goal was to determine if there were benefits to using the free texts, and if so what they were.
Building a Pathway to Cultural Competence Through Academic Service Learning
As colleges and universities seek to prepare students for professional careers in a diverse, global society, the attainment of cultural competence is an essential capacity that can no longer be overlooked. Cultural competence involves the awareness, knowledge, and skills needed to engage and collaborate meaningfully across differences through interactions that are characterized by mutuality, reciprocity, and respect. The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), for example, has recognized the importance of global competence as part of a coherent approach to general education requirements. The AAC&U’s General Education Maps and Markers initiative emphasizes global engagement and the enhancement of cultural awareness that promotes the potential for students’ active citizenship and greater career fulfillment.
Service learning provides an important bridge to cultural competence in the undergraduate experience. Yet it is often viewed as a co-curricular activity, to be pursued outside the classroom and at the student’s own initiative. By contrast, course-based, academic service learning is a form of experiential education that takes place in credit-bearing courses guided by faculty. It is part of the academic curriculum in which structured activities in the community give rise to reflective activities, such as in journals, discussions, and papers. Such curricula can have significant diversity-related outcomes, such as increased understanding of social stratification, privilege, and the impact of differential access to opportunity.
Core Curriculum Improves Academic Rigor, Identity, and Retention
Concordia University Irvine recently adopted a core curriculum as a way to increase academic rigor, strengthen the university’s identity, and improve student retention. In May, the university graduated its first students to experience the core. In an interview with Academic Leader, Scott Ashmon, director of the core curriculum, explained the core’s design, implementation, and outcomes.
The core uses an interdisciplinary approach to “help students cultivate an understanding of comprehensive knowledge, and what we came up with was to pair certain courses,” Ashmon says. “The reason that that’s helpful is because you don’t have to go to certain departments and disciplines and say, ‘Can we borrow your faculty to create and staff some other course that is nondisciplinary?’ Rather, we can say, ‘We want disciplinary courses because we want students to be able to think in disciplined ways.’ That’s the ideal. It’s also easier to get departments and disciplines engaging in this kind of conversation if they can do it from within their disciplines.”