Wednesday, June 12, 2013

MOOC for Educators. Hybrid Courses: The Best of Both Worlds

I wanted to let you know that I will be facilitating a free online MOOC-style course on hybrid teaching called Hybrid Courses: The Best of Both Worlds starting next week on the Canvas Network.  I am very excited about this course, and if any of you are interested in joining you can enroll at   It is a month-long course that allows you to decide how much you want to participate – you can do all or part of the activities. Educators are enrolling from all over the world, and the information exchange should be fantastic. Please pass the word to anyone else you think may be interested!

Let me know any questions or concerns.

Liz Falconer, Curriculum and Technology
425-235-2352, ext. 7905

Thursday, May 23, 2013

I haven't managed to blog much of late. Hazard of the job and the time of the academic year...

Anyway, I found this article in the NY Times interesting and worth some consideration, particularly for those of you interested in issues of equity and access in higher education. More later...

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Faculty Learning Community Grants for 2013-14

We anticipate accepting Faculty Learning Community (FLC) grant applications for the 2013-14 academic year beginning in mid-September 2013.

To qualify to submit a proposal you must complete the free, online FLC workshop being offered through Canvas May 14-23, facilitated by Ruth Duffy, Ann Garnsey-Harter, and Judy Penn from Shoreline Community College. To register email Jackie Clark ( by May 8.

Additional details about the FLC grant proposals will be posted to the Faculty Learning Communities web page, including the questions and format for the proposal submission.

Grants will be funded in two categories: eLearning and Assessment, Teaching and Learning. The same application form and process will be used for both categories.

Category 1: Assessment, Teaching and Learning FLC Grants
Faculty Learning Communities in this category may address a wide range of topics. Here are some examples:
·         Assessment – placement, formative, summative; prior learning assessment; assignments as assessments; assessing program effectiveness;
·         Scholarship of teaching and learning – redesigning courses; studying and applying new strategies; strategies for cross-college collaboration (student services, librarians, counseling, registration, faculty, and so forth)
·         Precollege Education – integrating college-level coursework with precollege work; teaching multi-level courses; accelerated “bucket” models

Category 2: eLearning FLC Grants
Faculty Learning Communities in this category must focus on one of the following topics:
·         Adoption of Canvas learning management system for online, hybrid or web-enhanced classrooms
·         Adoption of open materials (textbooks, teaching resources, Open Course Library materials, etc.) that save students money while retaining high quality

Also, a campus or departmental focus is an acceptable option in either category, i.e., developing a critical mass of colleagues within a department or program around a common innovation of some kind.

Please call or email Bill Moore (360-704-4346, if you have any questions that are not answered on the Faculty Learning Communities web page.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Why Do We Need "Learning Analytics"?

A colleague just sent this link to me; as I told her, I don’t know whether to be encouraged that this argument is still being advanced, at least in some small niches of the world, or depressed that it HAS to keep being advanced over and over again. While the technical terminology used here is different, some of us have been saying such things for at least the 30 years I've been involved in higher education assessment work, apparently, I might add, to little avail).  Of course, the current reality in higher education--shrinking budgets and state support, growing influence of the private sector and foundations in broad policy-setting and direction, and great advancements in all sort sof whiz-bang technological tools--creates a particularly ominous and potent confluence of forces, raising the threat/opportunity level beyond where it's been in times past; there's just something awfully seductive about "analytics" and color-coded "data dashboards" and the like, isn't there? Part of me wants to take the traditional higher education curmudgeonly position and say “this, too, shall pass,” but the other part thinks that may not work this time, and really, it’s impossible to know whether that’s actually true when you’re in the middle of it. In any case I also agree with Jerome that it’s important we be open to adapting and using what we might possibly learn from these ideas as we think about the complexities of learning, so we shouldn't just close our minds , cover our ears, and and chant "la la la la" hoping it will all disappear if we don't listen to any of it. On the other hand, we also need to remember, as Michael Scriven reminded the field of educational evaluation some 40 years ago, "The question is not just, 'what does your machine produce,' but also 'how does your garden grow?'" Data analytics can be helpful in answering certain limited kinds of questions, but if we really want to understand the complex ecosystem of a classroom, let alone an academic program or a college, in ways that help direct us toward meaningful improvements, we need to ask and at least attempt to answer deeper qualitative questions, beyond even the "semantic data" that Jerome alludes to in his post (though that kind of data is certainly more helpful in this context than the "click stream data" Jerome describes). Beyond that, it's also important to remember--and remind anyone pushing things like "learning analytics"--that we already have a robust literature about “analytics” in a learning context, we just happen to call it “formative assessment;” most of it is in the K-12 world so outside of teacher education a lot of higher education types are blissfully unaware it exists, but it's extensive, well-supported, and ongoing. One of my favorite researchers and thinkers in this arena is Dylan Wiliam, who's keynoted at our ATL conference and worked with us on the Transition Math Project as well (he's actually speaking at the Washington Education Research Association spring meeting next month but I understand it's sold out, so if you're interested in checking out his work the resources on his web site will have to suffice...). Wiliam, along with his colleague Paul Black, wrote the classic piece "Inside the Black Box," which you can find on his site, but he's done a considerable amount of conceptual and empirical work since then on using classroom formative assessments to inform instruction and improve student achievement--to use his language, "keep learning on track." If "learning analytics" can help with that process, all the better, but let's start with the right questions and figure out what kind of tools and resources we need rather than the other way around!


Thursday, March 7, 2013

Education with purpose

Matt Yglesias over at MoneyBlog makes an interesting point while responding to Felix Salmon's suggestion that watching lectures on YouTube is “100% education, 0% credentialing.” As Yglesias sees it, education isn't just about the learning; education signals something about one’s normalcy.

"In particular, since going to college is a normal bourgeois thing to do in America in 2013, doing it indicates that you are a normal American who subscribes to normal bourgeois values. A summer intern who's just finished up her third year at Yale doesn't have any kind of particular credentials, but we know that she probably has very good SAT scores and sounds like an exceedingly normal person. A young woman who got a 1600 on her SATs and has been spending the past three years working at 7-11 and watching Open Yale Courses videos sounds like a huge weirdo.

And employers seem to genuinely value that "you're not a weirdo" factor. … “

I see and hear this sort of discourse about higher education frequently in one form or another. From my perspective as an educator, there are at least 3 things misguided about it, starting with Salmon's equation of watching video lectures with getting an education. While learning can certainly take place in many forms and modalities, an education implies something more structured and systematic than streaming among some YouTube videos: An education includes exposure to a breadth of knowledge, appropriate assessments, feedback, and interaction with others. To be sure, fully online degrees can provide this sort of structure, and the technology is getting better to the point that meaningful interaction can take place too, but you can’t exactly find that for free on YouTube just yet.  Second, I think it’s important to keep in mind the purpose of an education. Indeed, if we want to render any worthwhile judgments at all with respect to our social practices, we need to keep in mind what our purposes are. This is hardly a new claim. Alasdair McIntyre and other neo-Aristotelian thinkers have been making this kind of argument since the late 1980s. Third, as I’ve argued before, the purpose of higher education is learning, and on a broad social level that learning is related to the empowerment that comes with the pursuit of knowledge and truth. Granting degrees and credentials are a means to ensure student learning, but those aren’t the real purpose. In short, Yglesias gets the purpose wrong. Ideally, education isn’t about signaling to the world that you’re normal or that you’re qualified for a job, even though those considerations may play into why some people are interested in obtaining a degree or credential. Education is about transformative learning. It’s just that too often in our discourse we reduce education down to an instrumental interest, which could possibly have the effect of degrading the original purpose. I’m willing to admit that some people—including more than a few students—may disagree that the “real” purpose of education is learning, and there are different ideas as to what learning means as well. I’ll need to leave it at that for now, but it’s an issue I’ll come back to soon in the future. Our education depends on us getting the purpose(s) right

Friday, March 1, 2013

Committee work and...student success?

I've always thought that faculty engagement was one of the primary keys to student success, and a sufficient cadre of full-time faculty seems necessary to that effort. That’s not a criticism of part-time faculty—many of whom are contributing members of our campus community and excellent teachers too. Yet, on balance, part-time faculty members are often pushed for economic reasons to cobble together employment from multiple institutions and they aren’t generally expected (or compensated) to do more than classroom teaching. Full-time faculty, however, are expected to be more thoroughly engaged with the students and the institution; their job descriptions typically involve maintaining the curriculum as well as providing service to the broader campus community. However, as a result of budget cuts, there tend to be fewer full-time faculty members to shoulder this work.  This issue recently surfaced on my campus and I think it’s telling. In one of our academic divisions, there was no full-time faculty member willing to step forward to serve as the chair.  To be sure, engagement in administrative and governance activities may not be the kind of engagement that leads directly to student success. I wouldn’t argue that all engagement is equal, after all, and as this brief article from the Community College Times suggests, a healthy faculty culture focused on student learning and success has significant impact on student success rates (see Valencia CC in Florida). One could argue whether serving as a department chair, on the faculty senate, or on some other campus-wide committee is related to student success. Intuitively though, I think service to the campus is connected to the quality of learning that is provided to the students. A faculty who is deeply invested in the institution and takes ownership of it helps to create a broader culture of engagement. This sounds right to me in theory anyway, although I’d be curious if anyone is familiar with any studies or evidence to support it. If you’re aware of any scholarship along these lines, drop me a line at