Dear Members of the UW Community,
As we start the year, I want to take a moment to welcome you back for another academic year. I’d also like to highlight last year’s efforts to address issues around teaching and technology and to give you a preview of what’s next as together we tackle even broader issues around learning experiences that prepare our students for success in their classes, careers, and communities. I look forward to hearing from you, learning from you, and working with you to lead change in public higher education—change built on our enduring strengths.
Putting Learning First
Teaching and Technology: From Hype to How-Tos
The rapid rise of massive online open courses (MOOCs) and other potentially game-changing technologies has sparked a national conversation about technology-enhanced learning. The broader dialogue includes voices forcefully asserting that new technologies are ruining the best aspects of education, that technology in the classroom is the cure to what ails us, and everything in between.
Last year, we set out to examine these claims. Our goal was to work with faculty and staff to determine the pros and cons of online and hybrid instruction, and to identify methods that align technology with research-based pedagogy. The result was a series of reports that reviewed current literature about student learning and shared how educators across all three UW campuses are using diverse approaches—low- and high-tech, online and face-to-face, incremental and extensive—to help students learn. The reports also provided specific how-tos for instruction, and pointed to resources for faculty and staff to help them participate, experiment, and learn more.
New Resources for Teaching with Technology
Along with the reports, leaders on all three campuses have joined me in promoting efforts to help faculty explore and implement new ideas around teaching, learning, and technology. Through the Teaching & Learning in the 21st Century Initiative, we tested emerging technologies such as MOOCs and eTextbooks and introduced tools like Tegrity for capturing lectures and the Canvas Learning Management System. UW Tacoma is developing ways to use learner-based analytics to send personalized support to students, and has received national attention for a pilot program that gives students “nudges” on their mobile devices to help them stay on track in online classes. We piloted a “flipping the classroom” project to foster rich conversations and experimentation about active learning among faculty, while UW-IT’s Ignite! sessions and the Teaching & Learning Symposium’s keynote panel featured faculty sharing their classroom innovations. We brought educators together in a variety of Faculty and Professional Learning Communities (FPLCs) hosted by the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL), opened technology-enhanced active learning classrooms in Odegaard Undergraduate Library, and added a new Distinguished Teaching Award for Innovation. UW Tacoma updated the approval process for online courses to rubric-based peer review. UW Bothell hosted an ePortfolio conference, and initiated the Worthington Innovation Fellows program, which in 2013–2014 is supporting seven new projects, including teaching with mobile devices, developing a remotely accessible electrical engineering laboratory, and exploring credentialed learning in systems such as MOOCs.
We also offered intensive hybrid and online course development institutes on all three campuses for faculty. UW Tacoma iTech Fellows developed courses for a hybrid EdD and an online Criminal Justice degree, among others. Faculty who participated in the 2013 UW Bothell Hybrid Course Development Institute experienced learning in a hybrid environment as they developed their own hybrid and online courses. Thanks to a generous private donation, a new Technology Teaching Fellows Institute in Seattle provided support to more than 30 faculty during Summer 2013 and will be offered again in Summer 2014. Faculty response was overwhelmingly positive. “The institute was great. I couldn’t have redesigned my course without this,” said Betsy Evans, Assistant Professor of Linguistics at UW Seattle.
Snapshot: Teaching with Technology Fellows Explore New Ways to Present Class Content
Rawi Nankul, UW-IT Graduate Student Assistant (center), works with UW Seattle faculty members Louisa Mackenzie, Associate Professor of French and Italian Studies (right), and Ben Marwick, Assistant Professor of Anthropology (left), during the 2013 TTF Institute, held in the new active learning classrooms in Odegaard Undergraduate Library.
In developing these reports and increasing efforts to support faculty, we were pleased, but not surprised, to find so many innovative educators and creative ideas—and gratified by the opportunity to raise awareness of their efforts. It is our sincere hope that highlighting this topic, providing ideas and support for those beginning to experiment, and connecting educators to peers and resources will help advance this work at the UW and further develop a community in which innovative ideas don’t stay with one person but spark collegial sharing and experimentation. Our commitment to this conversation and to community-driven effort continues as we enter this next academic year. The CTL and UW-IT are continuing to develop events and resources for faculty. These include the development of a Certificate in Teaching in Higher Education for graduate students, groundwork to support implementation of the Diversity Requirement, efforts to encourage creative use of the new active learning classrooms in Odegaard Undergraduate Library, and, in partnership with the Graduate School, a tri-campus FPLC on active learning and flipping courses. We are excited to see where our faculty, staff, and students will take us.
What’s next? A UW education is a major, and more.
This year we are inspired to tackle a broader topic in response to national debates centering on the value of a campus-based college education, issues such as whether college prepares graduates for the “real world,” the value of the liberal arts, concerns over a crisis of democratic and civic society, and uncertainty around our nation’s and region’s continued economic and intellectual competitiveness. Many in the UW community are asking how the UW can educate the whole student and prepare graduates even better to contribute meaningfully to a changing world in their professional, personal, and civic lives. We aim to spend this year learning more about how students can take advantage of both curricular and co-curricular learning experiences—learning that takes place both in and out of the classroom. We want to ensure exceptional learning and engagement experiences—and help students integrate their learning across these experiences—so that our graduates are prepared for successful careers and meaningful lives in their communities.
We will work to connect faculty and staff with each other, with resources on best practices, and with practical support for helping our students better integrate their various learning experiences. In addition, we will provide opportunities for the UW community to tackle questions such as these: How do we help students cultivate knowledge, skills, and strengths; practice the ability to transfer knowledge from one domain to another; and broaden their perspectives about themselves, others, and the world? How do we help them become successful lifelong learners who contribute in their workplaces and communities? How do we help students navigate the variety of learning opportunities available at the UW, strategically participate in meaningful educational experiences, and then integrate their curricular and co-curricular endeavors? How do we support their desire to act now—solving problems and developing creative ideas to address real issues—in ways that connect to their academic pursuits? What can we learn from our graduates and their employers about preparing students for their first jobs, their first careers, and every career thereafter—careers that may not yet exist? How do busy educators fit activities to support these goals into packed calendars and to-do lists?
As with our efforts around teaching with technology, we will investigate practical and pedagogically sound ways to support the integration of curricular and co-curricular learning, and help students build the intellectual and collaborative skills that enable personal success and civic engagement. We will seek out and share the work already going on at the UW in order to connect colleagues to resources and to each other.
Helping our students prepare for the world—and prepare to change the world—is our shared work, and we look forward to doing it together.
Ana Mari Cauce
Provost and Executive Vice President