Future Learning Technologies Committee

During academic year 2013-2014, Bryan Penprase chaired the Pomona College ad hoc Committee for Online Learning, which was renamed as the “Future Learning Technologies” committee. The committee explored how online learning, technology-enhanced teaching, videoconferencing technology, clickers and other technology could enhance teaching in the liberal arts setting of Pomona College. An interim report from the committee is below; the web site for the committee includes more information and is at http://research.pomona.edu/ahcfol/.


Report from the Pomona College Committee for Online Learning/Future Technologies – November 17, 2013

Prepared by Bryan Penprase, Chair

This is a report for the activities so far during Academic year 2013-2014 of the “ad hoc committee for online learning at Pomona College” which was created by the Executive Committee during academic year 2012-2013. Our committee includes representatives from all three divisions – Sarah Raff (Div I), Bryan Penprase (Div II; chair), Michelle Zemel (Div III), and it has Mary McMahon (ITS) and Jill Grigsby (Associate Dean) as ex officio members.

Our committee was created from a charge from the Executive Committee and as a result of the fact that Pomona College has decided to help create a consortium with other peer institutions (Williams, Amherst, Swarthmore, Vassar, Carleton, and CMC) to explore online learning in the context of liberal arts institutions. Our committee is meant to help foster the discussion of new technologies and the vast array of tools for increasing interaction, expanding audience and reach, and offering “flipped” and online versions of classes.

We hope our discussion of online learning at Pomona will also provide new ideas, coming from our sensibility as a liberal arts college, about how technology can enhance learning and yield new types of online resources that are entirely different from those currently available. We are consequently drawing on the considerable expertise right here in Claremont to offer a number of very interesting events concerning the use of advanced technologies to improve the quality of interaction in class, to videoconference with colleagues and students across the globe, to flip classes, and to develop online courses, as is being done at Harvey Mudd College. The discussion will culminate in a faculty forum in Spring 2014 and a report that will summarize the opinions and ideas of our faculty to the Executive Committee and to the Trustees.

From a discussion with the Executive Committee (and based closely on a similar charge from Carleton College) our committee charge is below:

“The Online Learning Committee is charged with studying the ways in which online learning might be adapted or used at Pomona College to enhance our students’ Pomona experience and to provide greater access to Pomona’s educational resources to audiences outside of campus (especially to connect with alumni, parents and friends of the College). The committee will explore ways in which these technologies could enhance learning. Some examples of ways to enhance teaching and learning with technology include videoconferencing, structuring a “flipped” classroom environment, creating a library of videos or simulations, incorporating assessment tools, as well as building online courses. The use of existing platforms such as EdX and other online learning systems will be explored, and the committee will help the faculty discuss and define the optimum characteristics of online learning in ways that are consistent  with liberal arts college teaching and our institutional mission.”

Our committee has been sponsoring a number of exciting events related to online learning this year, in coordination with the Executive Committee and the Teaching and Learning Committee.

These events include lunch talks, panel discussions, and some afternoon events on the topic of new technology and teaching. These events will lead to a discussion of EdX, online learning platforms, and the effectiveness and desirability of developing online courses. Our basic schedule of events has been developed in collaboration with the Teaching and Learning Committee and is designed to fit into a pattern of Tuesday lunches at the TLC, with some larger discussions on Fridays in Smith Campus Center 201.

Our events scheduled so far during academic year 2013-2014 are below:

Fall Semester Events: 

  • Tuesday TLC Lunch: September 24 – Sara Olson (biology) discusses advanced uses of clickers for quizzes integrated with Sakai and how they can develop active feedback in class – next Tuesday!
  • Tuesday TLC Lunch: October 8 – Darryl Yong (HMC -math and assoc. dean) and Nancy Lape (HMC engineering) present the results of their “flipped classroom” experiment
  • Tuesday TLC lunch: October 29  – A discussion of the uses of videoconferencing and creating a global classroom from Kyoko Kurita (Asian Languages), and Mietek Boduszynski (Politics).
  • Friday online learning / Division II joint lunch – November 15- Tom Poon (Keck Science, Senior Assoc. Dean and Chem. professor), “Advantages of the Flipped Classroom. Examples and Lessons Learned from Flipping an Organic Chemistry Course.”
  • Thursday  November 21 – panel discussion of online learning: Panelists include a diverse group of professors from all three divisions. Our confirmed panelists include:  Pat Smiley (Psychology), Kim Bruce (Computer Science), John Seery (Politics), Alfred Kramer (Music), and Ben Keim (Classics). Each panelist will answer the following four questions:

 *   In what novel ways have you been using technology in your courses or research?  *   What, to your mind, are the possible benefits and drawbacks of online courses in general?  *   What, to your mind, would be the possible benefits and drawbacks of Pomona joining with one of the makers of online courses such as Coursera or EdEx? *   What would a future online learning environment developed by and for liberal arts colleges look like, and how would it differ from today’s MOOCs?

Spring Semester Events from 2014:

  • Friday online learning / Division II joint lunch – February 21 – Joann Eisberg (Chaffee College) – Report from a Community College Instructor who has created a complete year-long online astronomy course with interactive voice over powerpoint lectures.

February 13-15 –  “MOOCing the Liberal Arts” – conference at Westmont College, Santa Barbara. Our committee will be attending and learning more about how MOOCs can be developed in small colleges

  • Online Course development at Harvey Mudd College – report from Peter Saeta (HMC Physics) and/or others using the EdX platform to develop an online physics and computer science course here in Claremont.
  • Possible talk by Jacqueline Wernimont, who is developing an online course at Scripps College
  • Possible talk by Alexandra Juhasz, Media Studies and Feminist film theorist from Pitzer College about online learning
  • Educational Research on online courses – presentation from Claremont Graduate University group on effectiveness of online education.
  • March 12 – Faculty Forum on online education

At the end of these discussions, we will summarize our activities as well as the ideas and suggestions from our community in a report that will be shared with the Executive Committee, our entire faculty, the Trustees, and our administrators.

For more information about the Future Learning Technologies Committee Blog at Pomona College, go to: http://research.pomona.edu/ahcfol/

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