During Spring semester of 2014, I was named the founding co-Director of the Liberal Arts Consortium on Online Learning (LACOL), with Andrea Nixon of Carleton College. The goal of LACOL is to enable faculty from the best of the US liberal arts colleges, to work together to creating new models of online learning at our consortium campuses. The LACOL Consortium includes Amherst College, Carleton College, Claremont McKenna College, Haverford College, Pomona College, Swarthmore College, Vassar College and Williams College. The web site for LACOL, including materials and participant bios from our LACOL conference at Pomona College on June 1-2, 2014 is available at My role was to help launch the consortium, prior to going on academic leave to help launch the new Yale-NUS College in Singapore during Academic Year 2014-15.



The presidents and chief academic officers of our institutions established the goals of the LACOL Consortium that included:

  • Developing teaching tools that our current and future students want and will expect
  • Enabling our faculty to devote more time to intensive interaction with students
  • Expansion of individual campus curricula (e.g., broader course offerings)
  • Creating “porous classrooms” that will draw in diverse student, faculty and other voices through online exchanges
  • Shared access to greater stores of data about student learning (both processes and outcomes) and the impact of teaching innovations.  More broadly, the consortium will promote joint exploration of applications of learning theory
  • Faculty development opportunities
  • Improving on-campus learning outcomes in residential settings

During Spring of 2014, co-directors Penprase and Nixon met with faculty and staff at all eight of the LACOL campuses, giving talks about new models of online learning, and identifying leaders on each campus during site visits. The goal is to help facilitate new collaborations that will use technology to enhance learning and teaching on our campuses. In all of these efforts we will proceed with a sensibility true to the unique teaching culture and mission of our colleges. Within the campus visits we gathered faculty and institutional goals; reviewed the range of instruction at the LACOL campuses, and gathered literature and research methods, and explored possible funding sources and partnerships with online learning companies.

The efforts culminated in the LACOL conference that was held on June 1-2, 2014 at Pomona College. This conference brought together teams of faculty and staff from all eight LACOL campuses to work closely together to share expertise in effective methods of learning and teaching to identify specific projects for collaboration in the coming academic year.  Sample projects might include jointly taught courses, small online modules, and new “flipped” course materials.

For more information on the Liberal Arts Consortium for Online Learning (LACOL) go to:


During Fall of 2015, the Presidents have appointed Elizabeth Evans from Bryn Mawr College to take over directorship of LACOL; this also provides an opportunity for the consortium to develop new programs and priorities after its successful founding.  We wish Elizabeth the best for her work with LACOL!  Please contact her if you would like more current information on LACOL – her email is

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