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ES 2013 – Third Century Initiative May 7, 2013

Posted by aquillam in teaching.
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The University is just a few short years from the start of its third century, and we face some of the biggest challenges ever to higher education. The traditional model of researchers who act as sage-on-the-stage teachers is not going to cut it moving forward. The 3rd century initiatives from the Provost’s office are meant to spark the innovation and changes needed to help Michigan remain the Leaders and Best into our third century and beyond. Learn more at the Third Century website, http://www.provost.umich.edu/thirdcentury/.

As with the keynote, I’ve summarized what the panelists said rather than reporting it in chronological order. Also, as I type names over and over, I start typing them wrong and forgetting to capitalize. My apologies if I get a name wrong, and I hope no one is offended by my use of first names.

Panelists:

About the committees:

Melanie: we want to ensure students have “experiential experiences”, modern programming to keep ahead of our competitors. We want Michigan to be one of the best schools out there.

Tim: Learning Analytics (LA) is made possible by data generated by large classes and tools like CTools. The students work, habits, and activities are recorded and preserved in a way that never used to be possible. This gives us the opportunity to explore things like what habits lead to success, AND if you really need to take class A before class B. LA can lead to greater personalization of the student experience.

Becky: We usually think of teaching & research as the two things we do, but the Global Challenges program asks faculty to address real world problems, collaboratively, with their students.

Mark: When talking to researchers, they found that there were a lot of ideas out there, but many people had trouble finding funding and appropriate collaborators.

MCubed seeks to resolve some of that by providing seed money. Anyone can apply, but the units have control over who gets the ” tokens”. Also, there must be 3

collaborators (hence the cube), including at least one person from another department or school.

Laura: The past decentralized technology structure will not support the action based teaching, international team based research and big data analytics that these programs need. We need new IT services – NextGen Michigan.

Early results:

Mark: MCubed wanted to change the dialogue from “what does [insert funding agency name here] want to fund?” to “What issues can we tackle or solve?” The large number of cross-school collaborative projects that have already started make him think that is happening, and in an economical way.

Tim: It’s early days yet for LA, but they have already had a fellows program symposium and  produced a set of SLAM videos http://www.crlt.umich.edu/slam

Melanie seconds what Tim said about it being early days. Her group is working on a website to help disseminate the information.

Becky’s group is also working on a new website.

Laura mentioned the collaboration tools that have already been implemented like Google and Box. Also, the Flux cluster that provides high performance computing cycles to faculty and students for analyzing big data. These things allow people to “fail fast, innovate, and not be held up by the environment.”

Since many of these initiatives involve taking risks, how do these affect the tenure process?

Becky (speaking as a chair): Young faculty interested in these programs should pursue them in parallel to their other, more traditional work. Mark seconds that (wearing his chair hat.) Tim points out that the learning initiatives are aimed at changing things, so its rare for young/new faculty to have enough experience to have something they need support changing. The ones that have the experience and enthusiasm from the start usually have no problem with tenure.

Can LA translate to research analytics?

Tim – interactions and collaboration in things like Google and CTools leave a research trail now, so RA should be possible. eg there is a project analyzing how office placement affects the probabilty of research collaboration. In the future, we need to have better metrics than the number of citations to determine research success.

Do these initiatives allow for the assessment of higher learning (content mastery vs. content recollection)?

Tim – the work itself is now retained (unlike in the past when a paper was given back to the student and was gone from their academic record), so researchers have now have access to the record of what students did. Also, with tools like Google Docs, researchers can see who edited the document, when, how much, etc. Provides fantastic opportunity for researchers, even if we dont know what to do with all that data yet.

Melanie – One of their grants is for how to use writing in the sciences. Ideally, the results should show if learning is enhanced by writing instead of the normal multiple choice type questions.

Do any of these programs specifically address disabled students?

Melanie – not specifically part of their charge, but projects that enhanced learning or targeted different learners would fit the grant criteria.

Tim – LA should make education MORE personal, so there could be different tools used in one class.

Mark – very visual learner, so ideas for visual learners into their plans, even though not specifically part of goals.

Laura- did not plan on visualization tools this year, but expect it soon. It will be a high priority for Google too, especially general accessabiliy. She believes it is a goal of Google to have a very similar experience for users of all different abilities, so blind or deaf users won’t need a different set of tools.

How will these initiatives break down silos?

Laura – deans have been talking about experiential and action based leaning and changing the classroom experience. North campus has been talking about freshman cross-discipenary class where students from different schools have to collaborate and present an end of term project together. When you interview people at the university, you find lots of expertise, and everyone is busy. There is a great deal of value added if you can collaborate.

Mark – MCubed’s goal is to break down silos. On the curriculum level, we want students to reach across units, but only to a limit – employers need to know how they were trained. In research it doesn’t matter so much, and the collaboration makes new things possible.

Melanie – one of the goals is to adress this. Especially, they want to determine the best ways to teach: maybe cross disciplinary is the way to go. Silos lead to redundancy. We need to break that down and put students doing the same things together, even if they are in different schools.

Tim – want to move the expertise and collaboration to student level. Make them a valuable team player even if they aren’t in their usual place. A physics student in an art class may find a unique way to balance a sculpture.

How will staff and students be involved?

tim – many students are on the LA teams already, usually as the ones doing the number crunching. However they didn’t really think about this in the first round. One way to be different is to have the students doing more. Staff expertise is important, but including them is hard because they already have ful time jobs. Working on these projects would be on their own time for most.

Mark MCubed money must go to students or post docs, although 15% may be allocated to staff (but again, paying staff is a problem because they already have jobs). There are so many students that it is difficult to give them tokens directly.

Melanie – student orgs are doing amazing thing on pennies. Including them or exploring how they function is a good way to go.

Becky – seconded the comments about student orgs. Her group would probably aim for including student orgs, not individual students

How to encompass all different students (undergrad, grad and post-doc), and collaborate at all levels?

Tim: personalization – LA would be able to help direct the message to the student who wants that info (like a umich news aggregator for your phone). He suggests empowering students to design something for that, since they know better what they need and would probably do a better job.

Couldn’t tailoring messages be the antithesis of collaboration and creativity?

Tim – Students already have something to recommend classes, instructors, etc – their roommate. We can improve this. Students need to be able to put in what they want, or dont want to see, but then the data from LA can fill in the holes, tell them about things their roommate doesn’t know about.

How do these projects scale?

laura – the issue of scale is interenting. the interest of most people is not how do we get 100k people in a course, it’s how do we change how people interact to make a class of 60 as good as a class of 10.  Michigan must always be a place where students want to come to do a residential program. Its a matter of effectiveness and efficiency, not scale. Students come here for the bredth of program and quality of faculty.

What is action based learning?

Tim – anything that moves the focus to doing instead of receiving information.

He also said students need to be empowered to make decisions about their own learning. For example, gamify a course so students accumulate points instead of loosing them. Provide the opportunities within the class context, don’t expect it to burble up from below.

In a sense, inquiry based learning is less efficient because students are exposed to less content. How do we balance the deeper learning with the necessary breadth?

Tim – right now, we teach a certain amount of material in the introductory phyics classes because the instructors of the higher level classes say the students need this information. But when the students get to the higher level class, instructors find they dont actually retain what they learned! LA should help us figure out how much to teach deeply, and how much to brush over so they’ve at least seen it once. We need the ability to prove that that inquiry based learning leads to deeper/better learning, and that that deeper learning is more important than exposure.

In 2 – 3 years as current programs wrap up, what are the hallmarks of success?

Mark – that MCubed would be a permanent program, that enables more creative work, and leads to Michigan being seen as premiere university for innovation.

Becky – success would be if the NYT or Atlantic notices these global initiatives and has articles about them.

Tim – that anyone who is on campus can get an answer backed up by real data (open tools with portals for faculty and students). That students can base decisions on classes on something better than Rate My Professor.

Laura – problems today need to be solved by teams, not individual. NextGen gives UM a competative advantage to colaborate quickly and efficiently.

Ann Arbor is also invested in innovation. Can we engage with those local innovation communities?

Laura – the fact that the community is more aware of us than we are of them is a powerful statement. We need to do more to enhance those community connections.

Becky – when developinng criteria for which ideas to fund, we wanted to solve complex problems. But, all else being equal, something that engages the local community and created connections was important.

Tim – The LSA instructional team created Blue Core – people who just graduated and were willing to stay here in A2 for a year to help faculty with teaching technology.

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Comments»

1. aquillam - May 13, 2013

The video for this session is now available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wUHR0QwORaA&t=20m47s


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