Hitting to the Outfield: Distance Learning at Residential Colleges

  • When: 10:45-11:45 AM,  Wednesday, June 17, 2015
  • Where: Room 224, Oechsle Hall
  • Presenters:
    • Steve Taylor, Director of Academic Computing, Vassar College
    • Michael Roy, Dean of the Library at Middlebury College
    • Mary McMahon,  Director of Instructional and Research Services, Pomona College

The surge of interest in MOOCs has left senior administrators and trustees at many colleges wondering if and how their institutions should be using the technologies of online courses. But a hallmark of the small liberal arts college is the intimate learning environment achieved through small class sizes and, typically, a high degree of student residency.

For this reason, four-year, selective private colleges are the least likely of any type of higher education institution to offer online courses. There are areas, however, in which small liberal arts colleges can use online learning technologies to serve community members in remote settings.

The panelists in this session will describe some of these innovative initiatives. Vassar College has begun using Moodle to provide recorded lectures and guided discussions to their incoming freshman classes, in support of the summertime common reading program. Pomona College has begun a successful summer bridge program for incoming first year students who need special help with math. Middlebury College is using Moodle for an academic integrity course, required of all incoming students, and for an online course offered to their alumni.

After briefly describing each of these initiatives, panelists will discuss the special challenges and benefits of using online learning tools for large groups and challenge the audience to consider other ways in which small colleges can use those tools for innovative programs.

About the Presenters

Steve Taylor is the Director of Academic Computing at Vassar College, where he has been since 1998. Previously, he was Director of the Faculty Information Technology Center at Emory University. He has served on the board of NERCOMP and on the conference program committees for NERCOMP and EDUCAUSE. He has an EdD in educational technology from Teachers College, Columbia University.

Michael Roy is Dean of the Library at Middlebury College. He is a founding editor of the Academic Commons, an online journal that engages the question of how technology and networked information are changing what we mean by liberal education. He has served on advisory boards for the National Institute for Technology and Liberal Education, Anvil Academic, and ArtStor’s Shared Shelf. He currently edits the e-content column for Educause Review.

Mary McMahon has been Director of Instructional and Research Services at Pomona College ITS for 9 years. She leads the ITS program supporting faculty in making connections between technology and sound pedagogic practices and supporting faculty use of specialized technologies in their research.