When a liberal arts college starts teaching online

Steve Taylor, Vassar CollegeHow can a traditional liberal arts campus practice distance learning?  Vassar College launched a pilot program to take face-to-face learning from a residential setting into cyberspace, and its academic computing director, Steve Taylor, tells the story at the Academic Commons site

The program addressed a non-residential, non-face-to-face need: the summer reading assignment for incoming first-year students.  Vassar set up a Moodle course management system instance, and faculty created discussion-provoking videos.  Contents went live, and students were able to access them after physical copies of the book (Alison Bechdel, Fun Home (2006)) arrived.

A few key points:

  • The faculty involved were from multiple (if quite complementary) disciplines.
  • A librarian played a key role.
  • Video content was significant in terms of resources (time) and instructional design.
  • The use of Moodle and YouTube enabled some data analytics work, like this analysis of discussion forum writing:

Discussion forum participation data.

Another interesting point, crucial for small institutions like Vassar, was making a shift in scale.  As Taylor points out,

for a college that typically has an average class size of about 17 and a maximum class size of about 42, this was possibly the largest scale of learning experience the college has ever offered.

The incoming first-year Vassar class in 2014 number 670.

Vassar’s 2014 pilot represents another example of small, liberal arts institutions expanding their teaching online.  Let’s see what happens next.

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6 Responses to When a liberal arts college starts teaching online

  1. Agghh. Now you’re posting cliff-hangers? Inquiring minds want to know: what happened next?

  2. This seems like an exceptionally appropriate, well thought out, and well executed use of this technology.

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  4. Pingback: Bryan College Online - Colleges & Universities

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