March 13, 2015
Albion College, in partnership with DePauw University, Grinnell College, Hope College, Lawrence University and Wabash College, has been awarded a $335,000 grant from the Teagle Foundation to design and teach hybrid courses, an approach to online learning designed to combine the best of classroom teaching and digital technology.
The six institutions are working together as the Midwest Hybrid Learning Consortium (MHLC). Through the project, titled “Hybrid Liberal Arts Network: High Touch Learning for the 21st Century,” they will share the courses that they develop and expand the range of liberal arts courses available to their students, all the while providing faculty development in the use of digital technology in teaching.
The Teagle Foundation is a leader in knowledge-based philanthropy that promotes innovation within the liberal arts sector of higher education. The hybrid learning grant initiative through which the foundation made its award is designed to strengthen residential liberal arts colleges by leveraging technology and innovative practice in order to expand institutional capacity while retaining their traditional liberal educational values.
"Hybrid digital pedagogy combines the best of both worlds—the close faculty-student interaction for which liberal arts colleges are well known, and the access to specialized resources and creative outcomes for which new technologies are well suited," said John Woell, associate provost, professor of philosophy and religious studies, and Albion's leader for the project. "Albion College faculty are already experimenting with these digital tools, and the grant will provide further support for faculty to use new technologies to enhance student learning."
Because students in an online course can participate from any location, the program will serve well by providing courses that might not garner enough enrollment for the member institutions to offer alone. Similarly, according to Woell, "At small schools like Albion, faculty are often the only teachers in their particular areas covering a wide swath of the field. By creating a community of practice among the member institutions, faculty, and students, the MHLC will expand our capacity to allow interaction with experts at other institutions, which will benefit Albion students and faculty alike."
The Teagle support, which includes a 30-month, $310,000 grant awarded this spring and a $25,000 planning grant awarded in 2014, will enable faculty to design and develop courses collaboratively across institutions by working in faculty pairs. The specific topics will be developed across the remainder of 2015, including through a workshop that will be held this summer. The first courses in the program will debut in the spring of 2016, with more to follow in the fall of 2016 and the spring of 2017. Over time, the consortium aims to expand beyond the original six institutional members.
In addition to Woell, the leadership team consists of Donnie Sendelbach, director of instructional and learning services and director of the information technology associates program at DePauw University; David Lopatto, professor of psychology at Grinnell College; Barry Bandstra, director of academic computing and professor of religion at Hope College, and the overall project leader; David Berk, director of instructional technology at Lawrence University; and James Brown, professor of physics at Wabash College.