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Teagle Foundation Funds Online Curricula for ACM Faculty

Published: January 11, 2016

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ACM has received a $115,000 grant from The Teagle Foundation to create a mini online course based on the Institute on College Futures (ICF), a program designed to teach faculty about the economics of higher education, with a focus on small, residential liberal arts colleges.

More than 150 faculty from ACM colleges have participated in three, two-day ICF seminars held annually in Chicago and a fourth seminar is planned in June 2016. The seminars include presentations and interactive sessions about the business model for liberal arts colleges, the broader economic trends affecting college finances, and how curricular and other choices affect the future financial viability of these institutions.

Watch short videos from ICF presentations!

The new project, called "Creating an Online Mini-Course to Advance Faculty Understanding of the Economics of Liberal Arts Colleges" or ICF Online, will broaden the learning beyond the faculty who attend the in-person ICF seminars, initially reaching faculty and administrators across the 14 ACM campuses and subsequently from other colleges, as well.

The mini-course will distill the main concepts from presentations given at the ICF seminars by Jill Tiefenthaler (President, Colorado College), Scott Bierman (President, Beloit College), Michael T. Orr (Krebs Provost and Dean of the Faculty, Lake Forest College), and David Wheaton (Vice President for Administration and Finance, Macalester College). Course materials will incorporate videos of the presentations, which were produced with support from a Teagle Foundation grant to ACM in 2014, as well as other resources.

David Wheaton at ICF

David Wheaton from Macalester College presenting at the 2015 ICF seminar.

"This grant and project will ensure that the content that has been developed over the past three years for ICF can be more widely accessed and will continue to be available after the series of annual seminars is completed," said Brian Williams, ACM Vice President and Director of Faculty Development and Grant Programs. The four-year ICF program has been funded by a generous grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

"Another objective of this project is to retain, to the extent possible through an online course, some of the dynamic of the ICF seminars — the valuable in-person conversation that takes place when 50 faculty are gathered and focusing together on a topic," he said. "So in addition to the course, we will create a resource guide and other types of materials that can encourage conversation among the people taking the course, whether they are on a single campus or across campuses."

ICF Online will be created in an adaptive learning environment through collaboration among small groups of content experts and technologists from ACM colleges working closely with learning engineers from Acrobatiq, an adaptive learning course and platform provider. Acrobatiq grew out of the Open Learning Initiative (OLI) and other research efforts in cognitive science, human-computer interaction, and software engineering at Carnegie Mellon University.

"What’s different, and I think very exciting, about the platform we will be using is that it's based on cognitive science principles," said Ed Finn, ACM Liaison for Technology in Teaching and Learning. "Adaptive learning is about scaffolding the presentation and material, personalizing it for each learner to build toward mastery of the concepts and topic."

Finn will take the lead in coordinating the project, which is scheduled to have a pilot course ready this summer. The course, asynchronous in design so faculty will be able to take it at any time and spread it out over more than one session, will typically take three to four hours to complete.

According to Williams, this project ties in with ongoing efforts across the ACM, both those involving faculty and technologists on individual campuses as well as joint projects organized through the consortium. An online course in applied calculus has been offered by ACM the past three summers and was developed through the Online Learning Project, a consortial initiative to explore ways that faculty at ACM colleges can use blended and online learning tools to advance their pedagogical goals.

"This ICF mini-course project will provide a group of technologists on the ACM campuses with the opportunity to build a course from scratch in the adaptive learning environment using a robust platform and then implement and assess it," said Williams. "At the same time, ACM faculty will get a chance to experience a well-designed online course as learners, so they will see firsthand how these tools might be used to achieve their own pedagogical goals."


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