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ICF Online Makes Learning about College Finances Accessible

Published: October 24, 2016

ICF Online Makes Learning about College Finances Accessible

A session at the 2016 ACM Institute on College Futures.

In the past four years, ACM’s Institute on College Futures (ICF) has sponsored annual seminars that give faculty from ACM colleges an inside view of the economics of higher education, with a focus on the financial challenges facing liberal arts colleges.

The classroom has just expanded, as ACM has launched ICF Online, a mini course that makes the content from the ICF seminars available to faculty and staff at any college or university.

“The Institute on College Futures is the only venue that I’ve heard of for this type of professional development for faculty, especially at liberal arts colleges,” said Brian Williams, ACM Vice President and Director of Faculty Development and Grant Programs. “ICF Online has taken a two-day, in-person seminar and presented it in a four-hour online course that you can take any time, sitting in your office or anywhere else.”

“We encourage campus leaders and faculty to take the online course in cohort groups," Williams said, "and to maintain outside of the online platform opportunities for in-person conversation about the topics, the exercises, and the budget worksheets they can manipulate in the online environment.”

“ICF Online positions the ACM and its member colleges as leaders in the higher education sector in providing professional development for faculty on a topic that is crucially important to their institutions,” Williams noted.

ICF Online is funded by a $115,000 grant from The Teagle Foundation. The course incorporates video clips, presentations, and examples drawn from the ICF seminars with additional content created for the online version. A companion set of online resources includes background information and a discussion space for people who enroll in the course.

Ed Finn, ACM Liaison for Innovation and Collaboration in Teaching and Learning, coordinated the efforts of faculty, administrators, and instructional technologists from several ACM colleges and learning engineers from Acrobatiq to develop the content and build the course in the company’s Smart Author adaptive learning platform. 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.

According to Finn, the online course uses a presentation that is much more sophisticated than, for example, a typical webinar. “As you take the course, your learning is continually monitored,” he said, “and you are provided with well-rounded feedback, further examples and explanation as needed, and reinforcement of the material designed to boost your understanding and retention.”

Looking ahead, plans are in place to update the course content every two years to keep it current with emerging trends in higher education.

“The course covers material that often is not readily available for faculty and administrators, such as how an endowment fits into a college’s finances or how game theory is applicable to a college’s economic situation,” Finn noted, which makes it especially valuable to faculty who are taking on administrative duties.

“The opportunity for learning about these topics and then applying the lessons to their work as department chairs and senior administrators would only be enhanced if they were to take the course together as a campus-based cohort,” he added.

The primary audience for the course is on the ACM campuses. Nearly 200 faculty — 10 percent of the total of about 2,000 faculty at the 14 ACM colleges combined — have participated in the in-person ICF seminars.

“ICF Online creates a mechanism where we can begin to reach that other 90 percent of ACM faculty," said Williams, "with the added benefit that faculty at any other college or university also have access to this unique resource.”

Faculty and staff at ACM colleges can enroll in ICF Online at no charge by contacting their academic dean’s office. The course is also open to faculty and staff at other colleges and universities for a fee. See the ICF Online webpage for details.

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