TEACHING & LEARNING
Large classes pose tough challenges for instructors and colleges. After all, how do you craft a meaningful experience for 250 people (or more)?
Rachel Davenport, a senior lecturer at Texas State University, has taught so many large classes that she jokes she has trouble readjusting to a small seminar room. She has been recognized with several awards for her teaching, and students regularly sing her praises (she was named “Best Professor at Texas State University” in 2013 by readers of Study Break magazine.)
EdSurge sat down with Davenport last week during the WCET conference in Denver to talk about her approach to teaching, and what technologies she’s tried—and ones she avoids.
Beginning next week, professors will have more incentive to offer free or low-cost textbooks.
As part of a University of Missouri System initiative on educational resources that are free to access online, the four campuses will be launching an incentive grant program next week. This is intended to encourage faculty members to incorporate more of these resources in their courses.
With the rising cost of college textbooks, UM System President Mun Choi announced the initiative last spring. Scott Curtis, who’s on the system’s Affordable & Open Educational Resources Taskforce, said he hopes the lower costs of textbooks will help students academically.
“The reason for doing this, ultimately, is to make sure students are successful,” Curtis said. “We know the cost of textbooks can be a major obstacle for students. If they have access to that book, they will do better.”
It was after caring for her aging mother that Carmen Zapata got the idea of working as a home health aide. After all, an aging population is driving up demand; the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the country will need, on average, nearly 35,000 additional home health aides per year through 2024. That has also prompted colleges nationwide to offer certificate programs in the field.
Zapata, who is 60 and lives in the Bronx, found a certificate course at Hostos Community College and enrolled. “In my desperation to find a job, I was willing to do anything,” she said. But employers advertising for home health aides list certificates among the qualifications workers need only about half the time, according to a new analysis of millions of job postings. This for a profession that typically pays less than $11 an hour and for which a certificate program can take as long as a year. And while Zapata’s course was free to her and the few others who got in, others cost from $619 online at a for-profit institution to $2,450 at a community college.
Who oversees online programs at colleges? The question sparked an internal investigation at George Washington University, after a lawsuit last year raised questions about whether the academic quality of online programs was on par with their in-person versions.
“There was concern among members of the faculty senate that little was known about online programs at the university, how large there were or how many there were,” says Kurt Darr, professor emeritus of hospital administration at GW. “The purpose was to investigate what we have and how it was being managed.”
There was concern among members of the faculty senate that little was known about online programs at the university.
A report from that investigation, shared with the faculty senate on Friday, suggested that “there are issues with how the courses are being monitored and how they are impacting face-to-face programs that haven’t been addressed,” the GW Hatchet reports. In addition, the faculty task force which presented the study warns that duplicating in-person programs online can have a “cannibalizing” effect on traditional courses.
In his new novel Origin, Dan Brown (most famous for The Da Vinci Code), describes his protagonist Robert Langdon's approach to the conundrum of students' devotion to personal tech devices in the classroom.
Langdon is, Brown writes, "one of several Harvard professors who now used portable cell-jamming technology to render their lecture halls 'dead zones' and keep students off their devices during class."
In real life, jamming technology is illegal in this country. But it's no fiction that college professors may go to great lengths in response to students using cellphones and other computer devices inappropriately in class. Writing for The Huffington Post last year, Robert Shuter described some professors' "extreme measures to manage students' digital devices." These include, he writes:
"public humiliation, personal reprimands, and disabling wireless access. For example, one instructor disclosed to us that, when he catches a student peering at a website unrelated to the class, he jokes publicly that the individual is watching pornography in order to shame the student. A professor teaching graphic design in a mediated classroom said she projects on the classroom screen, for all to see, what's on the offending student's computer. Several professors told us that they confiscated the phones of offending students. Another professor attempted to use an illegal cellphone jamming device he bought in China, but it didn't work."