Open Educational Resources and the Open Pedagogy Connection

OER Conn College LogoWe are making great progress toward expanding the use of open educational resources at Connecticut College. After years of advocating for OER on campus, Information Services is currently offering an OER grant for faculty to fund the exploration, adoption, and creation of open access materials. Faculty may receive up to $1,500 to explore and implement OER, or a course remission to develop their own materials.

Creating OER is an exciting opportunity for faculty who wish to develop learning resources customized to their classroom and teaching needs. In addition to funding, the grant offers faculty help in finding non-restrictive licensing and alternative options to traditional copyright. Staff can help with Pressbooks and other platforms in order to adapt or create original OER. IS staff can assist in finding and evaluating existing OER that can be used as base or supplementary material for OER projects. We can also help integrate newly created material into Moodle and advise on strategies to engage students in the OER creation/annotation process.   

The use of OER in classes can provide an avenue to incorporate open pedagogy into the curriculum, a practice in which students are partners in the creation of course materials. The lessons lead to renewable assignments that can be built on throughout the term and into future semesters. As creators of information, students in these courses gain a greater understanding of the rights and responsibilities associated with information ownership. Practitioners of open pedagogy embrace collaboration, student agency, and authentic learning. This open educational practice leads to greater student engagement as well as reducing the cost of a college education.

Below are two interesting examples of faculty created OER:

  • Data Feminism (left) by Catherine D’Ignazio, Assistant Professor, Emerson College and Lauren Klein, Associate Professor, Georgia Institute of Technology is publicly available to read and comment on manuscript draft for open peer review.
  • Robin DeRosa’s Open Anthology of Earlier American Literature was  produced by students and faculty for an American literature survey course. Read about the process of creating an open textbook with students in this informative blog post.

Teaching faculty (full-time, part-time, lecturer, and visiting) at Connecticut College may apply for an OER grant. Individuals, teams, Pathways, and departments/programs are encouraged to work together for a unified adoption of OER. Faculty may only receive one grant per course. See the Call for Proposals for more details. Proposals are due Thursday, February 14, 2019.

Please direct questions to Ariela McCaffrey (x2103), research support and outreach librarian.

Introducing “Digital Connecticut College”

Digital Connecticut College Homepage

Yesterday we held a workshop to introduce Digital Connecticut College. Thanks to everyone who attended!

What is Digital Connecticut College?

Digital Connecticut College provides students, faculty, and staff with the opportunity to register a domain name and create a digital presence through various mediums such as blogs, portfolios, and wikis. You can easily install open source applications such as WordPress, MediaWiki, Drupal, Scalar, and Omeka to your own domain.

Why would I use it?

Although are are the beginning stages of rolling this out to the community, we can share some ways faculty, staff, and students are already using Digital Connecticut College.

  • Faculty research website. Use your domain as a space for digital scholarship, or to share your research with a broader community.
  • Online annotation of texts. Upload your course material into an interactive site that allows for student comments, discussion, and annotation. CommentPress and are two available options that we can support.
  • Collaborative class website. Several courses created a class website, sharing the results of their coursework with a wide audience.
  • Weekly writing. Students post reflections based on course readings or films. The site is shared with everyone in the class, and students comment on each other’s posts creating a vibrant online discussion.
  • Small group or individual websites. Students can also share their research or a project by creating their own websites.

How do I get started?

Contact Diane Creede, Lyndsay Bratton, or Jessica McCullough to create your domain and get started! If you have an idea, feel free to contact one of us. We can work with anyone regardless of your experience with technology.

A Student Experience With The Digication Portfolio

This blog post was written by Rigoberto Reyna, who worked as the Instructional Technology Student Assistant last summer. He is a junior and a member of the Social Justice & Sustainability pathway.  In the post, he reflects on the use of an ePortfolio in the thematic inquiry course. Thank you, Rigoberto!

As a sophomore I was introduced to the concept of Pathways. In the Pathway you will ask a lot of questions, discover answers, and piece them together. In order to keep track of your progress,  an online portfolio helps you organize your ideas and thoughts. This is where the Digication portfolio plays its part.

Digication is an online portfolio that allows you to save your animating question and the assignments that you worked on throughout the semester. By having it in one place, you can see how your thinking  evolved with your learning experience.

In my case, I took Professor Garofalo’s Pathway about Social Justice and Sustainability, and the portfolio allowed me to keep track of my initial thoughts on the subject. It was very interesting and shocking to see my portfolio at the end of the semester, because I could not believe how much I changed in just one semester. I then realized that learning and thinking are not something that can be described as linear. I was convinced of this because I added to my Digication portfolio throughout the semester. As I learned new information my views on the subject changed as well. Not only did I see my own changes, but I was also aware of how my fellow classmates dialogued with each other and asked for suggestions.

In the end, we had to create a final presentation for our animating question in the portfolio. We got together in our writing groups and had constructive conversations about our animating question(s). We referred back to the writing samples that we had in our portfolio in order to have evidence for our arguments.

As a rising junior I am aware that my ideas and thoughts digital portfolio will definitely change by the time I am a senior. I did learn that Digication is a very creative tool that allows you to express your ideas in a website-like portfolio that facilitates the expression of your thoughts to your classmates and professor.

If you would like learn more about digital portfolios, don’t hesitate contact me. 

First Cohort of Faculty Join the Digital Scholarship Fellows Program

This January, Professors Phillip Barnes (Biology), Catherine Benoît (Anthropology), and Sufia Uddin (Religious Studies) became the first Digital Scholarship Fellows in a new program generously funded by the Office of the Dean of Faculty and led by staff members in Information Services.

Building on the success of the Technology Fellows Program (2014-2018), the Digital Scholarship Fellows program supports faculty engaged in digital scholarship projects to scope and design their projects, integrate aspects of the projects into their courses, collaborate with student researchers, acquire new technological skills, and build platforms for sharing their scholarship in innovative ways online. The program works toward the College’s strategic plan objectives to offer new opportunities for student/faculty research and to build a community of practice in digital scholarship.

Catherine Benoît’s project will be a multilingual digital companion to her book, Au coeur des ténèbres de la friendly island: sida, migration et culture à Saint Martin [In the Heart of Darkness of the Friendly Island: Migrations, Culture and AIDS in St. Martin] (2015). Students in Benoît’s Anthropology of the Caribbean course are currently engaged in digitizing a portion of her primary research materials gathered in St. Martin in the 1990s. Across the semester, each student will conduct research on one of the thematic threads of the project—tourism, hurricane Luis (1995), St. Martin as an international tax haven, immigration and undocumented migrants, and the AIDS epidemic—and curate a related collection of images, as well as publish an introductory text for inclusion on the public project website. A project team of faculty, students, and staff from Connecticut College has been accepted to attend the Institute for Liberal Arts Digital Scholarship (ILiADS) in June, hosted at Occidental College, to work on the next iteration of the project. At ILiADS, Benoît hopes to build a crowdsourcing feature that allows site visitors to submit documents and oral histories for inclusion on the website. She will also implement assignments in future courses that will add oral histories, maps, multimedia, and new research to this multi-year project.

St Martin Omeka Screenshot
Students in Benoit’s Anthropology of the Caribbean course (ANT260) are building a collection of digitized photographs in Omeka, a web publishing platform for image collection management.

As part of the program, Sufia Uddin will create a multimodal website about the Sundarbans Mangroves to present the forest and its inhabitants in ways that foster broader awareness of deforestation and its effects on indigenous communities and the environment. Uddin translated the Bengali epic poem that tells the story of Bonbibi (Lady of the Forest), which she will publish online as a component of this project. Digital methods of working with the poem, including textual analysis, digital annotations, the addition of images, maps, and related scholarship, will provide the means by which different ways of knowing this forest will emerge. Uddin plans to work with students this summer to build an interactive map of the mangroves using ArcGIS software.

Through digital scholarship, Phil Barnes hopes to discover other colleagues around the world working on experiments similar to his own and potentially develop collaborations by sharing his data online. He plans to digitize drawings of insect wings created by his students over the years and develop a new workflow to capture more visual data through digital imaging of the wings. This digital process will yield richer information that Barnes and his students can use in future studies, expanding the original intent of the experiment and making data available that other researchers may be able to use.

In summer 2018, students working with the faculty fellows will conduct some or all of their work in the library’s Technology Commons, developing aspects of the individual projects in conversation with each other. Students will have access to advanced software, and library staff will be available for advising on project development.

Stay tuned for blog posts from the DS Fellows, as well as information about a digital scholarship symposium on campus in the fall!

A call for proposals to participate in the 2019 cohort of Digital Scholarship Fellows will go out in fall 2018.

Can Virtual Discussions Inform Face-To-Face Discussions?

My Technology Fellows project involved developing a framework for digital discussions. My main goals were to make my classes “snowday-proof” and find a way to hold class if emergency or travel prevented me from getting to campus.

After a lackluster small-group discussion session in one of my courses, I am now thinking about whether it would be worthwhile to use my framework for digital discussions in class. Students were working hard during the class period, but the work was mostly independent — there was minimal discussion and collaboration. Any communication seemed aimed at comparing the answers that they already wrote and making adjustments if needed. My pleas to collaborate and discuss responses seemed to have minimal impact.

Regardless of any future success that I will have with my framework for digital discussions, the whole exercise has forced me to think carefully about what successful collaboration entails. The rubric that I developed establishes aspirational standards for (1) reading, (2) an open-ended initial discussion, (3) a discussion that precedes written collaborative responses and (4) the collaborative responses themselves. Why not broaden my approach and extend my aspirations to discussions in class?

As I think about methods for improving the quality of collaborative work in class, one option would be to present the rubric as a set of best practices that they should emulate as they have face-to-face discussions. A second option, if they have not yet had a digital discussion in the semester, would be to have them actually participate in a digital discussion in class, on their own laptops. In this case, they would be learning how to effectively collaborate by actually doing it — not just reading about it. Additionally, doing it in class would give me the opportunity to comment on successful (or unsuccessful) practices and take advantage of “teachable moments.” Together with the class, we could also troubleshoot in real time the challenges that emerge during typed chat-room discussions. Hopefully the lessons and values can then be internalized and carried forward into future face-to-face discussions.   

WeSpeke Follow-Up

In my last post I talked about using a social media site for my upper level conversation class as a way to connect to native speakers. The main purpose of this experiment was to have access to native speakers for text/video-chat on some of the topics discussed in class. This exercise would give my students the opportunity to hear unfiltered opinions from native speakers beyond the class discussions and ask questions. Topics for the class are drawn from current news articles and are chosen so that they not only generate conversation but also inform on modern Italian society. So, hearing the perspective of Italians directly seems like an excellent exercise for the students both culturally as well as linguistically. For this purpose, I decided to try out WeSpeke, a social media site that connects speakers from all over the world to practice world languages. I chose WeSpeke because of its user-friendly interface and good online reviews.  

After setting up the account in class and restricting the community to Italian-English speakers, the students spent time on their own on the site in multiple occasions. Unfortunately, even with the Italian-English setting, many of the students reported being bombarded by people seeking to learn English and not Italian. These same students also experienced some type of predatory behavior at first. However, once the students figured out how to avoid irrelevant partners, most of them reported establishing at least a couple of connections with which they could engage in a fruitful conversation. Unfortunately the conversations were just limited to text-messaging and didn’t go much beyond first introductions and superficial exchanges. Some of the students responded positively to this exercises, and thought it was an interesting twist for the class.

From my point of view, however, and from what I have read from the students’ reports so far, I have become skeptical about the pedagogical value of this site, or similar ones, in a structured course. Although the site seems to promote “long lasting friendships”, the reality is that most people on sites like this are not reliable, not consistently active, or willing to commit or engage in a meaningful conversation. Even my students reported some sense of discomfort with these interactions and they themselves were not ready for video-chats or discuss more complex topics. Although I asked my students to write reports about their activities as a way of documenting their interactions, I have no way of properly monitoring the exchanges and evaluate their relevance to the topic.  Moreover, and most importantly, very few of the people that post their profiles on this site are college students, which made my students even more uncomfortable to move beyond a text chat.

In conclusion, although these types of sites might have some appeal for teachers and students because they seem to solve the native speaker problem, I would not recommend investing too much time and energy on them. A structured course needs a structured platform whereby both sides are fully engaged and invested, and equally accountable.

Workshop for students at the Walter Commons: Digital Portfolios

Are you teaching a thematic inquiry course, or are otherwise involved in a pathway? If so, encourage your students to attend this workshop being held at the Walter Commons on Thursday, February 22nd (tomorrow!). I will facilitate a discussion of the importance of reflection and integration in the pathways, particularly how that work relates to global-local engagement. We will use Digication as a personal space to record, curate, and archive their work and experiences as they progress through the pathway. See and share the details below.

Reflect, Integrate, Demonstrate: Portfolios to Support Global-Local Engagement in Pathways
Thursday, February 22 | 1:00 – 2:00 PM
Walter Commons, Global Learning Lab

Integrated Pathways ask you to intentionally select a course of study, regularly reflect on your curricular and co-curricular activities, global-local engagement, and integrate these learning experiences. Digital portfolios are an easy tool for you to practice these activities regularly, document your progress, archive important work, and make connections. In short, a portfolio can capture the magical moments, the defining moments, of your education. Come learn about how you can use Digication, a multimedia-friendly, easy-to-use, digital portfolio platform, to create a personal space that supports your work in the Pathways!