This year, I was honored to serve on the program committee of the ELI Annual Meeting, held in San Antonio this week. ELI (Educause Learning Initiative) has been an invaluable resource to faculty, instructional technologists, librarians and other academic professionals in higher education. They are known for actively contributing to the scholarship of teaching and learning with technology, and have been a wonderful venue for research and collaboration amongst institutions in higher ed.
This meeting was extremely valuable, as always. There were over 600 participants, coming in at number 2 for record attendance. And you could tell, the poster sessions were crammed tight with people! And, as with most conferences, there were some obvious themes that emerged. Check out my twitter feed for the things I shared during the conference.
Adaptive learning is not new, but it’s really starting to take off! There were many vendors represented in the vendor hall and amongst the session presentations, including SmartSparrow, RealizeIT, Acrobatiq, Waymaker and likely others that I missed. All of these seem to have strengths and slightly different ways of approaching the problem of adaptive learning.
The University of Central Florida provided one of the most interesting sessions where Charles Dzuiban and Patsy Moskal talked about their ongoing research into the use of the adaptive system, RealizeIT (see their session description and PowerPoint slides). Generally speaking, they are finding that classes that use adaptive lessons are on par with traditional face-to-face and wholly online, but not adaptive, classes. The numbers of students who pass the course is roughly the same, and students generally perceive that the adaptive lessons helped them learn the material better.
I’m really excited for the possibilities of adaptive lessons for our residential institution! I think the potential for using adaptive lessons in just the right balance to our residential, face-to-face focus is huge in increasing student engagement and student learning. The technique has been used largely in STEM fields, such as Math and Physics, but I can see it being easily used in language learning, as well. Language teachers have been trying to do things like this for a long time (anyone remember Dasher?)!
Flexible Space Design
Another common theme was flexible space design, which is how to design a classroom for maximum flexibility in teaching. This is an extension of the concept to build active learning classrooms, but allows for those who wish to lecture to still have the ability to do so in the same space.
Sadly, I was unable to attend many of the sessions on this topic, but they were all over the schedule. Steelcase provided an entire room of furniture for us to use, and it was very popular. Two of the chairs that were provided are already in use at Carleton, in the Idealab (in Weitz) and Leighton 426! I also liked the rack of portable, personal whiteboards! I’m sorry I didn’t get a picture, but you can see an example from the Steelcase website here.
They also had some really nice cubbies, what I called an introverts dream, which would be excellent in study areas in the library or other buildings on campus. Angie Fedon tweeted the perfect photo:
— Angie Fedon (@AngieFedon) February 4, 2016
One thing I did learn about was the Learning Space Rating System, which sounds like a fantastic idea! It’s a list of 50 questions that we can use to rate our existing learning spaces to measure how well they support active learning activities. Definitely worth a look in considering existing spaces and how we might improve their design for better teaching and learning.
Here are a few other useful items on this topic available on the ELI website:
- 7 Things You Should Know About The Learning Space Rating System (October 2015)
- Reimagining Learning Spaces: Design, Technology and Assessment (November 2014)
Liberal Arts FTW!
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the great post-meeting Liberal Arts Community Workshop put together by Kristen Eshleman, Donnie Sendelbach, Joe Murphy. The session focused on the concepts of R&D and design thinking, which is often neglected at our small, sometimes under-staffed institutions. We spent the afternoon brainstorming ideas for how to identify big issues for liberal arts campuses, and then worked through potential experiments that could address those issues.
We had some pretty cool ideas come up, including a Liberal Arts App idea that came out of Bryan Alexander‘s team. It was a fun exercise, and particularly useful to spend time talking with my colleagues at other liberal arts institutions about big issues we all face. And it was even better to have ELI support the activity by providing the space and refreshments for the afternoon. More ELI focus on liberal arts colleges will be a great boon for us, I’m excited to see it continue!
ELI 2017 will be in Houston, Texas in February. The Call for Proposals will open in June, and it would be great to see some more liberal arts representation on the agenda!