Four projects designed to improve the quality, scope and/or efficiency of programs at William & Mary were made possible this semester with support from the provost’s Creative Adaptation Fund.
Established in November 2011, the fund was designed “to engage and unleash the creative energy in the academic areas to develop creative adaptations that improve the quality of our educational programs either directly or indirectly, by reducing costs or generating new revenues and thereby providing funds that can be reinvested in people and programs,” according to a campus message from Provost Michael R. Halleran.
Since 2012, the fund has provided $200,000 annually to support faculty-designed projects.
“I continue to be impressed with my faculty colleagues’ insightful and innovative ideas for improving the quality and efficiency of William & Mary’s educational offerings,” Halleran said. “These four new projects will continue to advance that cause. The projects vary in scope and focus, and they all give testimony to the faculty’s creativity, intelligence and passion for the teaching.”
This year’s approved projects are:
College Teaching Certificate
Investigators: Pamela L. Eddy
The university will soon offer a 12-credit, hybrid (online and in-person) College Teaching Certificate (CTC) program. It will be the first such credit program offered in Virginia.
The certificate targets community college faculty as well as on-campus doctoral students at William & Mary, and portions will be offered year-round.
“What makes the College Teaching Certificate such an exciting venture is how the initiative addresses several key issues facing higher education in general, and the state of Virginia in particular,” said Eddy, professor of education. “The changing nature of teaching and learning, the needs of today’s learners, and the retirement of vast numbers of seasoned faculty members provides a need in the field that the CTC addresses—especially for those in the community college sector.”
Most faculty are not trained on how to teach and instead use trial and error, teach as they were taught, or try teaching themselves about new classroom strategies, Eddy added.
“The College Teaching Certificate intends to teach about best practices in classroom teaching with an end goal to obtain improved student learning outcomes, and importantly to keep students on track for college completion,” she said.
The foundation for the certificate includes six, one-credit online modules that focus on the areas of college teaching and course design, teaching strategies, inclusive classroom design, the scholarship of teaching and learning, assessing student learning, and educational technologies and course content.
The second portion of the program will offer participants teaching academies and workshops. Students in the program will also be involved in hands-on learning projects in which they will have the chance to apply their new skills.
“The CTC is offered in a hybrid format to accommodate working professionals and models the type of authentic learning experiences participants can then use in their own classrooms,” said Eddy. “Importantly, a focus on the scholarship of teaching is a part of the program—this feature will allow graduates to continue to assess their own classroom practices and tweak them to enhance student outcomes long after they are done with the CTC. Our hope is that our own passion for teaching spreads among those participating!”
The one-credit modules are being developed this summer, and two of the content modules will be piloted on campus and with faculty at Tidewater Community College in the fall.
The program itself is expected to generate a pathway into graduate programs for participants and will create additional enrollments for the university. The format of this initial offering may lead to additional certificate program offerings.
Developing a Neurodiversity Curriculum for the W&M Washington Office
The William & Mary Neurodiversity Working Group will offer one-credit, multidisciplinary courses on neurodiversity at the university’s Williamsburg campus and in the nation’s capital through the W&M Washington Office. Neurodiversity is a philosophy and civil rights movement to increase education about and acceptance of a wide range of brain differences, such as autism. The courses will focus on the many issues involved with neurodiversity, including social and cognitive differences, co-morbidities, advocacy and the law.
The intended audiences for the courses include both neurodiverse and neurotypical William & Mary students, those with friends and family members with autism spectrum disorders, and community members and professionals – such as teachers or medical practitioners – who have either been personally affected by autism or work directly with neurodiverse populations.
The first of these courses was taught on the W&M campus during the spring 2014 semester. The first Washington, D.C., course will be taught this summer. Hosting courses in D.C. will allow faculty and students to access autism-related resources available in the Washington area, such as the National Institutes of Health and the Autism Self Advocacy Network.
In the long-term, the project’s investigators would like to offer courses online as part of a certificate program.
“Given the increase in prevalence of autism, we expect that there will be an ongoing demand for the types of courses that we propose to offer,” the investigators wrote in their project proposal.
Developing Online and Hybrid Endorsement Courses for Certification in Gifted Education
The Center for Gifted Education will develop online certification courses for teachers who work with gifted students.
Currently, the four endorsement courses are only offered in typical, face-to-face classes at William & Mary. However, many other universities offer the courses online. By offering the courses online, William & Mary will not only be able to capture some of this market, but the university may also be able to generate more interest in its master’s degree program in gifted education.
“We have many teachers who are interested in getting their gifted endorsement through William and Mary, but may not be able to travel to Williamsburg for the on-campus courses,” said Chandler, curriculum director and clinical assistant professor with the CFGE. “This allows us to be competitive with other universities that have offered gifted education courses online for a while and also respond to the requests of teachers who have inquired about online learning.”
Two of the online courses are expected to launch in the fall of 2014 with the other two expected to follow in the spring of 2015.
Students who complete the four courses will only need to eight more courses and a practicum to satisfy the master’s degree requirements.
The project’s investigators hope to expand their offerings in the future to address the needs educators across the nation and even around the world.
Enhancing Problem-Solving Skills Using Online Tutorials
Students in introductory physics classes will have a new way to learn about concepts introduced in the large lectures. Online tutorials will provide students access to information on concepts that many often find difficult.
Currently, students in the introductory physics course not only attend a lecture with 70 to 100 other students, but they also spend an additional three hours per week in the laboratory and another hour in a recitation session where they learn how to apply concepts. That application of knowledge is what students are tested on; however, they have reported that they do not learn much from just reading the textbook, and scheduling conflicts can cause difficulties with recitation sessions.
Offering tutorials online will allow students to access and repeat the lessons that would usually be learned in recitation sessions. The format of the instruction – with videos and animations – will also help students better understand concepts that are best illustrated visually.
“Many of the principles of kinematics and dynamics are much easier to understand if seen from different points of view, and these animations would provide an ideal way to show both views,” the investigators wrote in their project proposal.
Faculty members met during the spring semester to develop story boards for the modules. This summer, they will continue storyboarding and begin capturing video and creating the animations, with some of the modules expected to be tested in a Physics 107 class in the fall. By the following spring, eight planned modules are expected to be completed.
The series of online tutorials is intended to eventually replace the recitation sessions and textbook. The use of the tutorials could also lead to a restructuring of the courses from large lectures to small classes.