You are currently browsing CTL’s articles.

This post is contributed by Dr. Ellen McShane, Director of Academic Success Programs at UVM.

Author George D. Kuh (2008) has identified collaborative learning experiences as a “high-impact practice” that allows students to succeed in college. Collaborative learning experiences can include study groups in courses, team-based course assignments, peer tutoring, and cooperative learning projects that include research.

Sierra Kloutz, Class of 2015, tutors a student.

Sierra Kloutz, Class of 2015, tutors a student in the Learning Co-op. Sierra served as the study group leader for Psych 001 in Fall 2014 for CNHS first-year students.
Photo by Paul O. Boisvert

UVM’s Academic Success Programs (ASP) witnesses the impact of collaborative learning on a daily basis through the Learning Co-op’s Tutoring Program. Our statistics show that students who use tutoring services graduate in four years at a higher rate than students who do not use tutoring (Institutional Research, 2014).

Over the last two years, the Learning Co-op and the College of Nursing and Health Sciences (CNHS) have collaborated to place all first-year CNHS students in peer-tutor-led study groups through the college’s first-year experience course, NH 050.


Learning Co-op Tutors and Staff
Photo by Paul O. Boisvert

This year, the entirety of the first-year cohort participated; 246 first-year students were officially scheduled into study groups. Out of that group, 186 of them completed the requirement of attending six total study group sessions throughout the semester.

Of those who fell short, many of them attended four or five sessions. Of the 246 students we scheduled for sessions, only seven of them had zero contacts. In the end, over 97% of first-year CNHS students had at least one point of contact with a tutor this semester, with over 72% spending six or more hours with tutors. Some students chose to spend as much as ten hours in study groups.

We can say with certainty that no other college comes close to that amount of time spent in structured learning environments outside of lectures.

How has the collaboration between the Learning Co-op and CNHS impacted student success and retention? Stay tuned for another blog post next semester. We plan to gather data over the next several months to see how these efforts have impacted retention.

If you are interested in exploring a college-wide or course-specific collaborative learning experience, please contact Keith M. Williams in the Learning Co-op
at 656-7964.

Kuh, George D. High-impact educational practices: What they are, who has access to them, and why they matter. Washington, D.C.: Association of American Colleges & University Publishing, 2008.

Recently, President Sullivan announced a new award to recognize staff “who exemplify the qualities of the University of Vermont’s Our Common Ground, the statement of aspirations and shared values for the UVM Community.” In part, this new award seeks to make Our Common Ground a living document, relevant to UVM today and in the future.

While this statement of institutional values was endorsed the UVM Board of Trustees in 1998, the current UVM community may not be fully aware of its existence. In honor of the President‘s effort to bring everyone‘s attention back to these values, there is now a menu link to Our Common Ground in the new Blackboard course spaces, as of the Summer session, 2014. Here is the statement in its entirety:

We aspire to be a community that values:

RESPECT. We respect each other. We listen to each other, encourage each other, and care about each other. We are strengthened by our diverse perspectives.

INTEGRITY. We value fairness, straightforward conduct, adherence to the facts, and sincerity. We acknowledge when things have not turned out the way we had hoped. As stewards of the University of Vermont, we are honest and ethical in all responsibilities entrusted to us.

INNOVATION. We want to be at the forefront of change and believe that the best way to lead is to learn from our successes and mistakes and continue to grow. We are forward-looking and break new ground in addressing important community and societal needs.

OPENNESS. We encourage the open exchange of information and ideas from all quarters of the community. We believe that through collaboration and participation, each of us has an important role in determining the direction and well-being of our community.

JUSTICE. As a just community, we unite against all forms of injustice, including, but not limited to, racism. We reject bigotry, oppression, degradation, and harassment, and we challenge injustice toward any member of our community.

RESPONSIBILITY. We are personally and collectively responsible for our words and deeds. We stand together to uphold Our Common Ground.”

See the webpage.

A course banner brightens up a course home page and helps users identify the course they’ve entered. Any image can be made into a banner, but the ideal dimensions are shallow and wide.* Text can be added to an image using editing software, such as Photoshop, or an online image editing tool such as

The CTL provides pre-made banners and instructions on this page or come to the Dr. Is In for help.

*If you use the announcement tool in your course, you’ll want to make sure your banner isn’t so tall that it pushes the announcement area out of sight. Read more about that here.

Here’s an interesting article showcasing recent research on the so-called “Net Generation.” The German Website, Speigel Online International, cites research that debunks a number of popular assumptions about this generation’s adroitness with Web technologies and their supposed desire to do nearly everything digitally.
» The Internet Generation Prefers the Real World

Perspectives on intellectual property in higher ed vary widely and the one expressed by this speaker (15 min. video) favors the open education movement and places the idea of information as personal property to be protected in an historical context that’s both controversial and interesting. I’d be curious to hear thoughts and reactions to it from our community.

The speaker is Dr. David Wiley, Associate Professor of Instructional Psychology and Technology at Brigham Young University, at TEDxNYED, a March 2010 conference on new media and education held in New York City.

Because of some recent trouble with spam filtering, we’ve had to turn the comments feature off, but please feel free to email me ( and I’ll post your reply.

Blackboard Jungle The Office of Multicultural Affairs is sponsoring this symposium on March 28th and 29th for UVM faculty. This event will address “the challenges that emerge when gender, race and sexuality intersect and shape how students learn and how we teach.”

To learn more and register, contact or call 802-656-0856.

Download the program here [PDF].

We were all delighted to see Shirley’s (Shirley Gedeon, the CTL’s former director) blog about her sabbatical in Bosnia – a lively read and vicarious getaway. Wow, Shirley, you GO.

The Faculty Fellows for Service-Learning Program recruits faculty members from across UVM to participate in a seminar each Spring on how to build service-learning pedagogy into courses. Faculty members must apply and be accepted into the Program, are given a small professional development fund ($750), and are expected to inject service-learning into at least one of their courses after finishing the program. Faculty participants cite the opportunity to interact with colleagues with similar interests as a highlight of this program.
For more information, and an application form, visit:
Application Deadline: November 9, 2007
Seminar Dates: January 8-10, 2008

The Center for Cultural Pluralism is sponsoring an even that promises to be interesting and important:
abstract.jpg“Moving Beyond the Basics: Shifts of Consciousness and Practice for Transformative Multicultural Teaching and Learning”
(snippet of the description on the CCP website)

[Transformative multicultural education] calls on faculty to think deeply and critically, not just about our biases, but about how we challenge or support power imbalances in our teaching, how we teach (or do not teach) about certain social justice issues, and how we may (often unintentionally) contribute to existing inequities, sometimes even when we believe we are teaching multiculturally. This session we help participants to be more critically reflective of their teaching and create higher levels of critical thinking and social justice awareness in their students.”

September 28, 2007.8:30-4:00p.m. Location TBD
To register, call 656-9511 (CCP)

For more info., visit the CCP website.

We were talking today, again, about that recurrent concern over the reliance on PowerPoint for presenting complex concepts or sharing knowledge. I recently read Edward Tufte’s Beautiful Evidence and the second edition of his powerful PowerPoint essay is quoted in the title of this post.
It’s a perpetual teaching/learning issue. Not only is PP increasingly relied upon to support lecture, but more students are required to submit their course work in this format.
Some questions that I feel are worth asking are, Do bullet points and pictures inspire or require smart and rigorous thinking? How much of the blame for bad (i.e., diminishing, boring, soporific, flattening…) PowerPoint presentations lies with the user and how much with the tool?
Read more on Edward Tufte’s blog.

Skip to toolbar