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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.
UVM’s Hybrid Course Initiative, conducted by the CTL, is now into the second implementation phase. There are currently three cohorts of faculty who are either teaching or in the process of designing/redesigning hybrid courses. By the end of this second phase of the initiative, we’ll have assisted in launching nearly 30 hybrid courses! (Learn about hybrid teaching and about the UVM initiative, here.)
We’re currently welcoming applications for the next faculty cohort that begins meeting in August ‘14. Participants in this cohort will be eligible for a support package that includes a laptop, a grant to aid in the development of their course, and support from the CTL staff. **APPLICATION DIRECTIONS** and more detailed information about support packages for each phase of the initiative can be found on the Hybrid Course Initiative page. Applications are due by March 31st.
If you’re interested and want to learn more, we’ll be holding an informational session, “What ’s the Hype About Hybrid?,” on Thursday, March 20th. (Read more and register for this session, here.)
2014 dates to keep in mind:
- March 20th – Information Session: “What ’s the Hype About Hybrid?”
- March 31st – Applications due for the Fall ’14 faculty cohort (info here)
- April 15th – Applicants notified of acceptance by end of day
- Welcome and informational luncheon in late-April
- Cohort meetings begin in August
If you can’t make it to the March informational session, feel free to email the co-directors of the program: Jennifer Dickinson (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Henrie Paz-Amor (email@example.com) to set up some time to talk about your interest in the program.
The CTL is taking steps to test and install several textbook publisher add-ons for Blackboard. These add-ons allow faculty to link their courses to externally hosted publisher content and interactive tools. For example, an instructor might use the tool to give students access to reading materials and to take quizzes on a publisher’s site. The results of those quizzes can be automatically sent back into their Grade Center in Blackboard.
Publisher add-ons will be tested and evaluated during the Summer 2014 term and made available to the general community for the start of the Fall 2014 term. During the summer evaluation period, a protocol for evaluating these publisher tools will be developed. The initial add-ons to be installed will be selected based on past requests and include tools from McGraw-Hill, Pearson, and Carnegie Mellon University, among others.
The UVM Faculty Senate Committee on Sustainability Learning Outcomes has announced that the draft outcomes are now available to the campus wide community and is asking for feedback.
The outcomes were developed over nearly a year of discussions with the Faculty Senate and administrators and three years after the Student Government Association Senate passed a resolution supporting the creation of a university-wide sustainability curricular requirement to be included in Phase II of the General Education plan.
The learning outcomes are rooted in UVM’s Common Ground, as they seek “to prepare students to live in a diverse and changing world.” The outcomes “recognize that the pursuit of environmental, social, and economic vitality must come with the understanding that the needs of the present be met without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
Draft Learning Outcomes:
Learning outcome 1: Students can have an informed conversation about the multiple dimensions of sustainability and its complexity. (knowledge category)
Learning outcome 2: Students can evaluate sustainability using a disciplinary approach and integrate economic, ecological, and social perspectives. (skills category)
Learning outcome 3: Students think critically about sustainability across a diversity of cultural values and across multiple scales of relevance from local to global.
To read the full description of each outcome and submit your comments please go to: http://blog.uvm.edu/dwang-genedsustain/. Please note, to enter comments you will have to login with your UVM net and password.
While the implementation and assessment plan is currently being developed, the vision integrates student achievement of outcomes in curricular and co-curricular activities.
For more about the history and process of General Education Sustainability Learning Outcomes, visit
MOOCs are courses that are:
- Massive: designed for large-scale participation by dozens or even thousands of
- Open: freely available with free access to all course materials.
- Online: available through any web browser on any mobile device or computer.
As the MOOC model has gained acceptance it continues to be redefined and changed to suit the needs of learners, teachers, and institutions.
Currently, MOOCs combine the practice of online education with the ideals of open education and open courseware initiatives. They have gathered increasing attention in the past year as the model has been adopted by such well-known universities as MIT, Stanford, Harvard, and Berkeley . They have even been blamed for the recent controversy surrounding the departure and subsequent return of the President of the University of Virginia. 
Where did MOOCs Come From?
The advent of the web provided new opportunities for proponents of distance education. In addition to the ability to provide course materials and communication opportunities online, the web has allowed for experimentation with new pedagogical approaches. In 1999 the University of Tübingen in Germany made videos of its lectures freely available online. MIT followed suit in 2002 with its publication of course materials through its OpenCourseware initiative . Alongside these initiatives, discussions about Personal Learning Environments, or the more colorfully named Edupunk, combined a reaction against the commercialization of learning with a focus on individually crafting one’s own learning and curriculum. 
Giving away course materials for self-learners was one thing. Giving away access to actual taught courses was another, yet that is exactly what David Wiley of Utah State University did in 2007 when he opened his graduate course on, appropriately enough, open education, to anyone who wished to participate. The term MOOC itself, however, came as a result of a course taught by longtime open education advocates George Siemens , of the Technology Enhanced Knowledge Research Institute at Athabasca University and Stephen Downes , Senior Researcher at The National Research Council (Canada). The course was titled “Connectivism and Connective Knowledge” and was offered both to the students at the University of Manitoba who took it for credit and to the over 2,000 students who participated for free. The course content and discussion were made available through a variety of tools such as blogs, threaded discussions using Moodle, virtual encounters in Second Life, and synchronous online meetings. As a result of that course, and with a nod to an older interactive and collaborative technology, the MOO, Dave Cormier, Manager of Web Communication and Innovations at the University of Prince Edward Island, coined the term MOOC in 2008 and created the video that defined it.
Cormier, Downes, and Siemans have continued their experiments with MOOCs, offering a number of courses. In 2011 they brought together over 30 facilitators to offer a 35 week MOOC focused on innovations and directions in online education.  As of the writing of this post they are offering a MOOC titled Current/Future State of Higher Education (#CFHE12) to explore the impact of the MOOC model. 
Who is teaching them? Where are they taught?
There are multiple online courses calling themselves MOOCs. These are currently taking one of two forms, recently labelled by Downes as cMOOCs and xMOOCs. The original MOOC concept envisioned that an instructor would provide information and encourage participants to share their knowledge and experience, connecting with each other in groups and sub-groups based on their particular interests and expertise. They would take the opportunity to peer instruct and even expand upon areas where the instructor may not have extensive knowledge. In other words, much if not most of the learning experience is derived through meaningful interaction with others in the course. This connectivist approach, or cMOOC, makes use of many of the social networking tools now available: blogs, Twitter, Facebook, discussion boards, etc.
xMOOCs, or those served by new start-ups such as EdX, Coursera, Udacity and Udemy  are an effort to formalize the MOOC model. Their service provides the managerial functions necessary for institutions offering MOOCs: account administration, server infrastructure, marketing, etc.
What are the potential benefits of the MOOC model?
- can encourage communication among participants who bring a variety of viewpoints, knowledge, and skills to the course. This serves to create communities of interest along with broadening the scope of the MOOC.
- could inspire people to “try on” subjects that they wouldn’t otherwise pursue or even try on education itself.
- can provide multiple ways to engage with course material, encouraging multimodal learning that can address the needs of learners with a variety of learning styles (i.e. Universal Design for Learning or UDL).
- by developing for multimodal learners, could inspire better teaching and use of technologies in general for face to face courses.
Yet MOOCs are viewed with trepidation and skepticism by some who see them as reinforcing the worst aspects of teaching. Those that are designed to simply provide droning lectures followed by auto-graded multiple choice tests are, in the words of Said Vaidhyanathan “taking the worst aspects of college learning as the favored methods of college learning.”
And then there are the financial questions. While MOOCs have been and might continue to be used for marketing purposes or to claim cultural capital for those institutions that are the early adopters, there is no doubt they can be expensive to run. They are not yet direct revenue generators. Among many educators that lack of commercial viability is seen as a positive trait, especially for public institutions that, ideally, promote the extension of knowledge as a core value. Those who see commercialism as corrupter are understandably leery of institutions that view MOOCs solely in terms of revenue generation through commercial transactions with students.
Administering several large MOOCs simultaneously has infrastructure implications. Alternatively, outsourcing MOOC administration to any of the several MOOC providers that have sprung up must take into account FERPA policies and the privacy of students.
Among the many questions revolving around the formalization of MOOCs are how faculty will be compensated for teaching them and how universities will credential students taking them. Currently, xMOOCs generally make a point of offering some form of assessment but we are a long way for any kind of standardization that would allow for MOOC credit to travel easily from institution to institution. Then again, “long” is a relative term. When speaking of the evolution of MOOCs that day may come much sooner than expected. Indeed, in the past few weeks the University of Texas has negotiated with Coursera to offer courses that may carry college credit. Meanwhile the State of Minnesota Office of Higher Education has declared that Coursera cannot offer any courses to citizens of Minnesota without that government’s consent, an odd proposition given that the courses are free and offer no credit. 
How can you learn more about them?
A quick look through the notes below, or a search through The Chronicle of Higher Education, Wikipedia, or even generally via Google or YouTube will net you more than a little information on MOOCs. A more experiential way to learn about MOOCs is to take one. Visit the xMOOC providers or follow Siemans’ or Downes’ offerings.
1. The Chronicle of Higher Education has compiled a timeline of their articles related to MOOCs at “What You Need to Know About MOOCs.”
2. In the May 2012 article “Harvard and M.I.T. Team Up to Offer Free Online Courses” the New York Times reported that several other universities had jumped on the MOOC bandwagon.
3. While the ouster of President Sullivan was more complex than a simple argument over the adoption of MOOCs, it is interesting to note that almost immediately upon her return to that Office the university signed a deal with Coursera to begin developing MOOCs.
4. Since that time the MIT OpenCourseWare site has continued to be enlarged, reporting 100 million visits by 2010.
5. Educators also see a role for EduPunk and Open Education practices as a counter to the more restrictive and, some would argue, limiting environment of Learning Management Systems like Blackboard, Moodle, etc.
6. This video continues to be the definition of MOOCs as originally conceived, though the term itself is applied to two diverging definitions. In an all too common instance of web irony, and as an example of how quickly the MOOC concept is evolving, this video has been accused of being “inaccurate” by a commenter who apparently did not know Cormier’s role in creating the term.
7. While more formal talks by both George Siemens and David Cormier have been recorded, for a more casual discussion about MOOCs by these founders, see the interview with Martin Weller of the UK’s Open University at http://youtu.be/l1G4SUblnbo.
8. Stephen Downes has been writing and speaking about issues in education for many years. For example, in this 2009 video he describes Open Education. You can also see his brief introduction to the 2011 “Change 2011 MOOC” which provides his take on how that MOOC will work.
11. In an interview with Downes for her July 2012 article (“Massively Open Online Courses Are ‘Here to Stay’“), Tanya Roscorla picked up on his use of the terms xMOOC and cMOOC, so they have now entered the MOOC lexicon. See also the report by Sir John Daniels “Making Sense of MOOCs.”
12. EdX is a joint venture created by MIT and Harvard. Coursera was founded by Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng of Stanford. Three roboticists, Sebastian Thrun, Mike Sokolsky and David Stavens founded Udacity. Udemy was founded by Gagan Biyani, Eren Bali and Oktay Caglar.
14. As reported in the Washington Post on October 19, 2012 (“Is Minnesota Cracking Down on MOOCs?”). For a recent recap of other general issues surrounding MOOCs, see Katherine Mangan’s “MOOC Mania” in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Oct. 1, 2012. In addition, feel free to visit my growing collection of MOOC references at http://delicious.com/hopegreenberg/mooc+MOOC?link_view=expanded
UVM faculty are invited to apply to participate in the Sustainability Faculty Fellows Program. This program seeks to develop a learning community—a multidisciplinary faculty cohort engaged in a yearlong exploration of sustainability, the scholarship of teaching, learning, collaboration and community building. Program goals are to:
- Create a community of faculty who are committed to integrating interdisciplinary approaches to environmental sustainability into the UVM curriculum
- Enhance the understanding of environmental sustainability concepts among faculty and students, particularly those not trained in environmental fields
- Explore teaching and course design strategies that will engage students in environmental sustainability from a multidisciplinary approach
For more information and to download the application form, please the Grants/Awards pages of CTL web site.
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 University of Vermont is now a member of Educause’s Learning Initiative (ElI).
ELI explores the interaction among learners, learning principles and practices, and learning technologies. Membership benefits include reduced rates on ELI events and access to all resources on their web site, including archived web seminars and podcasts.
There are three upcoming events that may interest you:
January 14: Teaching and Learning with Web 2.0 (online event)
January 28 – 30: ELI 2008 Annual Meeting – Connecting and Reflecting: Preparing Learners for Life 2.0 (San Antonio, TX)
March 18 – 19: Real World and Technology-Rich: Learning by Doing, Learning in Context (Raleigh, NC)
To access ELI resources and register for events, you will need to set up a member profile that connects you as an UVM affiliate. Go to the the Educause home page and follow the directions in the “Manage your personal profile” (under the “What would you like to do?” section).
We hope that you will explore the resources on the ELI site. If you find these resources valuable and/or are interested in attending an event, please let us know.
Just stumbled upon a new service at the Library. It’s called “Get This Book.” If you search for a book and the Library doesn’t have it, but it is in the catalog of one of several university presses (including Oxford Univ. Press), you will see the usual record and this logo:
If you click on the logo the Library makes you this offer:
“Get This Book! is a service available to UVM students, faculty, and staff. Bailey/Howe Library does not currently own this book, but we want to purchase it for your use and the library’s permanent collection. If you need the book immediately, we will do everything we can to have the book in your hands within 3 working days.”