September 25, 2020

Professors Pool Resources to Focus on ‘Compelling Courses’

Assistant Professor of Biology April Wynn is among the dozens of UMW professors participating this summer in Compelling Courses, a faculty learning community to help instructors design engaging courses.

Assistant Professor of Biology April Wynn is among the dozens of UMW professors participating this summer in Compelling Courses, a faculty learning community to help instructors design engaging courses.

To teach mitosis, April Wynn has students in her class act out the process, portraying chromosomes that divide into nuclei. The assistant professor of biological sciences hopes to replicate lively exercises like this – but virtually – in the fall.

“My goal is to promote the same level of engagement, energy and enthusiasm in an online space,” said Wynn, who, as faculty director of the University of Mary Washington’s First-Year Experience, is helping other instructors do the same for their classes.

Professors often spend their breaks on scholarly research, but Wynn is among dozens of UMW faculty members who went back to school this summer. Through a new faculty learning community called Compelling Courses, representatives from nearly every academic department have been teaching each other how to deliver dynamic online lessons and incorporate the best of the UMW experience into distance learning.

In March of this year, UMW professors – the majority of whom had never taught online – abruptly had to shift to a new method of teaching. The succeeding months have given these instructors time to tinker with and tweak tools so that they are fully prepared to teach virtually if necessary. Many, like Wynn, have found that this modality can even offer benefits.

“We believe teaching can be excellent regardless of medium,” said Professor of Economics Steve Greenlaw, who launched the group with Professor of Communication Anand Rao. “It all depends on how you design the course.” Read more.

Professors Pool Expertise to Create ‘Compelling Courses’

To teach mitosis, April Wynn has students in her class act out the process, portraying chromosomes that divide into nuclei. The assistant professor of biological sciences hopes to replicate lively exercises like this – but virtually – in the fall. “My goal is to promote the same level of engagement, energy and enthusiasm in an […]

Greenlaw Comments on Open Educational Resource Tools

Professor of Economics Steven Greenlaw

Professor of Economics Steven Greenlaw

Professor of Economics Steve Greenlaw was recently interviewed in an article on Ed Surge entitled, “‘Better Every Semester’: How Faculty Use Open Educational Resources to Improve Courses.”

In addition to providing students with text and video content, courseware tools also have built-in nudges and assessments—sometimes personalized—that generate instant feedback about whether students are mastering the assigned material.

That data allows an entity like Lumen to “crunch the numbers and figure out where the problems are” with courseware texts and tests, then fix those problems, says Steve Greenlaw, a professor of economics at the University of Mary Washington, who has helped to produce OER resources for Lumen and for OpenStax, a nonprofit OER publisher, and who uses Lumen courseware with his own classes. Read more.

‘Better Every Semester’: How Faculty Use Open Educational Resources to Improve Courses (Ed Surge)

Professor Wins Grant to Pen Open Education Textbook

It’s a dilemma faced by many students on financial aid. Funds often don’t hit accounts until a few weeks into the semester, so students can’t purchase textbooks, and they risk falling behind. Melissa Wells, an assistant professor in UMW’s College of Education (COE), knows this scenario all too well. That’s why she’s designing an Open […]

Greenlaw Quoted on Grade Distribution in Inside Higher Ed

Professor of Economics Steven Greenlaw

Professor of Economics Steven Greenlaw

Professor of Economics Steven Greenlaw was quoted in an article on InsideHigherEd.com entitled “Forced to Fail Students?” The article examines an accusation by a former professor at Arizona State University who says he was fired for failing to adhere to grading quotas. “Asking professors to strictly follow a grade distribution is highly unusual,” Greenlaw said. “If a professor is giving out too many A’s, that might necessitate a conversation, but not a mandate to fail a specific proportion of the class.” Read more. 

 

 

Forced to Fail Students? (Inside Higher Ed)

Online Students Don’t Have to Work Solo (Inside Higher Ed)

What Online Teachers Have Learned From Teaching Online (Inside Higher Ed)

Greenlaw Honored by OpenStaxCollege

Steven A. Greenlaw was recently honored when OpenStaxCollege, an affiliate of Rice University in Houston, named a conference room after him.  OpenStax is the preeminent publisher of free, open source textbooks for introductory college courses.  They currently have introductory texts in Physics, Biology, Anatomy & Physiology, Chemistry, Statistics, Precalculus, U.S. History, Psychology and Economics. By the end of 2015, they expect to have 25 books.

Greenlaw was one of their first authors.  He recently conducted a statistical analysis comparing the use of OpenStax’ economics text against the commercial text, and found there to be no statistical difference in student learning in his course. If you teach one of these introductory courses, you might want to save your students money and consider adopting an OpenStax or other open text.