Provosts and Digital Pedagogy
Concurrent Session 1
Although the Provosts/Chief Academic Officer (CAOs) have come of age, both personally and professionally, with the technologies that are now ubiquitous across higher education, many remain skeptical about the impact and benefits of the often significant campus investments in instructional technology intended to improve student learning and institutional outcomes.
This panel session will focus on the experience of provosts who participated in the ACAO Digital Follows Project and the impact of that initiative and experience on their students, faculty, and their own perspectives on digital pedagogy. Specifically, the discuss will focus on what really works, and what's really needed, (b) the link between effective courseware and the the completion agenda, and (c) the ways digital course resource can contribute to enhanced student learning, improved retention, and increased graduation rates for ALL students.
The Association of Chief Academic Officers (ACAO) received a grant of $1.2 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in early 2017 to allow Dr. Laura Niesen de Abruna (PI) and Dr. Casey Green (Project Director) to organize an extended project to support a group of competitively selected Chief Academic Officers (CAOs) from institutions across the country to provide them and their faculty members with experience in using digital courseware. The intention of the Foundation was to create an understanding of the potential of digital courseware to increase student learning, and thereby retention and persistence to graduation, especially among students who are low income, first generation, and minority. Their mission is to increase the opportunity for these students to obtain a higher education credential and to access better career opportunities.
The ACAO Senior Leadership Group chose 32 CAOs from applicants who came from community colleges, four-year public institutions, four year private institutions, for-profit institutions, and research one universities. The colleges and universities were distributed across the country, with strong presence in the Southeast, Southwest, and the Midwest. Each institution’s CAO was provided the opportunity to attend conferences where information on digital courseware was provided. They were then offered resources and information to allow them to create at least one pilot course in at least one section of a larger course, and to work with their faculty champions to select a courseware product. They were then asked to launch the pilot and to assess, via the decrease in DFWI rates, if there were any progress in helping students retain in these courses. The emphasis was on “Gateway” courses at the introductory level, as these are known to be the places where students stumble and are rarely able to recover.
Our session includes a brief overview of the results of the digital fellows’ project presented by the PI on the grant, Dr. Niesen de Abruna. She will discuss the 5 top things we learned about the digital pedagogy project. The top five issues cited by nearly all of the fellows in their evaluations were the importance of faculty buy-in, faculty engagement, collaboration, cooperation, training, recognition, and rewards. Clearly, the dominant issues centered around faculty training, with the CAO being in the most influential position to connect the faculty to digital courseware. The second issue of most consequence was the importance of analytics, evaluation, and outcomes, followed issues of leadership, courseware, and scaling.
Following Dr. Niesen de Abruna’s report, Dr. Margaret Annunziata, Vice President, Academic Programs and Services at Davidson County Community College in North Carolina, will speak about her institution’s pilot that focused on the use of courseware in “Introduction to Anatomy and Physiology.” Her comments will include the insight that any approach to digital learning should begin with a focus on student learning outcomes. Her team found that it is essential for them to identify what they are trying to achieve through this course. The faculty began by identifying specific challenges experienced by students in the course and then attempted to address these experiences. She has reported that her institution has found that there has been improvement in its learning environment because of the focus on and commitment to assisting students in mastering concepts necessary to completion of the course.
The third speaker will be Dr. Garvey Pyke, Director, Center for Teaching and Learning, University of North Carolina at Charlotte. At UNC Charlotte, the CAO, Dr. Joan Lorden, and Dr. Garvey Pyke chose to use Realizeit courseware to improve student learning outcomes in one of the most challenging of all gateway courses--computer science.The goal was to compare the efficacy of adaptive courseware with traditional teaching methods in a large, multi-section course affecting approximately 500 students. Among the results of their project was the sense that the adoption of digital learning includes meeting faculty members where they are and helping them to get more from the tools they are already using. Faculty members must adapt their existing classroom pedagogy for change to occur. A challenge to scaling adaptive courseware is the pricing model used by publishers and vendors that relies on a price per student model. The best choice moving forward might be for institutions to create their own materials, especially for courses where no vendor product currently exists.
The final presentation will be offered by Dr. Lori Werth, Provost, University of Pikeville in Pikeville, Kentucky. Their project was the introduction of Grammarly to help students with their writing skills. The team found that it was critical to offer professional development opportunities to faculty members to get them to see how Grammarly could support writing efforts. The use of this product extended from undergraduate students to students in the Medical and Optometry Schools. Their pilot project has tackled a campus-wide problem and is being evaluated using DFWI data to see if there has been an effect on passing rates. Dr. Werth found that one of the greatest benefits of this work was the opportunity to interact with 32 of her fellow CAOs at a variety of types of institutions across the country.
It has been a great learning experience for all of us. As Dr. Annunziata states: “In an environment in which there is often clear division among institutions by type, the Digital Fellows came together and bonded over our shared commitment to support our faculty and the students we serve.”