Grant Allows Bryn Mawr to Explore Blend of Online Learning and Liberal-Arts Classroom Interaction

Posted April 7th, 2011 at 4:07 pm.

Bryn Mawr College has received a $250,000 grant from Next Generation Learning Challenges to introduce open-source courseware modules into traditional science and math courses to improve course and college completion, announced Bryn Mawr Provost Kim Cassidy today.

“There remains a misconception that online learning is always an isolating experience, a bias that’s even more pronounced at liberal arts colleges where a high value is placed on student-faculty interaction,” says Cassidy. “We want to see if targeted use of this technology, blended with the traditional intimate classroom setting, will free up time for more in-depth coverage of complex material and create a more engaged learning environment.”

Bryn Mawr’s proposal was one of only 29 to be selected from a field of more than 600 pre-proposals and 50 finalists.

The proposal calls for the  integration of open-source courseware modules available through the Carnegie Mellon Open Learning Initiative (CMU OLI) into traditional classroom-based STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) courses within a liberal-arts-college setting to enhance student engagement as a means of improving course completion, persistence in  science and math majors, and college completion.

CMU OLI courseware will be incorporated into four different courses that are gateway courses for many students interested in pursuing a STEM major: the new Quantitative Seminar, Topics in Biology, General Chemistry, and Experimental Methods and Statistics.

As part of the proposal, Bryn Mawr plans to share its program with 35 other liberal-arts colleges from across the United States to promote the use of this technology throughout the liberal-arts sector. Bryn Mawr will assist its partners in implementing blended learning by sponsoring three workshops; establishing a project website and blog as a forum for the exchange of ideas and best practices; and providing individualized on-site curricular and technical support for partner institutions.

Partner colleges are Amherst, Allegheny, Bard, Barnard, Bates, Bowdoin, Colgate, Connecticut, Franklin and Marshall, Grinnell, Hamilton, Haverford, Hobart and William Smith, Holy Cross, Ithaca, Kalamazoo, Lafayette, Macalester, Middlebury, Mount Holyoke, Oberlin, Pomona, Saint Olaf, Skidmore, Smith, Swarthmore, Trinity, Union, Vassar, Wellesley, Wesleyan, Wheaton, Whitman, Whittier, and Williams.

“Almost all universities are already heavily invested in online learning, but it’s often used to either take the place of or in connection with large lecture-hall courses,” says Cassidy. “If this project is successful Bryn Mawr will be at the forefront of using this technology to enhance the learning that can take place only through the classroom interactions between faculty and students, which is the hallmark of a liberal arts education.”

NGLC is led by EDUCAUSE in partnership with The League for Innovation in the Community College, the International Association of K-12 Online Learning, and the Council of Chief State School Officers.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation helped design the Next Generation Learning Challenges and fund the initiative.

Comments are closed.