Great Lakes Colleges Association

Strengthening Education in the Tradition of the Liberal Arts

Global Liberal Arts Alliance

Hybrid Thinking About the Role of Technology for Liberal Education

Faculty Workshop
Ann Arbor -- April 5 – 7, 2013

During the past two years there has been dramatic growth in the use of technology-supported education, ranging from the massive online offerings (MOOCs) of the most prestigious research universities to the development of pedagogies that free more class time for the active intellectual engagement of students. Not surprisingly, colleges and universities across the globe are now deep in conversation about how to leverage these opportunities. Many of these conversations begin with the question: "How can technology be used to deliver course content more effectively and (cost) efficiently?" While this is a legitimate question, we believe the discussion should begin from quite a different place: "What are the goals of a liberal education? What do we know about human learning that impacts how we achieve those goals? What is truly distinctive about a liberal education?" Only with the answers to these questions can we go on to explore new opportunities for technology to enhance education in the context of the liberal arts.

GLCA will convene a faculty workshop in Ann Arbor beginning on the afternoon of April 5 and ending either Saturday evening or Sunday morning (final plans are still in development). The objective is to identify the ways in which technological tools and strategies can be used to more effectively accomplish the learning goals of liberal education. For example, an obvious opportunity is the "flipped" course, in which content is delivered outside of the convening time (whether through MOOC components, Internet-based information provision, or similar assignments) so that face-to-face time can be devoted to intellectual engagement among faculty and students rather than content delivery. Are there educational possibilities through the use of social media -- given that human learning (and especially liberal arts learning) happens most fundamentally in a social context, might we use social media tools in new ways to further higher learning goals? Finally, are there opportunities to link courses collaboratively across our liberal arts colleges to increase the impact or diversity of our offerings? Our question, then, is not either/or – technology or face-to-face; rather, can we think about hybridized approaches that make use of technology to further the essential purposes of higher learning in a liberal arts environment?

In this context, we will explore several interrelated issues:

1. What are the fundamental purposes and methods of liberal education as practiced by our colleges? Among GLCA colleges what perspectives and assumptions do we share? What elements of a liberal arts education have the strongest need for face-to-face engagement among students and faculty? What aspects of student learning in our settings could be achieved or even strengthened by the employment of digital means?

2. What is actually happening in higher education relative to the increased use of information technology? What is real, what is hype, and what do we know about their methods and effectiveness? What do we consider especially promising techniques and practices that might be appropriated or adapted among our colleges? What do the well-publicized open courseware providers have to offer?

3. Within our shared understanding of liberal education, what are the best opportunities for enhancing the educational experience of our students through the use of collaborative approaches to hybrid strategies(courses involving a combination of face-to-face methods with educational technology), such as flipped courses, shared courses, etc.? How would we go about pursuing those opportunities collaboratively? What are the challenges?

The workshop will culminate with multi-institution teams developing a set of principles that will guide further consideration of the role of technology in supporting liberal education, with interested faculty beginning to work collaboratively to design and test pedagogical approaches using the capacities of digital tools.

Interested faculty members of GLCA colleges should send Simon Gray ( an expression of interest which includes: (a) reasons for interest; (b) experience in the use of digital technology in classes; (c) discipline and courses taught; and (d) an indication of the kinds of digitally-based pedagogy that might be of interest to explore in partnership with faculty members of other GLCA colleges. In selecting participants for this workshop GLCA will give consideration to the degree of common interests faculty members identify as areas they would like to explore in collaboration with others, as well as balance of institution, discipline, career stage, etc.

The Global Liberal Arts Alliance
535 West William Suite 301
Ann Arbor, MI 48103
Voice: +1.734.661.2350
Facsimile: +1.734.661.2349

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Great Lakes Colleges Association

Strengthening Education in the Tradition of the Liberal Arts

The Great Lakes Colleges Association
535 West William. Suite 301
Ann Arbor, Michigan 48103

+1.734.661.2350 (voice)
+1.734.661.2349 (fax)