From the Director - October 2013

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Dr. Ann Johnson
Director, Faculty Development

This week I was part of a faculty forum called by Dr. Sullivan on the status of online learning at UST. It was a good opportunity to catch up on all the diverse online and blended projects growing across campus. A question arose about verifying the quality of our new technology-enhanced course offerings and it led to some discussion of assessment efforts; one of the happy side effects (in my view) of the growth of online courses in higher education is the increased focus on learning outcomes. To verify effectiveness, instructors of online courses are more and more interested in showing that their courses produce the same or better learning outcomes as their traditional face-to-face course counterparts. Many of our faculty members involved in online or blended course development are assessing and comparing student learning toward that end, and that’s an important effort. It will allow us to make decisions about teaching methods that are based on sound evidence.

Research on outcomes, however, has sometimes overshadowed an equally important question driving the scholarship of teaching and learning – the question of process. Understanding the how and why of student learning is crucial regardless of course delivery mode; it can help us make informed decisions about the strategies we employ. Faculty Development Associate Director Elizabeth Smith explores this in more detail in October's Found Wisdom. Whether you are currently an advocate or a skeptic regarding technology-enhanced instruction, we can all agree on the value of continued scholarship for shedding light on learning processes and outcomes.

Issues Facing Mid-career Faculty

Finally – I’d like to devote the November issue of Synergia to issues facing mid-career faculty. A recurring challenge mentioned by faculty in this period of professional life is a feeling of stagnation; how do we keep a sense of passion about our vocation? I would like to hear from you on this topic. If you see yourself as mid-career (post-tenure but pre-retirement), please contact me and let me know how you have kept your passion alive. What are the challenges you’ve seen? What advice can you share with others? Send me an email at and tell me your story via email or over coffee; I’d like to include your perspective in the November Synergia issue.

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