Magazine article University Business

A New Paradigm for Learning: College Consortium Embraces Technology to Strengthen Intellectual Capital

Magazine article University Business

A New Paradigm for Learning: College Consortium Embraces Technology to Strengthen Intellectual Capital

Article excerpt

At Rollins College (Fla.), we're always looking for new ways to enhance student learning experiences. A signature feature of liberal arts schools is the intimacy and strength of engagement in the classroom. With this philosophy, you might assume that virtual classrooms don't have a place at Rollins. But technology's role in higher education isn't synonymous just with distance learning and online courses. Technology is a tool that can enrich the liberal arts learning experience and make it more meaningful. That's why the Associated Colleges of the South (ACS), a consortium of 16 liberal arts colleges throughout the Southeast, is developing the New Paradigm Initiative.

This initiative allows us to use high-definition video-conferencing technology for inter-institutional learning--generating chances for students to select from a larger number and wider variety of courses, while maintaining the advantages of a small liberal arts learning environment. Our alliance of 3,000 faculty and 30,000 students enables us to pool our resources and act collectively in ways we couldn't individually.

MAKING IT HAPPEN

This process began two years ago when Rollins' modern languages lecturer Li Wei, who specializes in Chinese, collaborated with a colleague at Southwestern University (Texas) who was also teaching Chinese studies. As web cameras linked the two classes, Wei delivered a lecture on Chinese music. A few weeks later, his colleague delivered a shared lecture on the language's poetry. They were inspired by the Sunoikisis program, created by the ACS in 1995 to enable faculty in Latin and Greek studies to share their knowledge with participating institutions.

The possibilities for the New Paradigm Initiative are vast. Faculty members can teach courses on their own, or they can team-teach with colleagues in various locations. Either way, the technology enables professors and students in both places to interact as one class. Without video or audio delays, the software creates seamless communications. ACS collaborators are raising the intellectual capital of students and faculty. This "blended learning" preserves the experience of one-on-one classroom interaction, since students and faculty can see and talk with each other and ask questions in real time.

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These classes are designed to offer upper-level, specialized material to deepen the focus in one subject area. …

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