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University News

Sheridan Center offers new digital workshops

The workshop series will explore teaching methods for both online and offline applications

Contributing Writer
Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning will host a series of new digital teaching workshops over the coming weeks to address technology’s growing role in students’ learning experiences, center administrators said.

Three hour-long workshops held today, Oct. 29 and Nov. 12 are open to faculty members and graduate students and will focus on designing effective digital assignments, facilitating online discussions among students and course instructors and using online peer grading, according to the Sheridan Center’s website.

The workshops mark the first time the Sheridan Center has conducted a multi-session series focused on digital learning. They are intended to provide course instructors and teaching assistants with the broad skills needed for online teaching, said Sheridan Center Executive Director Kathy Takayama. Forty-five individuals have signed up for the workshops so far, Takayama added.

The Sheridan Center’s series accompanies the University’s continued focus on increased digital learning experiences. The Sheridan Center created the workshops in response to increased reliance on online teaching, said Andrew Campbell, chair of the Sheridan Center advisory board and associate professor of molecular microbiology and immunology.

“Since (online education) is something we want to look at and incorporate at Brown, it made sense to create a workshop for those who are involved in teaching,” Campbell said.

The University introduced three massive open online courses, or MOOCs, via the learning platform Coursera this summer. But Takayama said the workshops go beyond improving teaching for MOOCs.

“We call them digital pedagogy workshops because they’re not restricted to being applicable only to MOOCs or online learning, but we see these as ways to think about ways of creating student interactions and learning communities,” Takayama said.

Neal Fox GS said he has registered for the series and has found past Sheridan Center workshops to be instructive. “What’s exciting about the Sheridan Center is the interdisciplinary dialogue it encourages and the professional development opportunities that don’t exist at any other peer universities,” he said.

The Sheridan Center does not aim to focus on digital teaching just “for the sake of working with technology,” but rather targets its efforts on developing the best teaching practices, Takayama said. She added that the Sheridan Center conducts its own research on various teaching methods’ efficacy in order to best work with faculty members.

Sheridan Center Instructional Designer John Melson said the workshops are also designed to facilitate wider conversations about online teaching among course instructors and graduate students. “We want to keep the workshops general enough that they can be of use for a variety of people,” Melson said.

President Christina Paxson’s strategic plan, released last month, called for “aggressive experimentation in new modes of education,” highlighting the Sheridan Center as a venue for online teaching innovations in the coming years. The plan’s endorsement of more experimental online learning was coupled with a commitment to devoting more attention to improving the teaching skills of students pursuing doctoral degrees.

Takayama said administrators have not finalized the details for the Sheridan Center’s role in implementing the strategic plan. But the Sheridan Center will emphasize “reflective teaching practices” in which course instructors should focus on better engagement with students, she added.

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