Teachx 2017 Features SESP Faculty, Staff

Teachx 2017 Features SESP Faculty, Staff

Lois_Derek_Alyssa(L-R) Derek Thurber, Lois Trautvetter, Alyssa Dyar

School of Education and Social Policy (SESP) faculty and staff presented their innovative work on blended learning and informal online spaces during TEACHx 2017, Northwestern University’s premier showcase for experiments in teaching and learning.

The annual one-day event, which covered everything from active learning and multimedia to gamification, is designed to spark new ideas for educators and support a growing education technology community.

TEACHx is presented by Northwestern Information Technology Academic & Research Technologies, in collaboration with the Office of the Provost and the Searle Center for Advancing Learning & Teaching.

Here's a closer look at the SESP digital posters: 

Emphasizing Interpersonal Engagement in Seminar-Style Blended Courses

The Higher Education Administration and Policy program uses blended learning --  which combines digital class sessions and activities with a traditional in-person format -- for the alternative schedule higher education graduate certificate. 

Derek Thurber, Alyssa Dyar, and Lois Trautvetter explained how the flexible format is used to reach potential students who work in higher education but may be unable to attend fully face-to-face classes.

Data from the first four classes suggests that blended learning -- as opposed to fully online learning -- may help students and faculty establish connections and stay engaged, said Trautvetter, director of the Higher Education Administration and Policy program.

The research also indicates that faculty should drive the design process, and students need to be trained beforehand so they can focus on the content, not the technology.

Thurber is the instructional design and technology consultant for the Higher Education Administration and Policy Program. He and Dyar, a senior instructional technologist at SESP, developed and rolled out the blended learning graduate level certificate.

Learning From Online Water Cooler Conversations

Jeff Merrell and Kimberly Scott shared their research on how the Master of Science in Learning and Organizational Change (MSLOC) program uses an online community space to facilitate learning beyond the classroom.

The activity in this space blurs the lines between personal, professional and academic. “It’s not discussion or dialogue that happens as part of the classroom,” said Scott, director of the MSLOC program. “It’s beyond the walls.”

MSLOC’s online community – called the Hive, powered by Jive Software – supports a variety of teaching and learning activities for the program, including class collaboration and discussion, showcasing student work, new-student on-boarding and general program communications.

The research focused on discussion in the “Water Cooler,” a specific public space within the Hive where all community members can informally discuss topical issues, share news and ask questions. Research results indicate that students do engage in meaningful discussions and learn in these informal online spaces.

Merrell and Scott also discussed what it takes to successfully create and facilitate such online communities.

“A key for us was knowing what we wanted to accomplish,” said Merrell, associate director of the MSLOC program. “Since we have non-local students, it’s key to make them feel part of the community. We want people to have ownership and self-direction in learning.”

Merrell and Scott cautioned that informal learning spaces don’t manage themselves. “We’re very fortunate to have staff members who are good community members,” Scott said. “You need someone whose formal role is to nudge people along, to make connections.

For more information, read Learning “beyond the classroom” within an enterprise social network system published in the journal The Internet and Higher Education.


By Julie Deardorff
Last Modified: 5/21/17