February 2014 Archways

Campus Buzz

Mellon Grant Supports Blended Learning

Bryn Mawr College has received an  $800,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation that will help the College continue to build its “blended learning” course offerings and to develop resources for other liberal arts colleges.

“In recent years there’s been this almost hysteria about online education,” says President Kim Cassidy. “At Bryn Mawr, we didn’t blindly rush into MOOCs [massive open online courses], distance learning, or the adoption of forms of instruction that do not advance our historic strengths.”

Rather, Cassidy explains, Bryn Mawr adopted a blended approach, one that uses technology to enhance the academic experience and prepare students for the networked world—but without compromising the close student-faculty engagement that is a hallmark of liberal arts education.

Bryn Mawr’s institutional approach to blended learning started in 2011 with a grant from the EDUCAUSE Next Generation Learning Challenges [NGLC] Program. Focusing on entry-level science and math courses, the project incorporated online, open-source courseware modules into traditional, classroom-based versions. Results for biology, chemistry, and geology gateway courses were particularly strong, with the completion-with-merit rate rising from 83 percent to 93.5 percent overall.

“As an outcome of the NGLC project, a number of humanists at Bryn Mawr have become eager to test the possibilities of blended learning in their courses,” explains Coordinator for Academic Technology Initiatives Jennifer Spohrer, who has led much of the College’s blended-learning efforts.

The new Mellon grant provides just that opportunity. Among the possibilities under discussion are tutorials that focus on the basics of academic research (bibliographic databases, best practices for data management, style guides, and policies surrounding research involving human subjects) and a digital unit, proposed by Professor of English Katherine Rowe, on metrical patterns that will help students learn the core rhythmic units of iambic pentameter, the basic metrical line of English verse from Chaucer to Milton.

And the benefits resound beyond the College campus. From its inception, Bryn Mawr’s blended learning initiative has involved sharing, first with 35 liberal arts colleges who partnered on that first NGLC grant. With the Mellon award, the College will provide even more support and leadership to other liberal arts institutions interested in the blended approach, particularly through helping with course start-up costs.

Read more on Bryn Mawr Now.

Open Access Policy for Faculty Scholarship

On December 11, the faculty of Bryn Mawr College voted to approve the Bryn Mawr College Open Access Policy, which will enable their scholarly articles to be made available freely to the public. The policy grants the College the nonexclusive right to disseminate their scholarly articles through an online open-access repository called Scholarship, Research, and Creative Work at Bryn Mawr College.

The policy expands the College’s commitment to promoting its faculty members’ scholarly work and facilitating its dissemination to the global academic community as well as the public at large. In implementing this policy, Bryn Mawr joins more than 40 other colleges and universities that have passed similar policies, including Harvard, MIT, Oberlin, Princeton, Wellesley, Amherst, and the University of California.

Scholarship, Research, and Creative Work at Bryn Mawr College was established in 2012 and currently houses more than 500 faculty articles as well as other materials published at and about the College. Users can search the database by author, discipline, and collection. It can be found at repository.brynmawr.edu.

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