Sciences Advisory Group – Notes from Spring 2010 meeting

The Sciences Advisory Group met on May 18, 2010

Attending: Carrie Macfarlane, Jason Arndt, Bob Cluss, Alex Chapin, Hans Raum, Roger Sandwick, Pete Ryan, Matt Dickerson, Shel Sax

The topics of this meeting were:

1.  Update on Segue replacement – 10 min. [Alex Chapin]
2.  Other updates – 5 min. [Carrie — and anyone else]
3.  Review draft goals for research skills program (see explanation below*) – 15 min. [Carrie]
4.  What impact has the new student printing system had on your classes? – 10 min. [Carrie]

1.  Update on Segue replacement:

  • Alex talked about the survey and feedback gathering by the Curricular Technology team:  Why we’re moving away from Segue; We’re still talking with Language Schools, Bread Loaf, MIIStaff.
  • Alex thinks that the most likely solution is a ‘best of breed’ model with the idea of a course ‘hub’:  Every course will have a site (Drupal) created for it with course number, name, profile page, instructor, students registered, basic course page to which additional pages can be added.  This might meet the needs of a lot of faculty.  These basic pages will be augmented with links for blog, wiki, online assessment, etc.  In addition, we would add ‘Measure’ to this buffet which has support for grading, assignments, etc.
  • Matt D. asked if Measure will provide a way to display grades or support online grading.  Alex says that the biggest tools are the assignment module and online testing (e.g. online multiple choice exam)
  • Google Apps for Education: We’re considering it for the College.   It includes Google Docs, Google Sites (so, Google apps could augment course sites too).
  • Faculty still find course folders very useful – Google Docs is somewhat analogous but hard to say just yet if it will eventually be able to substitute.
  • Our solution is most likely to be an ‘open source’ solution in that the code is freely available
  • Timeline:  Initial recommendations by end of month about course management system.  End of summer will make final recommendations and then over fall, implement the ‘course hub’ in Drupal. Pilot projects in winter term.  Next spring begin migration of content from Segue 2 to new solution.
  • Matt D. asked about the details of the migration and what to use instead of Segue for new courses or courses that haven’t been taught in a long time.  [Note from Carrie:  this page provides recommendations regarding when (and if) to use Segue vs. other options such as WordPress:  Technologies for Teaching, Learning and Research:  Course Sites).
  • WordPress suggested as the best interim tool for creating web sites until this solution is in place – Computer Science has issues with students writing code and instructors wanting to run it, Bob Cluss suggested asking other institutions like Carnegie Mellon, Cornell, etc. basically anyplace with a computer science program has this issue.

2.  Other updates:

  • Carrie:  new online subscription to Scientific American because of recent price incentive, back issues from 1993 will soon be available
  • Carrie:  invite feedback on potential switch to gmail [Note from Carrie:  You can get updates on the evaluation at Google Apps @ Middlebury, and you can read and comment on recent dialogue at the LIS Blog)
  • Shel:  2nd annual Pedagogy and Technology Fair is next week

3.  Review draft goals for research skills program:

  • Draft goals for research skills development: Carrie explained the context for this initiative and in particular the impact of re-accreditation on assessment outcomes:
    As part of the reaccreditation process, groups of librarians and technologists have been looking at information literacy standards with an eye towards addressing these more concretely in the curriculum and LIS instruction.  Departments are also examining how they are prepared to meet accreditation and senior work needs.  LIS would like faculty feedback on our work thus far and how it fits in with department objectives.  We seek feedback on this document which pertains to the research skills needed by our students:
  • Carrie noted the major difference between status quo and this proposal: this explicitly states what skills students need to have at various levels within the curriculum and incorporates assessment
  • This draft document is the first step (the assessment component will come later)
  • Perhaps as we go beyond the FYS stuff, we can integrate this into the departmental goals
  • Pete said that in his experience, the quality of research improves dramatically with the use of library and technology staff
  • Carrie noted that Bowdoin has a research component in each of their first year seminars, led either by librarian or by faculty
  • Matt D. suggested that FYS should not satisfy any requirements which would liberate resources, but some courses do fit very well with requirements
  • Bob’s feedback on draft document in which 200- and 300-level courses are mentioned:  College Writing courses are other possible courses into which research skills can be incorporated. He thinks that courses that have a CW within the major are courses that are likely candidates for developing research skills – anything that is a course that all students in a major go through (methods course) should have the literacy component built into it.  Bob clarified that he was talking more about methods courses than College writing courses in the Sciences although both types of courses could be appropriate
  • Bob thinks that incorporating research skills will enhance and improve the quality of writing
  • Pete thinks the FYS is a natural place to integrate these research skills into the curriculum and that it would pay dividends in upper level courses
  • Pete’s students wanted more research skills built into the FYS

3.  What impact has the new student printing system had on your classes?

  • Matt D: In a College writing class, he moved heavily towards a paperless class, allowing students to turn in drafts electronically.  Writing class submitted a Word document and Matt electronically marked it up. Matt also had all thesis drafts submitted as pdf.  He enabled them for comments using Adobe Pro, then other faculty could use Reader to comment.  Matt thinks it is slightly slower to respond electronically but more effective – saved a lot of paper, was more streamlined – for Matt alone it was 6 senior theses about 60 pages each.
  • Pete did all the rough drafts of his 300-level class electronically.  He thinks the days of students’ automatically handing in printed work are coming to an end
  • Matt D.:  In college writing class, his students brought their laptops to class and each student used laptop for referring to their readings
  • Jason: Has asked students to print out all their paper for his class of 26 students – he finds it difficult to read students papers online.  He thinks he would lose a lot of time.  Pete had 16 students in his class and Matt had 10. Pete thinks he put fewer comments in electronically. Matt simply highlighted passages.  Everyone agreed that commenting in a pdf file is slower than doing it with a hard copy and red pen.
  • Pete wondered if there is an application that would facilitate comments  (mentioned that Allison Darrow uses something that would be helpful) – is there a pdf commenting application.
  • Some students have asked their professors to print for them (theses, especially)

4.  Topic for future meeting: Bob suggested discussing how changing use patterns have influenced the configuration of library space (see Requests for future meeting topics)

5.  Post-meeting postscript: Matt Landis is sorry he wasn’t able to make the meeting.  In addition, Matt announced that he will be on leave next year.  We will miss him!  We’ll need a new co-convener and a new Biology Department representative.

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