Category: Case Studies
Joseph Bizup, Director of BU’s CAS Writing Program, was recently featured in the monthly newsletter for Digication, the ePortfolio software BU uses. We’re including the text of the interview here, by kind permission of Digication:
Professor Joseph Bizup is currently Associate Professor in the Department of English at Boston University, and Assistant Dean and Director of the CAS Writing Program. His outstanding career encompasses distinguished scholarly contributions to literary criticism and rhetorical theory, as well as academic service positions, and writing program administration in some of the country’s most prestigious institutions: Yale University (97-99, 2001-2002), Columbia University (2002-2008), Boston University (2008-present).
Digication Learning Director: Professor Bizup, let’s start by talking a bit about your career’s trajectory. You started as a scholar of Victorian literature, but your research took you close to questions about technology, and the ways in which technology is relevant to human culture more generally. You discussed the often-invoked divide between technology and culture, and explained how the opposition can be dissolved. These questions are more than relevant in the present cultural and educational context. Could you tell our readers how you see the current interplay between technology and culture in general, and especially, what you consider to be the benefits of technology for humanistic education? More
To highlight the best work of their students, the College of General Studies – where all students produce an interdisciplinary ePortfolio as part of their program curriculum – recently introduced an ePortfolio Showcase. Out of over 1000 student ePortfolios, each team of faculty nominated a student that it thought produced the best porfolio. A peer mentor and the assistant dean for interdisciplinary learning selected the winners from among these: three freshmen (Kyle Cowper, Natalie Fritz and Nicole Jefferson) and a sophomore (Nahomi Velasquez). The winners received a $100 gift card from the BU Bookstore. Screenshots of the winners now scroll across the screen of the lobby at CGS, and Nahomi Velasquez’s winning portfolio is available for public viewing on the web.
BU’s School of Hospitality Administration (SHA) has recently adopted ePortfolios as a way for students to display their accomplishments in the program’s required internship courses. ePortfolios allow students to document and showcase what they have done in their professional career while studying. The ePortfolio requirement encourages students to start thinking about their career paths from their first internship, by gathering materials and documents that they may find useful in charting their future careers. The many documents they post include: a résumé, a cover letter, a sample thank-you letter to an interviewer, a LinkedIn profile, information about jobs applied for, reflection on a mock interview, an elevator speech, documentation of a networking event, and a reflection on the experience. This ePortfolio documentation helps students make the job-search process an integral part of their SHA career.
Sophie Godley often begins the semester in her community-health class by setting ground rules, including expectations for electronic media. She gently teases students that perhaps they can spare an hour or two away from communicating with others, with particular reference to Facebook, and instead focus on themselves and their learning. During one of these conversations, it struck her that Facebook also had potential as a positive learning resource. Prof. Godley’s students often emailed her links to articles relevant to the current class’s material, and she thought that Facebook offered an easy way for them to share those articles with each other directly.
In fall 2012, she created Facebook pages for her classes at both undergraduate and graduate levels, which she invited students to “like”. She made it clear that students did not have to be her Facebook “friend”, and that participation in the page was voluntary. She has now started three different pages for the three classes she teaches, and has reached 462 students. In addition to generating student content and discussion, past and present students can interact on the page. Prof. Godley can post jobs and internships, and include both current and former students. She can also ask questions about articles and generate back-and-forth in the comments. She has also found it “relatively painless” to manage the Facebook pages, compared to many other administrative tasks of teaching.
This Wednesday, BU engineering professor Lorena Barba will give a Teaching Talk on the topic of the “flipped” classroom, in which course content (such as lectures) is delivered online in order to free up class time for interactive participation. Practising what she preaches, Prof. Barba will be flipping the talk itself. She is asking attenders to view an interactive online presentation before they come to the talk. As a tool, Prof. Barba uses the free TED-Ed platform, which she also uses in her classes (see an example here).
Prof. Barba has written a longer piece in defence of the flipped classroom, with many links, available here.
In his course on investments, management professor Zvi Bodie uses student-created blogs. Students are grouped into teams, with each team creating a blog of its own. The blogs allow students to report quickly on current events in the world of finance, which the course teaches them to analyze. Student teams have made their blogs publicly available and some of them can be viewed here and here.
Prof. Bodie’s students use Google’s free blogging software, Blogger (which provides URLs in the blogspot.com domain). Similar (BU-supported) student blog functions will be available in the new Blackboard Learn system (aka Blackboard 9.1), available now to faculty wishing to use it in Spring 2012 courses.
Professors in several departments at BU (including Computer Science, Chemistry, Physics, and Mechanical Engineering) often use the free social discussion tool Piazza in their courses. Piazza is free, and allows threaded discussions to happen in a user-friendly way. Students in these courses are encouraged to post their course-related questions on Piazza, significantly reducing emails that are directed to the course staff. Questions posted on Piazza are then answered by the course staff, or, in many cases, by other students. Questions posed in these courses have ranged from logistical issues (“Which lab are we doing this week?”) to conceptual issues from students grappling with the material (“I tried solving problem 3 this way, but it didn’t work – can someone point me in the right direction?”) The latter are particularly good at drawing multiple students into the discussion.
Piazza can help you keep on top of what’s going on in your course, while at the same time reducing the amount of time you spend responding to students over email. Piazza posts can be read on the web site, whose features make it easy to see which posts need an instructor’s attention. They can also be viewed and responded to through the Piazza app on your favorite mobile device. You can also choose to get updates from Piazza via email. BU IS&T does not offer support for Piazza, but it is an interesting option for professors who feel comfortable exploring free online teaching tools.
At the top of the e-Portfolios page in Digication, you’ll find a row of boxes labelled “Featured e-Portfolios”. These are portfolios we have selected as strong and effective examples of what ePortfolios can do. As well as the portfolio about portfolios, they have so far included a professional portfolio from a Sargent College student, an interdisciplinary portfolio from a CGS student, and portfolios for teaching purposes from SED’s Colby Young and the School of Public Health’s James Wolff.
Today, we’re adding a newly featured portfolio from Winnie Hsieh, created for a CAS Writing Program course. Many courses in the Writing Program use ePortfolios to allow students to view their writing over the course of the semester and reflect on it. Hsieh’s course section involved writing three papers and scaffolding the working process of writing each paper. In her illustrated portfolio you can find her reflecting on the process of becoming a successful writer.
One of the greatest challenges facing educators is to document and assess the learning that takes place in and outside the classroom. For several years Professor James Wolff at the School of Public Health has found Digication e-portfolios to be an exciting and innovative way of reflecting on the learning experience, documenting the competencies and skills acquired during a course, making learning visible by creating a permanent record of classroom activities, and assessing the progress and competence of students.
Wolffy, as he is known by colleagues and students, teaches several courses for master’s students in the School of Public Health, all of which have successfully integrated e-portfolios. His first experience with e-portfolio was in IH 790, Leading Organizations to Achieve the Millennium Development Goals. In this course students reflected on the leadership skills they are acquiring and the e-portfolio was used for both formative and summative evaluations. More
Professors are often reluctant to introduce active learning in class for fear that they will not have time to cover the content. In his Introduction to Epidemiology class, Wayne LaMorte has used online technology to flip the classroom. His course website consists of learning modules, including video, for students to absorb content outside of class time, taking a “pre-quiz” to demonstrate they have retained the content. This process freed up classroom time to explore more complicated topics in greater detail: class time could be spent on discussion of controversies and problem-solving (both individual and team-based). After class, students would then take a more detailed “post-test”.
Students reacted with enthusiasm. 98% of the students “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that the online modules were a significant aid to teaching. Their comments included: “Given that I had already taken more advanced epidemiology courses, my main engagement with the course was through the online modules. This provided an excellent way to accommodate people with different levels of experience who could learn at different speeds.” “Did not find I needed to use the textbook. The online modules were more than enough to understand the material.”
Prof. LaMorte developed the online modules using SoftChalk software. SoftChalk is currently being offered to School of Public Health faculty through the Office of Teaching, Learning and Technology. Faculty. Faculty at other schools may be able to take a similar approach using other available technologies such as Echo360, Digication and Blackboard.