Consortium of 20 colleges to help Lesley share specialized knowledge, enliven the humanities.
Friday, June 20, 2014
Take it online, and interact with other students from around the country who share your enthusiasm.
Lesley University is creating online, upper-level humanities classes while making other universities’ specialized subject matter available to Lesley students, as part of a 21-school, grant-funded consortium this summer.
Dr. Christine Evans, director of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ Humanities Division, recently secured the grant for the program designed to “keep viable the upper-level courses that are essential for majors, but that almost always enroll small numbers of students.”
Lesley’s Dr. Mary Dockray-Miller is developing and will teach an online class in medieval history and literature. While the subject is popular among a select group of history and literature majors, and essential to completing their studies, the course typically appeals to a more narrow audience. As a result, it isn’t offered every semester, or even every year.
The consortium, Dockray-Miller explains, will help create a “critical mass” of enrollment for the class, enabling Lesley students and others around the country to proceed toward their degree.
She adds that the consortium will “provide a lot of depth in our upper-level curriculum” via the other participating institutions, while helping to “enlarge the student pool.”
Dockray-Miller is also excited about what the online-learning consortium will mean to her course in particular, as the Internet perfectly complements medieval scholarship by increasing access to primary sources.
“There’s so much available online now, even more than a year ago,” she says. Medievalists are always studying rare books and manuscripts, but rather than travel the globe to highly secured archives and libraries, “you can do it virtually” as many of those tomes are digitized.
In addition to Dockray-Miller’s medieval history and literature class, new faculty member Kimberly Lowe, an assistant professor, will teach an online class in the history of humanitarian organizations and human rights. Dr. Evans says that course will cover subject matter unlikely to be offered at other participating colleges and universities and also affords an opportunity to introduce a new faculty member to the Lesley community.
Dr. Mary Coleman, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, says the professors “will have an international platform from which to teach subjects about which they are passionate and in which they invested large chunks of their lives.”
“The result is clear for Lesley,” Dean Coleman adds. “We will have enlivened the humanities and our capacity to reach learners in every corner of the world.”
Evans adds that Lesley is happy the consortium is focused on upper-level classes, as juniors and seniors are more likely to benefit from the model than new students might be.
“A good number of students who are taking their first online course are surprised by the pace,” she says.
Dockray-Miller agrees, saying, “The best online students are the ones who already know how to learn.”
According to Evans, the grant of about $20,000 will support the creation of the online courses; will bring all participants together at national and regional workshops; will support the revision of the courses after their first offering; and will help us conduct an assessment of the entire endeavor.
The Consortium for Online Humanities Instruction is funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The process for this consortium begins at a Washington, D.C., workshop at the end of July 2014 and will culminate in another national workshop in 2016.
Other participating institutions are: Gordon College of Wenham, Mass.; Connecticut College and Trinity College of Connecticut; Vermont’s St. Michael’s College; Bethune-Cookman University of Florida; Grand View University and Wartburg College of Iowa; the University of St. Francis in Illinois; Maryland’s McDaniel College; Concordia College of Minnesota; Missouri’s Park University; Otterbein University and Hiram College of Ohio; Bucknell University, Elizabethtown College, Moravian College, St. Vincent College and Susquehanna University of Pennsylvania; and Augustana College of South Dakota.
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