Tailoring Technology to the Liberal Arts Classroom
At Centre College, education is chiefly relational and personal, but technological innovations are re-shaping that experience, opening up new possibilities for creative interaction between faculty and students.
A key function of the College’s Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) is providing Centre faculty with current technological tools that enhance the learning environment, streamline communication and provide new pedagogical opportunities.
One such tool is Moodle, an open source course management system that Centre began using in 2010. In 2014, CTL’s Academic Technology Specialist Kristi Burch joined the Collaborative Liberal Arts Moodle Project (CLAMP), which helps tailor Moodle software to the needs of institutions like Centre.
“The implementation of Moodle has allowed faculty to become increasingly flexible and creative with their teaching methods,” says Burch. “It gives them the ability to provide students with timely resources and the ability to administer online assignments, quizzes and grading, all while maintaining face-to-face interaction in the classroom. Students benefit from the ability to find all of their courses and course material in one location, manage assignments and interact with their peers in new and exciting ways.”
Nearly 90 percent of Centre professors use Moodle in some capacity, a figure that continues to rise.
“I use Moodle for a variety of purposes,” says Associate Professor of Behavioral Neuroscience KatieAnn Skogsberg. “It helps offload rote learning and frees us up to engage in discussions, clarify common misconceptions and focus on the more difficult topics in class.
“I also use Moodle to facilitate discussions we simply wouldn’t have time for in class,” Skogsberg continues. “One of my students’ favorite assignments is a popular book I have them read alongside their textbook. I have them use the Moodle discussion forum as a virtual book club, and it allows them to engage with the material and their classmates in a way they might not be able or willing to do in class.
She explains that some students need more time to process and reflect on the material before they comment, while others simply don’t feel comfortable speaking up in class, so the discussion board gives these students an opportunity to have a voice when they otherwise might have stayed silent.
“Often these students are the ones who are writing the most insightful and interesting entries,” she says.
Burch is excited by the possibilities inherent in technological innovations like Moodle.
“My number one goal is to make sure that faculty feel confident using Moodle as a tool, implementing it to increase student learning and engagement,” she concludes. “I believe that my involvement in CLAMP not only better prepares me for implementing Moodle at Centre but also helps our faculty and students become confident technology users who can focus on doing what they love.”
Learn more about CTL’s contributions to Centre College faculty and students.
by Laurie Pierce
August 19, 2016