Launching Our Self-Directed E-Learning Project and Grant Opportunity

Broadcasting from W&M Weather Vane

Earlier this spring, a collaboration of Swem Library, the School of Education, and IT Information Services received a grant from the College’s Creative Adaptation Fund (CAF) to develop resources to help faculty develop new knowledge and skills in e-learning. We define e-learning in the broadest possible way: any educational activity that uses “electronic” technology to enhance learning. This could include computer-based learning, all kinds of Web activities, virtual classrooms, and digital collaboration. We’re particularly interested in finding projects that blend online and face-to-face learning in new ways.

Call for Participation

The first phase of our CAF project is an informal process of sharing and experimentation on the topic of e-learning. Based in the Kyle Collaboration Lab at Swem Library, the participants can meet with kindred spirits — other faculty, librarians, students — to work on an e-learning project for one of their classes. Some participants will be casual – dropping by to ask a question or two — while others will be more intentional, pursuing their projects in a more sustained manner.

W&M faculty members who have sustained projects in mind can apply for a small grant to help support their work. (Similar to the Charles Center May Seminars Program, the project will provide a stipend of $500 per week or the equivalent for a different period of time.)

Find our guidelines for the grants below, along with the link to the application form:

  • Expectations: We want you to test out our methods for planning and implementing your course. We’d like to get your feedback on the content of the modules. We’d also like to get some interviews on tape that could be used as instructional tools on the final version of the site.
  • Application: Applications for participating in the grant proposal will be continuously reviewed beginning now until July 1.
  • Amount: Grants will be for $500 per week. Generally, grants will be limited to two weeks’ work, though in some cases it might be longer. Unfortunately the grants will require the deduction of taxes.

Please provide us with information through the Web form linked below in order to submit an application. Decisions will be made by the CAF steering committee and grant decisions will generally be made within two working days after application. The grant will be processed at the time of acceptance; we trust people to make their best efforts to implement the project in their classes, but understand that there may be circumstances where this doesn’t happen.

Use this link to apply for a stipend to support your work.

Online Modules for Developing E-Learning Projects

The project builds on an early CAF project which provided a six week summer course for 18 faculty in resigning a course to take advantage of technology to enhance learning. That project was very successful, but it required faculty whose schedule enabled them to participate in the face-to-face and virtual group meetings. The current project plan is to create seven modules that cover much of the same content as the summer course, but to provide it in a high-quality, online way. The modules are listed below:

  • Self-Directed Learning in the Information Age
  • Designing the Course
  • Building Community & Social Presence
  • Assessing & Evaluating
  • Remixing Digital Educational Resources
  • Flipping the Classroom
  • Getting the Most Out of Blackboard

Use Case Example

Imagine you’ve gone to a conference on Saturday night and heard about “flipped classrooms” and how they’ve improved student learning at another institution. When you get back to Williamsburg, you have some questions about how you might use some of the techniques you heard about in your own classes.

To answer those questions you could visit the website and complete the Flipped Classroom module. Through completing the module, you’d learn what tools to use, get an idea of how to convert classes you’ve already taught to a flipped model, and find out what resources are available at W&M in Swem Library or via IT that would help you.  By the end of the weekend you could have a pretty good idea of whether this is something you’d like to experiment with in our class or not. If you wanted to go forward with your project, you’d be able to use the interactive features of the site to connect with other members of the William & Mary community who might support your efforts.

Self-Paced, Self Directed, William & Mary Focused

The key to a successful project is creating a site that is responsive to what participants already know about teaching a topic. For example, if you’d already taught an online class at some point, you might skip the module that focuses on teaching techniques, but instead go to the section about video production or ScreenCasting.  If you already know a good deal about video editing, you might choose to spend more time on the modules on assessment tools in general or on assessment features in Blackboard. Every person’s path through the site would be different.

There are lots of sites on the Web with good information about online or blended learning, but this one will be different. Materials here will be focused on blended learning at W&M, taking into consideration our students, structures, infrastructure, and resources.  Each of the modules we roll out will be tested with our own faculty and staff to make sure that they are helpful the members of our community.

Costs and Benefits of Blended Learning

Mounting evidence suggests that well-developed classes blending online and face-to-face components are more effective than courses that use either one or the other. Also, most experienced online designers and teachers agree that e-learning requires different skills and approaches than face-to-face learning. Classes at William & Mary that incorporate e-learning will need to bring the same kind of commitment to the online component that we’ve always brought to our face-to-face teaching. Learning new skills takes time and energy even in the best circumstances, but our goal with this project is to make it easier for faculty members to get the maximum benefit they can from their investments in learning new skills.

These are times of incredible change for higher education in the United States, and no one knows how it’s all going to shake out. We think the best way to respond to this change is to provide resources that allow faculty to learn new things in ways that build on their experience in teaching and learning within a community who share their commitment and values.

About Gene Roche

Gene Roche is director of Academic Information Services with responsibility for assisting faculty in using technology effectively in their teaching, learning and research. He also has an academic appointment as Executive Professor in the School of Education where he teaches courses in educational technology planning, emerging technology, and adult education and works with with students on independent study, dissertations and comprehensive exams. Current projects include working with the SOE’s Executive EdD program, co-chairing William and Mary’s Survey Center, and serving as chair of the Electronic Campus of Virginia. Gene completed his AB degree at Hamilton College and his MS and EdD degrees at Syracuse University–all in the snow belt of upstate New York. Before coming to William and Mary, he was the Director of Career Services at Hamilton and taught in graduate programs in Adult Education at Syracuse University and Elmira College.