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Collaboration, Technology and the Liberal Arts College. Michael Toler Rebecca Davis. Session Plan. NITLE Discussion: Defining Liberal Education Two NITLE Initiatives Sunoikisis Al-Musharaka Discussion: Technology and Liberal Education .

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session plan
Session Plan
  • Discussion: Defining Liberal Education
  • Two NITLE Initiatives
    • Sunoikisis
    • Al-Musharaka
  • Discussion: Technology and Liberal Education
national institute for technology and liberal education
National Institute for Technology and Liberal Education
  • Advancing Liberal Education in the Digital Age
  • 3 Areas
    • Professional Development Opportunities
    • Collaborations
    • Exploring Emerging Technologies
what is liberal education1
What is “liberal education”?
  • Focused on developing thinking skills and inclination
  • Breadth and depth of knowledge, exploration, view
  • Creating a whole human being (not just vocational)
  • Tolerance for ambiguity and sense of interconnectedness of things
  • Developing range of human potential
  • Humanities, English, History
  • Explores values, cultural, individual, historical
what is liberal education2
What is “Liberal Education”?

“a philosophy of education that empowers individuals with core knowledge and transferable skills and cultivates social responsibility and a strong sense of ethics and values”

--AACU Website

definitions can be categorized
Definitions Can Be Categorized
  • Curricular
  • Pedagogical
  • Democratic
  • Institutional
    • by Jo Ellen Parker, Exec. Dir., NITLE, from article forthcoming on
curricular approach
Curricular Approach
  • “the study of the liberal arts and sciences. . . . The idea here is that liberal education emphasizes “pure” rather than applied disciplines and requires familiarity with the major areas of intellectual achievement in the Western tradition.”

4 Definitions


pedagogical approach
Pedagogical Approach
  • “operating from a pedagogical methodology that emphasizes active learning, faculty/student collaboration, independent inquiry, and critical thinking. . . . and emphasizes the development of intellectual skills and capacities over the study of any specific materials or content areas.”

4 Definitions


democratic approach
Democratic Approach
  • “preparation for democratic citizenship and civic engagement . . . . the development of skills specifically believed to be central to effective citizenship -- literacy, numeracy, sometimes public speaking, scientific and statistical literacy, familiarity with social and political science, and critical thinking . . . . curricular engagement with current social and political issues alongside the extracurricular development of ethical reflection and socially responsible character traits in students”

4 Definitions


institutional approach
Institutional Approach
  • “a specific institutional type -- the small, residential, privately governed, bachelor’s granting college . . . . tends to emphasize structural characteristics and institutional settings as essential to liberal education . . . . residential community, small size, and undergraduate focus “

4 Definitions


two nitle initiatives

Two NITLE Initiatives



  • A NITLE collaboration advancing teaching, curricular development and scholarship in Classical Studies
  • Began in the Associated Colleges of the South
  • Established Discipline
  • Needs of Small Departments
    • Interaction with more students and faculty
    • Wider faculty expertise
    • More course offerings
sunoikisis successes
Sunoikisis Successes
  • Virtual Classics Department
  • Inter-Campus Collaborative Courses
    • Leverages individual courses into larger team taught course
    • Upper level languages
  • Summer Seminars
hybrid course structure
On All Campuses (online)

Course Director

Weekly common sessions in virtual classroom

Online discussion


On Individual campuses

Faculty Mentor

Weekly tutorial meetings

Control of grading


Hybrid Course Structure
al musharaka
  • A NITLE Initiative in Arab, Islamic and Middle East Studies
  • Began with Arab Culture and Civilization Site (ACC):
al musharaka1
  • New discipline without established departments
  • Faculty from a variety of disciplines
  • Reaction to post 9/11 rise in interest in the MENA region
al musharaka successes
Al-Musharaka Successes
  • Inter-campus discussion on “Le Grand Voyage”
  • Semester length, inter-institutional, “Introduction to Islam” course
  • Creation of a virtual community of scholars-blog, listserv, online resources
technology and collaboration
Technology and Collaboration
  • Technology facilitates collaboration
    • Shared Resources
    • Communication
  • Expose students to multiplicity of expertise and perspectives
  • Presents disciplines in dialogue
technology challenges
Technology Challenges
  • Not face-to-face
  • Prefer paper and pencil
  • Concerns about the unknown & new
    • Students & Faculty
    • Technology
  • Mastering technology
    • Adapting teaching style
applying the definitions
Applying the Definitions
  • Curricular
  • Pedagogical
  • Democratic
  • Institutional
  • Sunoikisis-Classics in the origin of the artes liberales
  • The place of “Middle East Studies” in the liberal arts curriculum is an open question
  • Sunoikisis ICCs allows students and faculty to interact in the virtual classroom
  • Al-Musharka Blog and listserv serve as vehicles for development and sharing of pedagogical resources, approaches, etc.
  • Sunoikisis-Engages students in the larger classics community, acquaints students with the foundations of Western democracy
  • Al-Musharaka is a response to the context of the post 9/11 era
  • Sunoikisis uses collaboration to compensate for small department size, allows colleges to maintain a meaningful commitment to the classics
  • Al-Musharaka provides resources to small colleges that would be challenged by this new subject area
discussion how might technology assisted collaboration impact the liberal arts classroom

Discussion: How might technology-assisted collaboration impact the liberal arts classroom?

What are the benefits and challenges of technology for all four definitions of liberal education?

discussion index
Discussion Index
  • Preserving Liberal Education
  • Collaboration and Technology
  • NITLE Initiatives
  • Sunoikisis Evaluation
  • Technology Challenges
    • Engagement
    • Technology vs. liberal education
    • Technology in support of liberal education
nitle initiatives
NITLE Initiatives
  • To what degree and in what manner do such initiatives advance the desired outcomes of liberal education?
    • Sunoikisis Evaluation
  • What other disciplines or areas might benefit from such collaboration?


technology challenges1
Technology Challenges
  • How can both students and faculty be engaged across different campuses?
    • What benefits might be gained?


technology challenges2
Technology Challenges
  • To what degree is technology assisted learning a departure from traditional liberal education practices?


technology challenges3
Technology Challenges
  • How can technology support rather than compete with the values of small liberal arts colleges?


technology successes

Technology Successes

How can merging scholarly collaboration with technology advance liberal arts values?


sunoikisis evaluation
Sunoikisis Evaluation
  • 3 year longitudinal study funded by The Mellon Foundation
    • Executive Summary, Report and How-To Guide
  • Principal Investigators
    • Deborah Olsen, Virginia Tech
    • Susan Frost, Emory University


evaluation conclusions
Evaluation Conclusions
  • “Both faculty and students clearly recognize the value the program brings, including new passion for the topic, broader range of expertise and intellectual stimulation, and collaboration among scholars and students about ideas.”


evaluation conclusions1
Evaluation Conclusions
  • “It is particularly striking that the program furthered a core goal of liberal education--teaching that engages students as individuals, builds the context they need to think critically about important questions, and encourages them to take responsibility for learning.”