The Kennedy Institute of Ethics has been awarded a $25,000 grant by Georgetown’s Center for New Designs in Learning & Pedagogy (CNDLS) as part of its Initiative on Technology-Enhanced Learning (ITEL).
The grant will fund the development of a “Course Collaborative Digital Commons” designed to facilitate cross-course collaboration of the kind scheduled to take place next semester between courses in bioethics, rhetoric, and national science policy. The Commons will “provide a hub for cross-course project teams, facilitate intra-course resource management, and provide contemporaneous, multi-dimensional captures of individual and group progress,” according to the grant proposal.
“The platform serves as an important digital hub of information that supports the course collaborative,” explains lead developer Nico Staple. In the studio-based coursework the Commons will scaffold, “students are encouraged to take action and design something and a majority of in-person time is spent on that kind of project work … to gain more content knowledge, students must seek out that information outside of class. The course micro-sites do exactly that. Faculty provide curated resources in a narrative format.”
These “micro-sites” provide supporting resources anchored in the disciplines of participating courses—for Spring 2015, Bioethics/Philosophy, English, and Biology/Public Policy—arranged chronologically to depict the unfolding story of each course. Resources include embedded videos, grading rubrics, links to scholarly readings, living syllabi, and course announcements, which can be viewed by students from any of the partnered courses.
The Commons also serves as a perpetual, public record of studio activity: surfacing team successes, failures, and objectives, enabling students and teachers alike to analyze student progress. It also serves as a window for “cross-pollination of teams, disciplines, and communities” to take place, according to EthicsLab fellow Justin Lillge.
The first iteration of the platform will be piloted with about 100 students in Spring 2015. It is envisioned as the first step in an ongoing process that will involve larger cross-campus partnerships to sustain and support the radical collaboration and project-driven work that forms the heart of studio-based pedagogy.
“Our philosophy is to build something where the heart is a narrative,” says Staple. “We share the belief of [University Vice Provost for Education Randy Bass] that in the rapidly-changing landscape of higher education, Georgetown’s added value has to do with the way it scaffolds and shapes the arc of individual student learning.”