VIA Inside Higher Ed: Memo to Trustees re: Thomas Friedman’s ‘Revolution Hits the Universities’

Here’s a smart piece by Kris Olds on the pros and cons of MOOCs, especially in terms of their implementation and potential impact.  These are the kinds of details that a writer like Tom Friedman, whatever his virtues, tends to ignore.  One crucial caveat should b highlighted:

while Friedman’s article implies a relatively easy Yes or No decision re. going ahead (we are, after all, supposed to be in the middle of a “revolution”) the direct and indirect resource base required to establish and maintain MOOCs is nothing to be sneezed at. For example, it was good to see that he profiled Mitchell Duneier’s Coursera course. What Friedman failed to note was that Princeton is an extraordinarily wealthy private university that has the capacity to provide undoubtedly brilliant and hard working Duneier with sufficient support to run his MOOC, including via designated assistants. Online teaching can scale more easily than in-person teaching, but the creation of the institutional space and support infrastructure to produce a series of quality MOOCs takes time, attention, resources, TLC, and so on. The production process also has to be preceded by the creation of a formal or informal governance pathway, as well as an assessment if your university has the technological and organizational capabilities to coordinate a legitimate MOOCs initiative.

Read the whole piece, and let us know what kind of potential you think these models have for public higher education.

CIRTL Online Coffee Hour Series: Alternative academic careers, this Thursday 1/24, 12-1 PM

[And here’s the next in the CIRTL coffee hour series, passed along to us by Dr. Shirley Yu, CIRTL Liaison]

Alternative academic career (alt-ac) opportunities appear to be increasing in both number and prominence. What are these positions, and how can you pursue them? How can your teaching or research experience be an asset in these positions? What are the advantages and disadvantages of staying in academia in a non-faculty position?  Where are the non-academic positions in industry, government, or education?  Hear these individuals in alternative academic careers talk about their experiences and perspectives.

Facilitated by:
Sue Cardinal, Chemistry Librarian, University of Rochester
Anne Poduska, Graduate & International Student Career Advisor, Cornell University
Chris Vanags, Associate Director, Center for Science Outreach, Vanderbilt University

This CIRTL Coffee Hour series will run monthly on the 4th Thursdays at 12 pm CT and will focus on building an academic career. Future topics include navigating tenure and promotion, developing a work-life balance and teaching at a primarily minority institution.  We welcome comments or suggestions; contact Robin Greenler ( with any feedback.

To join the session, download a flyer, or see archived recordings of previous sessions, go to

CIRTL Online Coffee Hour New Series: Teaching and Learning in the STEM Classroom; this Wednesday, 1/16, 1-2 pm

[Note: Dr. Shirley Yu, the university’s CIRTL liaison, asked me to pass along the following CIRTL announcement:]

Electronic distractions in the classroom: managing and utilizing the instant connections to the world

Wednesday January 16, 2-3 pm ET / 1-2 pm CT / 12-1 pm MT / 11 am-12 pm PT
Are smartphones, laptops and iPads a classroom distraction or untapped asset? As an instructor, how do you handle digital distractions in the classroom? Should you strive to make your classes so engaging that there is little temptation to fire up Facebook or check Twitter or is the Internet simply too alluring to resist? Should you try to ban the use of these devices during class? How about going the BYOD route and asking students to “Bring Your Own Device” and utilize their allure and computing power in your class?  What might that look like?

This Coffee Hour series is appropriate for everyone from graduate students through seasoned faculty, so pass on the word to colleagues, graduate students, staff–anyone with an interest in improving teaching in the STEM classroom.

Facilitated by:
Mary Elizabeth Besterfield-Sacre, Associate Professor, Department of Industrial Engineering, Director, Engineering Education Research Center, University of Pittsburgh
Angel Hoekstra, Postdoctoral Fellow, Graduate Teacher Program, Lead Coordinator for Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, Instructor, Departments of Sociology and Continuing Education, University of Colorado, Boulder

This CIRTL Coffee Hour series will run monthly on the 3rd Wednesdays at 1pm CT and will focus on teaching and learning challenges in the STEM classroom.  Future topics include teaching in diverse classrooms, teaching and using writing skills in the STEM classroom, and fostering critical thinking.  We welcome comments or suggestions; contact Robin Greenler ( with any feedback.

To join the session, download a flyer, or see archived recordings of last year’s sessions, go to

Dr. David Mazella speaking at Rice University CTE, 1/15/13, 1-1:50

“The Faculty-Driven Center for Teaching Excellence”

ABSTRACT: In Spring 2010, the UH Faculty Senate proposed to establish a Center for Teaching Excellence that would enhance instruction and promote teaching excellence throughout the university.  This proposal capped off 2 years of intensive public discussion among senate leadership and faculty about the purpose and direction of such a group.  It was only after the proposal was accepted by the Provost that the steering group realized how few CTEs were established by faculty rather than upper administration. This presentation will outline the deliberative process that helped the steering committee, and later its faculty board of directors, establish the CTE’s structure, mission, and priorities both before and after its founding.  It will then review some of the benefits and drawbacks of the faculty-centered CTE in terms of funding, governance, and curriculum. Finally, the presentation will focus on the CTE’s unique institutional role fostering not just student and faculty learning, but ultimately organizational learning.

227 Herman Brown Hall