Friday, December 11, 2015

UIS part of national grant aimed at sparking expansion of online liberal arts classes

The Andrew Mellon Foundation has awarded a $540,000 grant to the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges (COPLAC), a consortium of 29 public liberal arts institutions that includes the University of Illinois Springfield, to expand its multicampus, distance and team-taught online liberal arts research classes.

“We are excited to be engaged in this ground-breaking inter-institutional grant to advance collaboration in online learning,” said Ray Schroeder, UIS Vice Chancellor for Online Learning.

The three-year project, named Digital Liberal Arts at a Distance, is part of an ongoing effort by COPLAC to share faculty expertise while enriching students’ interdisciplinary learning experiences, digital skills and collaborative work habits.

UIS will be providing faculty development support in online learning for the project and leadership in the development of assessment protocols and instruments for online materials developed through the grant.

“We are pleased to share our expertise with institutions across the country who are participating in this innovative approach to teaching and learning online,” said Vickie Cook, director of the UIS Center for Online, Learning, Research and Support.

Under the grant, faculty members, special collections librarians and instructional technologists from 24 COPLAC campuses will develop and launch up to 16 new digital liberal arts research seminars on topics in the humanities and humanistic social sciences.

Using distance and online technologies, student researchers will collaborate across campuses to build major digital projects available to the public on the web, and to develop research, production and communications skills applicable to a wide variety of 21st-century professions. The new seminars will involve upward of 150 undergraduate researchers over the period of the grant, 2016-2018.

According to COPLAC Director Bill Spellman, the project will “foster interdisciplinary initiatives, expand undergraduate research options on each campus, afford students the opportunity to study under digital scholars from a range of humanities and social science disciplines, and prepare them for careers where liberal arts thinking is essential.”

Seventy-five participants will be selected for the project, including faculty members, special collections librarians and instructional technologists. All will attend an opening three-day meeting in early June 2016 at COPLAC headquarters on the campus of UNC Asheville.

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