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Quadcast transcript: Should higher ed go digital?

March 25, 2019

Jim Ver Steeg:            You’re listening to Quadcast, the official podcast of the University of Rochester. I’m Jim Ver Steeg, your host. From smartphones and social media to augmented spaces and virtual reality, digital technologies are changing the ways we connect with each other and interact with our world. Higher education is no exception. Students on today’s college campuses are digital natives and they bring with them both expertise and expectations when it comes to learning, socializing, and/or organizing on a variety of physical and electronic platforms.

But is a “full steam ahead” approach to the digital future a reality that most college campuses can afford? The Chronicle of Higher Education recently published a story about the challenges faced by the University of Texas at Austin when they attempted to redesign their curricula, revamp their teaching methods, and produce more live online classes. In the end, support and funding for the digital initiatives faltered. The investment in the synchronous massive online class, or SMOC, didn’t meet with expectations. And support for the bold move forward all but disappeared.

So, how can we understand digital technologies and the role they play in our lives and in our learning? Is technology helping us connect or are we more isolated than ever? Joining me today are three scholars who will share their thoughts on being educators and being human in the digital age.

Joan Rubin is the Dexter Perkins Professor of History and the Ani and Mark Gabrellian Director of the University of Rochester Humanities Center. Joan is an American cultural and intellectual historian who studies the values, assumptions, and anxieties that have shaped American life. Joan, thank you for joining us.

Joan Rubin:                Happy to be here.

Jim Ver Steeg:            Jayne Lammers is an Associate Professor at the Warner School of Education and Associate Director of the Center for Learning in the Digital Age. Jayne also directs the secondary English preparation program at the Warner School and her research explores adolescent literacy learning, especially in online environments. Full disclosure: I am a Ph.D. candidate at the Warner School and Jayne is on my dissertation committee. Jayne, thank you for being here.

Jayne Lammers:         Happy to be here, Jim.

Jim Ver Steeg:            Emily Sherwood is the Director of the Digital Scholarship Lab at the University of Rochester. The Digital Scholarship Lab specializes in creating digital tools and resources for learning. It provides resources for web-based scholarship and partners with faculty on their digital research projects. Before coming to Rochester, Emily was the Assistant Director of Digital Pedagogy and Scholarship at Bucknell University. Emily, thank you for joining us.

Emily Sherwood:        Thank you for having me.

Jim Ver Steeg:            Joan, I’d like to start with you. I think we talk a little bit about technologies and what it means to higher education, but there’s a broader question there about what a digital world means for being human.

Joan Rubin:                Right. And the Humanities Center, which I’m privileged to direct, has as part of its mission exploring what it has meant to be human in different times and places and what it means to be human right now. Our changing technology is an inextricable part of that situation that we find ourselves in. So, I’ve thought about this a lot, though I should say by way of disclaimer that I’m not a scholar. That is, in my work as a cultural historian I haven’t particularly investigated these questions. But we all think about them. They’re in the newspaper constantly or on the radio broadcasts and TV shows that we watch. So, in fact, ever since I knew that I was going to be talking with all of us today, I’ve been pondering these questions all the more and seeing potential answers in everything that I’m reading and listening to.

Let me give you a sense of how I would answer, begin to answer what you’ve asked. And it really proceeds from my perspective as a cultural historian. Here my training does come into play, and that is because I’m inclined always to see tensions, always to see contradictions and ambivalences and pros and cons. I once thought that if I wrote another paragraph beginning “On the one hand” and then moving to “On the other hand” that I would shoot myself. This is endemic in my own writing.

So, with respect to your question, I would say that technology has brought us great, great benefits. I think a lot about the losses that it has also entailed. I think about connection but also, as you’ve indicated, about potential disconnection. Those might be the sort of axes or the pluses – that sense of the pluses and minuses. That is what I would hope that our conversation today but also our conversation in the Humanities Center could illuminate.

Jim Ver Steeg:            Emily, I want to turn to you. I know that, as we mentioned in the opening, that a lot of students coming to campus these days, digital technologies are second nature for them. So, what does it mean for a student to have digital technologies in the classroom? How are we using that to improve their learning? How does it reflect maybe what’s happening in the wider world?

Emily Sherwood:        So, you said in your opening – you mentioned the term “digital natives,” which is one that gets thrown around a lot, right? It is expected that our students will be able to engage with technology more readily than maybe earlier generations. And I’d like to push back on that a little bit because our students are consumers of technology. They take in media, they take in audio, they take in – they see images all over the place, and yet they’re not always taught to critique the technology that they’re receiving. And so, what I like to say when I’m trying to explain why it’s necessary to teach our students a range of literacies, including not just textual literacies but also digital literacies and data literacies, is that by the time students get to college they have been taught for, what, 12 years of formal education how to read and how to look at a paragraph or a sentence or words and analyze that and maybe ask a question, summarize an idea. And yet, they’re consuming media and they’re consuming images and they’re consuming maps and charts and data at such an alarming rate, but they haven’t been taught that for 12 years. Right?

And so, I think there really is an obligation for us to start to think about how we structure their learning around ways of thinking, a broader form of literacy. And so, I would push back on the digital natives point a bit. That being said, because we want them to be more critical the same way we want them to write papers, I think we do need to have them create using these other modes so that they become more capable of questioning them.

Jim Ver Steeg:            Jayne?

Jayne Lammers:         I would echo Emily’s pushback on the term “digital natives” for another reason. I think that educators unfortunately make the assumption that because young people learn to swipe and consume media through technologies, they learn to use apps so early on, that they’ll know how to use whatever digital tool a teacher puts into a classroom. And that’s just not the case. So, I think the term “digital native” lets educators have some assumptions and lets them think about “Oh, I can just bring this technology into my classroom and they’ll know how to use it. I won’t need to think through all of the ways that I might need to prepare them to use it.” And I think that’s highly problematic.

So, one of the things that we’re doing at the Warner School is really thinking about what does it mean to prepare educators to incorporate these digitally rich practices? And in part it’s what Emily had to say, that we need to give our young people opportunities to produce digital content, to make thoughtful choices about which platform, which tool, which technology will best serve their purpose for whatever type of message they’re trying to get out, that we need more education around how to interpret a variety of digital content and how to make wise choices about where you’re spending your time and how you’re assessing the veracity and ten quality of the digital media that you might take in.

And so, some of what we’re doing in our classes over there is working not only with the future K-12 teachers around getting them to experience making content and using tools and seeing how challenging it is so that when they think about bringing it into their classrooms they know what they need to prepare them for, but then we also through our Center for Learning in a Digital Age have been thinking a lot about how do we prepare faculty members at the university level, how do we prepare K-12 teacher for what it looks like to teach with devices and what it looks like to make these kind of digitally rich classrooms actually work for learning?

Jim Ver Steeg:            One of the things that I want to make sure that we talk about is what learning looks like in both the physical space where it’s being enhanced or augmented with digital technologies and what it looks like in digital spaces and how students are using those spaces to question and to learn. Joan?

Joan Rubin:                And I think we have to say, “What does it look like if we don’t use those devices?” And I am about to declare to our audience that I am the oldest member of this conversation and I’m in some ways teaching in a much more traditional manner than perhaps my colleagues are and perhaps I should be. But I – and I appreciate the fact that our students need to think critically about the technologies that they will be using as learners and as members of the work force. I think that’s absolutely in line with my own assumptions about what we do – what I do in the classroom. And actually, critical thinking is right up there at the top of the list for the values at the Center – of the Humanities Center.

But at the same time, I don’t know that it is the case that our students, even our wonderful University of Rochester students, come here knowing how to read texts. That’s an assumption that we may make as we say, “Okay, now we’re going to teach them critical thinking with respect to digital devices.” But my efforts in the classroom are focused still – and I think it’s necessary – on reading, on writing, on explicating a text, on understanding what assumptions authors are making. This is not to say that the students don’t read the text in a digital format. It’s not to say that they shouldn’t learn to annotate it, to contextualize it using the tools that are available to them in the digital world, but those reading skills, I think, still need to be reinforced.

Jim Ver Steeg:            So, Emily, are there ways that we’re using technology to reinforce or to help students with those skills?

Emily Sherwood:        Sure. So, one example I would point to is the Digital Scholarship Lab has for several years now been developing a time-based media annotation tool with Professor Joel Burges in English and Film and Media Studies. And it is – it allows students to do exactly that close reading that Joan was talking about but with time-based media. So, we have faculty at Eastman using it to analyze music. We have faculty in Linguistics using it to analyze the linguistic tropes around advertising. And we have faculty who are using it for Intro to Media Studies and Film and Media Studies to be able to give students the ability to close read film and audio the same way that they are taught to highlight a text and annotate it so that they understand it more fully.

So, there are places where technology actually will enable the sort of reflective thinking that we want them to be able to do closely with text and apply that to other forms of media as well.

Jim Ver Steeg:            I kind of want to go back to the online learning spaces because it strikes me that when we’re talking about technologies, and we’re talking mostly in physical spaces right now, we’re talking about students who are simultaneously living in both the physical world and utilizing these digital technologies. And so, Jayne, can you speak to what an experience is of students, of learners in digital spaces? How are they using – how are young people using digital spaces now? How are they gravitating to them and what are they getting out of them?

Jayne Lammers:         Happy to talk about that. So, my research has been on how do adolescents leverage their own interests and pursue those interests in online spaces outside of the formal context of school? So, I’ve had the opportunity and pleasure of studying the writing practices of mostly young women, who because they’re either a fan of a particular content or they are trying to become writers of a certain sort that they find these online communities who will come together and give them feedback, who will help them improve their practice, and they get a great deal of both connection and learning out of these experiences.

And so, one example I have from one of my earliest research projects is a young woman named Eve. And she in high school would describe herself as somebody who did not like her English class. She felt, in her words, slow and unwise. She was diagnosed with dyslexia. She struggled through school. And yet, she found this online community of up to 12,000 people from around the world who were using the video game The Sims to create stories and to publish those stories. And what Eve was able to do as somebody who developed expertise in this space around photo editing and digital image editing, she got a reputation there that helped improve her kind of self-efficacy, her confidence, her motivation to learn. Writing and the details and the things that were not as easy for her became easier because she was able to get support from others in that space. She became somebody who opened her own website, started creating her own voiceover content, producing a YouTube channel, a Flickr, a Photo Stream.

And I’ve checked in with Eve now, years later after that study concluded, and she moved herself to L.A. She went to a film school. She’s parlayed this into a career. She’s now a mom who has a YouTube channel around being a mom. And she’s developed some expertise in this area and has this just whole different outlook on what was possible, all because she was a fan of this videogame and found people who supported her interest in learning.

And I think those things are possible. And when you ask young people like Eve whether or not they feel connected and whether or not they feel like they’re getting the support of relationships and humanity in these spaces, I think she would say she’s very much connected.

Joan Rubin:                So, that’s a great example of the positive possibilities that the digital environment affords. And this is what I meant by saying at the outset that there are both pluses and minuses. I think we can’t lose sight of that accomplishment that you just described. But I am a big fan of the work of Sherry Turkle, who is actually a friend of mine from college. I don’t know whether our audience has encountered her studies, but she is based at MIT. She’s both a sociologist and a clinical psychologist. And I went back to some of Sherry’s books in preparation for our conversation, and she too always underscores the potential for growth, for individual development, for greater self-esteem that young people can find. But at the same time, the lack of connection that immersion, total immersion – and I think it sometimes maybe is a question of balance – but the lack of connection and even more the lack of that face-to-face contact that is the best way we have to develop empathy is missing for some of these people, for some of the students that she studied.

And I feel as a scholar who is dedicated to the humanities that it’s very important to consider what we’re losing as well as what we’re gaining. Our other value in the Humanities Center is empathy, and compassion is up there, and a sense of understanding what has made us human. What is – what are our differences? What are our commonalities? And I don’t know that you can – I don’t think that you can get that if your entire world – and that’s not the case, obviously, with your example – but if your entire world as a young person is built around being on your phone, being on Facebook – or, Facebook, I guess, is passé now, but whatever it is that you’re on – if that’s your day as an adolescent or as a college student, I think that our society is going to face some negative consequences.

Jim Ver Steeg:            But I think technology also enhances learning and can enhance those connections, and I think that’s part of the mission of the Digital Scholarship Lab.

Joan Rubin:                Well, I’m not going to really be able to talk about it, but I would just say what are the connections? I think the word “connections” itself needs to be really unpacked. So, are we talking about knowing someone else? Are we talking about a relationship? What is a relationship? I think that’s a conversation that we can continue about; we need to hear about the learning environment too.

Emily Sherwood:        So, in terms of connection, one of the strengths, I think – and this returns to a point Jayne made earlier – is about thinking through how the pedagogy is developed, and that a lot of times working with digital tools and methods, whether that’s in teaching or research, requires more extensive collaboration. Right? So, no one can be an expert in all of these things. And in fact, my team shows that nobody can be an expert in all of those. We have programmers and digitization experts and a digital scholarship librarian and a GIS specialist, so we all bring our own expertise to these conversations. So, for example, last summer we hosted a digital pedagogy workshop with the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, and we had nine faculty come from six disciplines come for two days to develop a digital project for a course. And the focus of that was really to say developing a digital assignment doesn’t take less time; it actually takes more. And it doesn’t take less people; it takes more expertise. And so, we partnered the technology experts from my lab with outreach librarians who were subject matter experts in the fields of the faculty who were in attendance and we really worked together to make sure that there were learning objectives that were articulated.

And I would like to emphasize that for students, unless you also articulate what the digital literacy learning objectives are for a project, they will see it as extra work. They know how to – they don’t necessarily always know how to write a paper but they understand the work that goes into that for them for time management and things. And they understand how to study for a test. But thinking about making in these new approaches and these new methods, they’re often very uncomfortable with that. And again, that comes back to the digital native question.

So, one of the things the workshop was attempting to do was to bring together all of the expertise and support that a faculty would need in order to effectively develop this type of project for a class, and then we support them throughout the semester in doing so. And part of that is an acknowledgement that you have to scaffold out the process a little bit more even than when you’re teaching traditional research, or in the same way you would teach traditional research. So, I might have a student find an article first and then summarize that, and then I might have them critique it, or I might then have them do an annotated bibliography. And you give them steps along the way until they’re writing a research paper.

And the same is true of working on a digital project. So, if you’re teaching a digital essay, for example, you’re going to want a student to first write a short paper and then figure out how to turn that into a script. And then you teach them both the technology for the audio and give them tips on how to do that. And you teach them the video and give them tips. And at every stage there has to still be peer review and assessment on it so that it can keep developing.

And so, I guess what I’m saying is it takes more time and it takes more scaffolding. And we have to let our students have those opportunities to learn and play and fail and get better at the skills that we’re asking them to develop, just as we would with a traditional assignment. And so, one of the goals of my lab and our outreach librarians who we partner with is to make sure that the faculty and the students are supported in that process.

Jim Ver Steeg:            So, I want to shift gears a little bit. I mentioned at the opening some of the challenges that the University of Texas at Austin faced when they tried to do a full-force, digital-first approach to learning and curricula at their institution. And Jayne, I know that you had some thoughts about what was going on at Austin and how things are sort of shaping up here at Rochester, especially the Warner School. So, what do you take from a university like the University of Texas at Austin that really tried to make bold moves in the digital realm but sort of had to scale back almost right away?

Jayne Lammers:         So, what I appreciated about the way that The Chronicle of Higher Ed categorized what happened at Austin was this notion that they way overpromised and they used all of these bold claims about what technology could do. And that, I think, is a common point of failure for many people who try to imagine what technology could do as a sort of panacea or a silver bullet for pedagogical problems, or for institutional problems. And yes, technology affords us the opportunity to collaborate, to reach broader students, to – and one of the problems they were trying to solve was “How do we free up classroom space? How do we connect with students from further away?” And we here at the university are also trying to solve some of those very same problems. How do we serve folks in the southern tier region, for example, for whom traveling up here, especially in the wintertime, is problematic? How might we be able to make use of various technologies to offer programs to them, to have lower residence programs where you don’t have to be onsite all the time, to strike the balance that Joan was talking about earlier?

And so, one of the things that I’ve really appreciated about the way that the Warner School and through our work in the Center for Learning in the Digital Age, the way that we’ve thought about what it means to do this thing we’re calling online learning is kind of a slow, methodical ramp-up. An examination of what content, what classes, what learning might actually be better facilitated through a variety of online tools, and what still needs that face-to-face touch? What needs that classroom practice, to Emily’s earlier point about the need for support in thinking through what does it mean to take learning, to take a project, to guide our students to some of these technologies, and to really be thoughtful about that?

And I think the Warner School has done that. We’ve been working through a new master’s program that we have and through a certificate that students can add as a part of their graduate school work to help them think about whatever their content area is, whatever their expertise is, what might it be to empower students to take advantage of digital tools and technologies for learning in formal environments. And what does it actually take to give them the experiences as learners itself to see “Oh my goodness, these things take a lot more time” – right? And Emily’s laughing because she knows. She knows. It’s an assignment I give to my students in the teacher preparation program as well, is go out and make – you think this ten-second clay animation, slow motion, stop motion animation thing takes only a little bit of time? And they realize, “Oh my goodness, that took hours to create and edit and upload, and I had to watch five YouTube videos on how to do it.”

And when we come back together in class – because we do have face-to-face time then to debrief their experience – we talk about not only how much time did it take you to be a maker in these spaces, but how much online learning did you have to do, and how many online resources did you tap into in order to help you complete this?

Emily Sherwood:        I’ll jump in there for just a second. Part of our digital pedagogy workshop was requiring faculty to test run the assignment they were developing so that they did have a sense of where their students might have a glitch, or if the tool was even getting at the learning outcomes they wanted their students to get.

Jim Ver Steeg:            I think that’s a – and that’s a great example that again illustrates some of the power and potential of these technologies. But you’re still highlighting the necessary component of human connection, of getting to work with one another. So, Joan, I want to turn to you now. So, we’re talking a little bit about connections, and you asked a great question and asked us to unpack what we meant by “connections.” And I think what I’m hearing are collaborations, what I’m hearing are learning opportunities to learn from another, but it also raises a broader question for me about scholarship and about where you get ideas, and suddenly “Whose idea is it?” and is everything sharable?

So, I think those are the questions that I have. And I’m curious, Joan, as to how you’re thinking about what we’re talking about in terms of online collaboration and what that might mean for scholarship and learning.

Joan Rubin:                Right. Well, collaboration is a buzzword. It’s a popular term today. Deans love to talk about collaboration. And faculty, of course, in my area, which is cultural history and literature, in particular are instantly suspicious. “Oh, they don’t appreciate the model of the lone scholar sitting in the attic and beating her head against a –” now a computer screen, yes, but still it’s that lonely process.

I think that, again, it’s important to have space to create opportunities for both kinds of activities. So, in the Humanities Center we have a work in progress seminar every other week where people are sharing ideas. And they’re not particularly taking advantage of digital technologies to do that, although that isn’t to say that they haven’t built their ideas on the resources available in the online environment. At the same time, we always want to have that space for the lone scholar.

In my own case as someone who uses archives, it has not been – because, I should say, I’m in a privileged position. I have the money to visit archives – manuscript collections, archival collections that are not digitized. There are young scholars just starting out who don’t have those resources and for whom the process of digitization is going to give them the material that’s absolutely essential for them to do their work. I’m in a different position and I have a different feeling about going to an archive, holding the letter than someone wrote 100 years ago, flipping through a manuscript – actually, people write about this, this sort of tactile part of the experience – and I myself prize that.

But this is not to say that – certainly, I have made use of some online resources myself. And I also think that as we go forward it’s going to be even more important to have the online capabilities available because we – where are we going to put all these documents if we even have – if we’ve even preserved them – and librarians talk about this – if we even have preserved them from our own time, where are we going to put them? So, the digital environment solves that practical problem.

You asked me something else, though. You asked me about what is one’s own work, basically, and how you share ideas, and whether – and I’m on a Listserv that answers – where people pose questions: “Who is the author of this? Where can I find a collection that helps me address this problem?” And I find that useful. I have been involved in an editing project in which the ability for multiple editors to look at submissions to the volume that we were constructing at the same time was absolutely essential. There’s an example where the technologies available to me made my life a lot easier.       But I think as a scholar who focuses on culture and texts, and I have a project now that has to do with musical culture that sent me to Leonard Bernstein’s’ archive, for example – in that kind of work I’m relying on older methods.

Jim Ver Steeg:            And I think that there are certainly a number of values to relying on those methods. Those are tried-and-true methods that books have used for a long time. But it puts me in mind of what students are doing in the classroom now and how they’re gaining access to some of these things. To Joan’s point, access can sometimes be a pretty tricky thing. So, if you are – let’s say you are a history student and you would like to get access to – I noticed on the Digital Scholarship Lab there was a 3D modeling of the Temple of Jupiter. And so, that’s something that a student can access from a computer who might not be able to get there otherwise. And I’m just wondering what that kind of access does for students in the classroom when they can’t get to those archival places.

Emily Sherwood:        I do think that’s – I mean, libraries, of course, are very interested in access and making more materials accessible to a broader public. That’s just something – that’s one of our values. And I do think that a lot of the digital scholarship projects – and digital scholarship or digital humanities has a tradition of wanting things to be open, wanting things to be accessible. That’s sort of one of the values of that community of scholarly practice. But there are challenges to that, and there are many challenges to that. So, for example, who is going to pay for the continued storage space? Where is the labor that’s going to make sure that those systems are secure and updated and patched so that they’re not falling apart? How do we make sure that the data is current and up to date and following research trends?

So, all of those things come with their own challenges and requires a large group of people to support those initiatives. And it’s why a lot of times funding agencies want to know not only what your data model is for now but what your commitment is to it moving forward. And the truth is we don’t know. There’s – we can say that we’ll support this for five years or ten years, but the idea that we will support all of the data being produced, it’s just at some point like – also like a library collection. There has to be curation. There has to be ways that we say, “We’re going to keep this” or “We’re not going to keep this” so that even, for example, the archives that Joan talks about using, there’s a librarian who has gone through and curated those archives – right? – or has made those contents available. So, that is an ongoing process that we – and continuation that we keep having. And it also is a place where the practices that we’ve developed for physical objects have to continue to have those conversations for digital objects and digital access.

You had – earlier, you had brought up the question of collaboration and “Whose scholarship is it?” And if I could return to that, if you don’t mind, –

Jim Ver Steeg:            Absolutely.

Emily Sherwood:        – that also is a large conversation that goes on in digital scholarship communities. There is some great work being done out of Greenhouse Studios at UCONN where they’re trying to figure out how to account for the multiple types of labor in a project. For example, if my GIS specialist is helping someone process data and making it available, do they become a coauthor at some point because their knowledge base – they’re not the subject matter expert but they’re being able to – they’re making that scholarship possible through their expertise. And we don’t know. It’s complicated.

And I actually think the STEM fields have a better model for co-authoring across an entire lab, where humanities and humanistic social sciences, we’re still struggling with that because we do have more of a traditional model. And I’m a humanist by training as well – my Ph.D. is in English – where we do have a model of that single author. And so, that is a question that not only needs to be taken up by scholars but also has to be taken up by departments, by administrators, and by our professional organizations. And there are some that have put forth examples and sort of protocols for how we give people credit for that work. And I’m thinking about issues of obviously tenure and promotion, but credit more broadly.

Jim Ver Steeg:            Jayne?

Jayne Lammers:         And I would say here we can learn from some of the youth that I studied in these online spaces who, though they are remixing content and though they are disrupting our notions of authorship and who owns things, they are fantastic at giving credit where credit is due. There’s an ethos in many of these online communities around reciprocity and paying back to projects and about making sure that you indicate where you got your content, who supported you as a proofreader. There’s the long list of credits that end up at the end of any given story or any given project that they might create.

And so, I think we have a lot to learn from the youth who are leveraging these spaces for their own kind of purposes around what does it mean to collaborate? How do we use kind of these different people with different expertise to create something that I have as a vision but know that I couldn’t do on my own? And then, how do I attribute where I got this support from?

Joan Rubin:                I did want to make a couple of distinctions, if that’s okay, first of all between my teaching and my scholarship. There are wonderful resources for teaching, both produced by our own Digital Scholarship Lab, by our own faculty and students, and also just out there on the internet. And I welcome the opportunity to learn more about those resources and to incorporate them into my teaching.

As a scholar, I’m in a field that is quite traditional still: history. I would add those people in English who deal primarily with printed materials. There I need to use archival sources or I need to use published sources. They could be published online. But I don’t need the – and really can’t collaborate with other people in thinking through what a text is saying to me. I can get ideas. I can share ideas. That’s all great. But in the end it’s on me.

Jim Ver Steeg:            And I think that goes back to something that we were saying about what is the right platform for some of these technologies? What’s the right use for some of these technologies? And I want to be mindful of the time we have left and I kind of want to ask a broad – perhaps unfair – question, which is: From our conversation and from what we know in trends in higher education, what do we see coming next? What will be value coming next? What will – what can we expect as professionals in higher education? And I can – whoever would like to go first?

Joan Rubin:                Well, I’ll just jump in again and say that there are multiple parts of the University of Rochester, just as there are multiple answers to all of the questions that we’ve been discussing this morning. In Art Sciences and Engineering there are no online courses right now. There are certainly courses that take advantage of online resources, and I believe that they should, if I want to be prescriptive that way. But there is enormous concern on the part of the faculty about offering an entire course online. We don’t – we aren’t talking about graduate education. We aren’t talking about low residency. We aren’t having those conversations in the humanities and humanistic sectors of AS&E. And they’re – and we tried to go there a few years ago. We had a whole discussion about it. And as in the case of Texas – and I think this is part of the story there, there was simply an unwillingness on the part of the faculty to lose that face-to-face time in what are our small classes. We don’t have huge lecture courses, I’m sorry to say. We don’t have courses that are bigger than 20 students in the History department, by and large. We’ve got one that has 90 students and that’s an outlier.

I think it’s going to be a while, if it ever happens, that we move – I don’t think we will in our university – I’ll eat my words someday, but I don’t think we’ll move to actual online courses, at least not for a long time. And that, I think, is because the value of listening, the value of weighing someone else’s words in person, of getting to know an instructor as a person, in getting to know your fellow students in ways that I don’t think can be accomplished in an online course, those features of our teaching are too important right now to tamper with.

Jim Ver Steeg:            Emily?

Emily Sherwood:        People ask me that all the time, like what is the next trend, particularly in terms of technology. And I do think there is – there are some we can point to. But I think the larger issue for me, or what I see, is that we’ll see more of a push towards programs and majors that are intentionally interdisciplinary. I think that a lot of the questions that our society is facing right now and that our students will be facing in the future need multiple perspectives in order to solve those problems, and I think that the students who will be able to engage in that will be ones who have studied a problem from multiple perspectives, and they’ll be able to bring creative problem solving. So, in that respect I don’t see the digital and the human at odds, but I see them as necessary in order for us to move forward as a society.

Jim Ver Steeg:            Jayne?

Jayne Lammers:         I’ll agree with you that that’s an unfair question in some ways because part of the blessing and the curse of technology is that it is always changing. Right? To ask people to get our students learning a particular tool of any kind because it might be a tool of the future is just unrealistic. But to Emily’s point, I think not only do we need multiple perspectives from a disciplinary approach, I think we need multiple perspectives from a global and cultural approach. So, one of the things that I’m going to be working on later this year is going to Indonesia and studying the digital literacy practices of Indonesian youth to see what are they doing, how are they authentically engaging in these tools, and what is important to them? We have a variety of research that has the Western perspective documented but we don’t have a lot from other perspectives. And as these countries become more connected and as borders become easier to cross and as the technology sets up these connections that really network us across the globe, I think it’s important for us to pay attention outside of us. How are others using these tools? And what can we learn from them? And so, that’s what I’m looking forward to doing.

Jim Ver Steeg:            Well, this has been a fantastic conversation, and I want to again thank Joan Rubin, who is the Dexter Perkins Professor in History and the Ani and Mark Gabrellian Director of the University of Rochester Humanities Center; Jayne Lammers, who is an Associate Professor at the Warner School and Associate Director for the Center for Learning in the Digital Age; and Emily Sherwood, who is the Director of the Digital Scholarship Lab at the University of Rochester. Thank you all for being here. I truly appreciate it.

Jayne Lammers:         Thanks, Jim.

Joan Rubin:                It was a pleasure.

Jim Ver Steeg:            For the University of Rochester Quadcast, I’m Jim Ver Steeg. Thanks for listening.

 

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Category: Quadcast