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Provost - Open Dore E-Newsletter [Vanderbilt University]

October 2017

Education Technologies: Transforming Discovery and Learning

Dear colleagues,

Technology has transformed the way our faculty teach, research, study, invent and create. It has changed the way students learn and the way they engage with material, faculty and each other. In many ways, the use of new technology happens organically and spreads as students and faculty work together. To ensure that Vanderbilt stays at the cutting edge, we are making investments in technology tools, trainings and infrastructure as we plan for the future.

As one of the four pillars of the Academic Strategic Plan, education technology has been a critical focus of Vanderbilt over the past three years. The recently launched Educational Technologies website offers faculty, staff and students a one-stop shop to access a myriad of resources across campus. For example, the Vanderbilt Institute for Digital Learning (VIDL), in partnership with VUIT, has rolled out macro and micro-grant programs – the micro-grants provide funding for purchasing equipment and software, and the macro-grants seed larger scale projects such as online seminars and digital learning workshops. VIDL also facilitates faculty working groups and delivers innovation awards to engaged students.

Just last month, we announced a new initiative in digital literacy with the goal of creating a campus where digital literacy is not tied to specific courses but, like literacy itself, becomes an inherent part of a Vanderbilt education. A dedicated committee will be putting forth a series of recommendations concerning both curricular and noncurricular means to enhance digital literacy (and hence prepare our students for a rapidly changing workforce). This vision includes a series of micro-credentials that authenticate skills, availability and support for multiple digital tools on campus, as well as a number of workshops and digital tutorials.

Physical spaces are also important for supporting scholarship and research that leverages new technologies. Supported by a grant from the Mellon Foundation and the College of Arts and Science, the new Center for the Digital Humanities was opened in Buttrick Hall last fall. The center, which plays a role in advancing digital literacy among faculty and students engaged in the humanities, sponsors funding competitions and hosts an active program of conferences, workshops, lectures and demonstrations. The Center for Teaching (CfT) and the Jean and Alexander Heard Library also serve as key hubs for advancing digital humanities and digital technologies more broadly. I am especially excited about the new training workshops that are aimed at enhancing research and scholarship with direct impacts on opening more career choices for our students. One such effort is the teaching seminar offered by VIDL and CfT graduate students in the Department of Religion and the Divinity School which is designed to help prepare them for future careers that will likely involve online teaching.

Advancements in technology have opened up new doors that allow our students to learn outside the classroom. Online education offers an important avenue for integrating more faculty and students into Vanderbilt’s global intellectual community. To date, 16 MOOCS offered by 23 Vanderbilt faculty have reached 435,087 enrollees around the globe. The School of Nursing has long been a leader in distance learning supported by education technology and online education. More recently the Owen Graduate School of Management began programs through partnerships with Coursera. This fall, through a partnership with education technology company 2U, Peabody College of Education and Human Development has started with much success two new online degree programs. More than 30 students are enrolled in the Ed.D. program this semester and application numbers continue to skyrocket. Next summer, our first undergraduate online course will be offered – Finance and Accounting for Engineers. This course will provide a summer option for students who, due to internships or other obligations, cannot be on campus during the summer. If this pilot is successful, it will be a model for other potential online undergraduate courses. Looking at the diversity of all of these programs, it is clear that each school, college, and program has had the flexibility to select the platform most appropriate to its mission. Our fundamental strategy has been to not require that “one size fits all.” Moreover, the advancement of all of these platforms has allowed Vanderbilt to uphold high academic standards while bringing discovery and learning to new audiences.

To build on these successes, we must continue to invest in digital technologies. The Research IT Working Group, in partnership with VUIT, is working to enhance digital infrastructure including processing, storage and networking to advance scientific and scholarly workflows. Also, an essential element will be to provide enhanced resources for the use of new digital technologies that cross traditional disciplinary approaches. This will benefit both faculty and student research projects, and will create exciting new Immersion Vanderbilt opportunities for undergraduates. The current Trans-Institutional Program initiative in Data Science will provide some needed support for researchers. I look forward to the International Strategy Working Group’s soon-to-be-released report that will summarize important recommendations related to the importance of digital technologies for connecting with collaborations and classrooms around the globe. And this 2017-18 academic year, the Data Science Visions Working Group is charged with analyzing directions for new university big data and data science initiatives.

I encourage you to continuing to offer feedback on these efforts and to bring your innovative ideas to one of Vanderbilt’s many faculty funding programs. I know together we will continue to enhance Vanderbilt’s reputation as a leader in advancing discovery and learning in the 21st century.



Susan R. Wente

Previous Open Dore Issues

In case you missed it….

Go Big, Be Bold, Be Vanderbilt

Affirming our values and welcoming all to a new academic year

Special Open Dore Issue: Advocating for Federal Support of Great Research

Greatest Appreciation for our Staff

Investing in our Future

An Every-10-Year Tradition: Our Reaffirmation of Accreditation – March 2017

All past issues

Other News

New educational technologies website showcases digital learning collaborations

Commons iSeminars announced for first-year students

Vanderbilt welcomes most diverse, accomplished class in history

Utility work planned to begin mid-December for reimagined ‘West End neighborhood’

First-year students explore resilience through Commons programming

Introducing Virtual Reality for Interdisciplinary Applications

Expanded COACHE website includes “action” in response to faculty report

The COACHE site includes information on Office of the Provost initiatives and actions, as well as information about some of the activities underway in the colleges and schools, that address the results of the COACHE survey on faculty satisfaction.

Join Provost Wente on Nov 16, 4 p.m., Averbuch Auditorium, Owen School

Faculty and staff are invited to attend these informal discussion sessions held at locations across campus.

@VU_Provost : Be sure to follow Provost’s Office on Twitter

TIPs Pre-Proposals Due Oct 30; University Courses Nov 13

Looking to apply for a 2018 Trans-Institutional Programs award? The time to submit your pre-proposal is running out! Be sure to log onto InfoReady Review and submit your online application by Monday, Oct. 30.

Interested in developing an innovative course that reaches beyond your department and is open to students all across campus? Consider applying for the University Courses program.The deadline to submit a proposal is Monday, Nov. 13.

Humanities “Manifesto” report posted online

Building on current strengths and “seizing opportunities to make the humanities at Vanderbilt truly exceptional” are at the core of the report from The Chancellor’s Committee on the Humanities posted online today. The committee was charged with examining opportunities and needs across the humanities and to strengthen connections between the humanities and other disciplines.

Investing in community: Melissa Thomas-Hunt is the inaugural vice provost for inclusive excellence

Melissa Thomas-Hunt – MyVU new faculty – Provost Office. Photo by Joe Howell

Melissa Thomas-Hunt, Vanderbilt’s inaugural vice provost for inclusive excellence, sees a big part of her new role as breaking down the traditional notions of “diversity.” “I think a lot of times when people hear the word diversity, they think there are groups of individuals who are part of diversity and those who are not,” she said. “But diversity encompasses everybody—the entire fabric.” Read more. 

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