A note from Associate Provost for Digital Learning John Sloop
October 8, 2015
I want to begin this month with a story that illustrates how Vanderbilt’s trans-institutional
orientation and emphasis on digital technologies can make for fruitful—and often unexpected--outcomes. Awhile back, Richard Willis, Catherine Lee, and Michael Stuart from the Owen School of Management were beginning to work on a project that, roughly, investigates the impact of the wording and tone of earnings conference calls that corporations hold with investment analysts.
Ultimately, in order to pull this project off, the team needed access to a large number of earnings conference call transcripts and the ability to “read” these reports efficiently and consistently. The team worked with Hilary Craiglow, the director of the Management Library, who helped Vanderbilt negotiate a deal with Lexis-Nexis to provide greater access to these documents. In addition, Cliff Anderson, director of scholarly Communications at the library, helped the researchers think through tools they could use to read these documents. The LexisNexis access, called a WSK—Web Services Toolkit and XML Delivery—promises a great deal of fascinating outcomes.
While the Earnings Call project and the Lexis-Nexis WSK access the Library negotiated are interesting and promising on their own, the story only begins there. When Earth and Environmental Science Professor Jonathan Gilligan started work on a project with his team that was attempting to investigate the discursive links (in published news stories) between hurricanes and climate change, Rick Stringer-Hye, the subject librarian for Earth and Environmental Sciences set up a meeting that involved Jonathan’s team and some of the staff of the library. This group included Cliff Anderson, who, knowing about the work being done at Owen on the Earnings Call project, put them in contact with Craiglow. Then, armed with tools developed by graduate student John Nay, the team was able to analyze a vast quantity of data in ways that would have been impossible months before.
At this point, Gilligan—who was familiar with the type of work performed by people in my home discipline (Communication Studies, Rhetorical/cultural studies)—contacted me to explain the WSK tool and the analysis model they are developing. What I discovered was a tool that will allow me and my colleagues to analyze thousands of documents in the time we used to be able to code a few hundred. While I have not yet utilized the tool, I can’t wait to dig in.
Ultimately, what I want to highlight here is not the program itself—which is very useful and powerful—but rather the fact that a project initiated by a team of researchers in the Owen School of Management led to a solution negotiated by the Management Library which—through informal channels—came to the attention of a team of researchers in Earth and Environmental Science. And while the team was beginning their investigation, one member of the team drew the attention of a professor in the humanities (me!) to the possibilities. It’s a story of how a great idea in digital research can work across the institution and benefit multiple researchers. When trans-institutional research works this well, I feel optimistic about the future of digital learning and research on our campus.
For more information on using Web Services Toolkit and XML Delivery, please contact Hilary Craiglow at email@example.com.
August 28, 2015
In what I intend to make into a monthly open letter, I wanted to take a little time this month to introduce myself and my role at Vanderbilt. The position of Associate Provost of Digital Learning was designed to head up initiatives under the “Educational Technology” leg of Vanderbilt’s Academic Strategic Plan. Indeed, part of the reason for the creation of this position is that Vanderbilt, under the leadership of Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos, Provost Susan Wente, and, most directly, the guidance of Vice Provost Cynthia Cyrus, has so many growing initiatives, that it was prudent to name someone to make the cross fertilization of Vanderbilt’s many resources, a sole priority.
A recent faculty survey at Vanderbilt illustrated that the vast majority of faculty have a strong interest in working with digital technologies as a way to improve their teaching. Simultaneously, however, faculty are largely unaware of our resources and where to find them. This is a problem that we can solve rather easily by both publicizing Vanderbilt’s current digital resources and modeling them to fit the evolving needs of our community
In my position, I will be working to coordinate and bring attention to a number of existing and highly successful initiatives, such as the Vanderbilt Institute for Digital Learning. Tracking the resources of the Central Library, the Center for Teaching (CFT), the Curb Center, Vanderbilt Student Communications, the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities, and Vanderbilt University Information Technology (VUIT), I want to encourage the productive use of technology in “learning” (including residential teaching, MOOCS, research and the expression of research). I also hope to foster frequent and open dialogue about the evolving digital needs of the Vanderbilt community, and will work with faculty, students, staff, and campus partners to identify opportunities where digital technologies can facilitate learning.
While digital learning clearly encompasses MOOCs and our work with Coursera, this is only a fraction of what I hope to see taking place at Vanderbilt. Indeed, we are asking faculty to think about altering or rethinking how they pursue and create knowledge with our digitally-imbedded students. This could mean the implementation of particular “digital tools,” (e.g., blogs, podcasts, the wide variety of social media platforms) or it could mean data mining or the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to provide different ways of understanding history. In other words, digital tools can alter the way we think about the world, how we communicate this knowledge to one another in a classroom environment, and how we communicate and collaborate with those well beyond the borders of our campus.
While I don’t want to sound pollyannaish, if we are able to capture and leverage the wisdom on campus with the resources we have in place across Vanderbilt and within individual departments, I feel confident that as we state in our Strategic Plan, we will become a leader in the employment of digital technologies in ways that we cannot yet imagine. To that end, please do not hesitate to reach out to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org with suggestions and ideas to elevate digital learning at Vanderbilt.
I look forward to working with all of you and invite your thoughts and questions.
Series of listening sessions on racial injustice scheduled for this week
Vanderbilt University screening tool assesses COVID-19 risk
Blair School offers Kindermusik classes via Zoom June 3-July 23
Register for upcoming virtual gatherings with Incoming Chancellor Daniel Diermeier
Office of LGBTQI Life to offer P.R.I.D.E. training June 11 via Zoom