Ryan C. Fowler |
In recent years, there has been an eruption in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), and such courses have become a seemingly permanent feature within the discussions of curricula of many colleges and universities. The value of MOOCs—educational, pedagogical, and financial—continues to be sharply debated. Supporters of such courses cite the accessibility and openness of the approach as arguments for expansion; detractors, however, focus on challenges of attrition, learning outcomes, student engagement, authentication, and, the extremely important issues of assessment and ‘credentialing.’ For two decades Sunoikisis has been developing a liberal arts approach to online learning, and now Sunoikisis’ hybrid approach can be seen as an alternative to more massive versions. This paper will first describe Sunoikisis’ hybrid model of online learning in the advanced courses, and then the program’s approach to assessment and measurement. It will connect Sunoikisis’ pedagogical commitments with its increasingly insistent emphasis on collecting data about both student and faculty perceptions of classroom processes and learning outcomes.
Under the auspices of the Sunoikisis program, ten classics professors gather every June at the Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington, DC. The goal for their two three-day seminars is to create—in a collaborative setting—one advanced Latin and one advanced Greek course syllabus. Alongside an invited senior course consultant, all participants read and discuss primary and secondary literature; both courses are run that fall semester with the help of all of the course participants. The normal cycle of offerings each fall semester include topics that cannot normally be covered in understaffed classics department: i.e., Homeric Poetry, Lyric Poetry, and Comedy on the Greek side; and on the Latin side: Early Republic, Late Republic, Neronian Period, etc.
The goal of the Advanced Greek and Latin courses offered by the Sunoikisis project has always been to supplement small or under-resourced classics programs with classes and lectures that a one- or two-person department might not be able to offer under typical circumstances. At the same time, many of the resources that add to the program, and certainly some of its most avid contributors come from larger departments, exactly because they have more resources at their disposal: collaboration and support, in this program, is trickle-down. Each professor in the seminar is responsible for responding to one week’s worth of assignments before running that week’s synchronous ‘Common Session’ lecture, during which they are sure to reference postings by the students taking the course, all of whom are watching, wherever in the world they happen to be (via various technologies throughout the years—the technology changes very quickly and our interest is always in free or public domain software). This work is all done on a volunteer basis, and all done especially for the benefit of those smaller classics departments, who are able to join the full 14- or 15-week course, or use the syllabus, assignments, and Common Sessions—archived online—however they might like.
This Fall, Ryan Fowler (CHS Fellow) will run both the Latin and the Greek summer seminars concurrently (with the aid of Niall Slater [Emory] and Gregory Nagy [Harvard], respectively), as well as organize and run the Fall courses simultaneously. In addition, Dr. Fowler will be responsible for developing and implementing a new program of assessment the effectiveness of these advanced, hybrid courses for the student participants in the Fall: a metric that measures incoming skills, collects exiting data from the students, and, last, revisits students after the courses are over to gather medium- and long-term data. This assessment program will, in a practical and immediate sense, help improve the courses themselves, and help us focus on both what is being learned (both directly and indirectly) in our online classroom setting and how we can improve on this type of learning in the future. The hope is that this new system for these online courses could be applicable to all other types of online offerings.