Using Disruption to Stay on Course

August 21, 2013 § Leave a comment

Tomorrow, Thursday, August 22, I’ll be presenting as part of the Opening Plenary panel of the St. Edward’s Annual Teaching Symposium.  Below are my slides for the symposium the description of the plenary panel, and resources for my presentation.

Staying On Course: The Liberal Arts University in an Era of Change

In this panel, we’ll discuss a question of growing concern for St. Edward’s and other liberal arts universities: how are liberal arts universities preserving a focus on their key missions and goals during a time of dramatic change in higher education? Today’s news headlines are filled with startling reports about U. S. higher education. Calls for dramatically reduced cost are paired with critiques of higher education outcomes, demands for jobs for graduates, and images of online learning (especially the massive open online course or MOOC) as the new magic bullet that will remake our system of higher education by bringing learning to the masses for free. But what do these developments have to do with universities that focus on liberal education?

Amidst all of these changes, most private, small liberal arts colleges have continued to pursue their core missions: educating students both in the disciplines and in the broad range of critical and creative thinking skills needed to fully participate in a complex world. And they are doing so using many of their old tools: small face-to-face class sizes allowing high levels of student-faculty interaction; well-crafted majors coupled with a carefully-designed general education program; a rich campus life offering opportunities for service, civic engagement, leadership, and interaction with others; numerous opportunities for experiential learning – through study abroad, undergraduate research, service learning, and project-based learning. In short, despite warnings of pending “disruption,” universities like St. Edward’s continue to operate in much the same way as always. And yet, for many of these institutions, figuring out how to adapt to changing pressures and opportunities has become a challenge.

Our panelists will tackle this question from a variety of angles. Their remarks will be followed by an open discussion, inviting a broader conversation with all who attend.

Panelists (all from St. Edward’s University)

  • Mary Boyd – Vice President for Academic Affairs
  • Rebecca Frost Davis – Director, Instructional and Emerging Technologies
  • Cory Lock – Interim Dean and Assoc. Professor, University Programs
  • Steven Fletcher – Assoc. Professor, School of Education


“Analyzing and Creating Maps.” Accessed April 6, 2013.

Bryn Mawr College, “Using Blended Learning in a Liberal Arts Environment to Improve Developmental and Gatekeeper STEM Course Completion, Persistence, and College Completion,”

Hill, Phil. “Four Barriers That MOOCs Must Overcome To Build a Sustainable Model.” e-Literate, July 24, 2012.

“High Impact Practices.” Association of American Colleges and Universities.

History Harvest:

Jaschik, Scott. “Feminist Anti-MOOC.” Inside Higher Ed, August 19, 2013.

Open Learning Initiative:

Proctor, James. “Situated Social Learning: A Future for Undergraduate Interdisciplinary Research?” In Proceedings of the 2012 NITLE Symposium. National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education (NITLE), 2012.

Situating the Global Environment:


“Writing Tutorials (CTL).” Accessed April 6, 2013.

Wu, Min Lun (Alan). “MOOC Data Big Data.” Learning to Teach & Teaching to Learn, March 6, 2013.


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