To cultivate creativity and knowledge-sharing surrounding the effective use of educational technology in Jewish higher education, Hebrew Union College– Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR), the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) and Yeshiva University (YU) have launched an inter-institutional eLearning Faculty Fellowship. On May 7, the 20 faculty members of Cohort 1 participated in the first of five live sessions to learn strategies, tools and approaches for using educational technologies to improve student engagement and learning. All five live sessions and five additional online workshops will be created and led by the Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning (CCNMTL) at Columbia University.
“Launching this eLearning Fellowship is an extraordinary opportunity for our institutions and for our faculties to collaborate and to learn about a wide range of education technology uses,” says Gregg Alpert, director of eLearning at HUC-JIR. “We have worked closely with CCNMTL to develop a program that can be a catalyst for innovation, creativity and exploration. Our three institutions, along with CCNMTL, are incredibly excited to help faculty examine new tools, new possibilities and even to rethink their existing courses. But perhaps most importantly, by cultivating collaboration among faculty both within and outside their institutions, we intend to create a conversation and dialogue that will go far beyond tools and techniques. These are scholars in their fields who know how to study, how to think deeply, to reflect and to thrive within a shared community of their peers.”
The eLearning Faculty Fellowship is part of the Inter-Institutional eLearning Collaborative, which is itself a component of the Education Initiative – three major grants of $15 million each to HUC-JIR, JTS and YU from the Jim Joseph Foundation to support graduate programs of Jewish education. The grants began in 2009. The Collaborative is designed to provide a framework for inter-institutional cooperation and to increase the number of faculty engaged in conversation and joint projects. A second cohort of fellows will begin next year.
“The first session of the eLearning Faculty Fellowship introduced two important frameworks for our work over the next ten months,” says Dr. Meredith Katz, a member of Cohort 1 who teaches at the William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education at JTS. “Rather than consider an online course as a transposed version of an existing face-to-face course, we discussed the need for students and faculty to ‘learn how to learn online’ and to consider which theories of learning are most useful for thinking about online learning. CCNMTL instructors also encouraged us to consider the technological tools we are about to explore through the Fellowship as a means to enhance the learning opportunities for our students, once we determine our pedagogic goals.”
In designing a cohesive curriculum for the Fellowship, material was adapted from seminars on teaching with technology that CCNMTL currently offers to Columbia faculty.
“We worked very closely with the institutions to develop a specific program based on our expertise in education, pedagogy, and technology,” says Maurice Matiz, vice executive director and director of technology for CCNMTL. “Our approach is to elicit Fellow participation around a specific educational topic at the live sessions. These prompted discussions will lead to first-hand experience with technologies that enable and facilitate student engagement and learning. They will have the opportunity to explore how these tools can enhance existing courses, how curriculum can be adapted for online or hybrid courses, and how to constantly review the efficacy of tools for their courses.”
In the five online sessions, faculty will be provided with some deeper and asynchronous opportunities to further explore the tools, techniques and strategies examined in the live sessions. CCNMTL will also host two “showcase” events per year where Fellows can share ongoing projects with each other and with other members of their institutions, who will be invited to attend. The Fellowship will culminate in a significant educational technology project that each Fellow will design and implement in his/her own teaching with the support of his/her home institution.
Adds Dr. Scott Goldberg, special assistant to the provost for Online Learning at Yeshiva University, “Our collaborative planning for the eLearning Fellowship has centered on advancing the teaching and learning of each institution’s faculty and students. Now, as we launch the first cohort, we are excited to see the vision of the Jim Joseph Foundation – to increase the quality and number of Jewish educators – reach our teachers in schools of education so that they can further implement the teaching of tomorrow. We know that our entire institutions will benefit from these advancements.”
As a component of the Inter-Institutional eLearning Collaborative, the Fellowship is designed to impact the universities far beyond the 20 members of each Cohort. The “Open Collaborative,” as it is called, will include a website that is open to any faculty and academic staff at the three institutions to share resources and pose questions to CCNMTL staff members who will create and administer this site. Additionally, along with other activities, there will be three mifgashim-gatherings per year open to all faculty and staff. Held at each of the three NY campuses, each gathering will focus on a specific, current and engaging topic related to eLearning.