Tuesday, November 20, 2007

How does TLC compare? Harvard

If I thought that Emory had a lot of institutes and programs that aren't connected to each other, it is nothing compared to the warren that is Harvard. I had flashbacks to applying to graduate school as I looked through the pages, remembering that one reason I didn't apply there was because their website was SO dauntingly bad. It's improved some today, but it is still not particularly friendly.

In any case, Harvard has some things that resemble various aspects of TLC, but nothing that replicates it or that any one single student could realistically encounter while s/he was enrolled. The most interesting program they offer is a Presidential Instructional Technology Fellows Program. This program is available to graduate students across the university by the Office of the Provost (which also sponsor grants and awards for faculty). The program trains fellows (PITFs), who can be undergrads or graduate students, to work with faculty to "to develop digital course materials with immediate educational benefits." This can take forms from improving websites to making PowerPoint presentations with video and more. Of course, they have a portfolio of completed projects. The portfolio I've linked to is specifically for students working with Faculty of the Arts and Sciences.

As I understand it, the faculty propose a project to their schools and the schools decide which projects to allocate to the fellows, who have applied independently to each school's program (Harvard Law, the Graduate School of Education, and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences all have, for example, their own PITF applications). The fellows work on projects for either a summer term or for an entire academic year. According to a 2005 Harvard Gazette article about the program's first year, 65 fellows worked on projects in over 150 courses.

This all sounds very exciting--especially since it is a campus-wide initiative--but I've not been able to find anything specific about the training that the fellows receive prior to starting their work. The best description of the program lacks this information. Although it is obvious that some training is given, it appears to be on a more individual basis, where the fellow comes to something like Harvard's version of ECIT individually to get some information about how to complete a particular project envisioned by a faculty member. The fellow then works with the faculty member to finish the project. What TLC has that this program does not is a discussion of a wide range of tools and a conversation that is centered around pedagogy. In fact, this resembles an idea that was kicked around following last year's TLC that there could "TLC-certified" grad students who could then get paid to work with faculty on various projects.

The other program that Harvard has that appears to be similar to ECIT is a Technology, Innovation, Education (TIE) program in the Graduate School of Education that leads to an MA. This is a one-year program where the emphasis is on teaching, but technology is the means to this end. Their courses (they take a total of 8 and do not write a thesis) cover many of the subjects that we tackle in TLC, but they are much more in-depth and--again, as happens at Duke--they produce final projects that demonstrate the skills they have learned.

The obvious problem with this program as compared to TLC is that it takes a year. Emory is not interested in a project of this scale. There has been talk and scuttlebutt about a digital humanities certificate that the GSAS might start offering, and this might or might not be linked to the expanded TLC. But such a certificate would arguably provide a middle ground between TLC and TIE. Such a certificate would also, one assumes, encompass discussions about digital research and scholarship, something that TIE is not focused on, since it is not a PhD program.

My verdict? Harvard's PITF program is a great example of a university focusing on giving students and faculty a chance to collaborate. This collaboration leads to improved teaching and building skills for the students and faculty. There is not so far as I can see, however, a central plan for the fellows' training. Moreover, the focus seems to be on the product and not specifically on the use of the product in the classroom. I know this is a fine line, but I get the feeling there is more of a discussion in TLC on the impact of the technologies on the classroom. I think that this is assisted by the fact that TLC is a cohort of individuals. The TIE program at Harvard is, perhaps, a very expanded version of TLC. It's not what we want to do here. Between both programs, Harvard perhaps offers an experience that is close to what we envision for TLC.

No comments: