Coffman Chair for University Teaching Scholars
Summary of Activities
Dr. Roger McHaney
The Coffman Chair for University Distinguished Teaching Scholars symbolizes Kansas State University's commitment to leadership in pedagogical scholarship and learning at the undergraduate level. This program of excellence has promoted institutional learning and facilitated 'raising-the-bar' on teaching and research across campus. During the 2006-2007 academic year, I was honored to serve as chair in this capacity. Not only did I benefit directly from the experience of my colleagues and develop as a teaching scholar, I was enabled to provide a greater level of leadership through various activities, projects, and meetings.
Teaching is the process of transferring both knowledge and the tools for creating knowledge to the men and women who are seeking to enhance their productivity through the university. In order to be an accomplished teacher, it is important to know the subject matter, to know the students, and enable them to understand and assimilate important material. My role as a teacher has been to help students learn and practice concepts that will enable them use technology to solve business problems. Ultimately, my goal has been to transform learning into a lifelong set of skills and the ability to engage in continual learning. For this reason, I see the teacher-student relationship as a partnership. I act as an advocate and mentor that can remove stumbling blocks, provide career guidance, and offer moral support. This process is often reciprocated since I learn as much from my students as they learn from me.
Today's business environment is complex and increasingly international. Global business computing infrastructure requires a working knowledge in multiple cultures and draws from an ever-changing portfolio of technology. This creates one of the biggest challenges in my area of instruction: remaining current in the face of continual technology changes. Professors in my area can't just acknowledge new technology exists, we have to use it! For this reason, curriculum development is ongoing at a rapid pace and obtaining outside training from leading technology corporations is paramount. Taking the responsibility and initiative to remain current is something I strive to pass to my students. In their area of study, knowing how to engage in lifelong learning is crucial.
For the reasons mentioned above, my perspective on undergraduate teaching is best discussed along three related dimensions: Knowledge Acquisition, Knowledge Dissemination, and Meta-Learning.
Knowledge acquisition is a field of research onto itself and represents a crucial step in the teaching process. I believe knowledge acquisition is an ongoing process frequently characterized by building insight, which means acquiring knowledge developed by others, and occasionally through discovery, which means developing new knowledge that was not known previously to anyone. The Teaching Scholar must be a self-learner with enough intellectual curiosity to leverage their practice of insight building and move into discovery. By keeping students engaged, their process of building insight will quickly move into discovery as well.
Knowledge dissemination, which is the transfer of acquired knowledge to students and colleagues, is another crucial element in teaching. The knowledge dissemination process requires the use of an infrastructure and the actual delivery method. Like knowledge acquisition, developing and maintaining an infrastructure for knowledge dissemination is an ongoing process. Overarching Curriculum must be continually improved and assessed; class design and delivery must be improved with new technologies and pedagogical methodology; and, individual classroom sessions must be reformulated based on changing student demographics, characteristics, and societal expectations. K-State Online has created a process that provides and updates this infrastructure for use by faculty and students. Once the infrastructure is established, knowledge dissemination is enabled. This is accomplished through delivery methods and moves the acquired knowledge from instructor to student. I believe a variety of techniques can be used to affect this transfer. Traditional classroom lectures, Internet-based techniques, interactive classroom exercises, mentoring, publication of pedagogical material, community projects, and technology-based delivery are all examples of proven methods.
Meta-learning focuses on learning how to learn and how to create learning environments. Meta-learning techniques are arguably more important now than they have been in decades because of the potential for improvement as the world moves from print-mediated to electronic-mediated learning systems. The World Wide Web and networked computers are causing educators to reformulate the way knowledge is acquired and disseminated. The geographic and time constraints of the traditional classroom must be reconsidered and leveraged for improvement. Traditional classroom lectures can be retooled as multimedia presentations while libraries and learning material can be extended with networked resources. Institutional learning can be refocused and directed to more effective and efficient models. Part of my mission as a teacher, is to ensure my students leave the classroom, whether it be face-to-face or virtual, having learned to learn.
Plan for the Good of the University
Institutions of higher learning are in the midst of a rapid revolution altering the way educators view the classroom and student interaction. Nowhere has this been more apparent than in the area of distance learning. Distance learning environments, enabled by global connectivity, have been on the forefront of broadening delivery methods by removing geographic and time constraints. Universities have felt pressure to meet this challenge in the face of rapidly changing technology and increasing distance learning program enrollments.
Kansas State University has conducted itself admirably with regard to emerging trends in distance learning. We strive to ensure our distance students receive a rich and meaningful education, just like on-campus students. In terms of adaptation to this demanding new environment, we have acted like an institutional version of a teaching scholar. We have applied sound principles of knowledge acquisition by building insight (acquiring knowledge developed by leading scholars in the area) and through discovery (developing new knowledge). We then have engaged in knowledge dissemination practices to make sure our 'lessons learned' are available across campus. To aid with these processes, we have developed Swap-Sessions; we have funded Coffman Chairs for University Distinguished Teaching Scholars with specific projects; we have provided course development grants; created conferences; created a series called IDT Roundtables which often centers around relevant distance learning topics; and undertaken a variety of other initiatives.
The ongoing programs and practices have been excellent but many faculty members, particularly those who are new to distance teaching, may be time constrained and unable to participate fully. To counter this situation, I committed to a year-long project of collecting successful distance learning practices used at K-State and then applied my findings to our own institutional meta-learning process. Part of the project included the development of teaching resources for those engaged in distance teaching. The developed material is available on K-State Online for viewing by faculty and is also available in DVD form for those without connectivity. The DVDs are available through the Center for Advancement of Teaching and Learning. Online the resources are available at:
The design of this material was modeled after the successful example, Engaging the Learner, created by Jana Fallin, Ph.D. during her time as 2003 University Distinguished Teaching Scholar. In general, the material demonstrates distance teaching methods and provides insight through discussions with distance instructors and other experts. Faculty participants were selected from across campus with the help of the K-State Department of Continuing Education. Input was received from Dr. David Stewart, Dr. Beth Unger, Dr. Victoria Clegg, and many others. The K-State Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning was consulted for content decisions and editorial advice. Technical assistance was provided by the Information Technology Assistance Center. Phyllis Epps provided a great deal of support for the project and Ben Ward ensured the project was posted on the Web. In addition, Dr. Rebecca Gould provided material support for the project and supplied a powerful, multimedia computer.
The project plan was developed following discussions with Dr. Victoria Clegg from the Center for Advancement of Teaching and Learning. After due consideration the following methodology was used:
Step 1: Review the literature to determine categories believed to enhance online teaching practices then develop open ended questions reflecting these areas
Step 2: Identify key distance learning faculty members
Step 3: Contact and video record invited faculty
Step 4: Collate, synthesize videos and provide a mechanism for displaying the ideas based on Macromedia Flash Technology.
The following faculty were primary contributors:
Dr. L. Susan Williams
Dr. Steven K. Starrett,
Dr. Anand Desai
Dr. Deborah D. Canter
Dr. Deanna D. Retzlaff,
Dr. Young-Ok Yum
Mr. David Young
Dr. Allen Featherstone
Dr. Ann D. Murray
Mr. William Shea
Following creation, K-State faculty (and others) have the ability to use the material in the same way that many distance learning students use their classroom resources: asynchronously. The material will be available at convenient, self-determined times and can be reused frequently. The project will not only improve distance teaching at K-State, it will also impact regular, on-campus classrooms as evidenced by the growing use of K-State Online by on-campus courses. For this reason, what we learn in distance learning will be used to improve all teaching. This blurring of the lines between online and on-campus is occurring all around campuses across the world.
The following topical areas were used to guide development of the Distance Learning Video Gallery:
Delivery Strategies for your Distance Class
The freedom to conduct your class where and when and how you like is probably both a pro and con in a distance learning environment. How have you set up your class in general? How do you keep distance learning from overwhelming you? Any tricks of the trade you can share?
Real Time or Asynchronous Delivery?
What has been better in your experience? Asynchronous or synchronous? Why?
Diverse Student Needs
International and cultural issues play a big role in student interaction during a distance learning class. How do you cope with those issues, particularly in an environment where nonverbal cues are probably less evident?
Many distance learning experts say a key to student success is to instill a sense of discipline. Do you agree? How do you do this in your classes?
Sense of Community
Creating a sense of community is important for both professor and student. How do you do this in your distance class? Do you think it is important? Does teamwork come into play?
Assignments and Exams
Many instructors ask, "How can we be certain that the person receiving credit is actually the one doing the work or exam?" What types of things do you do to help with this? What sorts of assignments and exams seem to work the best for you? How do you return grades?
Technical Support for Students
One of the biggest reasons that students don't leap into distance learning is that they don't feel ready to tackle the technical issues. How does K-State help support them and make sure they are able to access and create online lectures and the materials they need?
Technical Support for Faculty
Technology and delivery methods are continually changing. How does K-State help instructors remain current and up-to-date with what their classes can do?
What are some methods that you use for evaluating your online courses?
Have you run into any timing issues regarding lecture presentations, assignment due dates, or other aspects of your distance class?
Office hours and student contact might need to be a bit unconventional in a distance learning environment. Have you run into any problems that way? What sort of arrangement do you use?
Updating online material is a big challenge in distance learning. Do you have any recommendations for the new distance learner instructor?
How do you prepare for your online class? What sorts of things do students need? Syllabi? Schedules?
After Project Completion
Upon completion of the project, I presented "If the World is Flat, Why Am I Trudging Uphill? Musings on How Distance Education, the Internet, and Globalization Impact Teaching in Kansas."
Academics are finding words and phrases such as globalization, the world is flat and emerging technologies sprinkled liberally throughout the new literature. Even the stodgiest keepers of the most turgid disciplines have begun grumbling that a revolution of sorts is underway. At the same time, the popular press has convinced the layperson that everything---from buying goods and services in China to exploiting the nearly thawed Northwest Passage across Northern Canada to instant intelligence on the Internet---has become part of daily life. This leaves many excellent teachers and learners averting their eyes ashamed to admit they lack the skills to "Google" their way out of an empty box. But should they feel this way? Should teaching and learning be easy? Anecdotal evidence will be presented to demonstrate that Kansas has been "flat" far longer than the rest of the world and many K-State teachers are no strangers to technology adoption. Others, not on the technology vanguard, will discover teaching infrastructure can be improved with premeditated forays into Thomas Friedman's flat world where distance education techniques can be brought back into the traditional classroom.
Versions of the speech are scheduled to be presented as the keynote address for the 2007 Axio Learning Conference, at the 2008 College Teaching & Learning (TLC) Conference, and at the 2008 National University Telecommunications Network Conference.
I would like to offer my sincere gratitude to Provost Duane Nellis for the privilege of serving as the 2006 - 2007 Coffman Chair for University Distinguished Teaching Scholars.