Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Here we go again - a new semester and new promises

We all get into that stage where we begin a new semester with the idea it will be better than the next.

This semester brings us all to a new horizon here at UTB.  We say goodbye to our old friend UTB and look forward to a new University, a new President and a new Chancellor.

Our students are also entering a new phase of uncertainty in their academic life.  As faculty, we know what a research university is, its expectations and its benefits.  They do not.  Therefore, it is our responsibility to prepare them.

Here are some actions you might take to help them along:

  • In your syllabus, list and clarify the characteristics and actions that will make them a success in your class.  Is is attendance?  Discussions?  Tests?  Projects?  
  • Explain to the students your learning objectives and how these will apply towards the skills and knowledge they will need to be competitive in the job market with students from other universities. 
  • Identify the support services we have for them and remind them we are here to help:  Academic Advising, Learning Enrichment,  Disability Services, Dean of Students, Financial Aid, Student Affairs
  • Devise ways in which students can communicate with you and their peers outside of class time throughout the semester.  This can be a discussion board, email, office hours, social media or extra study sessions.  
  • Be positive about their future at UTRGV.  The consolidation offers students new opportunities and broader choices. 
  • Be positive about your future at UTRGV.  It will be good.

Thank you for making UTB a great place to teach and to learn.  Lets carry this over to UTRGV.  

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Women's Faculty Network at UTRGV

Last week we had over 30 faculty and staff from UTB attend the first Women Faculty Network meeting held at the Brownsville Campus of UTRGV.  

The WFN was started in part by a generous NSF grant won by UTPA to recruit, support and retain women faculty into the STEM: Science, Technology, Engendering and Math.  The network was extended to include all women faculty.

The meetings were held at UTPA but this semester they extended a warm invitation to all UTB faculty, soon to be peers at UTRGV.

So, why a special organization for women faculty.  Oh, let me see if I can come up with a couple good reasons:

In 1975 the average women faculty salary was 81% of what male faculty earned.  In 2009-2010 the average women faculty salary was 81% of what male faculty earned. 

That is pretty much the only argument I need for a strong women's faculty network.  However join us as we explore more ways to make UTRGV a family friendly place.

Women's Faculty Network: Winter Brunch and Workshop on Grant Writing or Publishing
Date: Thursday, December 4th.
Time: 10:00 – 11:30 a.m.
Location: UTPA Borderlands Room, , EDUC 3.204
Location: UTB Main 1-304 Center for Teaching and Learning Refreshments will be served.
Location:  Alternatively you can watch it broadcast live at http://utpa.edu/live/broncnet where ever you and your computer may be.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Social Media

OK! That was enough of a provocative title to entice you to read this.

A Pew Social Networking Fact Sheet tells us what our students use to connect.  Of the people in the survey, 90% of the 18 to 29 year olds use social networks.  That includes:
  • 71% of online adults use Facebook
  • 17% use Instagram
  • 21% use Pinterest
  • 22% use LinkedIn
From what we have seen in class, about 100% use text.  Maybe more!  That is if we count them texting while they are reading Facebook.

One can imagine that the older you are, the less likely you are to be using social media.  However the old folks are not that much different.  Of the 50 - 64 year olds, 71% use social media.  

So, connect with your students and fellow faculty on the UTRGV Like Page.  Click here to like the page and keep up with whats happenin!  Show those young kids we are life long learners.

And, um. Like the CTL Facebook page while you are at it!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Who is most in debt for college? You are in for a surprise

In an article today in Time Magazine, "The Real Student Debt Problem No One is Talking About" sheds light on who is leaving college in the most debt.  Graduates represent 40% of the total student debt.  This is a reason for concern since graduates only represent 14% of the student population.

Whoops!  Something is amiss.

From the article:  "Often past the point at which their parents help them pay for their tuition, room, and board, graduate students borrow an average of nearly three times more per year than undergraduates, according to the College Board. And while the average debt of undergraduates has more than doubled since 1989, according to the Brookings Institution, it has more than quadrupled during that time for graduate students."

At the same time graduate degrees are more in demand for many professions.  But the payback in lifetime earnings is not as guaranteed.  Teachers, health care workers, and other professions are notoriously underpaid and often require advanced degrees.  

There is a loop hole that Obama and other legislators have found that students only have to pay back what they can afford, often as low as 10% of their salary.  That leaves most graduates degrees unpaid after 20 years when the loan balance is cancelled.  

One piece of advice is charge away.  No matter how much you borrow, you will only have to pay back part of it.  This does not seem to be a viable option since the tax payers will have to make up the difference.  

What can we do with college programs to ease the cost?  Interesting discussion for the new UTBRGV to tackle this issue.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Faculty Attitudes Toward Online Learing

A new report came out on faculty attitudes toward online learning.  It is interesting for sure.  Click here to read the interactive article and graphs.

The report suggests that if  faculty have taught a completely online course, they were more likely to be high on online learning than those who had never taught an online course.  If faculty had never taught online, they were more likely to be skeptics if online learning could be as effective as face to face classes.

Lets look at some of the stats:

The orange is all faculty, the light blue middle lines are those faculty that have taught online and the dark blue line on the top is faculty who have never taught online.

The comments at the bottom of the report from readers are even more interesting.  We have come a long way in understanding online learning and they are skeptical of the definition of online learning the report used.

The survey just referenced online courses, not what type of online course.  We have a new word - live online - a course that is taught with a great deal of interaction with students via web conferencing, discussions and other interactive activities.  The comment associates live online with synchronous courses where students and faculty interact together at one time similar if they were in a classroom.   However at the UTRGV Brownsville Campus we have excellent examples of asynchronous courses that would be classified as live online.

As we head to UTRGV, we can expect that technology will play an important part to include students who are on campuses 50 miles apart.  This appears to be a important survey to administer here.

Monday, October 27, 2014

What Education is For

When we ponder what skills our students need to enter into the workforce, the first one on most of our lists is the skill for critical thinking.  Never has this skill been more obvious now in the wake of the media frenzy misrepresenting the Ebola outbreak.

We had three cases here in Texas  One person who traveled from Liberia who came down with his symptoms after his entrance into the U.S.  and two health care workers who took care of him.  We have a new suspected case in NYC and some states are talking mandatory 21 day quarantine for health care workers.  However, read, listen or watch the news and you would believe a pandemic has occurred.

Fear is taking over.

One of the best times for teaching is when a learning opportunity pops up.  That is linking an event to your curriculum that students can easily relate to personally.  Do a critical thinking exercise with your students about the Ebola situation.  Doesn't matter what subject you are teaching.  Science and humanities all have a link to the U.S. response to Ebola.  Have the students investigate what is true, what is sensation and what is outright lies or manipulations.

Here are some starters:

How big is the continent of Africa?  Click here to see a map of Africa compared to the size of the US, which is not a continent.  Remember, Africa is a continent that: houses the smallest and largest people on Earth, has the largest variances of skin color from white to black and thousands of languages and dialects.  

Where are the Ebola outbreaks and how does this affect us?  BBC News Map

What is the news saying to fuel or smooth fear?  Cable News Commentary.  Fox News Shepard Smith  Rush Limbaugh  BBC New Special Report  Dallas Dining

What are the health care organizations saying?  World Health Organization  US Center for Health Control and Prevention. National Institute of Health

Ask the students to bring in what they are seeing or hearing on the news, blogs and just plain gossip. Do they believe there is reason to fear an Ebola outbreak in South Texas?  Make rules.  1.  The information they bring into the discussion must come from a valid source.  2.  The students must state what their qualifications of a valid source are.  3.  Everyone needs to be respectful of others in the discussion.  The discussion needs to be civil.

For more information about critical thinking activities, contact Betsy Price at the Center for Teaching and Learning.  If you have some examples of critical thinking activities, please share them on this blog.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Growing Pains

Change is the only constant in life. -Heraclitus

My 88-year-old great aunt, the longest living member of our entire extended family (still going strong), has experienced profound changes and challenges throughout her lifetime. Once when I faced a life-defining challenge, she advised, “Life is a grand adventure full of choices…either you grow or you die.”

I choose to grow.

Growth requires change, and growth results in change. Given that change is inevitable, why are people so resistant to change? Why are we not more naturally inclined to embrace change and contribute to growing in productive and positive ways? Why do people dig in their heels defensively when presented with opportunities for growth? Why is change perceived as such a threat?

It has been my observation that fear, insecurity, and ego breeds such ugly defensive behavior and counterproductive resistance to change. Yet, is the fight or flight survival response the only option we have when faced with change? Are the only two options to leave or to behave in a less than collegial manner?

What do we do in times of change? How do we respond to uncertainty, instability, insecurity, bruised morale, loss, a sense of powerlessness, vulnerability and an unknown future? Rather than every man for himself/every woman for herself abandon ship or fight for your turf at all costs, I suggest we all consider an alternative, more productive and collegial approach to challenging changing times.

Here is my 12-step therapy for embracing growing pains in times of change:

         1. Focus on teaching
         2. Provide the highest quality education for students
         3. Invest energy in creating positive learning environments for all involved
         4. Learning makes a difference in everyone’s lives-make a difference daily
         5. Focus on research
         6. Seek out partnerships, collaborations and meaningful projects
         7. Take the initiative to work with integrity with colleagues
         8. Seek first to understand…then to be understood (Stephen Covey)
         9. Focus on service
       10. Extend an attitude of unconditional positive regard to all (Dr. Wayne Dyer)
       11. Seek opportunities to contribute while exemplifying the Golden Rule-it is in giving that we receive (St. Francis Assisi)
       12. Practice random acts of kindness

Let’s embrace change, choose to grow, and navigate this grand adventure together with a spirit of collegiality and integrity. Fight or flight are not our only options.

Thanks to Karin Lewis, Assistant Professor, Department of Educational Psychology & Leadership for her contribution to the CTL Blog.