The Simon Initiative

Data-Informed Teaching and Learning

4-VA Collaboration with Carnegie Mellon University – The Simon Initiative

The Simon Initiative (SI) harnesses a cross-disciplinary, learning-engineering ecosystem that has developed over several decades at Carnegie Mellon University with the goal of measurably improving student learning outcomes. 4-VA engagement with Simon Initiatives related to data-informed teaching and learning will be different with each 4-VA institution, however general plans are as follows:

4-VA Collaboration with The Simon Initiative
Phase One – Increase Awareness
  • Telepresence meeting with campus stakeholders – Instructional designers/teaching and learning centers
    • Goal – General information about the initiative and the various tools available for consideration
  • Introduce SI information at Gen Ed Summit
    • Goal – Introduce tools, plant seeds for future conversation, consider potential common courses
  • Options for deeper conversation:
    • Webinar
    • Bring key speakers to Virginia
    • Sponsor participation in a summer program at CMU
  • Materials needed for further discussion
    • PowerPoint deck on key initiatives
    • Need full list of applications that could be considered
Phase Two – Increase Engagement
  • Campus initiatives to continue increasing awareness
  • Create RFP for faculty campus project integrating one of the initiatives
  • Implement campus initiative/assessment
  • Faculty development plan for project development
  • Plan for collaboration across institutions
    • Spring preparation for fall 2019 launch of campus project
    • Develop assessment plan for project evaluation
    • Focused research on cross-institution initiative
Phase Three – Program Development
  • Implementation of campus initiative (fall semester)
  • Create RFP focused on one/two projects (courses?) across institutions
  • Faculty development for selected projects
  • Assess fall campus project, adjust for future semesters
  • Dissemination of related research
Phase Four – Statewide Shared Initiative(s)
  • Launch of projects/course(s) across institutions
  • Assess/report results
  • Consider next steps/iterations of project

General Education Summit

Stephen Biscotte standing addressing 6 tables of seated participants

Stephen Biscotte (VT) facilitating the General Education Summit

On Friday, October 6, 2017, representatives from all 4-VA schools came together for the first General Education Summit, held at Virginia Tech. The summit was developed by team leaders from each school, including Meg Mulrooney (JMU), Rachel Most (UVA), Jeanie Kline (ODU), Deborah Noble-Triplett (VCU), Bethany Usher and Janette Muir (GMU), and hosted by Stephen Biscotte (VT). Members of the teams brought expertise related to all things general education, from faculty governance and professional development to enrollment management and budgeting.

The General Education Summit provided an opportunity for general education leaders at each 4-VA institution to share best practices, build relationships, and expand collaborative support for general education across the state. Meg Mulrooney, the associate vice provost for university programs and a professor of history at JMU described the summit as “an important opportunity for us to focus on common solutions to common challenges in the commonwealth.”

4 summit participants listen attentively to another participant during small group discussion

(Left to right) Najla Mouchrek (VT), Carolyn Meier (VT), Melissa Broeckelman-Post (GMU), Bo Odom (UVA), Skip Hyser (JMU)

Attendees reported that the summit challenged many of their assumptions about the practice of general education in the state of Virginia. Melissa Broeckelman-Post, a member of the Mason Core Committee at GMU said, “Our perception is that students transfer from community college to us [GMU], but not among us.… Now we can say almost all of us have X course, and what can we do to make it possible to transfer among ourselves?” Judy Giering, the director of Learning Design and Technology at UVA said, “We saw the innovative practice of curricular integration as an opportunity to challenge faculty’s perception of their teaching.” Other attendees commented that the summit was helpful because they want to know what colleagues around the state are doing but lack the time and resources to conduct that research. Through the summit, attendees heard personal stories regarding the transformation of general education across the state and reviewed information that may be difficult to find on the public-facing areas of our university websites.

Summit participants share best practices and take notes during small group discussion

(Left to right) Jill Sible (VT), Lisa Mayes (ODU), Kathy Clarke (JMU)

The summit also provided attendees with the opportunity “to get some great ideas about how to implement general education that help students navigate the system more easily,” said Jeanie Kline, the academic initiatives executive at ODU. Lisa Mayes, the executive director of the Center for High Impact Practices at ODU added, “It gave us an opportunity to step away from our own institutional focus and hear from our colleagues. We discovered that there are more commonalities with our successes and our challenges.”

Leaders from each institution began the meeting by sharing the current status and structure of general education at each campus including ongoing transformation and future goals. An update was then provided by Paul Smith and Jodi Fisler from the State Commission for Higher Education in Virginia regarding House Bill 1662, Senate Bill 1234, and the latest assessment policy. Discussion around the implications for general education and how input from the summit might inform future implementation ensued. The remainder of the summit was dedicated to facilitating discussion around key topics such as enrollment management, supporting transfer students, and transfer equivalencies. Team leaders anticipate that one of the outcomes of the summit will be the development of a white paper that represents the shared goals, challenges and curricular innovation opportunities of general education across the commonwealth.

Round table discussion on enrollment management with representatives from 5 of the 6 4-VA schools.

Daniela Cigularova (ODU), Stephanie Foster (GMU), Kurt Johnson (JMU), Paul Smith (SCHEV), Gary Costello (VT), Jeanie Kline (ODU)

The general education team at VT summarized the summit by noting, “We’re grateful for all the effort the other institutions made to come together for this event. It feels like the start of something that needs to continue. It was enlightening to see the common issues among the campuses and to see the collaborative desire on everyone’s part to work as one cohesive unit across the commonwealth.”

Open Educational Resources (coming soon)