First Post as a Professor


This is my first post as a Professor of Higher Education in William and Mary’s School of Education. This semester marked the end of a 30 year career as a college administrator and the end of my first full week in my new appointment as a full-time instructional faculty member.

For the last couple of years, I’ve existed on a diet almost exclusively of e-learning — first as Interim Director of University E-Learning Initiatives — then permanently in that position. I’m actually still excited by the enormous potential of Coursera, EdX, and the other innovators in that space. (Online stats courses explain regression equations more clearly than I ever have.)  But I believe that really understanding e-learning demands understanding **learning** in all its richness, and it’s been hard in recent years to find the cycles to process the change we’ve been experiencing.

Defining Learning

I used to torture the participants in my adult education classes by locking them in a room for an entire class session with the task of defining “learning.” (I didn’t really lock them in, but they did end up working pretty much the entire three hours.) The white board they filled with definitions just scratched the surface of the richness of that evening’s discussion.

Some of the definitions were cognitive, behavioral, or skill-based; a fair number represented the types of changes that could only be assessed and appreciated by the learner. Some of the stories we told about our own learning captured the transcendent or transformational. We left that room in awe of the complexity of humans and a sense of humility about about abilities our as “educators” to “manage” the process. (Carl Rogers would have been impressed with the work we did on those evenings.)

I’m hoping that my new position will allow me  to work on understanding e-learning while reconnecting with my past work on self-directed learning and continuing professional education . I’ll be teaching a full schedule of classes — including a sequence of online and blended courses for a new certificate we’re offering for graduate students and practicing college faculty.  Right now I’m working on finalizing the syllabi and learning activities for three one-credit courses:  Course Design, Learning Strategies and Technology Enhanced Learning.

In addition, I’m working on several core classes for our EdD programs.  One of our goals in the School of Education is to clarify the differences between the EdD degree as focused on practice and the PhD as a degree for scholars and professors. The two courses I’m actively teaching or developing are in Data-Driven Decision-Making and Action Research.

One of my personal goals for this semester is participate in the Connected Courses initiative and to use this forum to reconnect with some of the folks who have helped shape my thinking over the years. I’m going to publish this post with the tag and category of Connected-Course to have a forum to get in the game.