New technologies have the capacity to transform higher education, but they must be integrated with thoughtful, active learning pedagogy in order to meaningfully advance student success.
Professional Learning Hubs (PLHs) are any variety of college-wide unit that organizes, develops, and supports faculty professional learning activities. Also called a Center for Teaching and Learning, a PLH can function as the core of a college’s efforts to build a culture of excellence in teaching and learning. A PLH can also be a resource for educators to advance digital learning, drawing on the emerging literature on effective practice in this area.
Professional learning centers: hubs of innovation and collaboration
At Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C), professional learning centers have opened individual and institutional doors for new adaptive learning technologies and processes, acting as hubs of innovation and collaboration which have been particularly critical during the past year of change and uncertainty.
Tri-C coordinates professional learning activities through its Centers for Learning Excellence (CLE) and its Leadership, Enrichment and Development (LEAD) program. Each of Tri-C’s four campuses has a CLE, with a mission to provide resources and timely instructional support to enhance teaching and learning across the college.
The CLEs are staffed by instructional designers and technologists, who work in partnership with the LEAD faculty development coordinators and collaborate with faculty and staff to design courses that promote student-centered learning. Each regional center offers faculty instructional design and technology services as well as consultations on innovative teaching approaches.
But Tri-C knew that their professional learning centers could do more for faculty and students. The college participated in Adaptive Courseware for Early Success, an initiative through the Every Learner Everywhere network that focuses on the adoption and implementation of adaptive courseware in gateway courses. Tri-C began its work on the initiative with a vision for its CLEs to become hubs for supporting cross-functional work.
Faculty Learning Community for faculty from across disciplines
As faculty began to redesign their gateway courses using adaptive learning courseware, the CLEs teamed up to create a Faculty Learning Community (FLC) for 20 faculty from art, biology, business, chemistry, economics, math, and psychology.
Meeting monthly, the FLC provided an environment for faculty to understand adaptive learning, review possible courseware options, and work through the implementation process with the support of instructional designers, technologists, and peers. The multidisciplinary team shared a common goal: They wanted to learn how the use of new technologies could support their students’ learning and success.
The FLC explored the benefits and drawbacks of various platforms, compared design approaches, and coordinated common assessments. Each discipline had an assigned instructional designer or instructional technologist. This arrangement promoted collaboration between faculty and designers. Faculty found that they were thinking more intentionally about the design of their course and their expectations for what students would accomplish before and during class time.
The experience also helped CLE staff strengthen their design of faculty professional learning. Before, most of their programs and services had been offered to faculty at specific Tri-C campuses. But this initiative provided an opportunity to experiment with cross-campus programming that brought together faculty from different campuses.
This experience demonstrated that the campus-by-campus approach may have unintentionally contributed to feelings of being siloed. Careful reflection led to meaningful insights, improvement in process, and ultimately an expanded capacity to advance teaching and learning practices that center the student experience.
To learn more about Tri-C’s approach and the work of other ATD Network colleges to advance teaching and learning excellence, explore ATD’s Teaching & Learning Toolkit.