Newswise — Eight innovative faculty projects have been selected for funding for the 2017-2018 school year as part of the Provost’s Digital Learning Fellowship at Northwestern University. The award, sponsored by the Office of the Provost and the Faculty Distance Learning Workgroup, promotes innovation in learning and teaching through the use of educational technology.

These digital and online projects enable faculty to experiment with modern learning technologies while showcasing Northwestern’s excellence in teaching.

Project descriptions follow:

Creating Your Dream Team: Using Teaming Technology to Form Effective Project Design Teams in STEM

  • Noshir Contractor: Professor, Industrial Engineering and Management Sciences, McCormick School of Engineering
  • Leslie DeChurch: Professor, Communication Studies, School of Communication
  • Anup Sawant: Senior Software Developer, McCormick
  • Jacqueline Ng: PhD Candidate, Industrial Engineering and Management Sciences, McCormick

The research team is investigating how to self-assemble Design Thinking and Communication (DTC) teams that are optimally effective according to various criteria such as learning, cohesiveness and final design performance. By using “My Dream Team” (MDT)—a web-based team recommender tool developed by Science of Networks in Communities (SONIC) research group over the past several years with the goal of facilitating the assembly process of project teams—Contractor aims to explain why students select others as team members, and then implement interventions in the team assembly process to modify the recommendations students receive. The goal is to help them select more suitable teammates to facilitate improved learning, project designs and cohesiveness.

Customized and Contextualized Asynchronous Learning

  • Gloria Kim: Clinical Associate Professor, Biomedical Engineering, McCormick

Kim’s project will focus on restructuring, developing, and expanding experiential learning modules for the three-part course series in the biosignals and systems analysis and experimental design that include her courses: Biomedical Signals and Electrical Circuits and Quantitative Experimentation and Design. This project aims to enhance the courses with asynchronous adaptive learning modules in order to: pinpoint student weaknesses and allow students to receive immediate formative feedback. Kim expects the feedback, knowledge, and modules generated from this project will benefit curricula in other areas of engineering and build linkages of concepts to facilitate knowledge transfer and holistic problem solving.

In Pursuit of the Truth: Investigating Wrongful Convictions and other Criminal Justice Issues

  • Alec Klein: Professor, Journalism; Director, Medill Justice Project, Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications
  • Allisha Azlan: Project Coordinator, Administration, Medill
  • Rachel Fobar: Project Coordinator, Administration, Medill
  • Amanda Westrich: Research Associate, Administration, Medill

Drawing on the work of The Medill Justice Project, Klein and his team are developing an ambitious and unique Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) to teach investigative journalism to people all over the globe, empowering citizen journalists to examine potentially wrongful convictions and other miscarriages of justice. The MOOC will be a timely resource for individuals—regardless of their level of journalism experience—who want to equip themselves with the investigative tools needed to examine injustice. From developing sources to learning how to craft in-depth investigative stories and using multimedia, this course aims to provide students with a wealth of free and easily accessible practical resources.

Expanding Student Understanding of Subject Matter through Video Interviews with Experts

  • Candy Lee: Professor, Integrated Marketing Communications, Medill

In her years of teaching her Sports Marketing IMC class, Lee has found it difficult to bring in guest speakers that represent all areas of the business side of sports. To overcome this challenge, Lee plans to record video interviews of a wide array of sports-connected marketing professionals to provide students with a look at the different ways marketing is utilized in the sports industry. By posting the videos to Canvas, Lee is able to flip this segment of the course to allow students greater access to relevant professional perspectives while providing more time for classroom discussion.  

Online Multimedia Supplements for Modern Robotics

  • Kevin Lynch: Department Chair/Professor, Mechanical Engineering, McCormick

Lynch has established himself as an innovator in the teaching of mechatronics and robot manipulation. From publishing online textbooks to filming dozens of videos with the Northwestern Lightboard, Lynch has made asynchronous learning a cornerstone of his teaching. With this project, Lynch plans to build upon his innovations by developing video supplements for his recent free textbook, Modern Robotics, and then integrate his videos into his Mechanical Engineering 449 Robot Manipulation course (as well as a future MOOC installation of the course). Through the use of digital assets, Lynch will be able to advance student learning both at Northwestern and to students around the world.

Working Stories: Chicago Field Studies Audio Interview Project

  • Nina Wieda: Lecturer, Chicago Field Studies, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences
  • Elizabeth McCabe: Lecturer, Chicago Field Studies, Weinberg

Students in the Chicago Field Studies program will record, edit and analyze audio interviews focused on the subject of work and its meaning in peoples’ lives. Their projects will be featured and archived on a new “Working Stories” website. By conducting interviews and creating audio stories on the meaning of work, students will be able to engage dynamically with a range of issues and stories beyond their internship experiences. Students will gain a deeper understanding of the personal, socio-economic and philosophical dimensions of work and by reflecting on what work might mean to them.  

Digital Portfolio Learning Ecosystem

  • Jeff Merrell: Associate Director, Master’s in Learning and Organization Change (MSLOC), School of Education and Social Policy
  • Melinda Turnley, Assistant Director, MSLOC, SESP
  • Michelle Albaugh: Lecturer, MSLOC, SESP
  • Terri Cramer: Assistant Director/Program Advisor, MSLOC, SESP

Building on over five years of curriculum, informal learning and co-curricular integration, the team plans to design a cross-program system to make public digital portfolios a more active element of MSLOC’s approach to teaching and learning. By leveraging multiple components (a central WordPress site designed to aggregate content, a WordPress blog template for individual digital portfolios and the use of supplemental videos and workshops), the system will help graduate students develop valuable competencies including digital literacy, self-directed learning and critical thinking. The project will provide new capabilities to improve the use of digital portfolios for MSLOC degree and certificate programs and for the department’s career services programming.

Putting Theory into Practice: Developing a Blended-Learning Curriculum Model for Northwestern University in Qatar Journalism Residency Students 

  • Andrew Mills: Assistant Professor, Journalism, Northwestern University in Qatar
  • Amy Kristin Sanders: Associate Professor in Residence, NU-Q
  • Shakir Hussain: User Support Specialist, NU-Q

The team will develop an interactive multimedia case study module for use in pilots of two new blended-learning courses for NU-Q’s journalism curriculum: Ethics for Media Professionals and Leadership for Media Professionals. These courses will employ multiple forms of media to tell the story behind a news story’s production, offering valuable insight into the complex workflows, multiple perspectives and tight deadline pressures that go into making decisions at a media organization. Mills, Sanders, and Hussain have designed their courses to foster strong connections between conceptual learning in the classroom and professional practice that students gain through Northwestern’s Journalism/Strategic Communication Residency program.