More Connected Learning @ VCU

My last two posts have highlighted connected learning opportunities offered through VCU. In the first post, I showcased courses taught by VCU faculty members with whom we’ve worked closely to design and develop their courses. The second post was about an online faculty development experience that we are facilitating ourselves. All of those are models of our commitment to “Connected Learning for a Networked World.”

Tonight, I’m proud to announce three additional courses that begin tomorrow and that are also framed through connected learning. According to Laura Gogia, our amazing doctoral fellow, connected learning is “…a learning philosophy that supports experiential, integrative, interdisciplinary and social learning in the context of networked, digital learning environments.  Connected Learning privileges the act of making connections – connections between people, resources, and people and resources – in the process of learning and the production of knowledge.” With that in mind, here are three undergrad-level connected learning courses taught BY ALT Lab faculty members.

Complimentary and Alternative Medicine: Health, Hype, or Hocus Pocus?

Lisa Phipps is not just an online learning innovation liaison in ALT Lab, she’s a real deal pharmacist. She has about 17 different doctorates in pharmacy, and has taught about complimentary and alternative medicine (CAM) to pharmacy students and other health sciences students. At some point, we decided that it would be really cool for Lisa to create a course about the topic, but aimed at the general student body. When discussing the course with Lisa, I said to her something like, “Imagine I’m taking a trip to GNC or some other health store. Could you design a course that would help me make sense of that experience?” So, here we are. It should be really interesting to follow along with this openly-networked course since CAM is such a contested terrain. If all goes to hell well, there should be some interesting teachable moments throughout this course.


Seeing your Thoughts: Clear Thinking for Visible Learning

Yin Wah Kreher is a Learning Innovation Design Specialist in ALT Lab, and per her ALT Lab website bio, “a multifaceted boundary crosser and a quadrilingual thinkaholic.” She thinks deeply about many things and is offering this course to help students think more clearly. Per the course website, Yin hopes “…that as a result of this course, you will cultivate thinking skills and dispositions that will help you to think more clearly and learn more powerfully for yourself across all your courses.” In other words, I kinda wish all students could take this course. In my mind, it could be a great foundation for a larger program of connected learning experiences.


Sociology 101

David Croteau was a faculty member in the sociology program at VCU many eons ago, before leaving to work in the (*cough*) publishing industry. He came back to VCU to work with the sociology program, but as an online learning innovation liaison in ALT Lab. Point is, dude is a legit sociologist ((unlike Tom Woodward who is just a wannabe sociologist)). He taught Sociology 101 online last summer, and he’s designed it to be even better this summer. Interestingly, he had 40 students last summer but capped the course at 30 this semester. We continue to explore how these sorts of experiences scale, so we’ll be monitoring David’s pulse throughout the summer to see if he feels a difference between 40 and 30 students. That’s of interest to us; hopefully what’s of interest to you is both the design and substance of the course.


So, there you have it. We’re trying to practice what we preach about connected learning. Have at it! Follow along. Learn with our undergraduates. Participate in full or in part. Connect!



6 thoughts on “More Connected Learning @ VCU”

  1. This is great to see connected learning put into practice; the theory alone can get tedious (for some people, I have been told!).

    A question I have not really been able to work through and would love to see how this has been navigated — how can requiring public blogging as a focus of the course fit with FERPA? I have had resistance in this regard, so am wondering how you were able to address that topic of learning in public being a potentially challenging place or requirement? Thanks in advance!

  2. Man, we couldn’t even make it 24 hours without the FERPA siren going off…

    First, let me say that there’s an argument to be made that FERPA doesn’t even apply. I won’t make that argument here. What I will offer, though, is a summary of a conversation we’ve had with our university counsel. Basically, (1) We can always offer the student the ability to blog, tweet, Vine, etc. pseudonomously. As long as the instructor is able to track the student’s participation, and/or (2) As long as students are aware ahead of time of what’s expected, AND there’s a non-public facing section of the course, we can always counsel them into those sections. So, in the latter case, the student is effectively consenting to this form of participation with notice. It’s no different, then, than the student who decides to major in Dance and is expected to do a public recital as part of his/her degree program.

  3. Jon, this is quite helpful; thanks for your thoughts on this one. There is another issue that may be there that you are not highlighting, is that this seems to be a group (department? program?) effort. Perhaps a more unified approach may be helpful, so those of us who do not have broader support may still find this challenging. However, your reply is most useful for some of the ways you approached it. I can imagine this being used by others to try to justify their own open teaching initiatives. Thank you.

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