Monthly Archives: November 2013

ePortfolios

When we started the Lane Honors Program, then Vice President Sonya Christian had the program pilot student ePortfolios before ePortfolios were rolled out across the college. Each honors student is required to build and continue working with an ePortfolio while in the program. The ePortfolios were intended to showcase the students’ work, thereby acting as additional tiers to their transcripts and resumes; however, we also found other benefits. Several colleagues across campus who had already been researching ePortfolios formed a think tank, and we began to see that ePortfolios had a lot to offer pedagogically.

To augment the think tank’s work, Anne McGrail, Katie Morrison-Graham, Eileen Thompson, and I applied for, and received, Research and Development funds. We also asked Sarah Lushia and Eileen Thompson to be the leads on ePortfolios. They are each building their own portfolios and are teaching students in their honors WR 121_H and WR 122_H classes how to build portfolios, as well. We used the R & D funds to send Sarah and Eileen to the AAEEBL conference in Boston. They returned with a wealth of evidence that ePortfolios are an effective pedagogical tool that is especially useful for teaching critical thinking, one of Lane’s Core Learning Outcomes (CLOs):

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Sarah and Eileen also explained that best practice for using ePortfolios in the classroom is for faculty to build and use ePortfolios themselves. I admit I came to this idea somewhat reluctantly if only because I couldn’t imagine finding the time to work on an ePortfolio. With technological assistance from Kevin Steeves and Jen Klaudinyi, however, I did begin building an ePortfolio:

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I found that it was useful for me to think through the ways my various interests and projects intersect. I have also been teaching students in the honors seminars to build portfolios and to use them for critical thinking. This winter will be the first time that I’ll use my own portfolio as part of the instruction in the honors seminars. I’ll be writing about that experience and about the Honors Program’s work to encourage honors faculty to incorporate ePortfolios into their teaching in future posts. In the meantime, I’m including the link to my ePortfolio. It is filled with empty pages and pages with little or no reflection, and while I realize that this is not the recommended way to share one’s portfolio, I’m willing to take the risk. It’s my hope that my learning curves for building an ePortfolio, teaching using ePortfolios, and helping administer a program that requires ePortfolios will progress along parallel paths and reflect related moments of learning best made visible by sharing the entire process.

A2-B-C Film Screening

Last night, the Honors Program sponsored a screening of the new, award-winning documentary, A2-B-C  (huge thanks to Dean Middleton for handling the technological side of this event). The film focuses on the growing numbers of thyroid tumors appearing in children exposed to radiation after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in March 2011. The event drew members from the campus and Eugene communities.

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Honors student, Lonnie Clark (right), talks with honors instructor, Eileen Thompson (left), before the screening. Lonnie has already been very involved with raising awareness about the situation in Fukushima.

After the screening, event organizer and honors instructor Sarah Lushia, and art faculty Satoko Motouji, set up a Skype question/answer session with the film’s director, Ian Thomas Ash. For half an hour students and community members asked Ash about the current situation in Fukushima and his experience making the documentary.

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Satoko (left) and Sarah (right) during the Skype session.

For more information about this film and Ash’s work, see Sarah’s interview with Ash on the Honors Program website as well as Ash’s blog, his website, and his YouTube channel.

After the Skype session, attendees also had a chance to film messages of support to the families in the film. Ash is collecting these messages from screenings of the film all over the world. He will edit them and give them to the families he follows in the documentary. We were also able to write notes to Ash on index cards that Sarah will send to him.

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Sarah talking with Sandy Brown Jensen before Sandy filmed our messages to the families.

The evening’s event reinforced for me that an honors program has a responsibility not only to provide educational opportunities outside of the classroom, but to make these opportunities available to the larger campus and city communities. These events become loci for engaged discourse among students, faculty, staff, and community members, and they are one of many ways that honors programs give back to their communities.

NCHC Two-Year College Committee and American Honors

There were several sessions at the NCHC Conference this year that dealt with issues faced by honors programs at two-year colleges. In fact, one session was titled “Two-Year College Issues.” In addition to the different sessions, there was also the annual meeting of the Two-Year College Committee. One of the topics addressed in this meeting was American Honors (AH). This program is a for-profit organization that works in conjunction with two-year colleges to offer services that the colleges can’t or don’t offer through their honors programs. The debate about the AH was very heated last year and, while somewhat less heated this year, still made it clear that there is no unanimous decision on whether AH is beneficial or detrimental to honors education.

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Two-Year College Committee Co-Chair Elaine Torda and outgoing NCHC President Rick Scott at the meeting. Rick Scott shares the NCHC Board of Directors’ statement regarding American Honors.

Several people voiced their concern about schools spending money on AH that could be spent on their own honors programs. Others expressed a vehement opposition to for-profit education in any form. Some honors program directors, however, explained that AH allowed them to offer opportunities across multi-campus colleges that they simply could not otherwise offer. Still other directors said that they were in conversation with AH and were undecided about whether or not to partner with them.

When I first looked into AH, there was little information available on their website, and it was difficult to determine what exactly they could offer. More information is available now, and the two representatives from AH who attended the meeting emphasized that their goal was to provide whatever individual two-year college honors programs needed. They also stressed that there were programs that didn’t need them at all.

While the NCHC’s Board of Directors could not legally advise honors programs to avoid or accept partnering with AH, it did issue a statement: colleges considering partnering with AH needed to involve the director of their honors program in the discussions.

I am still undecided about this organization, but I plan to watch how well it works for those two-year college honors programs who do partner with it. The current version of AH would not benefit Lane’s Honors Program, but I’m still interested to see how AH develops and to think more about the impact it could have on honors education.

Honors Seminars Panel at NCHC

This morning I participated on a panel discussing honors seminars for two-year colleges. Each of us described the seminars offered by our schools and considered the pros and cons of these approaches.

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Preparing for the panel with (from left) Al Golden, Patricia Jones, and Erik Ozolins

The following are brief overviews of the presentations:

Al Golden (Joliet Junior College in Illinois) explained that their seminars are listed as forums. These optional seminars are designed to work with and around the many things two-year college students negotiate in addition to coursework (families, jobs, etc.). They range from an initial orientation in August to a wide range of field trips held at different times and days during the semester to make them accessible more students. Families are welcome and the school covers much of the cost of the trips.

Patricia Jones (Polk State College in Florida) described her program’s 1-credit seminars. They offer three different seminars each term. They run sequentially for five weeks each and are one credit. Students can take any or all of the seminars. Many students in her program join in their second year at the college, and she explained that the seminars not only provide fun, intellectual content. They also make it possible for students to earn the required 18 credits to complete the program even if they start later in their time at the school.

Erik Ozolins (Mt. San Jacinto College in California) presented information on the 3-credit seminars that are divided into three categories: science, social science, and humanities. They are interdisciplinary, once-a-week classes that are only open to students in the program. They are also the only honors-only classes at the college. Half of each session is a lecture by the instructor of record or often a lecture from another faculty member on campus. The second half of the class is small group discussion.

The panel presentations concluded with my description of Lane’s seminar sequence that I’ve discussed in an earlier post. Our sequence of two 4-credit seminars is open only to honors students and focuses on research. Invitation to Inquiry emphasizes thinking critically about the research process and involves individual research projects. Honors Capstone Seminar focuses on group research projects and culminates in a student-led symposium where the students present their research findings and invite experts in the field to participate.

Listening to the different presentations and the questions posed by audience members reinforced for me the need to tailor honors seminars to the needs of the specific college and its students. Each of my colleagues had clearly thought through what was needed at their institutions and what would best benefit their students. We were also reminded by our various challenges and successes that these classes are works in progress that benefit from continual review, and there were elements from each seminar structure – field trips, working with students who don’t have the full two years to complete the program, and guest lectures – that I think we could incorporate, or already do incorporate, into Lane’s seminars.

Honors Advising Panel at NCHC

I’ve just returned from an excellent panel at the NCHC Conference. “Conflicts and Solutions in Community College Honors Advising” was divided into two parts. The first half of the session focused on advising from an honors advisor’s perspective. The second half focused on advising from honors students’ perspectives.

Kathleen King (Hillsborough College, Florida) gave an informative and very helpful presentation that covered ten issues addressed through honors advising. These issues include completing the required coursework (HCC’s program requires full-time honors students to take a minimum of two honors classes per term and part-time students to take at least one honors class per term), choosing a transfer school (broadening their perspective to include select universities around the country), and making sure they are prepared to successfully transfer in 2 to 2-1/2 years (fulfilling the pre-reqs for the programs and schools they are considering).

King emphasized the importance of having a dedicated honors advisor to ensure persistence and completion. The advisor needs to work with the students throughout their time in the honors program. In fact, HCC honors students are required to meet with Kathleen once per term, and they cannot register for honors classes without having met with her. If they enroll in an honors class without meeting with her, they are purged from the class list at the start of the term. She advises 250-300 students and is their only advisor, addressing both their honors needs and their general college needs.

After Kathleen King’s presentation, a panel comprised of four students (LaGuardia College, New York) described their college’s Honors Student Advisory Committee. This panel was exceptional both for the professionalism of the presentations and for the work that HSAC performs on behalf of other students at the college. While the honors program has been in existence for more than 20 years, HSAC was created in 2010 to make sure that students realized they could choose from excellent colleges all over the country. They cited the NY Times article, “Better Colleges Failing to Lure the Talented Poor” as incentive.

The four presenters (Vincent Sanchez, Edward Joseph, Raven Gomez, and Ronald Moore) described in excellent presentations and an engaging shared Prezi their organization’s website, year-round workshops, and transfer guide.

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(from left: Raven Gomez, Vincent Sanchez, Edward Joseph, Ronald Moore — many thanks to the students for written permission to share the photo on this blog)

They emphasized the importance of alumni, noting that alumni offer first-hand experience, they return to campus for an alumni fishbowl, and they also share syllabi from their 4-year schools so that students can see what the actual course load is like.

This group is incredibly organized. It has an office where students can come by and review the transfer guide, and the 15 members hold regular office hours. They have also arranged college campus trips so that students can see first-hand some of their options.

The panel was joined by other members of HSAC and their Honors Program Director, Karlyn Koh. For more on LaGuardia’s Honors Student Advisory Committee, find them on Facebook, visit their website, or email them at honorsprog@gmail.com.

NCHC Conference 2013

Katie Morrison-Graham and I are heading out this morning for the National Collegiate Honors Council’s annual conference. For the next few days, I’ll be immersed in discussions about honors education, including participating on a panel focused on honors seminars at two-year colleges and meetings with the Assessment & Evaluation and Two-Year College committees. I’ll post more on these events during the week, but in the meantime I invite questions or areas of interest I can report back on after the conference.

Community Events

Our program regularly invites the honors students to attend campus and community events, and we ask students to try to attend at least one per term. We recognize how much learning takes place outside of the classroom, and we also want to enrich our students’ college experience as much as possible. Events range from lectures to the upcoming screening of the award-winning documentary, A2-B-C, about the Fukushima nuclear disaster (more on that in a later post) to art talks and art exhibits. For instance, last year we attended art talks by J.S. Bird and Julie Green. We recently heard Lane art faculty members, Kathleen Caprario and Gabriella Soraci, discuss their current exhibit, Constructed Dreams, at the LCC Art Gallery. Kathleen also teaches our honors Basic Design class.

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Kathleen Caprario (left) and Gabriella Soraci (right)

These kinds of activities are, as Theresa A. James suggests, “an important means of creating close ties among the participants of the honors program and between the honors program and the community” (A Handbook for Honors Programs at Two-Year Colleges, 62). They also expand students’ awareness of the many opportunities available to them and encourage students to seek out these experiences on their own or with their peers. Realizing that these events are vital aspects of the college experience not only impacts students’ time at a community college. It increases their chances of seeking out these kinds of opportunities on university campuses when they transfer.

There are challenges, of course, to getting students to attend the events, especially at a two-year college commuter campus. Students don’t live on or near campus, and many of them commute by bus. They are also balancing jobs, families, and other commitments, which makes attending events more difficult. Turnout at off-campus venues has been low so far. On-campus events have been more successful because they are held at different times, allowing students to select the events that fit their schedules. In the upcoming year, we’ll work toward increasing the number of these opportunities so that students will find it easier to participate in at least one per term.