Tag Archives: collaboration

Sidewalks, Student Traffic, and Data

Dr. Z
A few nights ago, I was chatting with Robert W and he pointed out that “At the University of Florida, they wanted to pave walkways. So they built the buildings but no walkways.  After a few years they paved the areas where the grass had been worn down by students walking. It made for some nice strolling walkways.”

He sent me over to Troy University’s website.  Apparently, Frank Lloyd Wright had taken the same approach in designing that campus.

It struck me that all too often colleges spend a fortune building the sidewalks and then doing everything they can to move traffic.  Instead of just taking the time to see where the students are, chairs, deans, VPIs, and presidents start cutting down trees and pouring concrete where they think students should be. (Class schedules come to mind.)

It strikes me that the current fascination with data follows this same pattern.  Administrators are looking for data where it should be rather than where the students have trodden down the grass.  Like the laser straight sidewalks leading from the parking garage to academic buildings, data collected this way seems artificial and forced, telling the collectors what they expected to see rather than what they could have seen.

One of the reasons The Suburban Prof and I started this site was to garner ideas from outside the armor clad, ivory silos of academia.  The irony didn’t escape me that it took someone from outside of the silo to remind me of a lesson academia had learned long ago.

(Sooner or later someone will spot the muddy path–hopefully sooner than later.  I have ruined two pairs of shoes with all of the recent rain.)

Coattailing: How Not to Spill the Gravy Train

The Suburban Prof and I were sitting in a collaborative space tackling a wide variety of jobs this morning (everything from lesson plans to filling coffee reservoirs) when I saw an email come through from our data collection dude.

The Suburban Prof had stepped in and wrapped up a nasty little job that I had been covertly ignoring.  Embarrassed, I took time from Monument Valley and organizing K-Cups to thank him for letting me coattail on that one.  We laughed and began discussing effective coattailing and how not to upset the gravy train.

Over the last few months, both of us have had our coattails muddied (to mix metaphors) by a wide range of passengers.  Some we didn’t notice.  Some we didn’t mind.  Some we could not mind or notice.  But some, some seemed an additional wait, an added cumbrance, and finally something almost insidious.

The question was a nice distraction.  But it is a professional discussion that is never really addressed.  What constitutes collaborative coattailing?

Dr. Z

League for Innovations 2015, Day 4

Some Closing Thoughts

As I begin thinking about shuttles and flights home and reconciling charges, I notice small things out of the corner of my eye–things that should appeal to The Suburban Professor and his sociological leanings

The social stratification is clear.  The presidents and vps in their well tailored suits are easy to spot, as they adopt various strategies to maintain buffers–mobile phone calls, eyes fixed to the distance, quick glances at name tags.

Of course there are the exceptions, which make the pattern all the more clear.  The president from one of our campuses stopped a small group of faculty to chat and laugh outside of the gift shop.  Even her dress reflects her approach: a down vest and slacks instead of the ubiquitous severe navy, black, grey business suit adopted by women in admin.

The faculty are easy to spot–whether they are wearing a pair of heavy informal khakis or dressed in a neat tweed or rocking a pair of Crocs over colorful wool socks, they are a group.  Something about the persona they adopt reflects their independence, an independence that offers as many pitfalls as it does pay outs.

The silos, though, that I have heard discussed are not limited to disciplines, departments, or divisions.  The silos include our academics, admin, faculty, and staff.

I remember how hard Dr. Totten, my old old old Thomist prof battled the notion of compartmentalizing.  Perhaps I am homesick and snarky.  Tired of weighing whether I can sneak that donut charge past my wife’s eagle eye.  But the compartments, the silos, stand out.   And they trouble me.

League for Innovations 2015, Day 3

Civitas, Part 2

Needed dinner before posting the follow up.  If you are in Boston and if you like burgers, you have to visit 5 Napkins Burgers.

Back to the topic.

The talk shifted to targeting students during heavy registration.  The insight based on data is an adage among experienced chairs: late registrations have higher attrition rates.

The question remains, though.  What other information could you gather on these later registration students to increase success?  Gather is not the right word.  According to everyone, it is there: we have it.

Instead of dropping these late arrivals into one of two bucket, look at them as individuals to shape schedules (class times, class meetings, and instructors) and courses.  We have the information to tailor our courses, our curriculum, to meet the specific needs of specific students in real time.

The Civitas rep listed the broad ranging data sources available to the company and the college. He shifted back to risk information and actionable information–identifying various actions that can be based on the data. Again, though, the ‘outreach strategies’ he listed as examples are all after the fact.  They are not preemptive strikes.

And of course in steps Valencia-“anyone can learn anything.”  “You shift the conversation to the conditions of learning.” There it is.  Valencia has created a culture of innovation that calls for encourages participation in all levels of the college.


League for Innovations 2015

Simone, Michele and I just finished our presentation for League for Innovation.  Twitter #INNMA

Funny thing, I seem to learn more talking with my colleagues than sitting in on formal sessions.  Planning our presentation, we came to some insights on how campus dynamics have supported and undermined our push for innovation, for collaboration.  I like to tell myself that I am above such concerns–worrying about how others see me–however, I am growing more aware (in my early 50s) of how important buy in may be for these projects.  How people see me is tied to how they see my project.  This is something I learned long ago about teaching.

And now, we are sitting in a session on social justice in an online classroom.  In three minutes, a presenter just showed an effective tool: http://www.twiddla.com/.  A program or website that opens a whole new level of collaboration.  His tone, his word choice, and his demeanor call for engagement–he is relying on our participation.   His background is early childhood.  However, his strategies would benefit everything from credit classes to departmental meetings.