Advanced Greek and Latin in a Limited, Personalized Online Setting

Ryan Fowler, Center for Hellenic Studies

This panel is about one way of adapting undergraduate courses in response to the changes brought about by the application of technical advances of the Internet as a medium of communication in higher education. In this paper, I would like to suggest why this adaptation is important for higher education, what advantages it might offer classics departments, and how one particular model of online hybrid courses has taken shape over the last two decades as a result of the Sunoikisis project.

I will not provide a full history of all of the educational technologies that have emerged over the last century or so to reach (larger) audiences beyond the classroom and lecture hall, for example, the advent of correspondence courses in the 1890s and courses offered via radio broadcasts in the 1920s. However, I will try to illustrate, very briefly in a timeline, the most recent developments in the evolution of massive online open courses (MOOCs), with the goal of providing some sense of the impact the phenomenon is having.

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So, let us first note that:

  • In the fall of 2011 Stanford University launches three courses: CS145: Introduction to Databases offered by Jennifer Widom; CS221: Introduction to Artificial Intelligence, offered by Sebastian Thrun; and CS229: Machine Learning, offered by Andrew Ng. Thrun’s course attracted over 160,000 followers, Ng’s more than 100,000, and Widom’s a mere 60,000.[ref]http://wp.sigmod.org/?p=165[/ref]
  • On December 19, 2011, MIT announces the development of MITx an “interactive online learning platform” that would give “students access to online laboratories, self-assessments and student-to-student discussions.” [ref]http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/19/education/mit-expands-free-online-courses-offering-certificates.html[/ref] MITx offers its first course, 6.002x: Circuits and Electronics from March 5 to June 8, 2012. [ref] https://6002x.mitx.mit.edu/[/ref]
  • On January 23, 2012, at the Digital Life Design conference in Munich, Thrun presents on “University 2.0” and announces the formation of Udacity. [ref] http://new.livestream.com/accounts/50648/events/698/videos/112950[/ref] It launches two courses four weeks later on February 20: CS 101: Building a Search Engine, offered by David Evans from UVA, and “CS 373: Programming a Robotic Car,” offered by Thrun.
  • On Wednesday, April 18, Ng and his colleague from Stanford, Daphne Koller, a long-time proponent of flipped classrooms, announce the formation of Coursera with $16 million in venture capital and four University partners: Stanford, the University of Michigan, the University of Pennsylvania, and Princeton.[ref]http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/18/technology/coursera-plans-to-announce-university-partners-for-online-classes.html[/ref]
  • On Wednesday, May 2, 2012, Harvard and MIT announce the formation of a non-profit venture, edX, to offer free on-line courses.
  • On January 15, 2013, Udacity announces an agreement with San Jose State University to offer three courses, Math 6L: Entry-Level Mathematics, Math 8: College Algebra, and Stat 95: Elementary Statistics, “at an affordable tuition rate and for college credit.” [ref] http://blog.udacity.com/2013/01/sebastian-thrun-udacity-announces-for.html[/ref]

[As an aside, it was around this time when the President of Northeastern University went as far as to suggest in a Chronicle of Higher Education piece on December 17th, 2012 that “with the advent of the MOOCs, we’re witnessing the end of higher education as we know it.”]

  • In May of 2013, Udacity announces the first entirely MOOC-based master’s degree in computer science through George Institute of Technology. The program will get underway in January 2014 and will cost $132 per credit hour, which is less than thirty percent of the $472 per credit hour for the on-campus program.

New MOOCs, new applications, developments, news, reviews, opinions about MOOCs, and, most recently, studies about MOOCs, now appear nearly every day. Whatever our perspectives on them or our roles in the MOOC universe (student, teacher, content manager, respondent, reader, programmer, administrator, Board of Trustees member), it is clear that these types of courses represent the latest manifestation of technologies and social trends that are disrupting education at all levels. They have come at a time, however, when other factors both outside and within higher education are magnifying their impact. Though a number of these are all too clear based on our experience in our respective institutions, just to name a few, we are facing:

  • Economic concerns (recession, costs of higher education, levels of student debt, the eminent eclipse of the United States as the world’s largest economy)
  • Demographic concerns (declining college-age population in the US [the passing of the “boomlet”] which has increased competitive pressures among colleges and universities, the exploding demand for higher education in other areas of the world)
  • Scientific concerns (new, specialized fields of study, i.e., neuroscience, genomics, informatics)
  • Political concerns (debates over [or loss of] state funding for higher education, issues of accreditation and credit allocation, vocational skill development and certification)

and

  • Ideological concerns (social conservatives have challenged assumptions about the need for “elitist” higher education and the role liberal institutions play in promoting social trends; as well as general concerns tied to all of these regarding the social, economic, and ideological separation regarding the haves and the have-nots and how that plays out in higher education)

Thus far, I have tried to introduce the subject of the impact of MOOCs as a symptom of a much larger transformation in higher education. What we all might be able agree upon is that change in higher education is upon us, and this raises a number of questions:

  1. Do we really need to change?
  2. If so, what do we have to change, i.e., are there some things that we should retain while changing others?
  3. How do we change what really needs changing?

I might call this the “Do we really need change?” section:

In order to transition to this subject I would like to refer to the ideas of Clay Christensen, a professor of business administration at Harvard, and Michael Horn, the executive director for education at the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, as discussed in their article, “Innovative Imperative: Change Everything.”[ref]http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/03/education/edlife/online-education-as-an-agent-of-transformation.html?_r=0[/ref] In that piece, they discuss a possible future in which, for example, the Minerva Project, a start-up headquartered in San Francisco that aims to provide an affordable liberal arts education, creates a new type of residential educational community. To serve its students, most of whom they anticipate will be from outside of the United States, it will enlist operators to create mini-campuses around the globe where clusters of its students will live and socialize together in residence halls, while taking online courses and working together on projects. This would resemble, but be provided as an alternative to, the current residential liberal arts college model, and it could be operated at a fraction of the cost currently involved with providing even a ‘mediocre’ bachelors degree at a brick-and-mortar institution.

With this unbundling of the various elements of the current model of higher education, many more students could have the ability to create a type of residential experience for themselves. Some students might take courses online and then, to develop their skills, attend learning spaces like Dev Bootcamp in Chicago and San Francisco, or one of General Assembly’s eight locations around the world, while others may just value the flexibility and convenience of a total online learning experience.

Christensen argues that the reason larger, successful corporations are vulnerable is because they do not pay attention to markets served by lower-cost, less technologically sophisticated providers. Car companies are a great example: while the Big Three were busy building big cars with higher margins of profit, Toyota and Honda came along and built “death traps,” that catered to entry-level car buyers. Then Toyota and Honda could take over the car-making world by building cars in the Acura and Lexus lines (and along come Hyundai and Kia, and so on). This observation can be extended to the larger and more monolithic of our institutes of higher learning. In other words, this is where I might note that in a recent Common Hour at Franklin and Marshall College last month, John Sygielski—the president of Harrisburg Area Community College—mentioned that his institution’s modest listing in iTunes U (which is listed just after NYU’s), had just received its one billionth hit. What I might note here is that we typically pay no attention to what is happening in that particular area of higher education because classics, for the most part, has virtually no presence in a sector that enrolls 44 percent of all college students in the United States: the 1166 Community, County, and Junior colleges in the US.

Now, most of us would not embrace Christensen’s imperative to change, as he puts it, “everything.” Some of us will be able to continue doing what we have done for years perhaps with only minimal accommodation to the new educational environment. But, most won’t. To that end, I would like to focus on the core mission of the Sunoikisis initiative, and how can we adapt what we do to fulfill that mission within the emerging technological and social environment.

That said, I want to be clear from the onset that my view is far from panic-driven with regard to the use of technology in the classroom, nor am I interested in harshly judging the MOOC model in general. Rather, my view—and I might say our view in this project—is that every use of technology should be looked at based on its effectiveness as related to a defined goal. For example, there are subjects in which a purely online MOOC platform is highly effective (in computer programming or AI); however, for other types of courses, such as those in the Humanities, the issue gets more complicated, specifically regarding high-touch subjects of instruction like expository writing or poetry, or classics. That is why in my transition from discussing the big social and technological trends in higher education to discussing applications of technology in the classroom, I would like to briefly mention, first, the MOOC “textbook” phenomenon and, second, the educational mission and an approach through the idea of ēducō.

Much of what I have said has been meant as background to the impact of technology on higher education, but a number of these discussions can made easier, in my opinion, if we differentiate between offering a course and offering course content. If we look at a number of these large MOOC offerings as methods of content delivery, then they look very much like a type of multimedia textbook, and the introduction of textbooks neither put professors out of work nor did it, of course, lower the cost of education. So, what the introduction of online technology has helped develop is the opportunity of ‘flipping’ the classroom, which is something that we hear a lot about, but rarely see clearly defined.

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To ‘flip a classroom’ is a form of so-called blended learning in which students learn new content online by watching video lectures outside the classroom, often at home, and so what used to be assigned as homework (problem sets, written-out translations, and the like) is now done—or corrected—in class. As a result, the teacher, instead of lecturing during class-time, can offer more personalized interaction with students than straight lecturing would allow. This method is also known as a ‘backwards classroom,’ ‘reverse instruction,’ ‘flipping the classroom’ and ‘reverse teaching.’ (Here I might refer to Daphne Koller [also the founder of Coursera], who lays out the fundamentals for this type of model in her discussion of the courses offered at Stanford in the fall of 2011 in an article that appeared in the NYT toward the end of that fall term.[ref]http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/06/science/daphne-koller-technology-as-a-passport-to-personalized-education.html[/ref])

One additional advantage of this model is that it provides one answer to the phenomenon (and problem) in some of the more technologically-driven disciplines in which printed textbooks drastically lag behind the transition to online information—and do so for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is what Koller describes as the dysfunctional publishing industry.
Second on my list is the concept behind the “leading out” root of ēducō, specifically regarding the differentiation between the delivery of content and students’ building knowledge through accessing information, engaging with the material (often through problem solving), and applying their knowledge in ways that enable us to assess their progress, alongside an opportunity to do all of this while closely engaging with instructors. So, with regard to the MOOC model, the difference between offering content and offering a course also becomes clear when looked from the point of view of personal engagement, and individualized feedback or guidance (though there are some notable exceptions to this).

A important current alternative to the ēducō model is the newer, very publicized, competency-based approach to higher education, as proposed in particular by President Obama (and a number of ‘education specialists’), which has been advanced as the solution to the problems in higher education of physical space, the current—and astonishing—student debt, and rising tuition (alongside diminishing endowments).

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Competency-based degree attainment has the capability to eliminate or at least diminish the mediating role of teachers in their role of providing feedback and guidance, not to mention the relationship of instructor enthusiasm and the level of interest of undergraduates in humanities courses.

As I have mentioned, this paper and the rest of the panel concerns the Sunoikisis initiative, a particular model for the use of online technology in the form of hybrid models of course creation, development, and implementation. And, importantly, it has been developing and growing as a project for twenty years as of 2015, as headed by our respondent, Kenny Morrell. This is the moment in which I am to stress the collaborative nature of this enterprise. While Professor Morrell orchestrated the project for several years, so did Hal Haskell, Anne Leen from Furman, and Miriam Carlisle from Washington and Lee, all of whom are classicists. In addition, there was important technical support from the ACS Technology Center, in particular, Susan Bonefas, Rebecca Davis, and Deena Berg, all of whom were also classicists. Some of these people put a huge amount on the line—both personally and professionally—at various critical junctures. So, I am to refer to Kenny Morrell as just one of the number of people who has worked in the project over the years.

If we allow for a reasonable division of the three major types of course offering with regard to current classroom models: face-to-face classrooms, MOOCs, and hybrid models (of varying types), hybrid models of course offerings are starting to be thought of as taking the best of both of the other two models: adding value to face-to-face meetings by incorporating aspects of online education.

For example, I would turn your attention to a recent preliminary report from Ithaka S+R, written by Rebecca Griffiths (their program director for online learning) that came out a few months ago now, which promises to be the largest study of outcomes from face-to-face, MOOC, and hybrid courses to date.[ref]http://www.sr.ithaka.org/blog-individual/moocs-classroom[/ref] In that study, they have found that hybrid courses in general aim to address both the shortcomings of face-to-face courses and wholly online courses. With flipped courses in a face-to-face setting, for example, posting lectures online typically requires more flexibility than pure lecture-based courses provide (either online or face-to-face). Alternatively, with online-only courses, studies show that some students—especially those most academically at risk—fare worse in terms of completion and outcomes, and that the gap between these students and other more self-guided students actually expands in an online-only environment.[ref]http://valleywag.gawker.com/surprise-no-one-graduates-from-internet-schools-1481133298[/ref] As a result of these research-based findings, we are beginning to understand that what is currently called machine-guided learning, while potentially very valuable for certain applications, can only take students so far, and that the involvement of teachers with personal knowledge of students is critical for the successful application of these tools. In short, the preliminary evidence from the Ithaka S+R report suggests that models that combine the best of the two other course offerings—the advantages of online formats that themselves combine flexibility, efficiencies, and multiple feedback-loops, with the type of instructional scaffolding and personal encouragement provided by face-to-face instruction—produce the best outcomes.

While the initial—very positive—results of the MOOC phenomenon are symptomatic of a renewed interest in assessing various educational models in higher education, the work that has been done over the last twenty years in the Sunoikisis project (that is, since the advent of the Internet as a via medium for disseminating information)—as a hybrid-driven model of course offerings—has, as a result, become more relevant.

With that, I would like to transition to a description of the advanced Greek and Latin courses as developed through the Sunoikisis initiative, which initially began as an effort to help classicists who were members in the colleges of the Associated Colleges of the South become more familiar with the World Wide Web and explore the implications of greater access to information relevant to our field. There was as well an interest into two important areas of higher learning that have become debated topics since the impact of MOOCs on education: student authentication and outcome assessment. These particular issues have been challenges—i.e., authentication of student work and engagement and the tangible assessment of student learning outcomes—for many of the applications of MOOC course offerings.

Regarding this particular way of incorporating the use of technology in a hybrid model, our point of comparison will not be the so-called traditional classroom (as limited to face-to-face interaction), as it has been in the past, but rather the emerging forms of massive online open courses. In other words, we will be comparing our hybrid Sunoikisis courses to their MOOC counterparts. It is our sense that MOOCs will eventually develop structures and models that will bring them closer to hybrid forms that are smaller, incorporate greater levels of interactivity, and feature more rigorous forms of assessment. We are experiencing the emergence of an Aristotelian mean somewhere between the “traditional” classroom of face-to-face interactions in discussion groups, seminars, and lectures, and the world of MOOCs.

And this moment might be a good place to underscore two basic assumptions about the project regarding the digital infrastructure: (1) the Internet and WWW make it possible to create an enriched learning environment with access to wide variety of information in different formats; and (2) the promise of the Internet does not lie solely in the dissemination and availability of information, but also in the ability to communicate, i.e., to expand the conversation (across disciplines, institutions, generations), and, importantly, to interact.

These types of courses are flexible, inter-institutional on the student as well as faculty level, collaboratively created, collaboratively taught, and allow for multiple points of feedback from a variety of professors on the work of students from across various campuses. So here, I would like to include a very brief introduction of the three components of the courses (which, in short, involves on-campus tutorials, asynchronous assignments, and weekly synchronous sessions).
There is a cycle of courses offered, all within a five year sequence, for both Greek and Latin.

Greek Cycle:

Homeric Poetry
Lyric Poetry
Comedy
4th Century Literature
Hellenistic Literature

Latin Cycle:

Early Republic
Late Republic
Neronian Period
Roman Empire, 70-180 C.E.
Late Antiquity and the Medieval Period

These are meant to be courses less likely to be taught by a very small classics department, whose teaching energies are likely and inevitably concerned with more central curricular offerings.

Here is how it works:

Each Spring we invite a senior scholar whose primary research fits the course we will be teaching that following fall term. Along with a designated course director, he or she develops a three-day planning syllabus comprised of important primary and secondary literature targeted for a group of classics professors of varying degrees of teaching and professional experience.

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In June of that year, a group of 10-15 faculty members works through this previously collected and digitized material over a three-day period in a sort of faculty reading group, with two goals in mind: first, the goal of getting them all up to speed on secondary scholarship (and reviewing primary texts) that were sometimes last read or enjoyed during their qualifying exams, and second, the creation of a course syllabus to be offered inter-institutionally that fall term. In this model, then, there is great emphasis on individualized, but also inter-generational, professional (and personal) faculty development.

After each of the two three-day seminars, two syllabi—one Greek and one Latin—have been developed collaboratively, containing fourteen or so weeks of readings as well as some sense of weekly assignments, along with a strong sense of the course’s trajectory.

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These courses are meant to be offered in the fall to an intermediate and-or advanced undergraduate audience; accordingly, each intermediate student is meant to read 6,000 words in the target language, and advanced students 10,000 words, along with relevant secondary readings, with an instructor on their home campus. These essential contact hours with a professor ‘on the ground’ (at the home institution) tend to vary anywhere between a full three-day-a-week course to weekly tutorials, depending on the institution and course credit.

Comprehension of the weekly primary language readings is assessed through an online asynchronous writing prompt that multiple instructors from participating institutions comment on, in addition to the requirement that each of the students in the course also respond to each other’s posts.

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Because the instructors and students are all responding to the online conversation, the writing forum can help develop student interpretations or answers to a much more advanced stage—and at a much faster rate of feedback—than if we were individually receiving individual papers to grade and then try to hand back quickly. As a result of this online process, students are able to see and receive comments from a multiple range of instructors on the same piece of writing, which is not usually the case in the classroom, but are as well exposed to student perspectives from a number of other institutions.

Each week ends with a synchronous online discussion in which, with the entire group online (both students and faculty), one instructor from the group (or, sometimes, two at once) provides additional historical information, or suggests connections or interpretations that integrate and connect the work the students have done that week. The online synchronous discussions (which are not meant to be lectures, per se) further inform that week’s primary and secondary readings, but ultimately contextualize readings for the coming weeks, working to create a scaffolded model for the course over the term. I might add that typically most or all of the 10 or so participating instructors watch the common session each week, as well as participate in a chat room, alongside all the students from the various participating campuses; so, there is real-time feedback between multiple students and faculty from all the participating institutions around the US.

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One aspect of the process I would like to emphasize, which was in fact a surprise to me, has resulted from the process of collaborative assignment creation during the summer before the course is offered. Working on the assignments together during the planning seminar, but also finalizing them one-on-one or in a smaller group over email, allows for a type of faculty development in which: there is back-and-forth between the participating instructors about appropriate assignments that are complementary but still touch on a variety of topics; discussions of weekly course goals as well as scaffolded targets for the overall course; and moments in which instructors all watch each other develop weekly writing prompts and their online discussions, as well as participate in weekly inter-collegiate faculty interactions. This group work has a modeling and peer-mentoring structure built in to it, but as well highlights the general transparency and oversight in the course itself. And while the inter-collegiality of the model for both the students and faculty is of the upmost importance to the model, here I would like to focus on this opportunity for instructors to develop their craft with colleagues in a supportive peer-level mentoring atmosphere. This is really done on two levels: (1) the opportunity to see what others do at sister institutions benefits everyone, not just those instructors who are relatively new; and (2) the seminars have served to help acculturate faculty members as they emerge from graduate schools by creating for them a form of “networked mentoring.” As it turns out what was happening all the way back in 1995 (and even before in the context of the ACM and GLCA) emerged as a “model” for faculty mentoring. (Here I will recommend an article by Mary Deane Sorcinelli and Jung Yun.[ref]http://works.bepress.com/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1010&context=marydeane_sorcinelli[/ref] One can also go to the website at Amherst where Sorcinelli is an associate provost for faculty development.[ref]http://www.umass.edu/ctfd/mentoring/resources.shtml[/ref])

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In addition to the way that we develop each week’s assignment collaboratively before the course begins, during the course each online assignment is posted week-by-week, and so can be altered at any time before posting. Since these assignments generate asynchronous online discussions that lead up to each weekly synchronous online common meeting, this process allows the instructor who is responsible for the writing prompt that week not only to comment on online conversations as the students are responding (and while other students are commenting on each other’s posts), but also to provide feedback in the presence of all the students and other instructors online during the synchronous common session. Therefore, this model had started to ‘flip the classroom’ long before MOOCs came along. To take one example from this last term, an instructor emailed after a common session to ask if her writing assignment which was to be posted next could be revised and made more challenging, because the students had already anticipated her entire planned online discussion for the next week—so she could “up her game.” This kind of immediate feedback loop allows for a customizable discussion, but also, more to the point, presents the opportunity for last minute adjustment according to the speed and sophistication of a particular group of students (either to move faster, as in this case, or to move slower).

So, the result of this model, regarding faculty:

Since each of the 10-14 instructors take responsibility for only one week, their workload can remain slightly more flexible throughout the term, which is especially important in smaller overworked or overloaded departments. In addition, other instructors can fill in or pitch in as necessary, even, as in this last term, being able to provide more contact hours over Skype to allow for independent work to be completed by a student at another institution.

That said, it is important to acknowledge that for those who have worked collaboratively, you know that in this type of model there is a cost of investment. First, for a number of instructors, this class is often an overload to their regular teaching schedule. Second, it is very clear that to teach with 10 other instructors does not mean your workload is .10 of what it would be if you were teaching solo. For example, when your particular week arrives, if just then you receive late proofs for a manuscript or are grading research papers from another course, this cost can suddenly feel quite significant.

However, what seems to happen is that this model helps small departments offer courses that they might not otherwise. Not only in topics less commonly offered by a one- or two-person department, but in terms of depth of information; for example, a number of instructors can teach to their strengths, and provide detailed background on a topic that is not one’s own particular forte. As well, the group collaboration provides inter-institutional colleagues for faculty who are alone or nearly alone in smaller departments that otherwise wouldn’t exist. This is true in the sense that after the three-day planning session in June at the Center for Hellenic Studies, and then after a term team-teaching the course, the result is a classics community. And, as I mentioned, this model helps all of the instructors develop as teachers through exposure to the methods of other instructors, as well as to other styles of teaching and reading.

Another interesting development of this model, as opposed to a more static one as offered through some larger MOOCs, is that while there is certainly a proper place for a textbook or a reader or a recorded video, the process of rebuilding the class each and every year in that five-year cycle has shown that each iteration takes on the particular personalities of the consultant and the participating instructors.

And, the result of this model, regarding students:

As I mentioned above, all of the students receive feedback from instructors at a number of other institutions, something that is not usually the case, but as well from students from other schools, something that is extremely uncommon. The result is that students’ interpretations and answers are consistently pushed for further evidence and justification, and a particular faculty member’s own students’ intellectual limits or comfort zones are expanded. And all of this feedback comes not only immediately in most cases, but also in multiple waves.

The value added by the technological element to this course, besides the chance for a professor from Southwestern to speak with a group from Howard, or Rhodes, is that we find that what students type is often much more intelligent than what they say face-to-face. Their perspective online is often more thoughtful and considered, for one, but since there are others in the room whom they don’t know, the problem of complacency seems to be diminished. The comfort or familiarity that follows smaller classics language courses, in which everyone in a class often knows each other so well, isn’t readily available, and students have to be a little more careful within this system. And since they are not perfectly familiar with a particular professor, they must negotiate a number of relationships with a range of professors, and so must rely on the depth, coherence, persuasiveness of their comments and observations, and not in regular office hours in which they learn to give back what they know their professor wants. In other words, these students are working harder to be civil, despite worries driven by the ruthlessness and cruelty of online forums and comments. Clearly, it matters that these groups are small and that students and faculty are the opposite of anonymous—they know and care about each other through a sense of community.

The questions that lead to this model of course development and offering nearly twenty years ago was, initially, in direct opposition to the isolationist approach we often now find in humanities departments: in other words, first, how can we offer something on a less-frequently covered topic is classics while we are already relatively overextended; and, second, how can we offer a better course than we would by ourselves, through a model that is both collaborative in design, but that also allows for the creation of a community, a collection of colleagues?

In my experience over the last five years with this model, teachers get better, students get better, and, in fact, departments get better. By the last of these I mean that, specifically regarding smaller classics departments (those with only one or two full-time instructors), there is a developed interest in classics when an instructor is able to offer courses in addition to those basics necessary to keep a program afloat. And, importantly, there is communication between classics colleagues among various institutions that simply wasn’t possible before. And, as this process continues to develop, the classics world gets smaller and more cooperative, and less isolated or separated.

Importantly, now as much as ever, there is a chance in this model for small, underfunded, or under-resourced departments to pool their resources, as well as departments with plenty of resources to help support smaller underfunded or under-supported departments, so that it becomes possible for schools with no classics departments or programs at all to offer classics courses, as long as there is a single classics-related PhD on the ground. Put bluntly, it seems that if the faculty members at large research institutions want to help ensure opportunities for their graduate students, they should share their resources as much as possible with smaller programs and help them thrive as well; they should be actively involved in trying to develop programs at institutions where they currently do not exist. In other words, this model is one possible way to save and even expand our discipline.

A word on assessment

We are currently in the process of assessing what are now referred to as the learning and teaching outcomes of these advanced courses (including completion rates and relative performance statistics). Preliminary data is being collected this year by a social scientist, with the hope that in the future we will be able continue to develop and articulate our goals for each course, so that they are concrete and specific enough to begin to create meaningful course evaluation data which will assess the program’s strengths and identify its weaknesses over the duration of each course, from start to finish.

With that, I would turn to the next two papers in this panel: first, a discussion of the intermediate course that emerged from the brain of Norman Sandridge and have been further developed along with a number of colleagues involved in the Sunoikisis project; and then to Kristina Meinking, who has helped develop the elementary Greek course with both the goals of the intermediate course as well as these advanced courses that I have been discussing in mind.

You will see that, as a result of this model, we effectively now have a collectively-taught complete Greek minor, one that does not compromise the goals of the liberal arts—the high-touch ēducō model of education. Our approach increases inter-institutional collaboration, as well as inter-collegiate support, without compromising job security in the college or university level, and while providing the kind of instruction we think is important to classics as a discipline and which it alone is able to provide to an undergraduate audience.

 

About Ryan C. Fowler

Ryan is a curricular fellow at the Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington D.C. He also teaches at Franklin and Marshall College and Lancaster Theological Seminary.
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One Response to Advanced Greek and Latin in a Limited, Personalized Online Setting

  1. As of last October, 470 students and 128 faculty members from eighty institutions have participated in the courses sponsored by Sunoikisis since the fall of 2000, when we offered Latin 293/393: Literature from the Neronian Period for the first time.

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