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A LITS Learning Lexicon


Some commonly used terms.

Backward Design

Understanding by Design by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe offers a key framework for designing courses called “backward design.” The significance of the backward design approach is that instructors consider the learning goals of the course first (outcomes). These learning goals embody the knowledge and skills instructors want their students to have learned when they leave the course. Once the learning goals have been established, the second stage involves consideration of assessment. These first two steps steers instructors toward student-active teaching strategies.

The backward design framework suggests that instructors should consider these overarching learning goals and how students will be assessed prior to consideration of how to teach the content. For this reason, backward design is considered a much more intentional approach to course design than traditional methods of design.

Read more:

  • Heather L. Reynolds and Katherine Dowell Kearns, "A Planning Tool for Incorporating Backward Design, Active Learning, and Authentic Assessment in the College Classroom," College Teaching 65.1 (2017): 17-27. Link to resource.
  • Grant P. Wiggins and Jay McTighe, "What is Backward Design?," In Understanding by Design, Expanded 2nd edition, Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2005): 13-34. Link to resource.

Blended & Hybrid Learning

According to the Hamilton College Guide for Returning Students

  • Blended courses are (usually) synchronous courses where some students, faculty, and presenters attend in person and some attend online at the same time.
  • Hybrid courses replace some class time with synchronous or asynchronous online instruction.

Read more:

  • "Why Blended Learning?" Bryn Mawr College (July 11, 2016). Link to resource.
  • Ron Owston and Dennis N. York, "The Nagging Question When Designing Blended Courses," Internet and Higher Education 36 (January 2018): 22-32. Link to resource.

Flipped Classroom

The flipped classroom model moves the passive learning to out of class time in order to bring more active learning into the classroom. This model is best suited for lecture based courses. When faculty make lectures into videos assigned for out-of-class consumption this allows more active learning (discussion, problem sets, etc.) to be completed collaboratively with more immediate faculty feedback.

Read more:

  • Dan Berrett, "How ‘Flipping’ the Classroom Can Improve the Traditional Lecture," Chronicle of Higher Education (February 19, 2012). Link to resource.
  • "Flipped Class Toolkit," Teaching and Learning Services, Rochester Institute of Technology. Link to resource.

HyFlex Course Design

Hybrid-Flexible courses are delivered both in person and online simultaneously by the same faculty member, allowing students to choose how to attend each class meeting. The HyFlex model is dedicated to both flexibility and student choice.

Read more:

  • Edward J. Maloney and Josh Kim, "Fall Scenario #13: The HyFlex Model," Inside Higher Ed (May 10, 2020). Link to resource.
  • Natalie Millman et al, "7 Things You Should Know About the HyFlex Course Model," EDUCAUSE (July 7, 2020). Link to resource.

Learning Management System

A Learning Management System (LMS) is a platform that helps instructors manage and organize educational materials online and conduct online courses. Learning management systems help streamline the learning process by providing a central location for accessing material online and developing content. Students and teachers can access and upload course material such as calendars, syllabi, assignments, and grades. LMS platforms also allow instructors and administrators to track student progress on an individual basis and at the aggregate level. This software also helps minimize the use of paper materials and supports remote learning. At Hamilton College, Blackboard is the LMS.

Read more:

LITS Teaching Support Teams

Hamilton’s division of Library & Information Technology Services (LITS) is a high-performing organization, closely aligned with institutional goals, whose members are active participants in the life of the college as well as regional and national organizations. Innovation, partnership, and leadership are important components of LITS activities in supporting our institutional mission. The mission of LITS is to empower all members of the Hamilton Community to use information and technologies to engage in intellectual exploration, make informed decisions, and create and share knowledge.

Among LITS myriad teams, 3 groups are central to supporting faculty in their teaching:

  • Research & Instructional Design (R&ID) - The team of research librarians, instructional designers, and educational technologists that work with faculty and students use technology and research in their teaching and learning. Contact R&ID at askus@hamilton.edu.
  • Audio Visual Services (AV) - The Audio/Visual team supports teaching and classroom multimedia presentation needs. Contact AV at avs@hamilton.edu.
  • Help Desk - Provides centralized technical support for faculty, staff, and students. Contact Help Desk at helpdesk@hamilton.edu.

NY6 & LACOL

  • The New York Six Liberal Arts Consortium was formed in 2010 with a planning grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to encourage the six member schools — Colgate University, Hamilton College, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, St. Lawrence University, Skidmore College, and Union College — to work together on programs that benefit students, faculty, and staff. The New York Six Liberal Arts Consortium cultivates rich intellectual communities for faculty while retaining the unique identities of our member institutions. The consortium offers a wide variety of programming designed to build strong networks, facilitate collaborative and innovative scholarship, share resources and expertise, and develop professionally.
  • The Liberal Arts Collaborative for Digital Innovation (LACOL) was formed in 2014. The Consortium is a partnership of Amherst College, Bryn Mawr College, Carleton College, Davidson College, Hamilton College, Haverford College, Swarthmore College, Vassar College, Washington and Lee University, and Williams College. LACOL leverages the power of consortial relationships to promote excellent and innovative teaching, learning, and research in the liberal arts, with a special emphasis on utilizing and adapting emerging technologies. It prioritizes collaboration among its member schools, focusing on projects that they can accomplish jointly that would be less robust or impossible for any of them to undertake alone. LACOL encourages experimentation to develop, share, and assess the most effective modes of digital teaching and learning.

Remote Learning / Online Learning / Distance Learning

According to the Hamilton College Guide for Returning Students, remote instruction occurs when the faculty member is remote, but students may attend in person or in any other mode.

Read more:

  • Shannon Riggs, "Student-Centered Remote Teaching: Lessons Learned from Online Education," EDUCAUSE Review (April 15, 2020). Link to resource.

Synchronous & Asynchronous Learning

  • Synchronous learning is students are engaging in learning at the same time, interacting with each other either physically or virtually.
  • Asynchronous learning is when students are engaging in learning at a time of their choosing, asynchronous interactions can also take place over written blogs or forums.

Universal Design for Learning

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a way of thinking about teaching and learning that helps give all students an equal opportunity to succeed. This approach offers flexibility in the ways students access material, engage with it and show what they know. Understanding by Design by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe is a seminal book that offers how to create a rigorous and engaging curriculum that focuses on understanding and leads to improved student performance. Good course design begins with considerations of Outcomes (what will students know and be able to do), Assessment (how will I know that they have learned it), and Teaching Strategies (what techniques/resources will I use to share information). Please see Backward Design above.

Read more:

  • Grant P. Wiggins and Jay McTighe, Understanding by Design, Expanded 2nd edition, Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2005). Link to resource.
  • Kristi DePaul, "The Importance of Universal Design for Learning," EDUCAUSE Review (October 5, 2016). Link to resource.

Zoom Breakout Rooms

You can create private meetings for small groups within your class by using the breakout rooms feature. You as the host can determine which students are assigned to which group and have the option to join each breakout room if you choose to.

Read more:

  • "Zoom for Faculty: Breakout Rooms," LITS Resource Center, Hamilton College. Link to resource.
  • "Designated Roles for Students Working Remotely in a Group, LITS Resource Center, Hamilton College. Link to resource.
  • "Fostering and Assessing Equitable Classroom Participation," Harriet W. Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning, Brown University. Link to resource.

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