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KU part of initiative to harness data analytics to improve teaching, student learning

Wednesday, August 10, 2016


LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas is part of a coalition of five universities in the United States and Canada that will harness their strengths in research to improve teaching and student learning.

The Bay View Alliance, a cooperative of nine universities dedicated to improving student learning, has begun a multi-year project to use data analytics to explore questions about such things as class structure, teaching techniques, enrollment patterns and success in subsequent courses, all with the goal of improving teaching and learning in effective, meaningful ways.

Indiana University Bloomington, which began a Student Learning Analytics Fellows Program in 2015, will lead the project. The University of Kansas, University of British Columbia, Queens University of Canada and the University of Saskatchewan will join. Other Bay View Alliance institutions may join as the project progresses.

Doug Ward, associate professor of journalism and associate director of the Center for Teaching Excellence at KU, said the program will tap into vast stores of data universities have about students to answer questions about what influences student success as well as inspire new lines of inquiry about teaching and learning that have not yet been undertaken. The initiative will compare efforts at different institutions and apply research expertise from scholars in varying fields.

“There is so much data that we haven’t tapped into yet. We want to find out why students are not advancing, what barriers to advancement are and why we are losing so many students after the first year,” Ward said. “We need to build communities and ask, ‘Have you tried this yet, and what were the results?’ We also need to bring in people who will be able to determine what we can learn from the data we have available.”

Among the data the Alliance hopes to study are courses students take in the first year, clusters of courses they take, if certain groupings of classes are associated with future success, course succession, type of instruction used in courses and its correlation with advancement, and environmental factors, including if the type of classroom affects success.

“We’ve had an initial success in building a community of faculty members at Indiana who have an interest in using learning analytical data to explore such things as the effectiveness of course structure, peer networks, online course modules and students’ continued success in their majors as they progress through the curriculum,” said George Rehrey, director of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Program at Indiana University. “With the help of the BVA, we will expand that effort across universities.”

Institutions taking part in the data analytics project will share findings and ultimately produce reports and materials they will make available to universities throughout North America.

While work is underway, Bay View Alliance members will seek grant funds to further support the effort. The group recently received a $2.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation to support TRESTLE, an initiative to hire teaching specialists in STEM fields at six member universities and to create a community of partners across campuses. That effort is led by Andrea Greenhoot, professor of psychology and director of KU’s Center for Teaching Excellence.

The Bay View Alliance, composed of the aforementioned universities as well as the University of Colorado, University of California Davis, University of Massachusetts Amherst and the University of Texas Austin, will also work to show how improved teaching methods identified by this initiative and others can be adopted at universities. The work comes at a crucial time as universities are increasingly being asked to demonstrate the value of higher education.

“I’m proud of the progress we’ve made, but we can’t let down,” said Lorne Whitehead, program director of the Bay View Alliance. “Families from across the world put their trust in us to help their students succeed. We owe it to them to provide the best teaching we can provide so they can continue to learn and help us build the future.”

Photo: Associate Professor Doug Ward teaches a journalism class at KU. Ward is also associate director of the Center for Teaching Excellence at KU, which is part of a cooperative of nine universities dedicated to improving student learning. Credit: KU Marketing Communications


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Art Cart: Painted Fans
Saturday, January 20 | 1 p.m.-4 p.m.
Spencer Museum of Art, Sam and Connie Perkins Central Court, 317
1301 Mississippi St.
The Art Cart is a drop-in activity station where children and grown-ups enjoy hands-on art projects together, taking inspiration from original works of art. After traveling the world, Sallie Casey Thayer donated her collection of objects to KU to form what is now the Spencer Museum of Art. Learn about Mrs. Thayer and create a painted folding fan to start your own collection.

Slow Art Sunday: Steel Wool Peignoir
Sunday, January 21 | 2 p.m.-3 p.m.
Spencer Museum of Art, Kemper Family Foundations Balcony, 408
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Slow down at the Spencer and spend time getting to know one great work of art. Slow Art Sunday features one work for visitors to contemplate and converse about with Museum staff. In January, get to know Steel Wool Peignoir by Mimi Smith.

Science on Tap: The Cambrian: More than just Trilobites
Wednesday, January 24 | 7:30 p.m.
Free State Brewing Co., 636 Massachusetts St.
The Cambrian is a time in Earth’s history when many modern animal relatives make their first appearance. It is also a time when many bizarre animals without modern relatives appear in the fossil record. At this Science on Tap, Dr. Julien Kimmig will talk about the diversity of animals during this amazing period and what it can teach us about the future of life on earth. 

Career Close-ups: Developing a Career in the Museum World
Friday, January 26 | 2 p.m.-4 p.m.
Spencer Museum of Art, Auditorium 309
1301 Mississippi St.
Undergraduate and graduate students are invited to explore how any major can lead to a career in a cultural organization. A panel of museum professionals will share their experiences, followed by a networking reception and behind-the-scenes tours of KU’s museums. This year’s panelists include: Dina Bennett (Mulvane Art Museum, Washburn University), Glenn North (Black Archives of Mid-America), and Adrianne Russell (Cabinet of Curiosities). Advance registration is required at www.spencerart.ku.edu/career-closeups. Please register by January 24. Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/events/476618689399321/
Sponsored by the Spencer Museum of Art, KU Natural History Museum, University Career Center, and the Museum Studies Program.

Final Friday: Community and Culture Closing Celebration
Friday, January 26 | 6 p.m.-7:30 p.m.
Watkins Museum of History, 1047 Massachusetts St.
The Watkins, in partnership with the Max Kade Center and the Lawrence Opera Theatre, present an evening of 19th-century German-American music and cuisine.

Discovery Day: Celebrating Kansas
Sunday, January 28 | 1 p.m.-3 p.m.
KU Natural History Museum, 1345 Jayhawk Blvd.
In honor of Kansas Day, join us for hands-on activities that are all about Kansas wildlife, plants and fossils. 

Kenneth A. Spencer Lecture: An Evening with Eve L. Ewing: Poetry in Context
Wednesday, January 31 | 7 p.m.-8:30 p.m.
Liberty Hall, 644 Massachusetts St.
Eve L. Ewing is a sociologist, poet, essayist, artist, and educator whose research focuses on racism, social inequality, urban policy, and the impact of these forces on American public schools and the lives of young people. Dr. Ewing earned a Ph.D. from Harvard University and is recognized as a leader and social influencer, especially in conversations involving academia, writing, black women, and the intersection of politics and popular culture. Sponsored by The Commons.

University in the Art Museum for Graduate Students
Thursday, February 1 | 3 p.m.-4:30 p.m.
Spencer Museum of Art, 1301 Mississippi St.
University in the Art Museum introduces graduate students to opportunities for object-based teaching, learning, and research through collaborative partnerships with the Spencer Museum of Art. This workshop includes discussions led by graduate students in the departments of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies; Geography; and Atmospheric Science. Advance registration is required by Monday, January 29. Register online at https://spencerart.ku.edu/uam.

Extraordinary Animals: Awesome Adaptations
Sunday, February 4 | 1 p.m.-3 p.m.
KU Natural History Museum, 1345 Jayhawk Blvd.
At this new monthly animal event, parents and children are invited to learn about animals of Kansas. Museum Animal Specialist Ashley Welton will offer presentations about animal adaptations using touchable specimens from the museums collections at 1:15, 1:45 and 2:15 pm. 

FeBREWary at the Watkins
Thursday, February 15 | 6 p.m.-9 p.m.
Watkins Museum of History, 1047 Massachusetts St.
The Watkins, in partnership with Lawrence Beer Co., presents an evening of beer, food, and knowledge! Enjoy beer and a fascinating talk on brewing provided by Lawrence Beer Co., plus food from local restaurants and an informal museum tour. Tickets are $15 for DCHS members, $20 for non-members. You may sign up online or contact the museum at 785-841-4109. We recommend buying in advance. Ages 21 and over only, please. More information and registration.

Winter Table: An Evening of Herpetology
Wednesday, February 28 | 6:30 p.m.
KU Natural History Museum, 1345 Jayhawk Blvd.
A celebration of more than 100 years of KU herpetology research programs and the careers of Linda Trueb and Bill Duellman. Explore the Natural History Museum's reptile and amphibian collections and enjoy appetizers and drinks. Dine in the Panorama Gallery with KU herpetology scientists and students conducting reptile and amphibian research across the globe. 

6:30 pm: appetizers, drinks and science salon
7:00 pm: dinner and program
$50 per person 

Reserve your space now at the 2018 Winter Table by ordering tickets online. Tickets are $50 per person. You may also call 785-864-4450 to purchase by phone or you may purchase tickets at the museum lobby during business hours. Questions? Contact biodiversity@ku.edu or 785-864-4450.

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