Selecting ExCollege Courses

Over 100 proposals were submitted by candidates eager for the opportunity to teach in the fall semester. In just a few short days, the ExCollege Board will be meeting to determine which 22 of those courses will be offered to Tufts students. But how exactly do we go from the 100+ proposals down to 22?

The Life of a Proposal

 

 

The ExCollege and the Future of Higher Education

Today we began our 50th anniversary celebration weekend with a conference on the future of higher education. One of the conference highlights will be reflecting on Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and how their presence will impact the traditional university. During the Fall 2013 semester, the ExCollege created a Quidnunc that allowed students to take MOOCs and discuss the experience with a group of peers. Ken Garden, ExCollege Board Chair and faculty member in the Religion Department, participated in the Quidnunc and shared his thoughts with us on MOOCs.

Written by Ken Garden, Religion Department and ExCollege Board Chair

2013-2014 has been a particularly eventful year at the ExCollege. In addition to our usual offerings of innovative and timely classes taught by practitioners, academic instructors, and students, we are celebrating a half century of the ExCollege at Tufts. The event will be marked by two exhibits on the ExCollege’s history, a gala held on April 12th, and a conference on the future of higher education on April 11th. The longevity of the ExCollege and the outpouring of support for its 50th anniversary speak to the vital role it plays in the life of the Tufts community.

Higher education is in the midst of one of its biggest experiments in years in the form of the Massive Open Online Course, or MOOC. The New York Times dubbed 2012 the “Year of the MOOC.” That year, Google’s Sebastian Thrun started a new company, Udacity, to offer free online university courses to as many students as wanted to enroll in them. He was so confident of the promise of MOOCs that he predicted that within 50 years there would remain only a small handful of higher education providers, the rest of the world’s universities having been swept away by this new “disruptive technology.” Stanford sponsored a new MOOC consortium, Coursera, and Harvard and MIT followed suit, launching EdX later that year.

It seemed fitting that the ExCollege should join the conversation on the MOOC. A group of Tufts students and I, including our own Board member Kumar Ramanathan (A’15), set out to look into this experiment ourselves, each of us enrolling in a MOOC. Between us, we enrolled in courses on topics ranging from contraception, to the hero in ancient Greek literature, to irony in the writing of Søren Kierkegaard, to the history of architecture, to the letters of Paul.

Our experiences in many cases echoed what we had read about the MOOC experience. Having paid nothing for the course and with no non-virtual connection to the instructor or other students, several of us stopped taking courses that didn’t interest us and enrolled in other ones. Online multiple choice quizzes, discussion boards, and peer-graded essays were a pale substitute for classroom interaction and instructor-graded assignments. While we all saw a real threat to companies that sell university courses on CD or DVD, we saw no mortal threat to the traditional brick and mortar university. Sebastian Thrun came to a similar conclusion at the end of 2013, declaring that his own Udacity had a “lousy product.”

Still, we also saw ongoing experimentation with the MOOC and all of us felt we learned from the courses we took. It will be interesting to see what it evolves into and what kind of role online courses, massive or otherwise, come to play in higher education.

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TuftsNow also reflected on the ExCollege’s exploration into the world of MOOCs with an article written by Gail Bambrick.

The ExCollege brought me to Tufts, and the ExCollege has kept me here.

Written by Kumar Ramanathan, A15

“Wait, what ExCollege class are you taking?”

This is a question I have asked friends, friends of friends, and strangers in Dewick more times that I care to count. My personal investment in each and every class comes as a surprise to some, but in every case I’ve heard fascinating and enthusiastic stories that make me proud to be a member of the ExCollege Board.

kumar

Kumar Ramanthan:
A15 and ExCollege Board member

I first met the Board in April last year, walking into the conference room as the perpetually nervous freshman that we all remember being. What struck me immediately was how friendly the group that faced me was, and how passionate they all were about making the ExCollege the best place it could be. Each member of the Board has their own interests and quirks, but all of those come together to make the right kind of mix that a place as eclectic as the ExCollege needs.

Being part of this team has been a wonderfully positive way to impact the lives of those around me. From organizing the Election Night Extravaganza to debating over the last two classes to be approved, each meeting is unabashedly and wholeheartedly directed towards making Tufts a better and more fun place. Most of all, being surrounded by such dedicated faculty and students has made me look at and appreciate Tufts in whole new ways.

The ExCollege brought me to Tufts, and the ExCollege has kept me here. My time in the Board is one of the most rewarding, fascinating, and fun experiences that Tufts has offered me, and I can’t wait to keep doing it.

The ExCollege is now accepting applications for the 2014-2015 Board. If you’re interested in applying, download the application from our website. All applications are due February 21.

Diving into ExCollege Course Selection

In less than one week, the ExCollege Board will convene to make the final decisions regarding what courses will be offered during the spring semester at our Money Meeting. The Money Meeting is an all-day meeting where the Board members vote on what courses should be offered to Tufts students for the upcoming semester. Their voting decisions are informed by faculty reviews of the course proposals as well as feedback received from interviewing the candidates.

Each member of the Board, students, faculty, and ExCollege staff alike, receives equal voting power, an ExCollege policy that has carried on from the earliest days of the Board. The Board first met in May 1964 and quickly broke the established Tufts tradition by inviting 3 students to sit-in on Board meetings. By 1966, the Board unanimously agreed that the 4 student representatives on the Board would be granted full voting rights. From these early ExCollege moments, the ExCollege became a natural liaison between students and faculty while also functioning as an institution that both students and faculty use to shape the academic and social landscape of Tufts. Now our Board consists of an equal number of students and faculty (5 each) which allows for comprehensive discussions of programs, courses, and ideas from multiple perspectives.

The ExCollege continues to stand as a student-centric department, and we always want students directly involved in decisions that are made. This is especially true when the ExCollege dives into the process of selecting courses. We want to offer courses that challenge students, use innovative teaching methods, cover unique topics, and (of course) are courses that Tufts students want to take. As we head into the Money Meeting next week, the Board will certainly have some lively conversation about what should and should not be included in the ExCollege course line-up.  Our discussions and decisions are sure to lead to a great group of courses for Tufts students to take in the spring!

Processing Applications!

Now is the time of year when we are actively gearing  up for Fall 2013 courses. The journey is a long one for the courses proposed, and right now we are at the point where we will be interviewing candidates for the 22 positions open in the fall. Check out this infographic to see the steps required for choosing upcoming ExCollege classes!

The Express!

Friday, February 1

Join the ExCollege: Become a Board Member or a Peer Leader!

Dive into the inner-workings of the ExCollege by joining the ExCollege Board or becoming an Explorations or Perspectives Peer Leader.

The ExCollege Board consists of 5 faculty members and 5 students and meets once per month. The Board tackles policy, discusses ExCollege initiatives and programs, and ultimately decides what courses will be offered to all Tufts students each semester. Each Board meeting allows both student and faculty members to plan ahead for the ExCollege while offering a welcoming atmosphere where everyone’s voice is heard. Download an application now and submit it to the ExCollege by February 22nd.

Have you ever wanted to teach at Tufts? Consider becoming a Peer Leader through the Explorations or Perspectives programs. Teams of two upperclassmen lead a first-year seminar in addition to acting as orientation leaders and mentors for their group of first-year students. Design your own course, earn 1.5 credits, and have a great teaching experience! Check out the FAQs for both programs, download an application, and submit your course proposal by March 13th. You can even head over to our blog to read about the experience of a Fall 2012 Explorations leader, John Dame. An Information Meeting for both Explorations and Perspectives will be held on Tuesday, February 5th at 9:30pm in Room 220 of the Campus Center.

A Taste of Tufts Review: Sam Sommers

Written by Lenea Sims, A15 & ExCollege student worker

With the new semester comes a new lineup of A Taste of Tufts! Sponsored by your very own Experimental College and supported by the SPIRIT Fund, A Taste of Tufts is a lecture series dedicated to bringing some of Tufts finest professors in front of a crowd that may not normally get to see them speak. This semester’s series began today with Associate Professor Sam Sommers from the Psychology department. Professor Sommers opened up his talk—titled “Examining Racial Diversity: A Behavioral Science Approach”—by acknowledging the differing views often surrounding his topic. “There’s a lot of discussion and debate about diversity,” he said. “It’s a particularly controversial and polarizing concept.”

After briefly acknowledging the ethical and legal side of the debate, he quickly turned to what he knows best, saying, “What are the effects of diversity? How can we study the question of diversity empirically that tells us something about the societal effects?” He then dove into some of the more recent studies done in his lab at Tufts; each one completed with the aid of undergraduate and graduate students whose names he happily credits in his findings. In one, for example, he found that when white students interact with someone of a different race, they often experience more anxiety and show signs of cognitive depletion—symptoms that they don’t nearly as often display when working with another white student. In other words, when faced with dealing with someone of a different race, students became so concerned about making that person like them, that they became mentally exhausted.

Professor Sommers closed his talk and took a few questions, ending by reminding students to always go into situations looking to have a genuine connection rather than worrying about if the person they were dealing with would like them in the end. It’s a concept he admits is a bit “Mr. Rogers-sounding,” but we can all agree that it’s certainly a nice outlook to have.

Updated Taste of Tufts Schedule

After some minor shuffling around, the ExCollege has updated its schedule for this semester’s Taste of Tufts presentations. Be sure to reserve every Friday from 12pm—1pm on your calendar to catch up on the latest faculty research.

  • February 8: Ken Garden, Religion
  • February 15: Nina Gerassi-Navarro, Romance Languages
  • February 22: Anthony Monaco, President
  • March 1: Mary Davis, Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning
  • March 8: TBA
  • March 29: Ayanna Thomas, Psychology
  • April 5: Benjamin Hescott, Computer Science
  • April 12: Noe Montez, Drama and Dance
  • April 19: David Harris, Provost and Senior Vice President

Sneak Peek into the Annual Newsletter

Each year, the ExCollege produces a massive newsletter, the E-News, to update current students, faculty members, staffers, and alumni on the most important ExCollege news. A range of articles are written by various authors for a wide range of perspectives! You can look forward to reading articles by:

  • Sara Harari, A12 and creator of “A Taste of Tufts”
  • John Harrison, A12 and former ExCollege student worker
  • Sarah Moser, returning Visiting Lecturer of “Asian Cities in the 21st Century”
  • Mimi Arbeit, Visiting Lecturer of “Sexual Wellness on College Campuses”
  • Kumar Ramanthan, A15 and student ExCollege Board member
  • Phil Starks, ExCollege Board chair
  • Madeline Hall, A13 and former Explorations Leader
  • Samantha Tye, A13 and former Perspectives Leader
  • Robyn Gittleman, Director of the ExCollege
  • Howard Woolf, Associate Director of the ExCollege
  • Beky Stiles, A12 and ExCollege Program Assistant

Be on the lookout for the latest edition of the E-News in late February! In the meantime, glance over archived newsletters to learn about previous ExCollege endeavors.

Still searching for the perfect study group?

Worried about that upcoming test or confused by your homework? Don’t know anyone in your class yet? JumboStudy, a new mobile peer-to-peer study service, can help! Log on at http://jumbostudy.tufts.edu to view available study groups for your classes or propose new study groups. Where and what you study is up to you! For more information, check out http://sites.tufts.edu/atfellows/projects/jumbostudy/.

Did you know…

Every year the ExCollege receives over 140 course proposals from professionals, grad students, educators, and more in the greater-Boston area wanting to teach. The process to whittle that number down to 22/23 takes an entire semester of sending out solicitation materials, processing each application, interviewing each candidate, and holding the full-day Board meeting in order to finalize the upcoming semester’s course list.

Around Campus

New semesters always bring about a lot of ‘firsts’: first semester trip to the Rez, first day of classes, first Sunday Sundae (& Thursday), and (of course) first special event of the semester. If you haven’t yet attended an event, make your first event outing one to remember! Check out these upcoming programs, and be sure to scroll through TuftsLife and Tufts Events for even more insight into happenings on the Hill.

  • Get your art on by heading over to a Tomasso Lecture!

The Department of Art and Art History presents “Michelangelo, Bandinelli, and Bernini: The Long Goodbye.” This Tomasso Lecture will be given by Dr. Maria Loh of University College London. Head over to Granoff 155 at 5:30pm on Monday, February 4th to dive into the world of art history. See the full event flyer here.

  • Want to take your business idea to the next level?

The Tufts $100K Business Plan Competition is gearing up for 2013! An Information Session will be held on Wednesday, February 6th from 12pm to 1pm in Anderson’s Burden Lounge. Be a part of one of the country’s biggest university-sponsored competitions, and earn money to transform your idea into a business. Submissions are due February 22nd.

The Express!

Join the ExCollege Board!

The ExCollege is beginning the search for new students to join its Board! The ExCollege Board consists of 5 Tufts faculty members as well as 5 current Tufts students. The ExCollege Board meets once a month and works toward setting policy, selecting new courses for each semester, planning campus events, and developing new initiatives for the ExCollege. Get a glimpse into the current ExCollege Board by reading our faculty and student Board members’ biographies!

 

If you are interested or have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call the ExCollege at 617-627-3384, email us at excollege@tufts.edu, or drop by our office at 95 Talbot Avenue! The application is available on our website, and all applications are due Friday, February 22nd.

Did You Know…

The ExCollege Board included student members soon after convening for the first time, breaking from previous traditions. By the spring of 1966, the student board members were given full voting rights. It was also at the suggestion of a student board member that the ExCollege invited its first Visiting Lecturer to teach at Tufts in 1968.

Teach at Tufts: Explorations and Perspectives

Have you ever wanted to design a class, mentor first-year students, and become a part of a tight-knit community at Tufts? Apply to be a part of the Explorations or Perspectives program! These programs allow rising juniors and seniors to co-teach a course in addition to advising a group of first-year students through orientation and their first semester on the Hill.

The Explorations program allows leaders to select a topic about which they feel passionate or have an expertise and create a 13-week syllabus. The Perspectives program focuses around a shared topic area, the ‘Movies’ as Business, Art, and Culture. Perspectives leaders do decide on the approaches they will use to teach their class. The Explorations program is coordinated by Director Robyn Gittleman, and the Perspectives program is run by Associate Director Howard Woolf.

 

Read up on the FAQs for Explorations and Perspectives, and download the application! A GIM for all interested students of both programs will take place Friday, February 1st at 2pm in the conference room of our office, 95 Talbot Avenue.

Registration Continues!

Registration for all ExCollege (and Tufts courses) will continue until Thursday, January 31st at 5pm. There is still time to add that perfect class! Spots remain open in these ExCollege classes:

  • EXP-0002-S The Ethnography of Religious Communities, Tuesdays from 6-8:30pm in Olin 107 (This course has been approved by the Religion department to count for Humanities distribution credit. You can reach the instructor at Kirsten.Wesselhoeft@tufts.edu.)
  • EXP-0032-S Sexual Wellness on College Campuses, Thursdays from 6-8:30pm in Aidekman 13 (Review the preliminary syllabus here.)
  • EXP-0060-S Authoritarianism in the Age of the Internet, Tuesdays from 6:30-9pm in Barnum 114 (This course will count toward the Mass Communications and Media Studies minor as a Social Sciences elective.)
  • EXP-0061-S Enemies and Neighbors: Israeli and Palestinian Fiction, Wednesdays from 6-8:30pm in Barnum 114 (Review the preliminary syllabus here.)

You can find the full Spring 2013 course listings on our main website, and register on SIS today!

 

Taste of Tufts: A Sampling of Faculty Research

Taste of Tufts is back for the spring! Meet your favorite professors as well as new Tufts instructors from across the Hill as they discuss their latest research. The first sampling of faculty research will take place one week from today! Sam Sommers, Psychology Department, will speak on Friday, February 1st from 12pm to 1pm, at Pearson 106. Save the date and keep reading for the preliminary Spring 2013 Taste of Tufts schedule!

  • February 8: Ken Garden, Religion
  • February 15: TBA
  • February 22: Anthony Monaco, President
  • March 1: Mary Davis, Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning
  • March 8: TBA
  • March 29 Ayanna Thomas, Psychology
  • April 5: Ben Hescott, Computer Science
  • April 12: Noe Montez, Drama and Dance
  • April 19: David Harris, Provost

All Taste of Tufts gatherings will meet on Fridays from 12pm to 1pm and a light lunch will be served.

 

Do you want to win $500?

Tisch Library is currently on the hunt for submissions for the Undergraduate Research Award. This award recognizes outstanding use of library resources and the development of expertise in an exemplary research paper or project. Submissions can be made in the following categories:

  • The first-year writing program (ENG 1-4 or any course taken to fulfill the college writing requirement)
  • 001-099 level courses
  • 100-200 level courses

Each category will name one student winner and recipient of $500. The runner-up in each category will receive $250. That is enough (and more!) to foot your Tower Café bill for your next research endeavor! Check out the full description and nitty-gritty details on the Tisch website.

 

Stay updated on all things ExCollege

Like tweeting, posting to Facebook, and blogging? So do we! Be sure to catch up with us online to stay on top of the latest ExCollege news.

 

Around Campus

Don’t be afraid to brave the cold for some amazing music events taking place around campus this week. Put on that extra scarf, wear gloves under your mittens, and head over to Granoff and Goddard! You’ll be invigorated after your brief stint in the cold, and you’ll be even more ready to appreciate the music (and warmth!) that awaits you.

  • Support an important cause by attending Singing for Sudan!

Singing for Sudan is a benefit concert taking place in Goddard at 7pm on Saturday, January 26th. The suggested donation is $5, and proceeds will go to the Yida Refugee Camp. The concert will feature The Amalgamates, The Jackson Jills, the Ladies of Essence, S-Factor, Barbara Florvil, and Patrick Kabanda. Don’t miss out on this great event presented by the Chaplaincy and the Africana Center. Check out the Facebook event page!

  • Immerse yourself in the music of the Ottoman Empire and the Middle East!

Mal Barsamian, performance faculty member, will take over Distler in Granoff this Sunday, January 27th to feature the music of the Ottoman Empire and the Middle East. Barsamian will be accompanied by percussionist Jay Baronian and will feature works by composers of Armenian, Turkish, and Arab descent. This installment of the Community Concert Series will run from 3pm to 5pm. Mark it on your calendar!

The Proposal: A Process of Idea Babies, I Do’s and Engagement

Written by Nick Golden, Marcy Regalado, and Beky Stiles

Every semester, a new list of Experimental College courses appears on our website. This magical listing jumps across disciplines and contains unique courses like “A History of Pir‘arrrgh’cy” (I’m sorry…I couldn’t resist…). Each hand-crafted class goes through an intensive series of steps (I would say the academic equivalent to the Tough Mudder) to make it from proposal to classroom. The competition for a spot at the ExCollege begins with approximately 150 applicants, and it is the difficult duty of the Board to whittle that number down to 22.

The Idea

From scribbling down a thought in the middle of the night to being inspired by a project at work, ideas for courses pop up in very interesting ways. Professionals propose topics based on techniques and strategies used in the work place, grad students share ideas embedded within personal experience and their research, and current educators piece together dynamic courses related to contemporary issues. The ExCollege wants to hear from passionate and knowledgeable people; people who want to share their lives, knowledge, and ideas with Tufts students.

Manic Writing

The idea wiggling around in an applicant’s mind manifests itself onto paper and slowly transforms into an elaborate 13-week course syllabus. Applicants research reading ideas, brainstorm class discussions, and carefully craft writing assignments. Even after the creation of the syllabus, applicants must answer 9 other questions posed on the application regarding their background and the creation of the course. (I can only imagine the amounts of caffeine necessary to finish this proposal!)

Submittal

After completing the proposal, many happy applicants jump around excitedly while simultaneously hugging housemates and partners (this would be my chosen method of displaying post-proposal adrenaline-fueled excitement). The finalized proposal then finds itself sitting comfortably in an envelope destined for 95 Talbot Avenue. A few brave souls even follow their feet to Tufts to hand deliver their proposal to our front desk. (Note to self: invest in some ‘I submitted my ExCollege proposal!!’ stickers for future semesters.)

Bins & Processing!

New proposals get handed over to a student worker at our secret back desk. After skimming through the proposal to check out the syllabus, the student plunks the proposal in a bin to get copied, filed, scanned, and entered into our database.

Faculty Reviews

Robyn Gittleman (our Director) reads through each proposal and pieces together which proposals get sent to which faculty members. The newly scanned PDF versions of proposals electronically zip over to approximately 115 faculty members all across the Hill. After clicking on the PDF attachment and reading through the proposal, faculty members provide input on the depth, challenge, and clarity of the syllabus in addition to any overlap with existing Tufts classes.

Subcommittees, Subcommittees, and Even More Subcommittees

Subcommittees represent one of the most important steps in the course selection process. Subcommittees comprised of one faculty member and two students interview each candidate. The schedules of over 40 super busy Tufts students, 20 faculty members, and 150 applicants must be coordinated into 20 neat and tidy subcommittees. Beky Stiles (me! the Program Assistant) drinks enormous amounts of coffee during this task.

The subcommittee members ask applicants about the proposal, its creation, their background, and the purpose of the course. Subcommittees allow the ExCollege to receive crucial feedback as to how a proposal would translate into the classroom environment.

Selection

The ExCollege Board (made up of 5 students, 5 faculty, and the ExCollege staff) holes up in the conference room for an all-day meeting to determine what courses will make it to the coveted ‘Upcoming Courses’ list on the ExCollege website. The Board spends hours drinking caffeine, voting, and (most importantly) discussing the proposals. At the end of the day, the Board hand picks 22 strong courses that exemplify the ExCollege’s commitment to providing Tufts with innovative classes meant to expand upon the existing undergraduate curriculum.

The Class

Tufts students scurry to register for their top ExCollege choices at 9am on the first day of classes. Classes fill up quickly, and a former idea nudging at the back of someone’s mind finally becomes a reality.

Take a Class!

Now you should check out the 23 classes that made it through this process! Our list of upcoming courses is on our website for Spring 2013! Make your list of ExCollege class to take, and register at 9am on Wednesday, January 16.

 

Apply to Join the ExCollege Board!

I must be losing my mind.  For the second year in a row, I sought and obtained an appointment to the ExCollege Board.  I mean, everyone knows that  “board meetings” always become “bored meetings.”  Who could possibly want to sit through more meetings than they absolutely have to?

I could.  In fact, I always look forward to my ExCollege board meetings.

They are one of the few times when I know I’m having a direct positive impact on the learning opportunities offered to my fellow students.  In fact, the ExCollege Board is the only board I’ve encountered in which faculty and students to work together to guide an academic department, and student participation on the board is part of what makes the ExCollege special. Continue reading

ExCollege Social Media!

The ExCollege is now increasing it’s social media presence at Tufts!  With our newly revamped blog, Facebook page and new Twitter account we’re hoping to help provide you with an inside look at how everything works here at 95 Talbot Ave!  Like our Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/tuftsexcollege and follow us on Twitter @ExCollege.  We’ll be having different members of the ExCollege community blogging about the various happenings and events going on here and we look forward to hearing from all of you!