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Boston College invites faculty from six other universities to join e-teaching initiative

Posted by Matt Rocheleau  June 12, 2012 02:28 PM

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Boston College has invited faculty from six universities to add to a web-based application that allows professors to digitally build, organize, and present content used to teach students, according to campus officials.

After seeking proposals from across the country, BC announced this month the school has selected staff from Dartmouth College, Boston University, Bucknell University, Providence College, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and Clark University to participate in MediaKron, BC’s proprietary digital instruction platform that the school began developing six years ago.

By expanding access to MediaKron, Boston College said in a statement it has created “the most extensive educational technology initiative in the university’s history.”

“As the digital world changes and evolves, so do the methods faculty use in their classrooms, labs and lecture halls on a daily basis,” said a statement from Rita Owens, director of academic technology at the Chestnut Hill-based school. “MediaKron gives faculty the ability to teach using materials and online tools capable of delivering world-class content to their students. We’re looking forward to partnering with these great universities as we develop new ways of teaching in the digital era.”

MediaKron lets faculty arrange a host of instructional, multi-media course material in chronological order and layers, campus officials said. The secure web app allows faculty to build customized sites – using tools such as maps and timelines – to organize and present images, video, audio and text.

Digital keyword descriptors called metadata tags allow students to navigate multiple pathways through the material as they explore course topics, according to BC.

Some of the sites are open to the public, but most other are not public and require passwords, Boston College spokesman Ed Hayward said.

"It's very much an internal teaching tool," he said.

A team of faculty and designers in the Instructional Design and eTeaching Services Department at Boston College developed and launched MediaKron in 2006, officials said.

At BC, the web application has grown to include 35 active projects, which are part of what administrators call a “rapidly expanding portfolio of web-based scholarship in the humanities.”

Topics covered in the projects include: biology, Chinese culture, the Second Vatican Council, the art of Walt Disney studios, the death of Jesus, bilingual education, gender and religious images, the Gaelic Athletic Association, the history of public health, Irish studies, the sculptor Michelangelo, the poet Dante Alighieri and the artist Albrecht Durer.

By opening up the initiative to researchers and professors at other universities, Boston College officials said they hope to expand the portfolio to include more projects across other fields and disciplines.

Development of the web application has been supported by about $500,000 in funding through a grant from the Davis Educational Foundation, which was established by Stanton Davis and his wife, Elisabeth, after he retired as chairman of Shaw’s Supermarkets, Inc.

Earlier this spring, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced plans to team up on a $60 million initiative to offer free online, college-level courses under a joint brand called as edX, the Globe has reported. The move made the two schools leaders in the growing online education sector. That program, which also hopes to draw participation and content from other universities, is expected to be up and running by fall.

But, the BC spokesman said MediaKron is different. Unlike the plans for edX, MediaKron does not have an open-source approach; it is not intended to be universally accessible to anyone with Internet access.

E-learning programs like edX focus on using the web's accessibility to share education with both enrolled students and those who are not, Hayward said. Whereas MediaKron aims to specialize in using the advanced technology and tools of the web, along with the power of the application itself, to enhance how professors can teach their own students.

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