Integrative Studies Online: Designs for Collaborative and Experiential Learning
Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, is America's premier "land-grant" University with a significant outreach mission and global dimension. The Centers for Integrative Studies comprise the University's signature program in General Education. One, the Center for Integrative Studies in the Arts and Humanities (CIS-AH), provides interdisciplinary arts and humanities instruction frequently incorporating state-of-the-art teaching methods and technologies. In 2007, CIS-AH offered one of their courses (IAH241C Arts and Culture of Europe: Focus - The Middle Ages) in three teaching-learning formats: a traditional, on-campus, classroom setting; a virtual (online) setting; and, a "blended" (a.k.a. "hybrid") style course that met students in a classroom for one "contact" hour per week and then engaged online learning methodologies for the remaining scheduled hours of the week. For all three modes of distribution -- traditional, online and blended-- the enrollment, content and assessment features of the course remained the same. Engagement of and benefits to student learners were highest when content modules incorporated collaborative and experiential assignments, all of which were writing-intensive. The resulting outcomes showed that for these two styles of learning, students demonstrated the highest levels of engagement, critical thinking, and original inquiry regardless of the mode of the assignment's distribution. This paper demonstrates ways in which collaborative and experiential learning can be integrated successfully into all three modes of learning; and, focuses on the benefits of maximizing their use in online curriculum design in the following areas: integrated and cross-disciplinary courses, humanities-style courses, general education courses, and art history courses. The speaker will present also some ways of minimizing the obstacles students often encounter when engaged in online learning.
Keywords: Online Learning Environments, Blended Course Delivery, Collaborative Learning, Experiential Learning
Dr. S.M. McCombs
Associate Professor, Center for Integrative Studies Arts and Humanities