Attendees had time to mingle during a lunch break at the sixth annual Faculty Colloquium.
While students returned to campus on Jan. 7, faculty and other Thomas Nelson personnel were back at work before that. In preparation for spring semester, many attended the sixth annual “Faculty Colloquium: Excellence and Innovation” on Jan. 3 in Templin Hall on the Hampton campus.
The aim of the colloquium, as President John T. Dever notes in the event’s brochure, was “for our faculty and regional colleagues to come together to consider some of the major developments in higher education … and to share perspectives on a variety of topics that have a bearing upon the day-to-day delivery of instruction.”
The focus this year was the role of open educational resources, which “are materials for teaching or learning that are either in the public domain or have been released under a license that allows them to be freely used, changed, or shared with others,” according to Education Week (edweek.org). The cost of textbooks and other learning materials often are cited as reasons for students dropping out or not otherwise continuing their education, so understanding OER is extremely important.
Nicole Finkbeiner of Rice University delivered the keynote address. She is the Director for Institutional Relations for the school’s free textbook initiative, OpenStax. Her roughly 40-minute presentation was called “Visible and Invisible Barriers.”
“It was broader than I typically do and more talking about all of the things that impact our ability to be successful,” said Finkbeiner, who does about 50 such presentations a year. “And a lot of those are invisible things.
“My goal was for the audience to walk away and start looking for those invisible things, those invisible barriers, that students or employees are facing, and be open to taking action on them.”
Two of the invisible things she mentioned were the high cost of textbooks and the number of college students across the country who suffer from food insecurity. She lauded the College’s Care Team, saying it shows the faculty, staff and personnel are aware of some invisible barriers, but there’s a need “to keep looking for those things and acting on those things.”
The daylong colloquium included sessions ranging from classroom instruction and educational resources to working with local entities and personal well-being. Many of the day’s activities helped Thomas Nelson personnel view students as people, not just bodies in a classroom.
“We try to go with things that are current topics in higher education, especially pertinent to community colleges,” said Dr. Richard Hodges, chair of the event’s organizing committee. “The whole idea is to share knowledge in a scholarly manner.”
He led a discussion on the Virginia Community College System’s origins, and also attended several of the other nearly 20 sessions.
The colloquium drew more than 100 people, including some local high school teachers who instruct dual enrollment courses. The event was limited to Thomas Nelson personnel when first held in 2014.
“I had always thought that at some point, we should expand this,” Hodges said.
So in 2016, faculty from the Tidewater Regional Center for Teaching Excellence was invited, and last year dual enrollment faculty was added.
“We’ve had a good response from the high schools,” Hodges noted. “The problem for them is they’re already back in full swing when we’re doing this. For many of them, to get that day off isn’t easy.”
Hodges is starting to look at the evaluation forms that were distributed at the sessions.
“The overwhelming response has been very positive,” he said.