USF faculty to participate in online consortium

The University of St. Francis (USF) is among 20 colleges and universities nationwide to be selected to participate in the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) Consortium for Online Humanities Instruction, which is made possible by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

“CIC received nearly five applications for every available space in the consortium, and the volume and quality of the proposals reflect the commitment of independent colleges and universities to pedagogical innovation and excellence in the humanities. The selection committee was especially impressed by the high quality of (the University of St. Francis) proposal,” noted Richard Ekman, CIC president.

The multi-year project will assess the effectiveness and cost-savings potential of online teaching and learning in the humanities at CIC colleges and universities. This last year has seen a flood of interest in a phenomenon that barely existed two years ago. When MOOCs (massive open online courses) burst onto the higher education scene, they stimulated several new approaches to online learning, including open online courses, closed online courses, online courses for college credit, disaggregated online courses for certificates and badges, online courses with and without tuition, and assessments of student learning separate from the instructor’s evaluation of student performance, according to Ekman, who added that now, while the online learning technologies are still new, is the time to learn more about their effect on teaching and learning.

CIC member institutions already have demonstrated considerable interest in online teaching and learning in many different formats and fields of study, so this project is building on many innovations to learn about effective practices through careful evaluation. The evaluation will be led by Ithaka S+R, the nation’s leading research and consulting service for academic innovation in the digital environment.

University of St. Francis faculty members participating in the project will develop and offer two new courses in upper-level humanities using online technology. The project takes place over two and a half years and requires USF team members to attend two national and two regional workshops. Faculty members will also collect, analyze and share evidence of student learning and cost savings.

Deb Workman

Deb Workman

“By participating in the consortium the team hopes to learn how to develop and maintain high quality, effective online instruction in the humanities that is consistent with both the mission of the University of St. Francis and with best practices in online education. We hope that this project will provide a model for the development of other online courses for traditional undergraduates,” said Debra Workman, USF associate professor of history and chair of the History and Political Science Department.

Workman spearheaded the project proposal with Timothy Weldon, associate professor of philosophy. Both are tenured faculty in the humanities with experience and interest in online instruction, according to Robert Kase, dean of USF’s College of Arts and Sciences, who will administer the grant.

Tim Weldon

Tim Weldon

Workman will develop Europe in the 20th Century as an online course. A Joliet resident, she holds a doctorate degree in history from the University of Kansas. Weldon, of Palos Heights, holds a doctorate degree in philosophy from the University of Dallas. He will develop The Philosophy of War and Peace course for online learning.

USF has a long history with online instruction. In 1998, USF was among the first to offer an online MBA program. The university has grown to offer four online undergraduate degree programs and another seven at the graduate level. USF is ranked among the best online education programs in the nation in the latest listings from U.S. News & World Report. In its “Best Online Education Programs 2013,” the leading educational ranking publisher placed USF 28th of 237 schools for its online bachelor’s programs and 33rd of 101 schools for online graduate nursing programs. The university was also ranked 65th of 208 for online graduate education programs and 80th of 213 for online graduate business programs.

The Online Humanities Instruction project is supported by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in New York, N.Y. The foundation supports projects in four areas: Higher Education and Scholarship: Scholarly Communications and Information Technology; Art History, Conservation and Museums; and Performing Arts.

The University of St. Francis serves 3,400 students nationwide, offering undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs in arts and science, business, education, nursing, health care and social work. For information, call (800) 735-7500 or visit

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