The Office of Faculty Support:
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Because of the overlap between the Communication and HASS Requirements, OFS created a position that provides a single point of advising to ensure that students stay on track in both requirements. Patricia Fernandes, the advisor for the Communication and HASS Requirements, is available to students, advisors, and administrators who have questions about either requirement (as am I).
Staff from OFS and from Information Services and Technology (IS&T) are currently working to move the HASS Concentration process online so that students will be able to submit proposal and completion forms electronically for review and approval by concentration advisors. The forms will also be available for viewing by students’ major advisors.
Each year faculty can apply for financial support from two funds administered by OFS: the d’Arbeloff Fund for Excellence in Education, and the Alumni Class Funds (supported by the Classes of 1951, 1955, 1972, and 1999). The application periods for the funds are staggered to provide more options to faculty, with applications due in the fall for the d’Arbeloff Fund and at the beginning of spring term for the Alumni Class Funds – all for projects offered during the subsequent academic year. Proposals for Alumni Class Funds are due February 1, 2013.
These grants foster experimentation in residential-based undergraduate education with particular emphasis on the GIRs, the experience of first-year students, interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary offerings, and development of online learning modules for use at MIT.
Selections are decided by a committee of faculty from across the five Schools, as well as the donors. Last year 17 faculty groups received almost $373,000. Five projects received d’Arbeloff awards, while 12 grants were made from the Alumni Class Funds. Even when a grant is not awarded, we try (within the bounds of confidentiality) to share any helpful feedback or to redirect applicants to other, potentially more appropriate sources of funding or assistance. Please feel free to contact Mary Enterline or myself with your proposal ideas or questions about the funds.
Beyond the funds, OFS supports the efforts of the CUP in licensing educational experiments, and is currently involved in discussions at faculty committees on the impact of MITx and online learning on residential-based undergraduate education. I sit on the MIT Council on Educational Technology (MITCET) as well. We also collaborate with our DUE colleagues in the Teaching and Learning Laboratory (TLL) and the Office of Educational Innovation and Technology (OEIT) to promote educational innovation at MIT.
The Margaret MacVicar Faculty Fellows Program is the newest addition to the OFS portfolio, having become part of OFS last academic year. The program, which honors MIT’s first Dean for Undergraduate Education, is MIT’s highest undergraduate teaching award. OFS staff oversee the nomination and selection process for fellows, who are recommended by a committee of faculty and students for the Provost’s approval.
New MacVicar Faculty Fellows are honored at MacVicar Day events each March. MacVicar Day also features a program focused on undergraduate education, which is open to the entire MIT community.
Last year we had a wonderful panel of speakers, in a tribute honoring the late Professor and Dean of Science Robert Silbey; the event highlighted the ongoing excellence and commitment of some star teachers. The next MacVicar Day will be March 13, 2013. As well as MacVicar Day, we organize other events for the fellows and for the public.
The MacVicar program provides an opportunity for these dedicated faculty across MIT to learn from one another, share their innovations, and advocate for excellence in our undergraduate educational mission. We meet several times each year, and I have tried to institute new opportunities for sharing perspectives among and by the MacVicar Fellows, for the benefit of the wider community.
In OFS we see ourselves as a bridge between teaching faculty and members of the administration. During the academic year, I convene monthly meetings of the Undergraduate Officers from all departments, sections, and programs. This is an opportunity both to provide information for the officers to take back to their colleagues and also to get feedback on educational issues and on administrative and infrastructure changes. For example, at a recent meeting, we had presentations and discussions on streamlining subject evaluation questions, changes to the grade-book module in Stellar, and actions to take if you perceive students are highly stressed. We welcome hearing more from departments about their instructional staff’s concerns and interests, especially as they might help us maintain and improve the education of our MIT undergraduates. We are happy to put you in touch with people and offices whom you might wish to have visit your faculty meeting.
MIT’s subject evaluation system moved entirely online in fall 2010 after a two-year pilot which benefited from the experience and perspectives of many departments (including Courses 2, 6, and 16, who had previously set the way forward by establishing local online systems, and have since joined our common system: many thanks!). OFS now manages the Institute-wide system.
This past spring, after consultation with the Officers of the Faculty, I convened a Subject Evaluation Advisory Committee (SEAC) comprised of faculty with expertise in education, surveys, and evaluations from all five Schools, as well as undergraduate and graduate student representatives.
SEAC’s first task was to examine the Institute-wide questions asked on the evaluations. We had continued to use the two sets of 30-plus questions from the paper forms (with slight variations between those for Science/Engineering subjects and those for SHASS/SAP) as the online system was established, so that we could compare responses between the two systems without introducing extra variables. However, following the recommendations of an earlier advisory group, OFS has since worked with the Teaching and Learning Laboratory and SEAC to create a shorter, more universally relevant set of questions. Fewer common questions will make the basic forms less onerous for our busy students while allowing greater customization by Schools, departments, and instructors who are now able to add a limited set of their own specific questions. We hope that reducing the standard set of questions may also help response rates by keeping surveys to a reasonable length.
The streamlined set of questions has been shared with the CUP, the Committee on the Graduate Program, the Faculty Policy Committee, and the Undergraduate Officers. We hope to introduce and test the new set of questions during this academic year with the cooperation of the Sloan School, who could help us become the rare university to have a single set of evaluations.
Summary subject evaluation data continues to be available to everyone in the community while instructors, department heads, and academic administrators can also access student comments.
OFS staff help departments, Schools, faculty committees, and administrative offices analyze the data as they consider curricular questions and policies. We also stand ready to suggest good practices for encouraging student participation: At the top of the list, perhaps hearteningly, is faculty making a point of valuing the responses, and letting students know that directly. Many faculty encourage students to bring laptops to class (the MIT Library has loaners if needed) and reserve time for their responses.
As part of the Online Registration Phase Two initiative, I am the business lead on a project team that was formed this past spring to deliver tools that support instructors’ ability to manage enrollment within individual subjects. Through these tools, we hope that students will more easily find appropriate subjects in a timely fashion, instructors will be able to accommodate those students with the greatest need in limited enrollment subjects, and departments will be able to improve their advance planning. OFS is providing sponsorship and staffing for this project jointly with the Registrar’s Office and IS&T.
The project team received preliminary input through discussions with faculty groups including CUP, SOCR, and the Undergraduate Officers Group. This past spring, a subset of the team interviewed faculty and staff from eight departments (2, 5, 6, 9, 14, 18, 21L, 21W) in an attempt to better understand the issues departments face with enrollment management. In May, the team administered an online survey to all active faculty and non-faculty instructors, to which 505 people (including 326 faculty members) responded. Some who were on leave may not have received the survey, and if you have additional input do please feel encouraged to contact me directly.
The project team has identified the following items as potentially in scope for the project:
The team has just begun prioritizing these items. It is possible that some may be addressed in other IS&T projects – and, of course, getting these projects right takes time. We’ll keep in touch as the work evolves.
As you can see, we have many ongoing projects in OFS. At all times, however, our first priority is to support faculty members in their educational endeavors. When you have an idea or a question and don’t know where to go, don’t hesitate to contact us. We’re located in Building 12, just off the main corridor, down the hallway by Café 4. Or call (x36776) or e-mail us (firstname.lastname@example.org). Our Website is web.mit.edu/facultysupport. It includes links to the program Websites and contact information for the staff. We’ll help you, or try to direct you to someone who can.
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MacVicar Faculty Fellows Nominations Due
Thursday, November 15, 2012
End-of-Term Subject Evaluations Begin
Monday, December 3, 2012
Subject Proposals for Communication and HASS Requirements Due
Friday, December 7, 2012
End-of-Term Subject Evaluations End
Monday, December 17, 2012
Alumni Class Funds Proposals Due
Friday, February 1, 2013
Friday, March 15, 2013
Director and Dean for Curriculum and Faculty Support
Administrative Assistant II
Staff Associate, Faculty Support
Advisor, Communication and HASS Requirements
Staff Associate, Curriculum Support
Executive Officer, Subcommittee on the HASS Requirement
Associate Dean for Curriculum and Faculty Support
Executive Officer, Committee on the Undergraduate Program
Assistant Dean for the Communication Requirement
Executive Officer, Subcommittee on the Communication Requirement
Administrative Assistant II
Administrative Assistant II
Communications and Data Specialist
Office of Faculty Support
Committee on the Undergraduate Program
Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (HASS) Requirement
Margaret MacVicar Faculty Fellows Program
d'Arbeloff Fund for Excellence in Education
Alumni Class Funds
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