The Learning Village
The University of Dayton's vision for the future, as expressed in our "2005 strategic plan," articulates three key outcomes: distinctive graduates, connected learning and scholarship, and a strong campus community. These outcomes express the need for greater emphasis on learning and scholarship as an interconnected and extended enterprise. Learners at the University of Dayton will be challenged to integrate and utilize experience, information and knowledge in addressing the critical issues facing the human community; to collaborate in embracing learning opportunities, solving problems and in enhancing community life; and to create, build and sustain a diverse community committed to linking learning and scholarship to leadership and service. The University of Dayton Learning Village Enterprise aspires to become a primary catalyst in achieving these outcomes.
The Learning Village is a metaphor for our transformation from a teaching-centered institution to a learning-centered community. It's a process whereby students, faculty, staff and administrators work collaboratively to identify and achieve learning outcomes within and beyond the classroom, the campus, and the community. It's an environment rich in learning resourcesavailable where we gather, where we live and where we workon demand and around the clock. [There is a fair amount of literature available on "living-learning communities," which the Dayton Learning Village seems to be. It would be helpful to briefly review this literature, identify trends and benchmarks, and discuss why Dayton chose this approach. -N]
The vision for learning at the University of Dayton is one that emphasizes collaboration, interconnection and immersion into a learning experience that includes the social, spiritual and intellectual growth and development of the student. We believe that learning in community prepares one to be an adaptive and successful lifelong learner and contributor to our ever-changing personal and professional communities. [This paragraph should be removed. Adds little to the opening paragraph, and reads as self-serving. -N]
Goals of the Learning Village
The fundamental goals of the Learning Village emphasize collaboration, connectivity, and community as the key enabling factors in facilitating learning, leadership and service within and beyond the classroom. The Learning Village seeks to encourage active learning in its many forms and pursue new models for learning that move beyond the traditional conceptions of teacher-centered and classroom-focused education. [Repeats first paragraph of preceding section. Suggest that these two sections be combined and shortened. -N]
A distinct characteristic of the Learning Village will be its emphasis on "connectedness" for everyone at the University of Dayton. Students, faculty and staff will be linked to one another and to communities outside the University through a high-speed fiber-optic network that will provide a vast array of voice, data and video applications that enhance learning, facilitate communication and collaboration among learners and provide extensive, on-demand information resources in multimedia formats. With increased access and use of these learning and information technologies, Learning Village endeavors will place greater emphasis on the development and refinement of critical thinking and analysis skills. [I and many others would argue that none of these characteristics are "distinct" from many Living-Learning Community implementations. -N]
The Learning Village seeks to establish, build and sustain the cross-discipline and community-wide conversation that will address the critical issues that impact the quality of life throughout our campus and larger community. This collaboration among faculty, staff and students extends learning beyond the traditional notions of classroom instruction by incorporating campus life, community service, and professional experiences into an active and rich learning process, thus acknowledging "learning by doing." This goal blends the experiences of campus life seamlessly with degree-relevant learning opportunities.
The community of learners that is created will emphasize active learning across the curriculum and throughout the many living and learning environments at the University of Dayton. [Again, the previous two paragraphs are repetitive. I get the impression that this article may have been drawn from a presentation to the Board of Regents or to the University Administration. The audience here is quite different. -N]
The Learning Village is already starting to take form at the University of Dayton. Perhaps one of our strongest examples of collaboration across disciplines and beyond the classroom are the linkages among the Humanities Base Faculty, the First Year Experience program and Residence Life Programs sponsored by Student Development. The "context and content" interconnections that are currently taking place in the first year humanities-base classes and residence hall programs have greatly enhanced the learning environment in our campus living spaces. The cooperative relationships that have developed as a result of these initiatives reflect many of the values and aspirations contained within the vision of the Learning Village, particularly as we connect academics with student life. [You need to cite some actual outcomes here. What "context and content" demonstrations have been launched? What "cooperative relationships" have developed, between which university units, with what changes to university life, with what outcomes? Also, you do not mention the specific configuration of your residence halls WRT the Living Village. Do you have special interest halls, a technology halls, an honors hall devoted to Living Village programs, etc.? Is instruction delivered in the halls? -N]
The Center for Social Concern, as a Campus Ministry activity, has helped lead the way in service learning opportunities that connect students and staff with community needs. Service learning "champions" include faculty members who have linked their courses to service activities across a variety of topics and disciplines, including sociology, psychology, medical ethics, history, religion, law and geology. Currently at the University of Dayton, over 1000 students are involved yearly in service learning projects, and course requirements in over 30 classes per semester have included service learning opportunities. [Were these service learning opportunities created as part of the Learning Village program, or were they extant? -N]
Collaboration in the Learning Village comes in many forms with a variety of outcomes. Experiential collaboration in the development and operation of student-run businesses can be found in numerous contexts across campus. The student store known as "Rudy's Fly-Buy" is one such example of a collaboration among students, staff and academic programs. This $600,000 per year enterprise is completely managed and staffed by students in close collaboration with Student Development and the School of Business Administration. The School of Engineering has created the "Design and Manufacturing Clinic" that takes on "back-burner" projects from area firms and assigns them to multidisciplinary student teams for research and development. Experiential learning extends into many other environmentsincluding the UD Law Clinic, the MBA capstone project, and student teaching in the School of Education. Additionally, the Campus Ministry retreat program is fully facilitated by student volunteers, our extensive Resident Assistant program reflects a leadership model that is run and staffed almost exclusively by students, and many of the ASI 150 First Year Experience classes are structured and taught by junior and senior student mentors in collaboration with faculty and staff. [Again, which of these initiatives is directly tied to the Living Village, and which are extant campus-wide or unit programs? Are you pulling existing programs together under the flag of the Living Village? Would be helpful to understand exactly what is "new" with the Living Village? -N]
Learning-centered applications facilitated by various technological innovations are spreading throughout the campus community as well. Many of these new approaches reflect our distinct value system with respect to the "high touch" nature of the University of Dayton educational experience. An interactive web-based tutorial that guides student preparation for exams has been developed by a faculty member in the Department of Biology. The success of this learning resource is twofold: student performances on tests have risen, and classroom interactions between the students and the teacher indicate an increased excitement about learning. [Please provide a URL link to this resource. You should also cite your studies for the claim of increased student test performance. Can this be linked directly to Living Village initiatives? -N]
Network technology has also facilitated new avenues for scholarly conversations among students, parents, teachers and the community. A political science instructor created a "live" online weekly discussion group using a web-based "chat room." Members of the class and parents back home participated in a series of "issues in political science" discussions through an Internet connection. Web-based learning strategies are also being used in the School of Education to build on a strong tradition of service and support to schools across Montgomery county.
These brief examples illustrate that the Learning Village is indeed taking form. The innovators described here, and many others, have emerged as campus champions. Their efforts, large and small, reflect a vision of a campus community that embraces learning as an active and collaborative process.
The University of Dayton is transforming itself through the talents, energies and passions of its students, faculty and staff. The Learning Village serves as a unifying focal point for this evolution in our learning. The residential character of the campus is a unique asset that has been underutilized by the academic side of the university, particularly in the creation of learning-centered opportunities. As we work collaboratively to transform the ways that we learn, the ongoing demand for more applications and improved learning-centered methods will likely change the role and functions of many faculty and staff across campus. As we are able to shift increasingly the "information exchange function" from the current classroom experience to our campus information systems, opportunities to enhance the face-to-face learning environments among students and teachers will grow. This shift will offer significant opportunities for richer and more productive learning by all members of the UD community. [I don't understand the point you are attempting to make here. How are you saying the roles and functions of faculty and staff need to change? What are the opportunities? -N]
As we expand our learning environments to include new arenas, our view of our community will be altered and our personal responsibility within that community will be heightened. Our relationship with the larger community will grow and the opportunities to nurture and build equal partnerships with diverse constituencies will continue to challenge our minds, reward our hearts and test our resolve. The transformation of the campus and the surrounding community into an interconnected, collaborative Learning Village where students, faculty and staff work side by side as learners and servant leaders will be a truly bold vision for this institution as it enters the 21st century. [From the perspective of the reader, what will they walk away with after reading this article? Will they say "Aha, here's something I can do!" or "I hadn't thought of that before!" or "I need to call Dayton and ask them about this particular program!" Right now, this article is a "preface" to the real story readers will want to read the real story. -N]
Unpublishablethe article is a PR piece for the University of Dayton. Very little of the article refers to actual use of technology except to emphasize that they are interconnected with an extensive network of fiber optic cablesso is almost every other major institution of higher learning at this point in time. The Learning Village concept is also becoming an overused cliche. Nothing new here.
This article as it stands is too general. It will get much better when the author illustrates the goals and visions at the University of Dayton described in the article with real world practices.. or at least gives an pproximate timeline of when and how these goals will be put into practice.