This past week, Northwestern was chosen along with 20 other institutions to participate in the Council of Independent Colleges Consortium for Online Humanities Instruction II, made possible by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
“The process for inclusion in the consortium was highly competitive, and we are honored to be chosen to participate,” President Greg Christy said.
Consideration for acceptance was a long process. The qualification included questions about the college and the commitment to humanities. Along with proving adequate experience offering online courses and programs. The school had to provide people who would be on the faculty team and two courses that would be developed through participation in this consortium.
“The purpose of the consortium is to explore ways to improve access to a diverse set of upper-level humanities courses to students at small liberal arts colleges,” Rebecca Hoey, director of graduate school and adult learning, said. “Unfortunately, there are often not a lot of humanities professors at small colleges, and they typically teach quite a few of the general education courses so they don’t have a lot of time in their schedules to offer a wide range of upper-level courses in their content areas.”
Each CIC team is required to be made up of two faculty members, an academic administrator and the registrar. The NW team will include Randy Jensen (philosophy), Michael Kensak (English), Rebecca Hoey (graduate school and adult learning) and Sandy Van Kley (registrar).
The two offered classes as part of the program will be philosophy and science fiction taught by Jensen and history of the English language taught by Kensak.
NW’s participation in the program also means students can take CIC classes offered by other involved colleges.
“NW students will be able to draw on the expertise of faculty at other independent colleges,” Kensak said. “Courses will be available online at no extra charge. I’m excited about this opportunity for NW students to follow their interests and discover new areas in literature, history, philosophy, language, art and culture.”
According to Hoey, students who enroll in Kensak’s or Jensen’s online courses can expect to see students from these other institutions on the class list.
“This helps students at all consortia schools because they will have access to a wide variety of interesting upper-level humanities courses that could be applied to their major,” Hoey said.
The special consortium courses could potentially be credited towards general education requirements.
“The course will be credit bearing and count toward the minimum number of credits required for graduation,” Van Kley said. “Depending on the course, it may also count toward specific general education or major/minor requirements.”
The Consortium has three goals they hope to achieve. First, they want to explore how online humanities instruction can improve student learning outcomes. Second they hope to determine how smaller independent liberal arts institutions can make more effective use of their instructional resources and to whether they can reduce costs through online humanities induction and institutional collaboration. Lastly, the consortium aims to provide an opportunity for CIC member institutions to build their capacity for online humanities instruction and share their successes with other liberal arts colleges.
Students will be able to register for the NW pilot course for this project for the Spring 2017 semester. More information will be available prior to that time. These courses will be open to students from the other CIC consortium members in the spring of 2018.