Mellon Grant Supports Second CIC Consortium for Online Humanities Instruction

CIC recently received a $1.38 million grant to support a second Consortium for Online Humanities Instruction. CIC is now accepting applications for participation in the three-year project (2016–2018), with applications due March 4, 2016.

When CIC launched a pilot project in 2014 to explore the effectiveness of online humanities instruction at smaller private liberal arts institutions, the response was overwhelming. CIC received nearly five applications for every available slot, reflecting the commitment of CIC member institutions to innovative teaching and excellence in the humanities. Because of the promising results of the pilot project thus far (PDF), the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded CIC an additional grant in December 2015.

The online humanities project has three goals: to explore how online humanities instruction can improve student learning outcomes; to determine how smaller, independent liberal arts institutions can make more effective use of their instructional resources and reduce costs through online instruction and institutional collaboration; and to provide an opportunity for CIC member institutions to build capacity for online humanities instruction and share best practices with other liberal arts colleges.

Much of the discussion about online education in recent years has focused on teaching students workplace skills or offering large introductory courses in universities and for-profit institutions. According to CIC President Richard Ekman, “the use of online instruction at CIC member colleges and universities, however, offers potential solutions to an entirely different problem—how to keep upper-level courses that are essential for humanities majors strong and viable.” As a result, this project will focus on upper-level courses that are required or strongly recommended for humanities majors and are likely to be good substitutes for courses in the same major at comparable institutions.

Twenty institutions will be selected to participate in the second Consortium. Each Consortium member will be represented by a four-person team consisting of a senior academic officer, two faculty members in the humanities, and the registrar. Each faculty member will develop and offer an upper-level online course in the humanities, revise it, then open it to undergraduate students from other colleges in the Consortium. Institutions will collect and share data on instructional costs and student outcomes. Ithaka S+R, a leading research and consulting service for digital academic innovation, will provide resources for course development and conduct a comprehensive assessment of the project.

Proposals are due to CIC by March 4, and the selected institutions will be announced in early April. Applications for participation are especially welcome from institutions that have some experience in online learning but not necessarily in the humanities.

The work of the Consortium will begin with a national workshop in Alexandria, Virginia, August 7–9, 2016, followed by a series of online workshops in fall 2016 and two national workshops in 2017 and 2018. An important benefit of the Consortium will be the opportunity to collaborate with other participants from colleges and universities throughout the country and to work with veterans of the pilot Consortium, national experts in online pedagogy, and the Ithaka S+R staff. Faculty stipends and most costs of participation in the project will be covered by grant funds. For more information, visit​