Recap of the Digital Liberal Arts & Sciences Discussion

This month we kicked off our Digital Liberal Arts series with a town hall and design sprint about the impact of technological change on the ideas of disciplinarity, the liberal arts ethos, and pedagogy across disciplines. As the month comes to a close, we’d like to take a moment to reflect on that conversation.

There was much agreement on the town hall panel about the nature of the liberal arts, and the discussion about how the digital changes that was spirited and thought-provoking. Knowing that while we don’t yet have all the answers, we have faculty here at UMW who are doing work every day with and for students to move the liberal arts forward.

If you couldn’t join us for this month’s events — no worries! Here is the live stream from the town hall:

The design sprint ended up being my favorite event (and I’m not just saying that because I led it ;-)) The hands-on approach really allowed faculty to dig into the details of specific issues they are facing here at UMW, and the specific opportunities they encounter in their day-to-day work. We started the design sprint by asking faculty to identify specific challenges and opportunities we face at UMW regarding the digital impact on the liberal arts. We brainstormed a list of granular issues, which we then organized into themes. We then split into groups to talk about how we would address those themes in our specific disciplines. We came back together to reflect on the question, “What does the digital do to the concept of disciplinarity?”

Ultimately, the groups came to similar conclusions: There are competing tensions shared across disciplines. Privacy vs. collaboration and sharing, increased access to information vs. information overload, new tools and platforms vs investment in time and hardware, among others. One group noted that these types of tensions are necessarily unique to the digital liberal arts, which spurred an engaging discussion of the nature of the academy, and how it has balanced similar tensions in the past. Personally, I came away from the event with a slightly new frame through which I view the impact of the digital – it seemed to me that we were discussing a completely social process. How do we reach our students? How do we work with our colleagues? How do we learn new skills? Are our pedagogies keeping up with the latest advances in our society? These are the questions the group came up with, and they don’t seem all that unfamiliar.

We will be continuing these discussions all year and hope you can join us for our next town hall focusing on the Future of Education.

Here is a Storify of the conversation on #DoOO from the town hall backchannel:

Photo by Philippe Gillotte (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)