59: Princeton University’s Response to Anonymous Course Reviews w/ Nic Voge

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Nic Voge, Senior Associate Director at Princeton University’s McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning, discusses Principedia, Princeton University’s in-house course discovery forum, made to promote student sharing and metacognition while combatting anonymous and unhelpful course review sites.

They're not pupils to be acted upon, but there really partners and teaching and learning, and students bring a lot of knowledge and awareness about how to learn. You're listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education, the best professional development podcast for higher education leaders looking to grow enrollment at their college or university. Whether you're looking for fresh enrollment growth techniques and strategies or tools and resources, you've come to the right place. Let's get into the show. Welcome back to enrollment growth university, a proud member of the connect ETU podcast network. I'm Heracleson, AVP of marketing at Helix Education and we're here today with Nick Vogue, senior associate director at Princeton University's mcgross center for teaching and learning. Nick, welcome to the show, glad to be here. Are Really excited to talk to you today about how institutions can promote course discovery and combat anonymous ...

...course review sites by creating their own. But before we dig into that, Nick, can you give the listeners a little bit better understanding of both Princeton University and your role? They're sure so. Princeton University is a research one university that also houses a undergraduate college is truly committed to the Liberal Arts Curriculum, where midsize about five thousand two hundred undergrads, nearly three thou graduate students, most of whom are doctoral students in the disciplines. So we don't really have professional schools and you know, obviously highly selective. We've gone through our school. Excuse me, our enrollment has gone through some significant changes where much more socioeconomically diverse and recent years drawing from a wider range of schools where highly international. So those are the the things to perhaps keep in mind. Has Backdrop to Principedia. Here the macrosse center for teaching and learning, we do three primary things. One is we provide faculty development to our professor. We also train graduate students as what we call preceptors or teaching assistants in the classroom...

...and a future faculty, and we also support students academically, both undergraduates and graduate students, to provide tutoring, workshops academic coaching, and it's in that capacity that my primary role. I oversee the learning programs. Awesome, Nick, let's dive right into it. Many of us are familiar with sites like rate, my professor'Scom a place for students to share their course experiences, for them to determine a courses difficulty before enrolling and learn a professor's evaluated hot or not miss before enrolling. Talk about the primary problem of anonymous review sites like this? I think the primary problem is that the discourse is not a very good quality. It's actually really not very helpful for students. It's not doesn't help them as a learning resource. It's not a tool to make informed choices that would really maximize learning. So one of the things that we really feel behind Principedia is that if we want to change or really raise the discourse about...

...learning from instruction that would inform course selection, for instance, that we need to provide alternative sites. We need to create forums that crowd out low quality discussion by creating spaces where we can have high quality discussions. Yeah, let's dig into that. That this Principedia in house course discovery form that you've developed, kind of your overall goals behind it and how you believe it helps to reconceptualize the role of students in the learning process. Yeah, good question. I think one key term that might organize what's to follow is to really think about students as partners in the educative and in the teaching and learning process. So not think of US consumers. They're not pupils to be acted upon, but the really partners and teaching and learning, and students bring a lot of knowledge and awareness about how to learn and especially how a beginner or novice in a field learns from a course and instruction. So what Principedia does is it creates a provides a set of questions that students the guide students to do what we call a course analysis. It's an objective description of how the course is...

...organize, what the key goals are, the objectives, how it's taught, the features of the class that a student would want to know in the point of of course selection, but also features the class in terms of how to learn best. So it includes include a considerable portion of advice from students about how to learn, particularly by aligning student and learning with the goals and objectives of the faculties. Alignment is really crucial. It was really based on a few principles of pedagogy, which is transparency of objectives and intentions and expectations help learners, as I said, get in alignment, get in tune with her faculty and learn the most. We also think, as I said, that fact the students can identify difficult problem areas, things are hard to learn, areas in the class that are challenging and then give their their fellow students advice, that it's likely to be actionable by students. You've mentioned the depth that a form like principedia has beyond simply providing accurate testimonials. Of course, experiences...

...talk about this. Hope that Principedia helps to also promote your students meticognition development. Right. So these kinds of questions where students are analyzing how they're taught and then how they learn, that is they're enacting metacognition in those acts. So we're saying we're asking them to identify what's an effective learning strategy, to describe the criteria of what counts as knowing or learning, and those are acts of metacognition and I've firm believer in it's that one of the areas where students can really grow metacognition is by thinking about how they're being taught and the design logic behind that. So in some sense it's trying to lift the curtain or help students to lift the curtain on the design processes that those of us in Faculty Development Engage Faculty and all the time that the choices that faculty make are driven by their goals and objectives and that the assumption is as students will align their learning, their purposes and intentions to those objectives. But that's actually a process. It's not always transparent. So one act of metacognition is to say,...

...is what I'm learning in alignment of the goals and objectives? Another one is how well am I learning? When I meet difficulties, when I'm not learning well, when I what what strategies can undertake to fix up my gaps and understanding or strengthen my understanding, and having explicit statement of criteria and objectives can only help students to do that. And one thing that's not obvious maybe is that the act of writing these analyzes really is meant to transfer to other courses, that the process of doing that heightened students awareness of the teaching learning process, that it's a really reciprocal engagement and relationship and they'll take that forward with them to future courses. One analogy we might ask, just to kind of bring this home, is, you know, Principedias ex is purposely patterned after wikipedia, and we've all used wikipedia, seeing the benefit to us as users, but I don't think anybody's really asked what is the benefit of the people who wrote all those articles thought about how they're organized and structured, what...

...the topic or discipline their addressing, how that by writing that they've got a deeper understanding of that. So I think there's a lot of ways that men of cognition is enhanced among students by engaging in this process. Such good stuff. Nix, some of these legacy course review sites have over a decade and a half on you. From a promotional standpoint, how have you spread the word about the forum and encouraged course review submissions from the Greater Princeton community? A good question. So one is where really you're not trying to compete with those other, you know, course review or course evaluations sites, in the sense that it's really, from the beginning, meant to be context specific, and so what we're really trying to do is get a comprehensive description of the patterns of teaching and learning at Princeton. So are one of our mottos is, you know, by students for students at Princeton. In terms of generating content, we've reached out to students who are already engaging in processes of thinking about how they're taught and their role in it. So there's quite a proliferation of peer educator roles on our campus. These students often receive quite a lot...

...of training. Their quite metacognitive. They gain appreciation and sensitivity by virtue of their training and so they're really primed to bring those skills to the analysis of the courses that they're taking. So I have a large tutoring staff, over a hundred tutors. I have a staff of the moment about twenty what we call learning consultants, are like academic coaches. So they receive extensive training and then they work with students on their processes and methods of learning. So they're already ready, if you will, in terms of preparation to do the kind of analysis and we in various ways incentivize them. Some with simply Prinson's hard is challenging, is quite rigorous and saying look, you can make the experience for a fellow student better, both in terms of their enjoyment of a class and their success other ways, is we think it's beneficial and it's really instrumental in their training in their role. So we can count it as a training activity. And then we're finding new ways to do that. So we're creating...

...content. We're starting to create content by prompting students to go to their faculty and conduct interviews of their favorite classes or will say, Hey, pick a class that you love, that you found some of your classmates student. How could you help them love it? How could you help them be transformed by it? And this, if we find, is really motivating. So those are a few ways that we do that. We also partner with Peer Advisors. So there's students who have the role of not a peer educated but are advisor role. So they're shaping the course selection process of their freshman in particular. Again, they're thinking a lot about quite a lot about the curriculum. They're on their way there. We give them some extra tools and then they can contribute to a resource, Principedia, that that can be used by themselves in their advising practice with their fellow students. So it's beneficial to them. Nick, what is the early response from students been to Principedia this far? I think it's been really positive. You know, it's mixed. So some students want maybe more tips or they'd prefer them to start with some of the critiques or not so much text. That you look at it and there's a...

...lot of text. Yeah, but that's not we're not going for tips. I like I have a little phrase to interrupt that. We say Root, roots, not tips. They can get tips on the course of evaluations and that's fine. I think it's perfectly appropriate. We're trying to open a different channel of discussion. It's about this methods and processes and learning from destruction. So our goal is to have, whether it beyond Principedia or elsewhere, is to change the conversation that students are having from hey on that test. How did you do? To Hey on that test. How'd you do? It really get into the methods process these we're all learning all the time how to learn, how to learn better. Our senior year we could take on tasks and learn deeper and meet academic demands and we could not have approached as a freshman. Well, what did we learn along the way? So I think students really appreciate that Princeton is quite rigorous. The reception that the idea that that collectively we're going to work together communally to improve our learning is a quite appealing it's also a very competitive place. So the antidote to competition is collaboration...

...and students get that. I think the more students, you know, the first time freshman who are walking in the door and haven't had an experience of a Princeton course, you know, maybe they don't appreciate why this is so valuable, but the because they haven't experienced that competition, the rigor the demands. But I think they come to I'd say our estimates or something like seventy five percent of princes students are something aware of sipedia props. More important, at least as important of student reception, is the Faculty actually quite appreciative. They want these messages out there. They want thoughtful, informed, objective, analytical descriptions of their courses that complement their syllabus. I've had faculties say right this, this analysis the student is making on your side, is exactly what I want every student to take away from my lectures of my class. But I know they're not. So if this can help them do that, they're quite thrilled. I think some of the other benefits. You know, we, as I mentioned at the outset, Prinson really is committed to a liberal...

...arts curriculum and so students have a lot of requirements across the departments and they're going to be in classes with students who are quite skilled. You know. They also going to take an UPI division history class in being there, and if you're an upper division Princeton student in history, you're pretty good. So if you can, we can kind of raise and make exp raise the skill level of all students, make explicit the invisible curriculum that, of course, we encounter with a new type of class or a new discipline or a new subdiscipline. This makes all of our learning better and princes, students want to excel, they want to do well and they see this as a resource that helps some get good grades. That there's this. Not minimize that, but it's getting good grades by learning more. Nick. Finally, for institutions interested in creating similar forms at their institution, your teams trying to make it as easy as possible for them to do so. Can you talk a little bit more about that? Right IE, this would not be possible, this projects endever, not be possible without the technological team that's involved and that is not...

...me. Let me, let me assure you. So my colleagues have we use have created a plug in on word press can be found on Github and it's designed. It's a template, basically, and so it's students are, excuse me, faculty or staff or students from any institution could go on github and get this template and as plug in for word press and create a side of their own and they would simply populate with their own name and their logo. So you might have whatever institution, a PDI are, University of PD or college opedia that you wanted. And then really that the bones of it, the the framework is there for you. It has a lot of features that we figured out through trial and error that we found make the contributions to the site easier and more manageable, and so really there's relatively little technical support needed, but there it's helpful to have someone who's familiar with word press, certainly, and maybe check in with your it office on campus just to ensure that it works for you and any kind of constraints that your office or institution...

...might have. But it's free, cost free really at the because of the effort of this wonderful technological team that we have on board. Will absolutely make sure that we share a link to that plug in in the show notes and the blog as well. Thank you in advances to your generous it team and nick, thanks so much for your time today. What's the best place for listeners to connect with you if they have any follow up questions? I'd love this is a passion of mine. I love this idea and I would love to talk further with anybody who would like to. emails. Really, the best for me is something my first initial end and followed by my last name. Vote Boge at Princeton Nott EEDU. Awesome. Thanks against so much for joining us today. Nick. Thank you, Erik's my pleasure. Really appreciate the opportunity. Attracting today's new post traditional learners means adopting new enrollment strategies. Helix educations data driven, enterprise wide approach to enrollment growth is uniquely helping colleges and universities thrive in this new education landscape, and Helix has just published the...

...second edition of their enrollment growth playbook with fifty percent brand new content on how institutions can solve today's most pressing enrollment growth challenges. Downloaded today for free at Helix educationcom playbook. You've been listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the shown itunes or your favorite podcast player. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time.

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