Audrey Agnello, MBA, offers a summary of her experiences at this idea-sharing conference—and how it inspired her to refocus her fall semester.
Audrey Agnello, MBA
Professor of Accounting, Niagara County Community College, New York
MBA in Accounting, MS in Education, BBA in Accounting
Perhaps, back in 2006, Course Hero’s focus was on supporting student learning by providing course-specific study resources, but the Education Summits in both 2018 and 2019 demonstrated the company’s additional commitment to assisting faculty in their efforts to actively engage students and foster deep and lasting learning. The July 2019 conference gathered more than 300 educators from across 40 states and more than 150 institutions. My experience at the Course Hero Education Summit 2019? In a word: inspirational! I have never been at a conference where all in attendance shared a profound commitment to student learning, to growth as educators, and to generously sharing their best practices. It was the most valuable conference I have attended, bar none.
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What I learned from a cross-discipline session
From the welcome gathering through our last session, I was continually learning from my colleagues. The variety of session formats provided opportunities for participation and interaction with educators across all disciplines. Breakout sessions—which faculty chose based on interest (course design, classroom tech, student engagement, faculty development, etc.)—occurred in small groups, which resulted in productive dialogue. In fact, I plan to refocus my fall semester courses according to sage advice from Virginia Tech geography professor John Boyer in his session “You’re Flippin’ Kidding Me: Why Flipped Classes Work: A course is a semester-long story.” Perhaps framing all content within a single, familiar narrative that I develop throughout the semester would allow me to connect to what students know and facilitate deeper learning.
What I learned from a discipline-specific session
Larger, discipline-specific sessions provided the opportunity to interact with colleagues sharing similar challenges: Each of the presenters were experts both in their field and as educators. In an accounting teaching workshop led by Dr. Kelly Richmond Pope, I found myself texting colleagues at other colleges about her activity Red Flag Mania™ and how they should consider it for their fall auditing or forensic accounting courses. Red Flag Mania™ is an interactive learning activity designed to engage students in using their accounting knowledge to identify which suspect committed an embezzlement. Robust forensic evidence is provided, yielding a rich, challenging, and exciting learning experience. I know—I and a room full of seasoned educators participated in this academic adventure and truly enjoyed it.
What a fantastic example of hands-on, experiential learning in a discipline in which this is difficult to achieve.
What I learned from the keynote speeches
The summit concluded with two keynote sessions that featured Dr. Cathy Davidson and Dr. Michio Kaku, both renowned in their fields. In her “Revolutionizing Learning” talk, Dr. Davidson gave us some highly practical advice; I fully intend to take under consideration her caution that “content isn’t king.” Too often I am worried about covering all the material, when focus on the conceptual foundation is more effective.
Within an entertaining and fascinating address entitled “The Classroom 20 Years from Now,” Dr. Kaku gave us a glimpse of the future from a variety of perspectives: medicine, education, travel, energy, and AI, among others. Of particular interest to me were the careers he feels will be “winners” under perfect capitalism and how students should train for such careers. These included jobs requiring critical thinking (lawyers, counselors, teachers, and accountants) and creative thinking (artists, novelists, etc.), as well as semi-skilled workers and anything in the medical field.
What I learned from the panel discussion
The session I found most valuable, however, was the panel discussion featuring questions provided by attendees. One wouldn’t expect that a large-group question-and-answer session would involve much audience participation, yet it was interactive and engaging. For example, each panelist was presented with three possible questions, on which the audience voted by holding up a slip of colored paper. This session treated some of the most salient issues we deal with as faculty. I took so much away from this session, but one topic that I felt addressed my current need was how to form community and engage students from day one. The suggestions were excellent: Do some work in the first few minutes to connect students to the course immediately, show students you care by learning and using their names as soon as possible, have a previous class write a letter to your incoming class, and begin with a small-group activity in which they can get to know class members while engaged in a specific task.
I wish I could have had a full session on each of the questions, though. How do you not lose the least able while not boring the most able? How can I balance the need to get through all material while engaging students in meaningful and organic discourse? How do we ensure robust learning and rigor while understanding the severe financial and time constraints they face?
As the Course Hero team begins to plan next year’s conference, perhaps the thought-provoking questions featured in this session might give direction to some of the breakout sessions for the next conference. Each of the questions proposed could constitute a full-hour session.
What I learned from the Summit
It’s true that students often need support in addition to what they receive from faculty, tutors, and text resources. I encourage my students to use whatever they need to achieve their learning goals. But Course Hero has gone “upstream” to address the gap for educators. Yes, I have my colleagues who are excellent and knowledgeable. My college has an active faculty development center that offers extremely helpful sessions and reading groups focused on best practices. But with Course Hero I can now access the wisdom and contributions of colleagues in my discipline across the country.
I am grateful to Course Hero’s technical staff for creating a QR code for each attendee so that we could scan the code on their name tag and “follow” them on the Course Hero platform. In so many ways, this conference gave us a unique opportunity to network with educators both inside and outside our own fields. I commend Course Hero’s commitment to both students and educators.
If all of the faculty members enrolled in Course Hero are anything like those I met at the 2019 Summit, I believe the expertise and dedication to student learning on this platform cannot be matched by any existing organization or education platform. In line with Dr. Kaku’s presentation, Course Hero seems to have already set out upon the future path for quality teaching and learning through a digital network of faculty peer connections and the sharing of best practices.
Kudos to all involved in the 2019 Education Summit.