Center for Digital Learning at SUNY Geneseo

Year One

Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

What will the first year of SUNY Geneseo’s Center for Digital Learning look like? That question was hard enough to answer even before March 2020. When Paul Schacht and I first learned of the opportunity for us to institute a center that would serve the Geneseo community in its efforts to innovatively utilize digital tools and practices in ways that support teaching, learning, scholarship, and creativity in late 2019, we excitedly began preparing for its arrival.

Initially, we had visions of a large, open room bustling with activity—people sharing ideas, students and faculty actively collaborating, folks huddled around laptops and screens to work through tools—and hosting lively, in-person workshops for faculty and students alike around campus. Our Faculty Affiliates and our Student Affiliates would represent both our community within our doors as well as the center to our community outside of those doors in their work with us. Then, our Center for Digital Learning became all the more digital when it became clear that none of those aspirations could happen anytime soon as our nation, and the world, shut down.

This will be a strange and challenging year in ways that make even the most established organizations and initiatives feel insecure as they strive to adapt to a new reality, and so the uncertainty around beginning a new endeavor such as this is only amplified. However, that being said, there’s also a sense that these types of initiatives are increasingly necessary. Combine that sense with the excitement of a challenge, and you get our team’s determined motivation. Some of what we hoped to do can be converted to virtual alternatives, such as our workshops and aspects of collaboration, and some will simply have to wait; that hustle and bustle of a physical center will be all the more exhilarating when we can experience it safely.

In the meantime, the CDL at Geneseo will further explore ways to support faculty and students as they navigate remote and hybrid learning in conjunction with other high-impact learning and student success mechanisms at Geneseo, as identified in Paul’s introductory post, as CIT, Milne Library, Accessibility Services, Academic Planning and Advising, the Center for Integrative Learning, and the Teaching and Learning Center. With these partners, we’ll provide essential encouragement and innovative problem solving to faculty who seek to enrich their pedagogy with digital tools and practices. If nothing else, the CDL is riding on a wave of momentum as our community and those around us are inspired, if not compelled, to dive into digital teaching practices, and as relevant as we thought our goals were in late 2019, they’ve become even more so now.

We’ll not only prepare for the future we had envisioned, but we’ll also embrace the opportunities of the current moment.

In this first year, we seek to consistently amplify the ambition in the Geneseo community to pursue digital learning by cultivating tangible expressions of their efforts through integrative micro-credentialing, starting with our talented and digitally hungry students. Our Student Affiliates will play a key role in helping us design applied-learning experiences for students that are as relevant and attractive as possible. In addition to this micro-credential experience, we’re exploring offering 1-credit courses to students interested in learning the basics of digital humanities tools and research practices, inspired by CUNY’s DHRI GitHub courses.

We’ll hold several virtual workshops this year, open to anyone in the Geneseo community to attend, but geared specifically toward faculty who are interested in expanding their digital toolkits. Expect to see some general sessions on how to use specific tools for textual annotation, open collaboration, and the like. In addition, we’re hoping to announce more specialized demonstrations depending on the kind of support we can get from those who have expertise in those areas as the year goes on.

Perhaps the most important goal we have for this upcoming year is to lead the Geneseo conversation on the future of digital learning at Geneseo. We’re aiming to address issues such as balancing face-to-face and online instruction in the broader campus curriculum and in students’ course loads, ultimately drafting an overall strategic plan for digital learning at Geneseo. We’ll be relying heavily on our Faculty and Student Affiliates in these conversations but are hoping to open this discussion to the larger Geneseo community in a structured way. We’re here to listen and to strategize, and to hold voices up even while we’re apart.

So, welcome to our playhouse; we hope you’re ready to begin.