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Amy Collier: How can universities build learning environments that are both digital and connected?

Speaker Series - The Future of the University and the Future of Learning

About this session

Stanford University is undertaking innovative projects that leverage technology to create meaningful, shared learning experiences. For Amy Collier, who has assumed the new role of senior director, Inspiration and Outreach in the Office of the Vice-Provost, Teaching and Learning, technology should allow for creativity, awe and surprise that support open-ended learning opportunities for students.

Collier says if you provide technological space for students to explore and experiment, the results are engaged learners. In fact, says Collier, faculty members are surprised and invigorated by the solutions developed by students who have the opportunity to explore creative spaces based on their goals.

Her new position builds on her former role as director of Digital Initiatives where she managed a team of instructional designers, developed a process for prioritizing projects, and catalyzed faculty interest in digital learning.

During Collier’s tenure, Stanford has been seeding and supporting many projects that leverage technology to enhance the learning experience. One example is the Lacuna Stories, a project led by Amir Eshel, a professor of comparative literature in the Department of Comparative Literature. He and a team of postdoctoral students and technologists created the annotation platform, Lacuna Stories, which supports close reading, analytical thinking and research through annotation. This platform builds on current tools and allows for annotation and critique of  primary texts. 

Another project has been led by George Hilley, an associate professor of geological sciences. He has created a mobile tool that allows for immediate, experiential learning in geology (Hilley’s area of study is the landscape’s response to active faulting and folding of the Earth’s crust).

Collier believes that universities have an important role to play in helping learners make meaningful connections. This includes helping learners understand their digital identity, make smart choices about their digital identify, and choose from the array of digital tools available to them. The online learning environment needs to be designed with this in mind.

At Stanford University, Amy Collier oversees a variety of curriculum development and teaching initiatives. She partners with faculty to create high-impact online learning experiences by designing online and blended courses. She also conducts research to inform effective online learning practices across the university. As a result, Collier is well known as a persuasive advocate and invaluable resource for evidence-based instructional improvement, strategy, and planning.

Before coming to Stanford, Collier was the director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at Texas Wesleyan University where she and her team implemented nationally recognized faculty development programs for online learning and learning space redesign.

With a PhD in the social sciences from Texas Woman’s University and a professional background in faculty development, Collier has proven to be a strong advocate for teachers and learners.

Credited with coining the term “distributed flip” to describe courses that use structured open educational resources, including MOOCs, as part of flipped and blended learning experiences, Collier frequently presents at conferences and universities, sharing her passion and expertise regarding open and online learning.

Notes Collier: “The next great innovation in online learning is the movement toward more openness in education. Openness takes us away from ‘walled gardens’ and toward deeply connected learning.”

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