University Business February 2018 - 12

Beyond the News
ACADEMIC AFFAIRS

Pop-up courses respond to events in real time
Colleges don't generally plan academic
programs to respond to breaking news.
But in the last few years, a handful of
higher ed institutions have offered multisession "pop-up courses" that faculty
can design quickly for students who
want to earn credit for studying events
in real time.
"Given the rate at which things are
changing in the country right now,
we can't always reflect those changes
efficiently enough in our curriculum,"
says Karen Talentino, vice president for
academic affairs at St. Michael's College
in Vermont. "Like many schools, we
were dealing with issues of diversity and
inclusion on campus, and we needed
some way to pull people together to
let them talk about their concerns and
emotions."
In spring 2017, about 100 students
at St. Michael's took pop-up courses
titled "Black Lives Matter" and "White
Privilege." In fall 2017, students analyzed one another's online profiles in a
course called "Living in a Digital World"
offered by the college's IT department.
The courses are free, and students can
apply for a single credit by submitting
completed assignments for review.
Course launch logistics
A key to timeliness is not subjecting the
courses to a lengthy committee review
when faculty or students propose them.
The pop-ups require only the approval
of Talentino and the dean of the college.
"Keep it simple," she says. "Whenever
there's a decision to be made, make a
decision in favor of greater access for
more people."
The courses, which have run for
several weeks in the evenings or on
successive weekends, have also sparked
new collaborations on campus. The
Black Lives Matter and white privilege
12 | February 2018

TIMELY TOPIC-Students analyzed
one another's digital profiles in
a pop-up class titled "Thriving in
a Digital World" at St. Michael's
College in Vermont. Campus IT
members Chris Lei (at podium
above) and Erik Lightbody (in
blue shirt at right) taught the free
class, which offered students a
single credit in fall 2017.

pop-ups were each taught by a team
comprising faculty and a staff member
from the college's Center for Multicultural Affairs.
Talentino says she was inspired to
launch the courses by a school just a few
hours south in the same state. Pop-ups
have become entrenched in the curriculum at Bennington College since they
were first offered in 2015. At the time,
faculty and students wanted to study the
unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, in a more
formal way than a town hall discussion
or community meeting.
Bennington's pop-ups have covered

media bias, the Charlie Hebdo attack,
the 2016 presidential election, gender in
the workplace, regional water pollution and gravitational waves. Faculty
members had sought more flexibility
and immediacy even though the college
refreshes about half the courses in its
curriculum each year, says Isabel Roche,
provost and dean of the college.
"We felt that when it came to unfolding events, whether international,
national or local, they were invariably-
at our school and probably at most
schools-relegated to non-academic
space," Roche says. -Matt Zalaznick
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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of University Business February 2018

University Business February 2018 - Cover1
University Business February 2018 - Cover2
University Business February 2018 - 1
University Business February 2018 - 2
University Business February 2018 - 3
University Business February 2018 - 4
University Business February 2018 - 5
University Business February 2018 - 6
University Business February 2018 - 7
University Business February 2018 - 8
University Business February 2018 - 9
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University Business February 2018 - Cover3
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