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Staying current with trends and technology matters in academia. On May 31, CSU Global faculty participated in a virtual conference organized and hosted by Dr. Greg Grossman, CSU Global associate director of faculty development.

“To remain relevant, teaching practices must be ever-evolving. For the benefit of their students, the CSU Global faculty strives to stay current with new research and technology. Participants in the recent CSU Global Virtual Conference explored topics such as cognitive computing, data visualization, and critical thinking in the age of ‘fake news.’” Grossman added that the conference was a success, spotlighting faculty achievements and providing students with a glimpse into the art and science of teaching.

Nine topics were presented, beginning with “Evidence Based Touchstones of Good Teaching” by Nella Anderson, Ph.D, Educational Psychology, adapted from “The 12 Touchstones of Good Teaching: A Checklist for Staying Focused Every Day” by Bryan Goodwin and Elizabeth Ross Hubbell.

Anderson covered several proven strategies as the touchstones of instruction, which included methods for being demanding, supportive, and intentional within a course curriculum. She also explored how to personalize the online learning experience by understanding individual student needs, challenges, and goals, and effective methods of personalizing feedback as well as coaching students through learning challenges.

Next, CSU Global staff member Sondra D’Aquisto, manager of institutional research, presented “Institutional Data – Moving Beyond Numbers in Boxes: Data Visualization 2.0.” Her presentation reviewed the CSU Global approach to business intelligence, including the roles of the institutional research and business intelligence teams, and the partnership between these two departments.

Tableau, the data visualization software used at CSU Global, was showcased in order to highlight automated reports that have been built to date, as well as preview further data visualizations (e.g. heat maps, scatter plots, tree maps and geographical mapping) possible within the Tableau platform that may aid in decision making within the university.

Van Davis, Ph.D, US History and Civil Rights presented “The Higher Education Policy Landscape: Where are we, where are we going, and why you should care.” This presentation explored fast-changing federal higher education policy, acknowledging that the Higher Education Act is several years overdue for reaffirmation, and that the current secretary of education has publicly questioned the value of the act. Key higher education and educational technology appointments to the Department of Education remain unfilled, and the president’s proposed budget contains unprecedented cuts to education funding.

This presentation provided an overview of the current federal higher education landscape with special attention paid to those issues impacting online education. Davis noted that post-secondary African American student enrollments will increase by 8.2 percent by 2021, and Hispanic/Latino student populations grow by 17.4 percent within the same timeframe. At the same time, funding will decrease, and will be tied to outcomes. This data suggests that higher education institutions must focus on improved service to these student populations. With predictive analytics, Davis said there are opportunities to develop algorithms for responses to anticipated student learning challenges.

In “Fake News: The Interplay of Mis/Disinformation and Problems in Contemporary Journalism,” Melissa Zimdars, Ph.D, Communication Studies, explored the phenomenon of so-called Fake News, which emerged during 2016 presidential election. In a matter of months, the phrase began to describe everything from satirical news to political propaganda; even information one simply disagrees with. Zimdars’ presentation also historicized and contextualized what is meant by fake news, and discussed the interplay between problems in contemporary journalism, political propaganda, and different kinds of fake news.

Is there a universal design for learning? Lisa Hernbloom, Ph.D Curriculum & Instruction, in her presentation “Differentiation and Universal Design for Learning,” discussed the diverse CSU Global students population with an array of varied backgrounds and learning. She presented “Universal Design for Learning” as a useful framework for making sense of what students bring to the online classroom, and how instructors can effectively support them. Her presentation also explored fundamental aspects of UDL, and provided an outline of key considerations for implementation, as well as relevant sources.

In “Fake News & Rhetoric: Reason Well and Always Negotiate,” Audra Spicer, Ph.D, English, examined the issues created by troubling “alternative facts” and fake news. She also explored troubling concepts in our political climate, and problems created by shoddy ethics, “Making the bad case seem the better.” Describing how half-truths and empty promises have driven rhetorical theory debate since classical times, she analyzed the challenges of creating a case, justifying an idea as true, and proving that that a course of action is good. With these principles as guidelines, educators have the opportunity to introduce critical thinking skills and teach methods for applying those skills in the face of the today’s social media-driven propaganda. Spicer also offered pedagogical tools to lead students on Socratic, epistemic discoveries of knowledge that is based, verifiably, on what reason says is virtuous.

Tim Perez, Ph.D, Science Information Systems, presented “Virtualization in Today’s Organizations! What does it mean for you?” an exploration of virtualization as a topic of extensive interest to organizations of all sizes. Virtualization has provided increased efficiency, cost savings, and greater flexibility for disaster recovery. Perez’s presentation provided an in-depth background into virtualization in the context of IT, and analyzed the pros and cons to be considered when migrating to virtual environments. Discussion centered on common applications for virtualization, and concluded with an overview of CSU Global’s new specialization in virtualization and cloud Computing. With this specialization, CSU Global IT graduates will play key roles in maintaining, developing and analyzing virtual and cloud environments.

In “Don’t Test – Assess,” William Ryan, Ph.D explored the question of what testing actually measures, and how competency-based design focuses on improving performance by designing a more authentic assessment strategy where demonstration of acquired content is a component to progress. He introduced authentic assessment techniques to measure skills related to outcomes, define tasks that require engagement, and analyze processes used to produce the response.

Ryan described a four-step assessment model, and discussed how performance standards are integral to the design of authentic assessments. Identifying the four steps used to develop authentic assessments, Dr. Ryan led participants in developing alternative assessment options.

In the final session, “Cognitive Computing – Enabling NextGen students in augmented intelligence tools,” Murthy Rallapalli, Ph.D Systems Engineering, explored how the mind, as we understand it, is inseparable from its environment and context, and why this is one of the greatest challenges in cognitive computing.

Rallapalli described cognitive systems as have three attributions – they can think, they can reason, and they can learn. By example, if Joe likes jaguars a lot, current search engines cannot interpret if he is referring to an automobile or an animal. A cognitive system will be able to predict the outcome based on sophisticated algorithms. Rallapalli discussed the training required for cognitive systems programing and how minimal IT background is needed for this technology.

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