The home stretch


Kendall Lamkey (left), professor and chair of the agronomy department, chats with senior Emily Culp (black jacket) while he prepares her omelet at the annual "grad breakfast" Tuesday morning in the Memorial Union. Part of Senior Week events sponsored by the alumni association and the vice president for student affairs, the breakfast involves dozens of faculty and staff in preparing the first meal of the day for graduating seniors. More than 700 students took part this year. Photo by Bob Elbert.

Residence department seeks to lease off-campus apartments

The residence department would like to lease five off-campus apartment buildings -- including the 10-story high-rise at 119 Stanton Avenue -- to temporarily increase its capacity until an expansion of the Frederiksen Court student apartments is completed in spring 2014. University officials will seek Board of Regents approval for the proposal when the board meets Thursday in Cedar Falls. The state Attorney General's office also needs to approve the final details.

Residence director Pete Englin said a rising rate of students opting to return to campus housing and "another strong freshman class" are key factors behind the decision to lease off-campus space and operate it as university housing.

"And for every student who requests it, we want to provide an experience that connects them with each other and connects them with university services," Englin said.

Listen online

Audio of public portions of the meeting will be live streamed on the Board of Regents website.

As of April 1, the residence department reported about 1,200 more requests for housing this fall than it has spaces. Two of six new Frederiksen Court apartment buildings will open in August, adding 240 beds. The other four buildings (about 480 beds) are scheduled to be phased in during spring semester 2014.

The Stanton Avenue high-rise would add about 300 beds to the department's capacity. Four apartment buildings under construction on Maricopa Avenue in southwest Ames would add another 200 beds.

As proposed, the residence department would pay American Campus Communities (ACC) approximately $1.7 million to lease the Stanton building and Jensen Properties approximately $1.03 million for the four apartment buildings. The lease period is Aug. 1, 2013, to July 31, 2014. Student rental rates in those buildings would mirror those at Frederiksen Court.

Englin said each site would be staffed with a hall director and peer community advisers (eight on Maricopa Avenue and 12 on Stanton Avenue). Additionally, the residence department would spend about $1.5 million to furnish all the apartments similar to its on-campus apartments. At the end of the off-campus leases, this furniture would replace worn pieces in the existing campus inventory.

Finally, the residence department would pay half of the relocation costs for tenants in the Stanton Avenue building who already signed leases for the year that begins Aug. 1. ACC owns about 20 rental buildings in Ames and would find other spots for those tenants. Iowa State's portion of relocation costs wouldn't exceed $15,000.

Residence system funds would cover all these expenses.

In fall 2012, the residence department had housing contracts with 10,575 students. The housing inventory included about 10,170 permanent spaces in residence halls and apartments and 428 temporary spaces in residence hall dens.

Other business

Other Iowa State items on the board's agenda include requests to:

  • Approve a list of 56 promotions and/or tenure for ISU faculty members. The list includes 32 promotions with tenure, 20 promotions for faculty previously tenured, one promotion without tenure and three tenure awards without promotion. If approved, the changes would take effect for the academic year that begins in August.
  • Approve parking permit fees for the calendar year that begins July 1. Iowa State is proposing a flat $10 increase for all permits, excluding motorcycle permits ($3 proposed increase). The proposed increase for annual permits in the Memorial Union ramp is $12.
  • Approve residence system and dining rates for the year that begins July 1. Just as it is holding all tuition and fees at current rates next year, Iowa State proposes a 0 percent increase for all residence hall and student apartment rates, as well as all dining meal plans, including semester meal block options and ISU Dining Dollar packs. The "door rate" for guests who purchase a meal at a campus dining center would remain at $8.50 for breakfast, $10.50 for lunch and dinner.
  • Sell an estimated $20.2 million in Memorial Union revenue bonds to refund remaining (2015-30 maturities) bonds sold in 2004 for renovations to the MU and its parking ramp. Lower interest rates would result in an estimated $1.8 million in savings.
  • Sell an estimated $2.9 million in Regulated Materials Facility revenue bonds to refund remaining (2014-19 maturities) bonds sold in 2003 to build the Environmental Health and Safety Building on the north side of campus. Lower interest rates would generate an estimated $280,000 in savings.

A full agenda is online. The audio portion of the meeting will be streamed live on the board's website.

Veishea 2013 in review

Chemistry majors peer at their smoky creation

SCUM (Society of Chemistry Undergrad Majors) conjures some smoky, crowd-pleasing fun in Gilman Hall. Photo by Bob Elbert.

Pets were part of the presidential party in this year's Veishea parade. Plant folk flocked to the Hort Hall greenhouse. Pancakes literally flew from griddle to plate. And pies left MacKay Hall by the boxful. Relive the spring celebration through photographer Bob Elbert's slideshow and videographer Alex Murphy's highlight video.

MOOCs: Where do they fit here?

In 2008, a couple of instructors teaching an online course through the University of Manitoba opened their class to outsiders. More than 2,000 non-tuition-paying learners joined the 25 students taking the class for credit. Many consider that Canadian class to be the first massive open online course, in short, a MOOC.

Five years later, MOOCs are, to put it mildly, trending. Long a topic in academic circles, they've moved into mainstream press and even are getting attention from some politicians. While some universities scramble to jump on the MOOC bandwagon, others, like Iowa State, pause to consider how MOOCS might (or might not) fit at their institutions.

Jim Twetten


Ralph Napolitano


Tom Brumm


In the thick of deliberations about MOOCs and other kinds of online instruction at Iowa State are Tom Brumm, professor-in-charge of Engineering-LAS Online Learning, director of assessment for the College of Engineering, and associate professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering; Ralph Napolitano, associate director for online learning, Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, and Julie Renken Professor in Materials Science and Engineering; and Jim Twetten, director of academic technologies in information technology services.

In a recent session with Inside, they shared their observations about MOOCs, in general, and their future at Iowa State.

Who's doing MOOCs?

Twetten: There are three big MOOC providers -- Coursera, edX and Udacity. There are more out there because these things basically are big learning management systems. Not too surprisingly, we see the Blackboard, Desire2Learn and Instructure Canvas companies all saying, "Oh yeah, we do MOOCs, too," and they all offer their own platforms, using their software. There are MOOC providers popping up everywhere.

Napolitano: Among the big three, Coursera is largest with more than 60 university partners.

ISU faculty and staff discuss educational technology daily on the ComETS group email list.

What are MOOC flavors?

Twetten: There are all kinds of MOOC flavors. One flavor is "I've got a course and I'm going to open it up and anybody can listen." It's just like auditing a class.

Brumm: One kind of MOOC is often referred to as a cMOOC (the "c" stands for "connectivism" as in the connectivism theory of learning) that emphasizes connected, collaborative learning and new learning methods beyond the traditional classroom setting. The learner is engaged in the discussion and creating new information.

On the other hand, xMOOCs ("x" stands for "extended") use teaching methods that are an extension of the methods already used in the offering institution. Coursera, edEx and Udacity, for example, offer mainly xMOOCs.

Are people learning in MOOCS or are they just dabbling?

Brumm: All of the above.

Napolitano: It's very difficult to quantify the learning outcomes associated with a MOOC. There is no standard method of delivery, data collection or assessment, so it's hard to get anything quantitative. It's also really hard, if you have 10,000 or 50,000 students, to monitor outcomes and correlate them to student preparation, commitment or effort. Certainly, there are a lot of people who register for MOOCs because of how easy it is to just go to a site, browse and register.

Twetten: I'm in one right now from the University of Maryland, on "Disruptive Technologies."

Napolitano: And you are free to survey with no commitment, follow it for a week or so and then decide to just unplug or fall off the map.

Brumm: There are a lot of statistics that show the vast majority of people who take MOOCs don't complete them. They sign up. They're engaged for a week or two and then quit participating.

Twetten: When you start providing credits or some sort of credentialing, then I think you start to see stronger involvement and completion for participants. But you also have the whole bunch of other headaches that come along with that.

How is credentialing done in a MOOC?

Napolitano: Currently, MOOCs offer very limited credentialing. Some MOOCs provide some form of certificate or “Statement of Accomplishment” to recognize students who complete a course. The question of more rigorous credentials and their recognition is a topic of great interest and speculation. Some believe that MOOCs will provide a way to move from our traditional credit hour system to systems based solely on competency exams, where students pursue whatever education they want through MOOCs and other avenues and, at some point, demonstrate specific skills through competency exams. Proponents argue that such a system would provide a better measure or snapshot of a student's skill set at a particular time.

But there are some dangers. If you go that route, you throw out all of the rigor that's built into a university program -- whether it comes from time-tested programs of study that include important overlap, building skills upon skills and connection between topics, developing the broad knowledge base required for effective, ethical, and responsible practice  or whether it comes from engagement in campus organizations, experiential opportunities or simply navigating the institutional structure. Part of going through a four- or five-year program is just managing that long span of time and all of the ups and downs that go along with it. Along with knowledge and skill, commitment, dedication, and persistence are qualities that our current system ensures.

Brumm: It's a cultural change for companies, as well. Employers hire students from our Engineering and Agricultural and Life Sciences colleges, for example, because they know that Iowa State is a good school and our students have the technical background. But they also know those students make great employees because they've been in student leadership, clubs and internships. They've done all those things that brand Iowa State and make our students much more valuable to employers.

So here's this person who's sat at home and taken all these online courses (perhaps with some other experiences) or here's a student who's been engaged for four years at a university, shown leadership and gotten involved and had experiences that really make a better employee. If I'm an employer, I might say, "Credentialing is great, but prove to me that you're going to be a great employee."

What kinds of costs do universities incur with a MOOC?

Brumm: Most costs would be in support staff and teaching assistants. You have to hire extra TAs to help manage the course, particularly if the MOOC students are engaged rather than just passively listening.

Twetten: Coursera, for example, wants a very high level of production quality in online videos. It's more than just sitting down in front of your computer and using the little built-in eyeball camera. Look at the credits on some of the MOOCs on Coursera. You'll see lists of 20 to 25 people who dove in to help create that MOOC.

Brumm: Buy-ins can be costly, as well. The University of Texas system paid $7 million to join edX.

What kinds of things might be a good fit between MOOCS and traditional universities?

Twetten: I think MOOCs can have an interesting impact when you mix the traditional path and the credentialing path. Can a university that is struggling because it doesn't have a core competency or a core curriculum borrow a piece of curricular structure from Stanford?

Brumm: For example, do we really need to teach Intro 101 at every single university? Some might say that Intro 101 is pretty much the same wherever you are. The implications for us is, "Wow, maybe we don't have to teach Intro 101," and we can take the resources that we use for Intro 101 and put them somewhere else, where they can add more value to the student experience.

Napolitano: Certainly, there could be ways in which MOOCs could be effectively integrated into the traditional on-campus university experience. For example, like independent reading, MOOCs allow students to freely explore and extend the scope of their education in a self-guided manner. In addition, by offering MOOCs in selected topics, a university can enable prospective students to view courses before making decisions about their career path and which fields they may want to pursue. Another opportunity would be that a traditional university course could utilize one or more existing MOOCs from other universities as courseware material, effectively facilitating a flipped course strategy.

Is Iowa State going to jump on the MOOC bandwagon?

Napolitano: The bigger question is how MOOCs might fit into our overall plan to use online learning to enhance on-campus residential learning and the experience of all of our students. It's so tempting to jump on the bandwagon. But MOOCs are one particular component of the broad spectrum of online learning. As you talk about MOOCs, you have to come back to the university mission. How do MOOCS fit into the overall scope of what we do at Iowa State and the overall educational and experiential value we provide to our students.

Brumm: You know there are institutions that are doing it [MOOCs] just because they can. I don't think Iowa State will be one of them.

Twetten: You're saying we'll find a pragmatic need before taking such a step.

Brumm: Yes. Unless it's connected to our mission, how do you justify a state institution making the investment in time, people, money to do that?

Are there any plans for an experimental MOOC or two?

Brumm: We're going to experiment because we know we need to get some experience and understanding, and the only way you can do it is to get your feet wet. But the idea that we're going to see a whole plethora of MOOCs offered at Iowa State, I don't see it.

Twetten: It's hard to be a voyeur to other schools. With any new innovation that comes out, you have to try it locally in order to understand how it impacts all the different pieces. What does this mean, for instance, to the Registrar if we do a MOOC? How does this impact how we provide online content? Does it impact the bookstore at all? Until you bring it onto campus and see how it interfaces with all our existing business models, I don't think you can fully begin to understand it and you can't have the dialogue locally.

Napolitano: I think the general point to take away is that we're committed to doing this in a responsible way, from all perspectives.

Can MOOCs and bricks and mortar universities co-exist?

Brumm: Yes, although, there's discussion about that. Some folks are saying that the university as we know it will be dead in seven years.

Twetten: That's ridiculous.

Napolitano: Similar questions might have been raised with the invention of the printing press, or television, videotape, the Internet, and so on. Brick and mortar institutions can be far more than conduits for information. They are centers of innovation, collaboration, and inspiration.

Brumm: Where's the added value? Critical thinking and social interaction and leadership and teamwork.

Twetten: And learning how to learn and change throughout your life.

Brumm: Exactly. Ultimately, we go out and make our lives for ourselves, not in little cubicles plugged into computers. We're interacting with people.

In 2020, how will students get a college degree?

Brumm: Iowa State University still will be here. The substantial educational experience will be in face-to-face classes, although you'll see it augmented with technology and some amount of online courses.

Twetten: Nationally, I think you'll see a very small segment of degrees that can be earned by taking all or almost all online courses. My prediction is that those offerings will impact the business model of traditional universities (like Iowa State) enough that we'll have to react to that.

Napolitano: I think that the landscape will change, but the core of residential, on-campus education will be intact. By and large, the system that we have now will be in place in 2020 and in 2030. The differences will show up in our incoming students, who will have had exposure to online MOOCs and other kinds of online tools. They'll come in with much more knowledge and, I hope, a better understanding of how it might be used. Certainly, they'll be better informed.

We'll be able to do a lot more with experiential learning than we can do now. Our biggest bottleneck for high-value-added programs like study abroad, internships and co-ops is that students miss class time. Online learning will help to mitigate most of those problems. Students can go off and engage in all kinds of off-campus experiences while still taking classes.

Additionally, we'll be able to implement lifetime learning much better. What if graduates of Iowa State have lifetime access to all online courses? What if we offer five-year refresher programs? For example, why shouldn't a graduate from mechanical engineering take a five-year refresher program and get a certificate saying that he or she did so? Shouldn't that be the norm as opposed to the exception, and shouldn't we lead the way? If others are going to focus on turning more classes into MOOCs, we should lead by being more creative.


Recommended MOOC resources




Dead week recommendations could become policy

A formal dead week policy was introduced by the academic affairs council at the April 23 Faculty Senate meeting. Currently, the language reads as a set of recommendations for faculty, rather than requirements.

"It's no longer a resolution of recommendations," said Rob Wallace, chair of the academic affairs council. "It was requested that the action we take result in an actual policy that can be followed and abided by, as opposed to recommendations and suggestions."

Three dead week restrictions are listed in the proposed policy (PDF):

  • Mandatory dead week due dates for graded work must be listed on the syllabus
  • Mandatory final exams are not allowed during dead week (exceptions: lab courses and weekly courses that do not meet during finals week)
  • Student organizations may not hold meetings, functions or events during dead week (exceptions must be approved by the dean of students office)

"Last year, there were some concerns raised by the Government of the Student Body regarding relatively few cases where additional work was added by instructors and additional exams were given during dead week," Wallace said.

"The academic affairs council has tried to work with the students -- we have some representation on the committee from GSB -- and what we have proposed here (and was approved by the executive board last week), was the complete replacement of the text."

In response to a question about policy violations, associate provost David Holger told senators that processes vary, depending on the issue. For instance, the academic grievance process deals with syllabus items, and the student affairs office enforces student organization activities.

"The mandatory final exams [second bullet point] is not a change and currently is a policy, even though it is part of this statement," Holger said. "That is something that would flow up to me and I would enforce it by not allowing the exam to be given."

Senators will further discuss and possibly vote on the proposed policy at their May 7 meeting.

Other business

  • Faculty Handbook changes to the policy for excusable absences (due to extracurricular activities and military service) and a proposed name change for the agricultural engineering graduate program (to agricultural and biosystems engineering) also are being considered.
  • Proposed revisions to a pair of handbook policies earned unanimous approval, including language that adds procedures for rescinding an honorary degree (section 6.2.5 PDF) and updated guidelines for the review of central administration (section 5.7 PDF).
  • Two council chairs were elected: Micheal Owen (agronomy), judiciary and appeals; and Steve Freeman (agricultural and biosystems engineering), resource policies and allocations. Council chair positions are two-year terms.

Spring music finales


If you haven't had a chance to enjoy Iowa State's student musicians this year, you have one more opportunity. ISU music groups are wrapping up the academic year with several concerts this weekend. Here's a look at their performance schedules. Submitted photo.