Spring 2013 Letters
From the President
New Technologies, New Horizons
MOOCS, e-learning, virtual education, digital learning, Khan Academy: these days, it's almost impossible to read a newspaper or watch television before the topic of online education comes up. In my travels to meet with Knox alumni/ae and friends, I have found keen interest in the implications of this "disruptive" technology for the traditional residential liberal arts college. Are we doing online education? Should we? Is it an existential threat to the mission of colleges like Knox? My own view is that the new technologies offer our institutions new horizons and vastly expanded opportunities for teaching and learning, especially when combined with the high-touch relationships of a residential campus where faculty and students form a closely-knit learning community.
We all know about the explosion in digital information sources, such as online scholarly journals and databases, opening up access to any individual with an internet connection. At Knox, for instance, this growth has meant an increase from 900 print subscriptions to 11,600 online journals. Many of the heavy bound volumes that used to reside in the reference area have been replaced by digital indexes used by specific disciplines, such as the MLA Bibliography and Sociological Abstracts.
But a much more remarkable expansion is taking place in the way we teach. While liberal arts colleges are not yet offering MOOCs (massive open online courses), each new academic year brings innovations in technology-mediated teaching and learning. At Knox, virtually every class uses online resources through our learning management system, Moodle. This system provides a platform for the posting and accessing of course materials, such as syllabi, assignments, readings, and discussions. Several faculty members are experimenting with "flipping their lectures," recording lectures so students can watch them online on their own time, rewind and listen again, and return to them as needed. This frees traditional class time for the in-person tutorial activities that our faculty do best: deep discussion, close review of papers and assignments, coaching of student independent projects, and collaborative work.
The possibilities for expanding this technology to link student and faculty on the Knox campus with individuals and groups around the globe are breathtaking. More and more classes are using platforms like Skype or Go to Meeting to bring in remote speakers or connect students in multiple locations. Last year, Board Chair Duke Petrovich '74 spent more than an hour in a virtual Q&A session with students in Professor John Spittell's winter term marketing classes, Strategic Brand Management and Marketing and Society. This spring, Adjunct Instructor Laura Rosene '90 is teaching her "blended" course in the Business and Management program for the second time, combining a part-time on-campus residency with live, interactive lectures delivered by videoconferencing and desktop sharing from her home in Ohio. A new development that I find especially promising will be piloted this summer, when the Associated Colleges of the Midwest (ACM) will offer for the first time a calculus course for students at ACM colleges. The course is not a MOOC, but instead a SPOC (small participatory online course): students can do most of the work at their own pace while having weekly interactions with the professor and other students via videoconferencing. In a similar vein, Associate Professor of Educational Studies Jason Helfer is using videoconferencing to interact with and observe student teachers in the classroom setting as a supplement to in-person observation.
While some see digital learning as a threat to traditional liberal arts education, Knox faculty and students embrace the new opportunities and seek novel ways to blend our traditions with this brave new world of learning. I am especially interested in finding ways to re-engage Knox alumni through online learning in the years to come. It is an exhilarating time to be on campus, physically and virtually!
Teresa L. Amott
Letter from the Editor
Celebrating the Knox Community
In October, my husband and I welcomed a second daughter into our family. An entire community of family and friends celebrated as we brought her home, and a significant portion of that community was associated with Knox, as my co-workers and colleagues provided us with evening meals in the weeks after her birth. I cannot express the gratitude we felt toward the Knox community and this long-standing tradition for growing families.
Yet as my family was welcoming a new member, another family was mourning the loss of one of its own, Knox junior Tundun Lawani. Her tragic death sent a ripple through the Knox community that was felt across the country and world, as alumni and parents sent their condolences to a mourning campus and the Lawani family.
For as joyful and sorrowful as these experiences may be, I find comfort in both. They exemplify the best of the Knox community. In both events, friends, classmates, and colleagues joined forces to provide others with the support they need. Yet the connections that bind the Knox community together can be found every day at Knox-in the friendly face greeting a nervous prospective student to campus; the bonding between a professor and student over a favorite book or new discovery; or the reconnection of two classmates at Homecoming.
In many ways, Knox Magazine is the keeper of this community. In this issue alone, we follow the journey of two international students as they explore their host country and highlight a gathering of alumni who shared career advice and expertise with current students. We also find out what professors learn from their students and what impact faculty can have on the career of a three-star general. The fact that Class Notes, in which we celebrate and note births, unions, and deaths and share our accomplishments and the details of our lives, fills more than half of its pages is testament to our communal bonds.
My appreciation for the Knox community grows with each issue of Knox Magazine and with each year I'm privileged to serve as its editor. I hope your appreciation for our community grows as you read this issue and learn more about the bonds that tie us together.
Megan Scott '96
Letters to the Editor
Remembering George Bacon
I glanced through Knox Magazine, which arrived a day or so before I left for Homecoming 2012. I was pleased to note the write-up on non-traditional student George Bacon and put the magazine aside for later. I did not learn that George had died until I was told at a Homecoming meal.
Last year, at Homecoming 2011, I was privileged to attend two classes with George. He struck me as very well prepared for class and as a completely immersed participant with cogent questions. Although 80 years old, he clearly was no dilettante-student and was fully engaged with his classes. He and I also enjoyed a 15- or 20-minute conversation after class with instructor Wendel Hunigan.
This was the only time I ever met George Bacon. I am saddened that he was unable to complete his Knox education, but I am glad for him that he got so much out of it and was able to do enthusiastically something in his retirement that people a quarter of his age sometimes find challenging and even stressful. May we all be as fortunate in our "bucket list" choices. Rest peacefully, George.
-- Gail Dean Cotton '61
We greatly enjoyed meeting Knox student George Bacon in the fall issue of Knox Magazine. What a wonderful example to all of us on living one's life with joy and adventure. It is obvious George's life influenced the Knox community in a positive and moving way.
-- George and Liane Fitzgerald (parents of a 2004 graduate)
Kudos & Constructive Criticism
Just letting you know that we received our first copy of Knox Magazine, and we read it from cover to cover right after dinner. What a wonderful magazine . . . a good read. We enjoyed the many interesting articles inside, especially the one on George Bacon. Kudos to the staff!
Also, to our favorite Knox photographer, John Williams, your picture of the friendly "excited" member of the Knox community on the back cover is so adorable. It posed for you. Keep the nature photos coming.
-- Mark and Jo Sugai (parents of a first-year student)
Excellent! Once again!
I intended to say no more-no corrections or critiques. But . . . but . . . I'm sure George Bacon graduated from Galesburg High School in 1950. The Korean War ended in 1953.
When I was a 19-year-old sophomore, I was a reporter and writer, but not nearly so good a one as Laura Pochodylo [who wrote "A Breathing Instrument of Time: How a Lost Ode Helped Inspire an Anniversary and a New Presidency"].
-- Jim Dunlevey '54
Editor's Note: We checked the records, and George Bacon did indeed graduate from high school in 1950. We regret this error.
Congrats on a very interesting issue. One constructive suggestion: the all white cover was not eye-catching, and I almost dismissed it as an advertising brochure before scanning it carefully. Perhaps a more boldly colored background with a slightly smaller reproduction of the Sandburg correspondence might have been a bit more attention getting. Love the website and the new magazine format.
-- Phyllis Albrecht '56
The Beanie Legacy
At this year's photo shoot of legacy students -- students who have followed a relative to Knox -- we made a wonderful discovery. The granddaughter of William Studley '58, who was the featured beanie walker in the 175th anniversary issue of Knox Magazine, joined the Knox community! Rebekah Nadler '16 not only made sure we knew whom she was, but she also agreed to be photographed with her grandfather (or at least his photo)! Now, if only we could get her to recreate the famous beanie walk . . .