Why “The Digital” in High Impact Learning Practices

On February 25, Gelardin New Media Center and the Georgetown University Writing Program hosted a workshop on the role of digital projects in high-impact educational practices (HIPs). Facilitated by Beth Godbee, Assistant Professor of English at Marquette University, this event brought together faculty and staff from across campus to share best practices and explore new ideas for integrating tech into meaningful learning experiences.

What is a high-impact learning practice?

To begin the workshop, Dr. Godbee asked participants to identify the classroom experience that had influenced them the most, whether as a student or teacher, and then to unpack why this moment had such an impact. For all involved, the most important elements mirrored traits traditionally shared by HIPs: demanding considerable time and effort, facilitating learning outside of the classroom, requiring meaningful interactions with faculty and students, encouraging collaboration with diverse others, and providing substantive feedback.

Faculty and staff discuss memorable learning experiences.

What is the benefit of “the digital” in HIPs?

While all participants named a high-impact practice, very few spoke of an experience involving a digital component—so why go digital? By the end of the workshop, participants had developed this list of affordances offered by digital and multimodal projects:

  • Allowing students to reach a real audience, which sharpens rhetorical flexibility and changes the power dynamics of the classroom—as one participant phrased it, “papers are for the professor, but the digital world is for everyone.”
  • Involving students in collaboration and co-authoring—real elements of both academia and the workplace—and the peer feedback that comes along with it
  • Asking students to engage in tough intellectual processes with material, such as repackaging complex text as a graphic.
  • Providing materials for digital portfolios, which not only allow students to claim ownership of their work and make sense of how they’ve succeeded, but also give future students the ability to reflect and build on the work of their peers.
  • Imparting digital literacy skills.

What do digital HIPs look like?

Digital high-impact practices take center stage in two undergraduate writing courses taught by Dr. Godbee that prioritize research and community-based learning. In “Ethnography of the University,” conduct an in-depth research project about an issue at Marquette in a research poster showcase open to the campus community. In “Writing for Social Justice,” students work together to create promotional and educational multimodal materials for use by the Racial Justice Program at the YWCA of Southeast Wisconsin. As part of both classes, students are encouraged to publish their work to e-Publications@Marquette, the university’s digital repository for faculty and student.

Full course descriptions for “Ethnography of the University” and “Writing for Social Justice” are available online through the Marquette University English Department. For faculty interested in additional resources, Dr. Godbee recommended reading more about HIPs through the National Survey of Student Engagement and checking out examples of HIPs in action through the LEAP Campus Toolkit from AAC&U.

What about digital HIPs at Georgetown?

Here on the Hilltop, digital HIPs come in many packages, including ePortfolios, wikis, blogs, films, and—with the advent of Georgetown Domains—even individual websites. Faculty interested in learning about these and other digital tools for their classroom can visit Teaching and Learning Technologies or reach out to CNDLS for recommendations and support.