Gary Carini

Season 3 - Episode 335

September 4, 2020

Gary Carini
Gary Carini

Terms like face-to-face, virtual learning and hybrid classes have rapidly become commonplace throughout higher education. Baylor has invested time and resources to equip professors to engage students at the highest levels in both traditional and non-traditional classrooms. In this Baylor Connections, Dr. Gary Carini, vice provost for institutional research and professional education and professor of entrepreneurship and corporate innovation, shares how Baylor is proactively supporting professors in this environment and casts a vision for Baylor as a recognized leader in these new models.

Transcript

Derek Smith:

Hello and welcome to Baylor Connections, a conversation series with the people shaping our future. Each week, we go in-depth with Baylor leaders, professors, and more, discussing important topics in higher education, research, and student life. I'm Derek Smith. Our guest today is Dr. Gary Carini. Dr. Carini currently serves as Vice Provost for Institutional Research and Professional Education, and Professor of Entrepreneurship and Corporate Innovation. A long time Hankamer School of Business faculty member, Dr. Carini has served faculty in a variety of ways amidst the uncertainty of the COVID-19 public health crisis. As professor shifted spring and summer classes online and adjusted fall classes for a mix of in-person and virtual classes safely, Dr. Carini worked with organizations and faculty across campus to provide professors with tools, resources, technology, professional development opportunities, and more to ensure faculty were equipped to engage students at a high level in a variety of new classroom settings. Here we are now in the second week of the semester. Things are moving and moving quickly. Dr. Carini, appreciate your time. Thanks so much for joining us on the program today.

Gary Carini:

Glad to join you, Derek. Glad to be here. I hope you guys are doing well, as well, as we go forward. So I appreciate all the work that you guys are doing.

Derek Smith:

Well, thank you. We appreciate that. And you, as well. From your standpoint, what's it like here now that students are on campus in classrooms and working, and virtual classes are going on after all that work?

Gary Carini:

Well, I think we've had a great first week, so now we're starting our second week being in the semester. We're always watching to see how things are going. Certainly from the Provost Office, Provost is in touch with the Deans, the Associate Deans, in the schools. We as a team meet every Monday, and if not more frequently, in case. So we're kind of watching to make sure that students are on track and getting high-quality education.

Derek Smith:

Well, I listed a little bit at the top of the show what your role entailed, and that probably only barely scratches the surface of it. But really, I know you were working with faculty and different people on campus working with faculty to ensure that they had the tools they need to engage students, as we said, at a very high level here to put that Baylor distinctive in the education no matter what format. To bake that in there, no matter what format it was in. As we moved into the summer, let's rewind just a little bit. So we moved to the summer and we knew we were headed for an in-person fall semester. For you and people working with you, what were some of the biggest areas of focus and goals in serving faculty and in serving their students as well by serving them?

Gary Carini:

Right. No, I appreciate that. I think at the top line on that is equipping faculty to teach in different modes, so whether it's face to face, hybrid, or online. We, of course, came out of spring break having to go online for the rest of the spring semester and realizing that we do need to equip faculty. So that was tough for everybody. I think we did a great, great job. Going into summer, we knew we would be 100% online with both summer one and summer two, so one of the first ideas that we came up with that we presented as a team was, again, equipping faculty to teach online. Just as a real quick sidebar, I've taught in the online MBA program for six years, and I never realized how different and similar that was to face to face. I think by diving into the online class, I became better at the face to face at teaching or instruction. It caused me to focus on objectives and what can I teach what's important to the students? How do I interact with students? How do I provide the students with effective feedback? So if you look at that group of just instructional methodologies, how do we do that in a stellar way? I think there's no expectation that if somebody were to have taught face-to-face for a number of years, that they could just dive into an online environment. There is so much to learn, not only from a content perspective, learning theory, how do people learn, how do adults learn in an online environment? Then further, what are the mechanics of it? We use Canvas as our learning platform. How do I let that work? How do I use that effectively to accomplish what I need to given the goals and objectives for my course? So we developed first a mentoring program for faculty. When I think of the top line for that, it is how do we tailor equipping for the needs of the individual faculty member, some of whom know exactly what they need and have the questions, and some, going back to my case when I start teaching in the online MBA program, I didn't even know what I didn't know. But I was intrigued by it and I wanted to get better at teaching. So we were able to mobilize the faculty that had taught in the online environment to become mentors, and then went out to the schools through the deans to identify faculty that needed a mentor. Our staff then paired the mentor with a mentee and then worked throughout the summer based on the needs of the mentee. So in my case, the mentees that I had, we started our first conversation with how can I be most helpful? I didn't even know what I should be asking. It's like, well, let's start here, and so told them what worked in my online class in the MBA program. It's like, oh, well, okay. Now that you've said that, I do have a question. How do I do this? Something as simple as like grading, seemingly simple, how do I grade in the online environment? Well, here's some things that have worked for me that students have responded positively to. So the mentor-mentee program launched in mid-May, and then continued through probably mid-July, maybe into August 1st. We had over 400 mentees involved in the program. So our contact with the faculty was the beginning of the equipping. The second piece, so moving forward, is how do we continue this? What is the next phase of equipping, staying with that theme, look like? We were able to identify a company called iDesign that has a network of learning designers, instructional designers. What I want to say right here is we mobilized the team across the university. So we are working with the Academy for Teaching and Learning, dr. Lenore Wright is key, we are working with the library instructional designers, and also the Provost Office to, again, equip faculty to teach. So I designed, created, what's called a masterclass that started mid-August throughout the week that is recorded. With that, they presented knowledge that makes online learning effective. I want to emphasize right here, it's not isolated to the online environment. I think what's fascinating from my perspective is this is good material whether it's online, hybrid, or face to face. Now, some are specific techniques within the online environment, but the connectedness, the feedback to the students trying to differentiate Baylor in teaching extremely well, we've always taught well, how can we now respond in an environment in which we find ourselves and pursue excellence even further? One of the overarching goals as we look at not only mentoring and iDesign is that Baylor is identified as a thought leader in this space. I want Baylor to have a seat at the table. I want Baylor to be a recognized leader nationally and internationally in teaching. Not only in teaching and research, but as we accomplish that, give and illuminate. So it is not about how do we just get by, but how do we pursue excellence given the environment that we're in and really help shape how other universities also pursue excellence because we're recognized as thought leaders. So I know that's a long answer to one question.

Derek Smith:

It's good, though.

Gary Carini:

Yeah, yeah.

Derek Smith:

No, that really helps paint the picture a little bit. You know, it made me think as you were describing that, I was a communications studies student and I remember we'd hear the phrase from Marshall McLuhan, "The medium is the message", talking about how the medium in which you hear something or see something and receives it shapes the way that it impacts you, that you process it. So obviously online space is a different medium, and so students receive it differently. What could you tell us, and I know there's probably a million directions you could go, but what are some of the big things you've learned about how you can not only make the most of an online class or a hybrid class, but actually much like, say, John F. Kennedy recognized TV after all prior presidents had been on the radio, his people knew how to utilize television, how can we do that, if you will? What are some things that stand out about we can not only make the most of this, but make it really effective?

Gary Carini:

Students want connection. If we look at the generation of students that we're teaching say from an undergraduate perspective, they are technology savvy. So anything you read about Generation Z, which we're actually teaching in not only the undergrad, but in our graduate programs on campus as well, the connectedness is so important. So at a real tactical level, real specific level, as we teach, we're always aware of the students. I think the main thing there is even response rate if students feel that, and we're all this way, feel that they can connect with the faculty and get a real fast response rate to a question. The faculty is always ready to communicate, not just responsibly, not just in a response way, but proactively as well. As soon as I pulled my online class just this morning before we spoke, my question to myself is how do I communicate with students the week ahead, the module ahead, the topics that we're going to cover and do that with enthusiasm? So what I've inserted this term is more synchronous, optional sessions. In my case, I can make them optional because most of the program is asynchronous, and students have really signed on to that. So I think always, always being aware of connectedness and right there that we're tailoring. One student may have a question that 30 others don't. Great, that's okay. Let's connect with that student. Because we're holding closely. We want to pursue excellence. We want to equip students to really look at this topic and be as excited as we are. How do you take any topic, whether it's in the art arts and sciences, or Robbins College for a social work, or business, or engineering, school of ed, we're excited about what we teach. How do we convey that? Part of conveying is to make sure we connect. What we found with teaching evaluations as we look at themes, say, in the summer, we're looking at those right now, students want feedback. So there's that connected theme as well. When I submit an assignment, am I getting a response from the faculty member quickly and in-depth. That is incredibly important and I would encourage faculty to do that. Some of the themes within the mentoring program have been questions from the mentees. How do I do that? So connectedness, feedback, passionate enthusiasm about the content of your course. I think what's interesting, Derek, is that we are in many cases teaching today foundations of a discipline that will be reshaped by tomorrow. I can take my field of strategy and tell you as I look back that the ideas and a lot of the frameworks that we used 10 years ago no longer apply. So what am I teaching now? If I'm teaching frameworks that are 10 years old, that's doing our students a real disservice.But within those frameworks and models, there are some tried and true themes that will endure for the next several decades. What are those, and, this another theme that I want to bring in, how do I think constantly about prompting students to be curious about whatever they take? So again, enthusiasm. How can I cause them to be curious and ask the next question or ask the unasked questions?

Derek Smith:

This is Baylor Connections. We are visiting with Dr. Gary Carini, Vice Provost for Institutional Research and Professional Education and Professor of Entrepreneurship and Corporate Innovation. Dr. Carini, you mentioned Generation Z, and I know we're rapidly approaching within the next couple of years every undergraduate basically will have been born after the year 2000, which is just kind of mind boggling. But when you realize the world that they've grown up in, how should we think about maybe their receptiveness to some of these changes? Because I think it's easy for maybe someone like me to process it the way I would have, but I grew up in a different world than they did.

Gary Carini:

Yeah. One of the items that comes up just as you read more about Generation Z, and we know this, but it's good for me to read it and have it restated, they are discerning consumers. They know technology. We're not bringing Generation Z up a learning curve on where to click or how to use Canvas. That's what they grew up in. With that, there's accountability from our perspective on really holding our feet to the fire and using technology in a sophisticated way. That's another way to connect, knowing that they expect more. Not just more stuff, but really in depth content and more content. So what we're delivering has never been, from a patient-base perspective, just superficial, just get by, just teach this content so students can figure out how to take the test. They want more than that. They want, also, as you read about Generation Z, and this is great and not unique to Generations Z, I think we're all this way, but it comes up, is the interconnectedness of concepts. So if we do just a vertical kind of siloed approach that, is not sufficient and the world doesn't operate that way. So again, if we're equipping students, then what is the connectedness between different topics? Again, that goes back to the theme of curiosity. Oh, I didn't know those were connected. So in business, we might say what we can look at the finances of a company and see how much they're making in sales. So that's numbers oriented. Great leadership is also, well, how is that impacting the morale of employees? How do customers feel about that? How competent is the market in where the company's going, given our offering? In my example there, I know it's in the business school, but it's looking at numbers, so that's quantitative, but it's also looking at people simultaneously, and that's qualitative. So how do we do that interrelatedness? So, number one, sophisticated consumers of technology get excited when we are too, and two, the interconnectedness of concepts. Again, in business, I know I'm using a lot of business examples, but we certainly borrow from fields of sociology, psychology, anthropology, ethnography, very, very easily to tell students that so they see the interrelatedness of concepts. Again, going back, what do we need to teach that will endure for the next several decades? Interconnectedness will be there. Interdependence will be there. How one thing relates to another. Curiosity will be there. Asking new questions that have never been asked before and encouraging students to ask new questions and notice new things, that will be there. So we've got a great task ahead, and it's incredibly exciting to be challenged in this way,

Derek Smith:

Dr. Carini, was this a path that we might've seen happen a few years down the line, and maybe now more? Obviously, COVID-19 kind of forced people's hand, if you will. How should we think about the path that this might've looked like without COVID-19? Were we headed this way in many directions?

Gary Carini:

Yeah. I think this clearly accelerated it because we have no choice.

Derek Smith:

We being higher ed in general, not just Baylor.

Gary Carini:

It was moving in that direction. I think what's interesting is we saw and continue to see a lot of disruption outside higher education, which is a lot of technology-based education. We could walk that out for a while, but in this environment in higher ed, if you look at the industry, we couldn't walk that out. So I think this has accelerated the intersection of higher ed and technology. I will say if you go back let's say five to ten years, it felt like technology was driving us as educators. So again, focusing on higher education, I think what's important is now technology is subordinate to higher education. In other words, if you look at an English course and think also about technology in this learning environment, the professor of English can and is the professor of English. Oh, by the way, technology assists with mobilizing the content. You go back 10 years, like, okay, what does the technology allow me to do? We're not asking that question anymore. This is how I see this course and pursuing education in my field. In engineering, for example, we have a master's degree in computer science, and we are first, what are those concepts, and now how does technology enable us to pursue those concepts with the students. That was different 10 years ago, five to 10 years ago. So this has accelerated technology in higher ed, and I think that's good. Again, you go back to the Generation Z, they're used to this. We can fight it, we don't need to fight it, but again, we're in charge. We know our fields, we're pursuing knowledge, and we want students to pursue knowledge. That's number one. Second, and here's the technology to enable that to occur. It's kind of like I want to get to the grocery store. Well, a car has enabled me to do that quickly. So the car is subordinate to my objective of going to get groceries. Great. Very different example from higher ed, of course, but so technology is an enabler, and we as faculty across the nation in higher ed make it happen.

Derek Smith:

That's great. Well, Dr. Carini, as we head into the final couple of minutes of the program, I'm curious, when you talk about analyzing and evaluating kind of in real time in a lot of ways, as we go through this fall semester, are there some questions that you're most excited to see answered or at least a little more revealed as you, kind of as you said, think through how Baylor can be the best at this, how Baylor can be recognized as the best at this?

Gary Carini:

Yes. So we are certainly in contact with faculty across the university to find out, number one, how's it going? What areas come up? How do you need to be equipped? But I go back to the iDesign partnership that we have right now, that's ongoing right now. That enables faculty to ask questions. So in response to you, we're looking at themes that surface. So it's about equipping us as faculty. What themes are surfacing? So I'm looking daily to see what themes are surfacing. What are pain points for faculty? What do we need? Not just more training for the sake of training so we can check the box, that's not it, but how do we truly equip, make it better, challenge ourselves to make it better? Then with that, certainly we'll look at themes that are given to us from students across the board. So as we're tracking through the semester, our best dialogue is with our students. That's why we're here.

Derek Smith:

Very dynamic and a very exciting, and we really appreciate your time, Dr. Carini. I wish we could talk longer, but we're kind of out of time here. We'll look forward to maybe talking to you again one of these days as we kind of evaluate these things and see what you've learned and how students are learning in the midst of all this.

Gary Carini:

Great. Thank you so much for the opportunity. Great to share. This is a time when Baylor, I will tell you just personally, I'm proud of Baylor and have always been. This is a time of greatness for the university. This is tough for higher ed. This is tough for industries beyond that as we read about on a daily basis. But Baylor has already risen to the challenge with excellence and greatness and will continue to raise the bar on that, and I'm super excited about doing that.

Derek Smith:

Well, that's exciting. Thank you for helping paint a picture of that here over these last 23 minutes or so. We appreciate that. Dr. Gary Carini, Vice Provost for Institutional Research and Professional Education and Professor of Entrepreneurship and Corporate Innovation, our guest today on Baylor Connections. I'm Derek Smith. A reminder, you can hear this and other programs online, baylor.edu/connections. Thanks for joining us here on Baylor Connections.