MCLA Professor and Team Win Top Prize at MIT's Designshop


NORTH ADAMS, MASS. - Dr. Lisa Donovan, an associate professor of fine and performing arts at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA), and her team recently won the top prize at Education DesignShop, held earlier this month at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

At this two-day workshop, interdisciplinary teams consisting of students, educators, policymakers and industry personnel came together with the goal of creating innovative strategies for implementing solutions in the world of education.

With their $1,000 winnings, Donovan and her team - which includes a career services administrator from MIT, a student from MIT, a mechanical engineer from Wisconsin and a facilitator from Brown University - will pilot a new course model at MCLA this fall, which will go on for use by MIT and Brown University.

Work on the project will begin this summer, as MCLA students enrolled in Donovan's "Museum Studies" class next semester weigh in on its design.

"We're looking for a prototype that could be pilot-tested, critiqued, and then shared," said Donovan.

The web-based platform will bring together the perspectives of students, employers and faculty.

Because Donovan teaches a diverse group of students - including those in arts management, music, theater and art - it can be a challenge to meet everyone's needs and interests, she said.

Over the summer, she will invite her "Museum Studies" students to comment on its syllabus, and to identify other resources they may want included, as well as their interests and background experiences.

As a result, she'll discover more about them and what they need from the class.

Employers, too, will be invited to weigh in, as they identify the skills they're looking for in an employee. Those skills then will be mapped to the assignments in the course.

With an appearance similar to that of a web page, Syllabuild will include various images, the course syllabus, as well as comment boxes with prompts.

After Donovan finishes the design in the next few weeks, students will be invited to take a look and contribute their comments.

Donovan also will work with officials at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary (MASS MoCA) and other area museums. They, too, will comment on the course as they respond to a set of prompts for employers.

Donovan expects this feedback will change her course in powerful ways.

"I have the basic frame of the course and know the course objectives. There are some things that are embedded that are part of the framework, but there are many ways to get to that destination," she said. "The big idea is combining perspectives with faculty perspective, student perspective and employer perspective - not just in the mix of the class, but in planning the class, implementing the class, and then the result of the class."

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