Faculty to focus on immersive learning

The Daily News

Immersive learning is a leading issue Ball State President Jo Ann Gora has stressed during the beginning of the semester in two university convocations.

Her remarks during the faculty and freshman convocations reinforced the university’s strong support of “opportunities to work on real problems.” 

“The work we do here at Ball State is important and noble — and at times, challenging — but it continues,” Gora said. “In fact, it builds upon that initial act of beneficence. I pledge to continue doing whatever I can to make it easier for you to have a lasting impact on our students and to celebrate your accomplishments.”

Gora also updated staff on the promises she made at the previous year’s faculty convocation.

Joe Trimmer, director of the Virginia B. Ball Center for Creative Inquiry, said Gora’s made good on her promises by making immersive learning more attractive to professors.

“Sometimes, faculty members weren’t willing to take a detour from their normal research or classes,” he said. “The reason they were scared was because of the promotion and tenure process.”

Trimmer said it was arranged last year so teachers still receive the benefits of their normal teaching when working in immersive learning.

“That should put some faculty at ease and encourage them to be [more] risk takers,” he said.

Matt Bailey, a project manager at Ball State’s Building Better Communities, said one of the problems that immersive learning faces is awareness among the students. He said Gora’s stress on the programs, especially during the freshman convocation, will help increase awareness of the programs.

“I think a greater understanding and use of the resources here will help with any problems whether they be internal or community,” Bailey said.

He said awareness is already rising among the community from word of mouth, with communities contacting the university for help on projects.

“A few years ago, you’d have to go beat the bushes to find projects that were academically suitable to the students and meaningful to the partner,” Bailey said.

Overall, he said immersive learning has made Ball State more attractive to teachers as well as students.

Trimmer said immersive learning is important for students, even more important than transcripts.

“You do need the regular courses,” he said. “You need conventional classes to learn basic skills, but what immersive learning does is gives you an opportunity to apply those skills in a real-world setting. You become a much more attractive and employable candidate for the job.”

Some of the other topics Gora discussed during her faculty convocation included how the university has been working to lower the faculty salary gap, the introduction of the travel fund and increased communication between staff and the administration, such as surveys and personal talks. These were all updates on promises Gora made in her last faculty convocation.