Presidential Immersive Learning Fellows continue to encourage immersive growth

The Daily News

Presidential Immersive Fellows will continue to support immersive learning growth among Ball State’s colleges after nearly a year since they were instated. 

In the current strategic plan President Jo Ann Gora outlined the fellows, a group of eight professors from each college who work to promote and expand immersive learning. 

Each fellow is nominated, approved by the dean and chosen by Provost Terry King to serve a two-year term.  

Seven of the eight fellows will continue to represent their college.

This year the provost is looking for a replacement for David Pierce in the School of Physical Education, Sport and Exercise Science, as he is no longer working for the university. Dean Mitchell Whaley will be making a recommendation soon.

Jacquelyn Buckrop, assistant to the provost, said the number of immersive learning applications for Provost Grants increased last academic year. 

Each year the Provost Grant awards about $400,000 to fund immersive projects.

During the 2012-13 school year they received 54 applications and funded 29. The difference in the number of applications nearly doubled, with Spring 2012 seeing 19 applications and Spring 2013 having 32.

While Buckrop said there is no proof, the increase could be credited in part to the fellows. 

College of Communication, Information and Media fellow Chris Flook said this year he will focus on continuing the Micro-Grants he piloted last year. 

The CCIM Micro-Grants are targeted toward smaller projects, equipment and travel ranging from $100 to $1,000. The department has been given permission from the provost to continue the program.

“I think there’s a growing trend to implement immersive learning into existing classes,” Flook said. “Even in regular curriculum as opposed to something not connected to outside partner.”

Flook said he originally got the idea from the architecture department, which has a similar program they were using. 

“I do my own immersive learning projects, so I had a lot of contacts on campus pretty well organized,” he said. “It was really nice to meet with and contact other fellows across campus.”

Flook said he hopes to continue to support current projects and maybe add a few more. CCIM is also hoping to start a website primarily for their immersive learning projects soon. 

This year Ryan Hourigan, College of Fine Arts fellow, is planning to have 10 major immersive projects, if they are able to get grants. 

Last year he worked with faculty to double the amount of students in the fine arts college that participated from the year before.

“What I did was just get people together, mentor grant writing process, see that projects that were happening were happening smoothly,” Hourigan said. “A lot more faculty participated in the grant writing process because they had a go-to person.

 Before it was kind of difficult to figure out if your idea was immersive learning based on the provost’s definition.”

Cecil Bohanon, College of Business fellow, filled a similar role in his college. 

“I worked with the dean, with department chairs and faculty members to try to find faculty members who are interested,” he said. 

He said the college went from no people, to three or four interested in immersive learning.

“Overall, we had more immersive projects and students increased,” Bohanon said. “You might not get something for this year, but you plant a seed for later on.”

This year he hopes to focus more on new technology and modes of instruction and how they could be used for immersive learning. 

“The whole point is for students to get involved in a project with a tangible outcome,” he said. 

While working on immersive projects, Flook said he treats students more like professionals. 

“Their real projects, I think in our curriculum ...- when you’re doing a project that is actually going to be used ... it makes it all the more significant,” he said. “Plus it gets people literally out of the classroom. The expectations are not just set by the faculty member, but by the community.”