Founded in 2014, LACOL is a partnership of Amherst College, Bryn Mawr College, Carleton College,
Davidson College, Hamilton College, Haverford College, Swarthmore College, Vassar College, 
Washington and Lee University, and Williams College. 

In this issue ...
  • LACOL 2020 Virtual Workshop Overview and Report
  • Student Perspectives on Anti-Racist Pedagogies in Hybrid and Remote Contexts
  • LACOL QLAB Update and How to Get Involved
  • Spotlight on the LACOL Shared Course Initiative
  • LACOL Introduction to Data Science - 2nd Summer of Learning
  • On the Horizon ... LACOL 2021 at Hamilton College

This summer, LACOL held its annual consortium-wide workshop as a fully virtual event running from May 15 to June 30, with two additional sessions in late August. As with past gatherings, the primary goal of LACOL workshopping is to connect multi-campus teams of faculty and staff for creative exchange around digital innovation and collaboration by and for the liberal arts.

Due to the pandemic, this year's convening took on additional meaning as our community came together to make sense of the “emergency spring pivot”, and importantly to look ahead and prepare for the uncertainties of the coming year. With the ongoing need for more online and hybrid education, LACOL’s virtual workshop provided a timely venue to share knowledge, inspiration, and effective practices for teaching and learning with the agility to engage in a variety of digital modes.

To provide flexibility for attendees, the virtual workshop was organized as a mix of asynchronous and synchronous activities unfolding over several weeks. A virtual reading group based on the book Small Teaching Online: Applying Learning Science in Online Classes served as an anchor for self-paced study and real-time small group discussions. Six live events, ranging from a Presidents Panel to a thought-provoking Keynote to several topical mini-workshops, were held via Zoom over the summer.

While altered in some ways by the lack of in-person mingling, the virtual format enabled hundreds of faculty and staff across all ten LACOL schools to take part in the workshop at a pace and mode that worked for them individually. Feedback summarized in the workshop report below indicates that faculty especially appreciated the actionable information and concrete resource around online teaching and learning principles and techniques as well as a chance for small group discussions with counterparts and peers across different roles and disciplines.

For many in our community, the timing of the LACOL workshop coincided with their growing recognition that the  pandemic would move some or all of their teaching into online or hybrid modes in fall 2020.  This focused attention on ways to incorporate innovative, anti-racist, and inclusive pedagogies in this teaching. LACOL’s collaborative focus on digitally-enhanced instruction came at an opportune moment and complemented various training programs and summer institutes on offer from the schools.

Perhaps the most valuable aspect of the multi-campus gatherings was simply the chance for faculty and staff from our institutions to converse, commiserate, unpack a few fears and hopes, and model various modes of digital and deeply human connection, even while mediated through screens. This sets the consortium on a path for continued work into the upcoming year. 

Workshop Program (click image to explore)
👉Click Here to Read the LACOL 2020 Virtual Workshop Report
Resources proliferate on how to prepare for
remote teaching and learning that is equitable, inclusive, and anti-racist ...

... but where are students’ perspectives and voices in the mix?

In August 2020, Student Partners working in the Summer Pedagogical Partnership Program at Bryn Mawr and Haverford Colleges led a series of semi-structured conversations with faculty and staff across LACOL. Pairs of these students partnered throughout the summer with cohorts of faculty to support their pedagogical planning for the Fall-2020 semester.

As part of this work, the Student Partners read resources and identified what they think matters most in developing trauma-informed, anti-racist, remote teaching and learning. These points shared on the resource list below served as a basis for the 1-hour small group conversations.

Participants appreciated the student-led sessions, noting numerous ways that such frank, open conversations help faculty, staff and students question their assumptions and work together in concrete ways to overcome the scourge of racism. 

Feedback from faculty participants highlighted the value of the dialogues as they planned for the fall:
“We shared resources and ideas…so I feel like we walked away with tangible strategies and tools to apply to our remote work in a more equitable way.”

“It really made a difference for my course prep, and overall well-being as a faculty member living through these challenging times.”

“The students modeled the kind of non-judgmental openness to questions, concerns, and ideas that they recommended we exhibit in the classroom. I have a long set of notes taken during the meeting that I am eager to implement when I’m next teaching.”
Likewise, reflections from student partners capture important threads in these conversations:
“[This work] opened my eyes to the incredible number of things professors have to consider and worry about when planning a course, which is definitely going to help me consider others’ perspectives in an out-of-the-box way.”

“…talking with faculty partners and student partners has more thoroughly convinced me that a lot of misunderstandings or dissatisfactions among students and faculty could be remedied or clarified by faculty being more direct and transparent about their reasons for adopting certain practices, assignments, and course policies, and by asking students to share their feelings and feedback directly.”

“I have found a voice and a language with which to communicate with faculty and have/facilitate conversations that previously felt out of the realm of things I could do. I think I have learned a lot of important facilitation strategies that I carry with me into other work. I aim to apply this language, knowledge, and skills to other work across disciplines to open space for more accessible and equitable conversations and practices.”


▣ Student Resource List  (Student-generated and Annotated)
▣ Essential Points from the Student Partners
▣ Students’ Graphical Summary (PDF)
▣ Students Help Professors Develop More Equitable Classrooms 

The topics that the LACOL QLAB project was designed to explore seem particularly timely given the current situation. A Brookings report from May identified that the pandemic would likely lead to students entering classrooms this fall with more variability in academic skills than usual, and that mathematics is one area where students may be substantially behind. Although the Brookings report was focused on K-12 education, the variability in quantitative skills was something LACOL faculty members were already interested in trying to address. In the current environment, using online resources as one tool in the toolbox to support students with quantitative skills in introductory science and social science classrooms becomes even more pressing than when the project was first envisioned. 

The QLAB core team has been working to navigate the significant disruptions of the past six months. We benefited this summer from the perspectives of two student research assistants who helped revise three modules (linear functions, logs & exponents, and descriptive statistics) for use this fall. We also invited faculty volunteers from across the consortium to review module application problems in their disciplines and provide feedback, and LACOL faculty small group conversations provided fruitful ideas about how to incorporate the QLAB modules, and other online resources to support student quantitative skills, into our teaching. 

We are looking to build partnerships with a broader cross-section of LACOL faculty. Here are some ways to get involved: 

  • Use one or more the three existing modules in your courses this fall or spring, or with peer tutors in a Q center. We will work with academic technologists at your institution to import the modules into your institution’s LMS for use by your students. (See the website for a preview of the modules and, if you are interested, sign-up to use the modules here.)

  • Contribute additional application questions from your discipline to the existing modules. Email either Melissa Eblen-Zayas (meblenza at or Laura Muller (ljm3 at for more details. 

  • Suggest ways to expand the scope of existing modules or new module topics for the next round of module development. Email either Melissa (meblenza at or Laura Muller (ljm3 at with your suggestions. 

  • Lead a discussion with other LACOL colleagues in your discipline or on your campus about how you can support students in your courses by using online resources. The QLAB project has funding to support faculty dialogue leaders across the consortium. To explore the possibilities, email Melissa (meblenza at 

We’d love to have you join the QLAB conversation and share your experiences and disciplinary expertise! We are also interested in sharing our work and discussions beyond LACOL. The QLAB core team published a paper summarizing the results of the needs assessment survey from Fall of 2019 in the PERC Proceedings.

Figure 1: Sample landing page for a QLAB module. 

Since 2016, the LACOL course share project has brought faculty members and scores of students together from five member schools (Amherst, Carleton, Swarthmore, Vassar, Williams) for variety of upper level mathematics and statistics courses including Advanced Real Analysis, Bayesian Statistics, Data Confidentiality, Bayesian Inference with Python, Putnam Problem Solving, Operations Research and Linear Programming.

These experiments showcase the feasibility and potential of course sharing across campuses with a strong liberal arts flavor, and our lessons learned are particularly relevant to our given times of more online/hybrid teaching.

New Publication ...

Find out more in a recently published book chapter co-authored by faculty members who collaborated on this project. We hope that more course sharing in mathematics and statistics, language instruction, data science, and beyond, will develop in the future.

Upper-Level Mathematics and Statistics Courses Shared across Campuses

by Stephan Ramon Garcia (Pomona College), Jingchen Hu (Vassar College), Steven J. Miller (Williams College)

in Teaching and Learning Mathematics Online
Edited by James P. Howard, II, John F. Beyers

For undergraduate students of advanced mathematics and statistics, the liberal arts model offers a deep level of engagement in learning with faculty and peers. Due to practical limitations, small colleges cannot usually offer the breadth of courses available at large institutions with graduate programs. To explore collaborative models that may help enrich curricular offerings, faculty and technologists from several leading liberal arts colleges are experimenting with a consortial hybrid/online course-sharing model. The goal of this chapter is to report on what we learned from teaching three different courses in this context.

LACOL  Fall 2020 ...
Shared Courses in the Languages 

Beginning Portuguese
Shared Conversation


Intermediate German
Digital Link-Up
This summer, the 2020 Introduction to Data Science learning community enjoyed another successful run of this groundbreaking collaboration. As a fully digital team-taught course, LACOL's shared Intro to DS offering is designed as a collaborative, socially relevant, discussion-oriented online classroom experience in the style of liberal arts colleges. 

A grand challenge in this second iteration was expanding the roster to serve more than three times as many students compared to last year, drawing eager learners from all 10 LACOL institutions. An unavoidable challenge was the unwelcome disruption to everyone’s - and especially students’ - lives caused by the COVID-19 pandemic over the summer.

The team met these challenges through various enhancements to the course design, content, tools, and especially an emphasis on “cognitive and social presence” which helped foster student well being and sense of connection to the teaching team, the material, and each other.

A Few Notable Improvements in the 2020 Summer Introduction to Data Science Course:

  1. Scaled up the class roster to expand opportunity while keeping the liberal arts feel

  2. Introduced project-based learning throughout the course

  3. Added more checkpoints and regular feedback to scaffold online learning

  4. Set up informal spaces and connection points to enhance the social aspects of learning, especially through the lively use of Slack group chat

  5. Engaged student Teaching Assistants from the course alumni network, greatly enhancing the team's teaching power

A snapshot of the fabulous 2020 support team ...

Due to the global pandemic of Coronavirus, we find ourselves in a very changed landscape when it comes to online learning. Last year, LACOL’s summer data science class was a relative rarity as a co-taught, fully online class in the style of the liberal arts. Now, faculty and students at our institutions suddenly find that most or all of their classes are hybrid or online. Out of necessity, many faculty are experimenting creatively with online pedagogies in ways they never imagined they would.

In this light, LACOL's course share projects are a more relevant laboratory than ever. Together, we are able to investigate collaborative learning and team teaching approaches online, drawing on expertise from a growing network of relationships. The summer data science class has found a niche that is both immediately useful to students and full of potential for future innovation.

👉Click Here to Read the LACOL 2020 Data Science Project Report
Hamilton College looks forward to hosting the Summer 2021 consortium-wide LACOL workshop, June 21-23.  With “Play and Innovation” as the official 2021 theme, this summer gathering will bring together faculty, technologists, research librarians, academic support specialists, and other educators and students for collaborative exchange and playful discussion. Some of the topics will be: the LACOL 2020 Data Science course, learning from/about 2020 hybrid and remote learning modalities, new campus innovations, (mis)adventures of teaching and learning in 2020, latest LACOL projects, digital ‘play’ in the 21st Century, and the achievements and adventures in the liberal arts. LACOL 2021: “Play and Innovation” offers the opportunity to connect with new colleagues, reacquaint with friends, and engage directly with play.

Questions, Ideas, Suggestions for LACOL?

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