The #iteachmsu Commons is an initiative that has been in the making for almost five years, driven by educators, for educators. Initially, Melissa McDaniels of The Graduate School and a group of graduate Teaching Assistants launched “Inside Teaching MSU” as a space for graduate student educators to share their teaching ideas and learn from each other through workshops. Inside Teaching MSU’s efforts eventually expanded to social media, using #iteachmsu (both the shortened version of the organization’s name and a public declaration of teaching practice) to continue conversations around teaching and learning at MSU without barriers of time and physical space. Ultimately, the group launching a blog with original graduate student content and began hosting twitter EdChats to expand opportunities for educators across MSU to connect. It became apparent that educators across campus roles, including but not limited to faculty, staff, advisors, specialists, librarians, instructional designers, teaching assistants, and undergraduate learning assistants, wanted a dedicated space to further their work in the name of MSU’s teaching and learning mission.
“It is important to have a space for all educators to connect at MSU because we are often dispersed and siloed in our respective colleges and departments. It is even more important for all of us here at MSU to identify ourselves as educators with vested interest in the work of teaching and learning at our pioneer land-grant institution,” says #iteachmsu Commons project team member and Learning Experience Designer Dave Goodrich. MSU is a big place and with educators situated in so many diverse roles across campus, making it difficult to fully recognize and leverage this community’s teaching and learning innovations. To better gather and guide the best of central support and decentralized innovation, a teaching commons was initiated. According to Huber and Hutchings (2016), a Teaching Commons is “an emergent conceptual space for exchange and community among faculty, students, and all others committed to learning as an essential activity of life in contemporary democratic society”. Erik Skogsberg, #iteachmsu Commons project lead, hopes that “The #iteachmsu Commons will provide the public gathering place to best center educator development in effective teaching practices across our campus.” We envision this centering as achieved by educator-driven space for sharing teaching resources, connecting across educator networks, and growing teaching practice.
The #iteachmsu Commons website will be a place for MSU educators across identities to share resources through posts, articles, and curated playlists, connect with other educators, and grow through digital educator learning modules. Content may be discipline-specific or transdisciplinary, but will always be anchored in teaching competency areas. Additionally, the #iteachmsu Commons will be home to a campus-wide teaching and learning events calendar. The Graduate School, The Hub for Innovation in Learning and Technology, and The Academic Advancement Network make up three collaborative units that contribute to educator development and serve the teaching and learning mission at MSU. The #iteachmsu Commons team is made up of individuals from these three units and represents educators across roles and identities. To ensure the site best responds to the needs of educators across campus, there is also an #iteachmsu Commons Advisory group that has convened bi-weekly and provided feedback and insights on the project, from prototype tests to design, outreach to competencies.
Makena Neal, #iteachmsu Commons project team member and Graduate Assistant at the MSU Graduate School thinks this initiative has the potential to shape the culture here at MSU. “If the #iteachmsu Commons helps recognize, support, and celebrate the diverse educators who support MSU’s teaching mission, I can only hope that over time our culture shifts to one that centers on positive teaching and learning. Maybe someday faculty and staff will want to work at MSU specifically because of the supportive, collaborative, and innovative culture that will exist here. Faculty and staff who are excited about teaching and learning and frame all their work from that orientation, could, in turn, attract students. #iteachmsu could be the next Spartans Will,” she says. The #iteachmsu Commons is on track to roll out to the general public in 2019 at the Spring Teaching and Learning Conference. As the first of its kind, it is sure to invoke many conversations on what it means to teach at MSU and beyond.