Student in chairs with computer

Teaching and learning in the future tense

ThinqStudio community reinvents education for the digital age

October 18, 2018

How universities, faculty and students adapt in the internet age is a point of speculation and evolution.

  • How do we ensure our traditional rigor and engagement in the institution of tomorrow?
  • How do we leverage technologies to teach effectively in an on-demand society?
  • How might we rethink or reinvent education in the digital age?

These are the questions that guide the ThinqStudio community at CU Denver.

‘Startup with a blank slate’

ThinqStudio, which began as a grassroots faculty community, continues to gain momentum in this exploration. The project received a seed grant from Chancellor Dorothy Horrell in 2016-17 to initiate and lead campus conversations about the scholarship of teaching and learning in the modern age.

ThinqStudio leaders on stairs
ThinqStudio leaders (left to right): Pamela Laird, professor of humanities; Brad Hinson, assistant dean for Information and Academic Technology; Michael Zinser, associate professor of psychology; Remi Kalir, assistant professor of Information and Learning Technologies.

“ThinqStudio has been a happy accident,” said Brad Hinson, ThinqStudio lead and assistant dean for Information and Academic Technology in the School of Education & Human Development (SEHD). “It really came to be through a discovery of like-minded individuals around campus who were pondering similar questions about where we are headed in this era.”

With an open community framework and faculty invitation, the project has grown into a formal strategic initiative in partnership with CU Online and the newly formed CU Denver Office of Digital Education (ODE).

Reimagining teaching and learning as it should and could be – across classrooms, disciplines, networks and time zones – comes naturally to the leaders of ThinqStudio, who include Hinson, as well as Remi Kalir, ThinqStudio lead and assistant professor of Information and Learning Technologies in SEHD; Pamela Laird, ThinqStudio lead and professor of humanities in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS); and Michael Zinser, ThinqStudio lead and associate professor of psychology in CLAS.

“We discovered one another and began sharing our likes, dislikes, hopes and dreams around teaching and learning in the networked age, in the gig economy,” Hinson said. “We imagined new learning designs and structures; we played and shared with technical innovations and possibilities; we put the rules aside and entertained how different it could be outside of the status quo – like a startup with a blank slate.”

‘People lit up’

Hinson calls ThinqStudio “a community of innovation and experimentation – an energized collective of faculty focused on excelling in the digital space – people lit up.”

“ThinqStudio is becoming known nationally in the digital pedagogy networks.”

– Sheana Bull

Those involved say ThinqStudio not only provides timely, evidence-based advice and trainings to enhance teaching and learning, but also creates a cohesive, collaborative and inclusive university culture of innovation by crossing disciplinary boundaries and bridging school and college commitments.

“ThinqStudio is becoming known nationally in the digital pedagogy networks,” said Sheana Bull, assistant vice chancellor for digital education in the ODE. “We believe that this project will enable faculty to enhance both the online and in-person education experiences for students and are thrilled that the project is offered through our office.”

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Workshops and events

ThinqStudio offers workshops and events throughout the academic year and focus on transformative and experimental pedagogies. Last year this led to an extensive exploration of gradeless teaching, project-based learning, connected learning and a Domain of One’s Own pilot test. In one sense, ThinqStudio serves as a type of think tank or incubator for future-ready teaching. It is a crowdsourced compilation of effective practices, new ideas and, often, digital tools.


Fellows and explorers

ThinqStudio is offering Fellowship and Explorer opportunities to colleagues interested in leading campus conversations and explorations.

Fellows assume a leadership role on campus, facilitating workshops and discussions on digital pedagogy and innovation. Explorers travel to national conferences on digital pedagogy and innovation and bring home insights and workshops to the university community.

Fellows and Explorers work in tandem, leading dialogue and nurturing a community of inquiry – a community focused on the scholarship of teaching and learning.

2018-19 ThinqStudio Fellows:

  • Maryam Darbeheshti, assistant professor, Mechanical Engineering, College of Engineering and Applied Science

  • Dennis DeBay, senior instructor, Math and Science Education, School of Education & Human Development
  • Manuel Espinoza, associate professor, Educational Foundations, School of Education & Human Development
  • Ronica Rooks, associate professor, Health & Behavioral Sciences, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
  • Vivian Shyu, assistant professor, Behavioral/Cognitive Neuroscience, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
  • Dale Stahl, assistant professor, History, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

2018-19 ThinqStudio Explorers:

  • Joan Bihun, associate professor, Clinical Teaching Track, Psychology, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
  • Scott McLeod, associate professor, Leadership for Educational Organizations, School of Education & Human Development
  • Sam McNitt, senior instructor, ASPIRE to Teach, School of Education & Human Development
  • Amy Hasinoff, assistant professor, Communications, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
  • Geoff Johnson, graduate teaching and learning librarian, Auraria Library
  • John Ronquillo, assistant professor, Nonprofit and Public Management, School of Public Affairs

Guest contributor: Julia Cummings