New Online ‘Portal’ Lets Professors Talk Technology

What started as a small group on LinkedIn that allowed college professors to talk about their teaching has grown into an online community boasting more than 6,000 participants.

One selling point of the group, according to its new Web site, is that it is not affiliated with any particular college, academic association, or company. “Members represent all disciplines, functions, and levels within the higher-education ecosystem around the world,” the site explains.

It’s called, simply, Higher Education Teaching and Learning Portal, or HETL, and it serves as a forum for professors to seek and share advice about teaching, and often about how (or whether) to bring technology into the classroom.

“Do you accept your students’ invitations to connect on Facebook and other social networks?” read one popular discussion post on the group’s LinkedIn page, which is still the heart of the community. More than 300 responses poured in. Other threads are less popular but still attract some quick answers, such as, “Are there any online activities/simulations/games that would allow college students to practice business-writing skills?”

Not all of the questions center on technology—some seek guidance on other aspects of teaching, like writing a syllabus or discouraging students from dropping classes.

Patrick Blessinger, who has taught at universities in the past and is now on what he called “semi-sabbatical” in Denmark, started the group about a year ago, after he couldn’t find a similar discussion group (though he could have tried the lively forums about teaching on The Chronicle’s Web site). He has since assembled an editorial board and contributors who have gathered teaching resources for the group’s new Web site or who help keep discussions on track.

Joining the LinkedIn discussion forum requires approval by group leaders, though the new Web site is open to anyone.

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