KOLT was founded in 2009 with the vision of President Umran İnan to make Koç University a center of excellence for learning and teaching. KOLT is the first center of its kind in Türkiye serving to three stakeholder groups: faculty, teaching assistants and students.
KOLT has a set of workshops and individualized support for incoming faculty members to facilitate their adaptation to the student-centered learning and teaching environment at KU. As of 2018, KOLT has organized a cumulative 120 workshops, seminars and panel discussions on different issues of learning and teaching in higher education such as “active learning to drive critical learning”, “team-based learning”, and “new approaches and practices in learning and teaching”.
A total of 87 faculty members received KOLT teaching innovation grants to improve their courses by effectively redesigning their courses, using active learning methods or educational technology.
Outstanding teaching award recipients have been sharing their successful teaching practices at KU via KOLT website in order to inspire new instructors to (re) design their courses to accommodate students’ needs.
KOLT plays a growing role in educational technologies and is primarily responsible for the establishment of university-wide learning management system (Blackboard), and building and managing partnership with Coursera for the development of massive open online courses at Koç University. Blackboard is used in more than 400 courses per semester. ECON 499 Economics Capstone is the champion of the last semester with more than 650,000 clicks on course items.
KOLT has supported quality enhancement, accreditation and review of different academic programs by conducting more than fifty focus groups and survey studies among students and alumni.
KOLT runs a tutoring center with more than 100 tutors for more than 80 courses per semester. The demand for this peer-supported system has been increasing every year among the faculty and students as they see the added value in student learning. The champion in tutoring is COMP 110 Introduction to Computer Programming with Matlab whose tutors recorded 388 student visits in Spring 2018.
Foreign language conversation circles promote fluency in spoken English, French, German, Italian and Spanish for our students. Native speakers of these languages, international or exchange students, moderate these circles.
KOLT designed and started offering a new one-credit course: KOLT 101 Academic Skills Development for students who need to self-regulate their learning by improving their academic skills (setting goals, reading academic texts effectively, developing good study habits, etc.).
KOLT 500 Teaching Assistant Training Program, a series of workshops focusing on good practices for effective teaching and offering hands-on skills acquisition in the form of microteeaching sessions, is attended by 150-200 incoming graduate students in GSSE, GSSSH, GSB and GSHS every year. The program helps TAs overcome their teaching anxiety because teaching assistants get feedback from their peers and KOLT staff about their teaching skills in microteaching sessions before they conduct problems solving sessions (PS) and labs in a real class setting for the first time.
We implement a holistic approach to identify best practices and areas of improvements in order to enhance the overall quality of learning and teaching. We have been involved in the European Forum for Enhanced Collaboration in Teaching (EFFECT) project, which proposes ten principles to support the enhancement of learning and teaching at European universities. We are using those principles and many new research-based innovations in higher education learning and teaching as guidelines while conducting a comprehensive analysis of our university to determine what to keep and what to adapt and innovate for enhancing the quality of learning and teaching.
We know that student-centered approaches and the use of educational technologies are two key compenents in higher education learning and teaching. A care should be given to technology-enhanced instructional design to increase student engagement and interactivity. Instructors’ ability to design learning environments that help students gain 21st century skills such as problem solving, critical thinking, team building and working etc. will be much more critical in the future. These realities will shape KOLT’s support for learning and teaching at KU.
To my colleagues:
Many years after I started my teaching career, I started to question my own approach to teaching. When I took on the mission of starting an office of learning and teaching, I learned to approach teaching and learning developmentally: as an interaction of student development and faculty development – a dialectic process that will always be ‘new’. That experience changed the way I looked at college teaching, especially my own. In the following years, I became intrigued with and passionate about the idea that students who walk into a college classroom should walk out of there after they truly learned something. These days, it is not enough for me to explain something really well. It is more important for me that my students can do the explaining because they have truly learned the material.
My own experience in teaching is still evolving. When I get it right, some learning happens in the classroom. When learning happens, there is excitement in a classroom that is palpable. There are challenges to the students and to the teacher to learn more, to ask more, to produce more, and to think more. The joy of learning is not lost on the students. Their daily accomplishments become our endless motivation to teach.
My goal for faculty development when I started working at KOLT was to start a conversation on teaching and learning among the faculty. Once we are thinking and conversing, we will be asking questions about our teaching, we will be seeking answers to those questions, and we will be experimenting to see if our answers hold up. That thinking and conversing has the potential to lift our classrooms from mere lecture halls to spaces where real learning takes place.
I hope that conversations on teaching and learning will never stop at KU.
To KU students:
It is difficult to make the transition into being a college student. In addition to new and difficult academic expectations, you face a whole new life style with a whole new set of responsibilities and difficulties. When all aspects of your life are changing, it is natural that you will need a lot of help and support. Ironically, you probably expected that your entry at KU would be the end of much of your struggles, since entry into KU required a lot of hard work and dedication.
I worked to make KOLT into a place at KU where you will feel welcome, regardless of the source of your difficulties, concerns or worries. There are peers, TAs and staff at KOLT to help you feel welcome, encourage you, and work side-by-side with you as you find alternative solutions to your concerns. KOLT does not offer “one size fits all” solutions. KOLT is where you find partners to generate solutions with you. All we ask of you is to come in.
I hope that you will keep coming into the KOLT offices and give us the privilege to work with you. I hope that you will help your friends find their way into our offices at times when they need a willing and supportive partner.
May your KU years be happy, healthy, and academically fulfilling.
Transition into being a college student may have been a difficult experience, but it probably pales in comparison to the transition into being a graduate student, being a teacher, and being a researcher, all at the same time. It can be intimidating to find yourself in a room full of college students and realizing at once that you will not be comfortably sitting in one of those seats; that you are supposed to be the person who is “in charge”.
Hundreds of questions may be distracting you like Christmas lights in your mind: How am I going to convince them that I am the teacher? How am I going to get their attention? How should they address me? What if they ask something I don’t know? If I write everything down, will they understand better? How am I supposed to grade this assignment? Shall I ignore this noise, or shall I react to it? This problem seems too easy, isn’t it? What if all of my students fail this topic in the mid-term? What if I forget the formula and have to look it up in the middle of the session? What if someone finds my mistake in this answer? Should I be repeating the lecture in the beginning of the lab? How can I let my faculty know that I am not comfortable solving the problems this way? How am I going to prepare for my own final when my students are visiting me all day with their questions? How am I going to find time to read my own assignments and read the textbook of the course that I am the TA for, during the next 24 hours?
At KOLT we have utmost respect to your contribution to undergraduate education. We want to support you in your current TA assignments, and help you prepare for your future academic career as a member of the faculty. I hope that KOLT can help you experience and enjoy that magic moment in teaching when you see that your students really mastered something worth knowing which they did not know before.
Being a TA starts you on a long journey to seek many different ways of helping students effectively as they work to learn. KOLT will always be happy to start this journey with you.