New ed-tech platform recognizes professors’ contributions to higher education
A professor of social work at the University of Wisconsin–Madison has created an online platform to store and share work from the academic realm. Curricula, quizzes, assignment sheets and studies can all be made available at prof2prof.com.
“I wanted to establish a cloud-based platform for the higher education community, designed to support a repository of tools and resources created by academics around the globe,” says Kristen Slack, founder of Prof2Prof.
“The mission of Prof2Prof is to recognize a broad range of academic professionals and the many contributions they make, across and for the higher education arena,” says Slack.
“Academics are constantly creating intellectual products, many of which do not get formally published in the traditional sense. What matters most in academia is that your knowledge contributions make an impact. Prof2Prof facilitates a broader impact by enabling faculty around the world to find and use your tools and strategies.”
Teaching faculty create an enormous amount of content for the classroom, which Slack views as a form of scholarship reflecting disciplinary training and expertise. “A relatively small percentage of higher education faculty conduct research, but most faculty teach,” she says. “I wanted to create a platform that elevated teaching contributions to higher education on par with research, and that recognized the synergy between teaching and research.”
What Slack calls a “professor-centric” platform allows members to easily create and manage a professional profile, and store and access a broad range of resources related to research, teaching, administration and the delivery of student support services. “It’s been incredibly rewarding to see the resources our members have shared, and to connect with scholars doing innovative work.”
Site members have contributed items such as class assignments, group exercises, syllabi, videos and podcasts, in addition to research and administrative tools.
Faculty typically are the start of value creation in higher education, since they are usually the ones who develop the tools and strategies for helping students learn, says Slack. “The resources shared on Prof2Prof contribute to the growing trend of ‘open access’ content,” which embraces the creation and use of free and low-cost educational materials.
“In countless conversations with faculty over the years, I have found that most are willing to share their materials, and recognize that they have benefited from resources shared by their colleagues. After all, the whole reason our jobs exist is to educate students. I believe we get better at this by learning from the best examples of our peers.”
Slack sees Prof2Prof as a higher education ecosystem, where it is easier to discover highly relevant resources and to create networks and collaborations. She was especially motivated to represent academic contributions by those with tenuous ties to higher education institutions, such as adjunct faculty, who may teach multiple courses on short notice, sometimes at several institutions. Having a central place to maintain a professional presence and a time-saving tool for finding course material is particularly important for this segment of the academic workforce.
“After all, the whole reason our jobs exist is to educate students. I believe we get better at this by learning from the best examples of our peers.”
Since prof2prof.com went live, membership has increased steadily and includes participants from multiple countries across six continents. Members must be academic professionals affiliated with a postsecondary institution, doctoral students or emeritus professors.
The platform is free to individual members, who can network and share resources with academics across disciplines and different types of institutions, including community and technical colleges, teaching colleges and research universities. Features planned during 2018 will further enable resource sharing and academic networking in unprecedented ways.
Slack’s business, Information Escalator LLC, received some initial funding from Doyenne, a Madison, Wisconsin organization that supports businesses owned by women. Slack is part of the group’s yearlong accelerator program. Additional support was provided by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation’s UpStart Program for entrepreneurs, and the Small Business Development Center at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.