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BOLD Fellows Program

The Blended & Online Learning Design (BOLD) Fellows Program

The CFT, the CIRTL Network (Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning), and the Vanderbilt Graduate School share a mission to enhance teaching excellence. They are partnering to offer the Blended & Online Learning Design (BOLD) Fellows Program.

The program is designed to help graduate student/faculty teams build expertise in developing online instructional materials grounded in good course design principles and our understanding of how people learn. STEM faculty members partner with graduate students to design and develop online instructional materials to solve a teaching “problem” in one of their courses. The teams implement the materials in an existing class and investigate their impact on student learning. Examples of projects can be seen in the BOLD Gallery.

The program embodies several of the core ideas common to CIRTL and the CFT, notably the importance of using teaching practices supported by research and investigating the impact of teaching choices on student learning. These ideas are articulated by CIRTL as teaching-as-research: “Teaching-as-research is the deliberate, systematic, and reflective use of research methods … to develop and implement teaching practices that advance the learning experiences and outcomes of both students and teachers.”

Thus the BOLD Fellows program helps graduate students and faculty members solidify their understanding of course design processes, investigate their pedagogical choices, and consider their application to online learning, while simultaneously creating products that can directly benefit students in targeted classes. The CFT has also created a website to support BOLD Fellows in developing their online instructional modules, as well as anyone interested in blended and online learning.

Program structure

BOLD Fellows will be guided through the design and construction of their module during the “design and development” semester. This semester includes sessions on establishing learning objectives; creating assessments; designing activities; presenting content; and seeking IRB approval.  During this semester, Fellows will meet regularly as a cohort and consult with their faculty partner frequently about design decisions. During the “implementation and assessment” semester, Fellows, faculty mentors, and CFT staff meet as needed to discuss results from assessment of the modules. For more information about the timeline of the program, the commitments for Fellows and mentors, and the benefits, view the Prezi.

Click on any area of the Prezi to zoom in and view the details.

Apply to be a BOLD Fellow

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Your Email (required)

Please fill out the application formand upload it here

Applications are due December 12th; decisions will be made by December 16th.

Spring 2017 BOLD  Fellow Teams

jack-allen2Ke Ding working with
Alan Bowers,
Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering

singer-pruett-jonesCara Singer and Dillon Pruett working with
Robin Jones, Assistant Professor of Hearing & Speech Sciences

hessling-schueleAlison Hessling working with
Melanie Schuele,
Associate Professor of Hearing & Speech Sciences

Fall 2016 BOLD  Fellow Teams

Jason Eggold and Carl JohnsonJason Eggold working with
Carl Johnson, Stevenson Professor of Biological Sciences

Brandt Gibson and Simon DarrochBrandt Gibson working with
Simon Darroch, Assistant Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences

Sandya Lakkur and Robert JohnsonSandya Lakkur working with
Robert E. Johnson, Associate Professor of Biostatistics

Travis Moore and Erin PicouTravis Moore working with
Erin Picou, Research Assistant Professor of Hearing and Speech Sciences

Spring 2016 BOLD Fellow Teams

L to R: Jena McDaniel and Laurel Teller, Hearing & Speech Sciences,
working with Melanie C. Schuele, Associate Professor of Hearing & Speech Sciences

L to R: Kristin Droege, Chemistry, working with Cynthia Brame, Senior Lecturer in Biological Sciences; Brandt Eichman, Associate Professor of Biological Sciences; Lauren Jackson, Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences; and Charles Singleton, Professor of Biological Sciences

2015-16 BOLD Fellow Teams

Ryan Bowen,
Chemistry, working with
Susan Verbene-Sutton,
Senior Lecturer in Chemistry

Alex Cheng
, Biomedical Informatics, working with
Kim Unertl,
Assistant Professor of Biomedical Informatics

Kelly Gilmore
, Chemistry, working with
Tara Todd, Senior Lecturer in Chemistry

Kendra Oliver
, Pharmacology, working with
John Wikswo, Professor of Physics

Michael Walker, Computer Science, working with
Doug Schmidt, Professor of Computer Science
Zhi Zheng, Electrical Engineering, working with
Nilanjan Sarkar, Professor of Mechanical Engineering

2014-15 BOLD Fellow Teams

Noah Green, Biological Sciences, working with Douglas McMahon, Professor of Biological Sciences

Hannah Krimm, Hearing & Speech Sciences, working with Melanie C. Schuele, Associate Professor of Hearing & Speech Sciences
Thomas Struble, Chemistry, working with Jeffrey Johnston, Professor of Chemistry Samantha Tramontano,Earth & Environmental Science, working with , Guilherme Gualda, Associate Professor and Lily Claiborne, Sr. Lecturer of Earth & Environmental Science

David Caudel, Astronomy, working with Susan Stewart, Assistant Professor of Astronomy and Erika Grundstrom, Director of Astronomy Labs

Mary Keithly, Chemistry, working with Kathy Friedman, Associate Professor of Biological Sciences and Mark Woelfle, Senior Lecturer in Biological Sciences (not pictured)
Tyler McCleery, Physics, working with Shane Hutson, Associate Professor of Physics Emilianne McCranie, Chemistry, working with Michelle Sulikowski,Senior Lecturer in Chemistry
Udo Obodo, Biological Sciences, working with Steve Baskauf, Senior Lecturer in Biological Sciences Faizan Zubair, Chemical Engineering, working with Paul Laibinis,Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

2013-14 BOLD Fellow Teams


Katherine Friedman, Associate Professor of Biological Sciences, working with Tessy Sebastian.



Anita Mahadevan-Jansen, Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Neurosurgery, working with Zane Ricks.

Kelly Holley-Bockelmann, Assistant Professor of Astronomy, working with Lauren Palladino.

View the audio/PowerPoint presentation by Zane Ricks about his BOLD project.

View Lauren Palladino’s PowerPoint presentation about her BOLD project.


Cynthia Brame, CFT Assistant Director
Rhett McDaniel, CFT Educational Technologist
Ryan Bowen, Graduate Teaching Fellow

Frequently asked questions

Why is the program limited to teams from the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) disciplines?

The development of the program is being funded through an NSF grant to CIRTL, which is a consortium of 23 institutions focused on developing a national STEM faculty committed to implementing and advancing effective teaching practices in higher education.  We envision expanding the program to teams outside the STEM disciplines as funding becomes available.

How long is a “module”?

Typically, the learning modules that BOLD Fellows create are equivalent to 1-3 class days.  Because graduate students are completing this work in addition to their other work—their dissertation research and any other responsibilities they have—we encourage Fellows and their faculty mentors to focus their attention on one particular topic or concept for which blended or online instruction may provide benefits.

What do the learning modules that BOLD Fellows create look like?

To date, all of the modules that the BOLD Fellows have created are intended to be used for blended instruction—that is, the online materials are meant to complement face-to-face interactions. The online materials typically include some video content and some form of formative assessment to help students evaluate their own understanding. The videos the Fellows have created vary, ranging from Khan-academy style tutorials, to animations with verbal descriptions, to interviews and staged arguments. The formative assessments BOLD Fellows have used within their modules have also varied, ranging from in-video and post-video multiple choice questions to short writing assignments to simulations.

What role does the faculty mentor play?

The faculty mentor for each BOLD Fellow plays an essential role. Typically, the faculty mentor has identified a “problem” in a class that s/he is teaching –such as low student engagement or difficulty with a particular concept—that may be addressed through the development of a blended or online learning module. The faculty mentor has the content knowledge necessary for developing the module (although ideally the Fellow does as well), and has a deep understanding of the particular course context—that is, the challenges that face students in this class at this institution. These elements are essential for developing an effective module. Furthermore, the faculty mentor has to want to implement the module in his or her class and has to be willing to collect data on its effectiveness. Thus the program is best seen as a partnership between the Fellows and their faculty mentors.

What are some of the principles that guide the development of the learning modules?

We encourage the BOLD Fellows to consider what we know about principles of learning and how those principles can be implemented effectively in an online setting.  How People Learn and How Learning Works are great summaries of the principles of learning. The CFT’s teaching guide on Blended and Online Learning summarizes current knowledge about how to implement these principles in an online setting.

How much money accompanies a BOLD Fellowship?

Currently, the Fellowship is accompanied by $1000, paid over two semesters.

How much time should BOLD Fellows expect to spend on their project?

During the first semester, we meet weekly for 1.5 hours to guide Fellows through the design and development of their modules. Fellows will also need to discuss the design of their module regularly with their faculty mentor. Finally, they will need to set time aside to build the module. The amount of time to build the module varies significantly, depending on the size and sophistication of the module, the Fellow’s existing knowledge about the subject matter targeted in the module, and the Fellow’s comfort with the technology s/he wants to use.  Finally, we ask that the BOLD Fellows present their work to a local audience at the end of the year, and in an online forum to the CIRTL Network once during the program. Time management and project management skills also have a significant impact on the time that Fellows spend on the project. When designing a project, we encourage Fellows and their mentors to consider the time they have to devote and then to choose a project that can fit within that time.

What aid does the CFT offer?

The CFT offers guidance to the Fellows in considering principles of learning and how to apply them to their modules and guidance on the design on the modules. We also introduce Fellows to some of the tools available to create online content and training on how to use some of those tools. Finally, we help Fellows and their mentors through the IRB application process.

It’s also important to note the limits to the help we can provide. The Fellows are the creators of the modules; although we can help Fellows identify and learn to use tools for creating online content, we do not create the content ourselves. We also have limits to the tools we can help Fellows use; there are no programmers or computer scientists on staff at the CFT, and thus we can’t help Fellows develop applications that require programming skills.