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John Mitchell stepping down as vice provost of teaching and learning

January 31, 2018
VPTL Keller Transition

Michael Keller, vice provost for University Libraries and the University Press, will serve as interim vice provost of teaching and learning.
Image credit: L.A. Cicero

Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning John Mitchell will be stepping down at the end of winter quarter after two three-year terms leading the office. Vice Provost for University Libraries and the University Press Michael Keller will serve as interim vice provost for teaching and learning, overseeing the office that provides both public online courses and teaching resources for the Stanford community starting April 1, 2018, Provost Persis Drell announced.

John Mitchell Stanford UniveristyMitchell, who created Stanford’s first mass online learning program in 2012, will remain engaged with VPTL as a special adviser to the provost for digital strategy.

“We are extremely grateful to John for guiding the development of our online learning platforms, extending Stanford’s reach around the globe,” Drell said. “We are proud of Stanford’s leadership in a movement that is emblematic of our ideals and values for outreach, sharing knowledge with more than 7 million people who have been able to experience our courses. I thank him for his service, for all that we have learned through digital advances, and for remaining engaged as we continue to improve pedagogy and to innovate the tools for digital learning support that can help support pedagogy at Stanford and around the world.”

As university librarian for the past 25 years, Keller has long been engaged in developing technology for teaching support, including introducing the Coursework platform in 2004. Keller will continue the ongoing work of VPTL as interim vice provost.  Working with Sheri Sheppard as senior faculty adviser, he also will begin evaluating new strategies to support pedagogy that are emerging through the long-range planning process.

“We have learned much in the last six years and the landscape has changed considerably,” Drell said. “Mike will continue the important work of VPTL as we also take some time to embrace the incredible focus on teaching and learning ideas in the LRP [Long-Range Planning process), and how we can best support departments and schools to be optimal learning organizations.”

In the spring quarter, after the Long-Range Plan objectives are in place, the provost plans to appoint a faculty committee to make recommendations about optimal ways to support Stanford’s educational mission of teaching and learning into the future.

The office of the Vice Provost for Online Learning was created in 2012. In 2014 it became the broader Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning office, incorporating some teaching support units from the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education and Stanford University Libraries.

Since its inception, the VPTL team has worked with more than 500 faculty members and instructors, creating over 1,000 online projects for campus or public audiences. It has transitioned faculty and students to a new university-wide course evaluation system and a new learning management system.  It initiated the Year of Learning in 2016-17 to envision the future of teaching and learning at Stanford and beyond, and many of those concepts are now being reviewed under the Long-Range Planning effort.

Mitchell is the Mary and Gordon Crary Family Professor in the School of Engineering, professor of computer science, and (by courtesy) professor of electrical engineering and of education. His past research has focused on computer security, developing analysis methods and improving network protocol security, authorization and access control, web security, and privacy.

Mitchell’s first research project in online learning started in 2009, when he and six undergraduate students built Stanford CourseWare, an innovative platform that expanded to support interactive video and discussion. CourseWare served as the foundation for initial flipped classroom experiments at Stanford and helped inspire the first massive open online courses (MOOCs) from Stanford.

As co-director of the Lytics Lab, Mitchell is working with other faculty partners and graduate students to improve educational outcomes through data-driven research and iterative design. The lab has published more than 40 research papers since 2013, advancing learning success in online environments. Lytics research, like similar research at other universities, is made possible through CAROL, a collaborative VPTL effort led by Mitchell Stevens that has made over 130 data shares available to academic researchers around the world.

“One of my greatest pleasures in this role has been to meet hundreds of lively and exciting faculty who have tremendous enthusiasm and breadth of knowledge in their fields,” Mitchell said.  “It has been an honor to work with so many of them and to contribute whatever I can to their success. I’d like to thank the staff of all the organizations that have come together to form VPTL. They have all been wonderful. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to work with every one of them.”

Keller, the Ida M. Green University Librarian, has been a national and international leader in transitioning university libraries to digital formats and an advocate for the digital sharing of information resources around the world.

Soon after his arrival from Yale, Keller began making innovations that have served scholars and students by exploiting the potential of network effects and information technologies.  Simultaneously, Keller renewed the commitment and acquisitions programs of the University Libraries in building broadly useful general collections and special collections that afford distinctive opportunities for research at Stanford.

HighWire Press,  an internet publishing service supporting scholarly societies that were self-publishing, such as Science Magazine and the Journal of Biological Chemistry, was launched in 1995 and spun out in 2014.  In 1999, Keller supported and found funding for the LOCKSS preservation and access application that is now used in hundreds of individual institutions and many national settings. LOCKSS is also the technology underlying a related service, CLOCKSS, that since 2010 – with the participation of hundreds of libraries and hundreds of publishers – has provided a “dark archive” solution for e-journals.

Beginning in 2002, Stanford Libraries collaborated with Cambridge University to digitize ancient, medieval and early modern manuscripts.  That project led Stanford Libraries’ curators and technologists, along with numerous manuscript scholars from North America and Europe, in developing requirements for a general digital environment for streaming images of manuscripts and other objects of scholarship and for teaching. That long interactive process became known as the International Image Interoperability Framework, led by the Libraries’ Digital Libraries Systems and Services division headed by Tom Cramer.

On accepting this interim appointment, Keller said, “The functions of teaching and learning are among Stanford’s most fundamental and important ones.  The mission of any vice provost’s division is service to Stanford and that is true especially of the one John Mitchell began and that I will lead for a while.

“My approach will be to listen to Stanford’s teachers – faculty, instructors, and lecturers – and to students at all levels as well as to the dedicated and talented staff assembled in the Teaching and Learning Division. I will attempt to provide the provost’s advisory committee and the provost herself [with] insights into the possibilities for support of teaching and learning at Stanford in a period of rapid evolution of possibilities and expectations.”