February 2012 Issue • Volume 40 • Issue 2

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TRAILS Completes First Full Calendar Year;
ASA Announces Call for TRAILS Editor

Margaret Weigers Vitullo, ASA Academic and Professional Affairs Program

With the close of 2011, TRAILS (Teaching Resources and Innovation Library for Sociology) has now completed its first full calendar year, and it has been a year full of learning, growth, and considerable success.

TRAILS is ASA’s subscription-based, online, interactive, peer-reviewed library of teaching and learning materials. It includes the entire corpus of the ASA Teaching Resources Center Syllabi sets, as well as a growing number of newly published teaching resources (see trails.asanet.org). In addition to searching the library for syllabi, lectures, class activities, or assignments available for download, sociologists can also submit their own teaching resources for peer review by trained area editors and possible publication. TRAILS currently includes 2,876 sociological teaching resources, each with an automatically generated cover page and suggested citation. Subscribers to TRAILS sign an agreement stating that any resource they use, either in its original or modified form, will contain a clear citation with the author’s name. In this way, TRAILS is working to establish a cultural norm in citing each other’s teaching scholarship (even if it is online), just as we cite each other’s research scholarship.

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Although, in 1990, Ernest Boyer once called for the recognition of teaching as a central scholarly activity, much work remains in this area. In an Inside Higher Ed article discussing the launch of TRAILS, Mary Taylor Huber, senior scholar emeriti and consulting scholar at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, was quoted saying “I think there is a long way to go before there is a wide enough understanding and acceptance of this kind of pedagogical work as a serious intellectual enterprise, and I think this is a step forward…. There is power in having the discipline take it on.” 

The ASA has long been dedicated to the cause of teaching and learning in sociology. To understand the origins of TRAILS, one would need to go back to when Hans Mauksch established the Teaching Resources Center (TRC). Mauksch was the ASA Executive Director from 1975-1977. He was a medical sociologist who looked at the way doctors are trained, with extensive hands-on practice and intensive feedback, and he believed that sociologists needed to become far more intentional, scholarly, and iterative about the teaching and learning process. Under his leadership the ASA established the Section on Undergraduate Education (now the Section on Teaching and Learning) and began publishing the journal Teaching Sociology.

Although Mauksch started the TRC, it gained momentum and sustained growth under the leadership of Carla Howery, in her roles as the ASA Director of Academic and Professional Affairs Program (APAP) and later as ASA Deputy Executive Officer. As an interactive web application that includes not only text documents, but also PowerPoint files, images, and videos, TRAILS continues ASA’s long-standing commitment to teaching and learning, while bringing that commitment into a format that is responsive to today’s instructors.

TRAILS During 2011

Because TRAILS subscriptions run 12 months from the date of purchase, total subscriptions vary throughout the year. At the end of 2010 there were 607 TRAILS subscribers; at the end of 2011 there were 781 TRAILS subscribers, a 29 percent increase. In addition, nearly 100 TRAILS submissions were accepted in 2011. 

Google Analytics also offer encouraging news about TRAILS performance in 2011. People visited the TRAILS website more than 11,000 times during the year, with more than 6,000 of those visits being from “unique visitors.”  Nearly 81,000 pages were viewed, and visitors to the site viewed on average 7.28 pages, staying on the site for around 6 minutes. A small proportion of site visitors left after one page view—31.74 percent, which is an A+ in the world of web analytics. The table presents these numbers along with the numbers for the ASA web page to provide some context. While the ASA website has far more traffic, visitors to the TRAILS site view more than twice as many pages, stay on the site far longer, and are far less likely to “bounce” off the site after one page view. Overall, these measures suggest that TRAILS is offering a resource that is seen as valuable to many people; that those people return to TRAILS many times throughout the year; and that once they are on the site, they find materials that interest them for extended periods of time.

TRAILS seeks an Editor

As TRAILS moves into its second calendar year of existence, ASA is seeking a sociologist to volunteer to serve as the editor of TRAILS. The editor of this curated library of web-based teaching materials will have a three-year term and will be responsible for working to expand the range, quantity, and quality of teaching resources in the library; further developing the TRAILS peer-review process; and providing leadership to the library staff, area editors, and contributors.

The TRAILS editor must possess skill in reviewing, processing, making publication decisions, and following accepted teaching resources through to their publication in TRAILS. Additionally, the editor should demonstrate a willingness to perform outreach, openness to communicating with scholars about diverse ideas, and a zest for building new connections to enhance the significance and breadth of the sociological teaching resources in the library.

This editorship requires working closely with the ASA Academic and Professional Affairs Program and TRAILS area editors. In addition to periodic conference calls, the editor will hold a meeting with TRAILS area editors and APAP staff at the ASA Annual Meeting.

Eligibility: Candidates must be members of the ASA and hold a tenured or emeritus/a position or equivalent in an academic setting. Applications from members of underrepresented groups are encouraged.

Selection Criteria: The following criteria will be considered:

Deadline: March 30, 2012.

Selection Process: Applications will be received electronically by the ASA and reviewed by the ad hoc TRAILS Editor Selection Committee. Prospective editors may be contacted to clarify matters in their applications. The ASA Executive Officer appoints the TRAILS editor.

Preparing an Application Packet

The Application should be no more than five pages (approximately 2,500-3,000 words, excluding the vita) and should include:

Vision Statement: Set forth your goals and plans for expanding the range and quantity of high quality teaching materials in TRAILS and for further developing TRAILS’ peer-review process. This may include an assessment of current strengths, weaknesses, or gaps you plan to address and potential strategies for doing so. Unlike a journal, TRAILS submissions are accepted and placed in the TRAILS library on a rolling basis so applicants must provide evidence that they can manage the timely review and revision of the Library content.

Editor Background Information: Include the applicant’s name, affiliation, and other relevant information. Evidence of extensive teaching experience and the ability to provide sound judgment and guidance to potential TRAILS authors is central to the application. Include a vita or resume that is not included in the five-page limit; no standard format is required.

Candidates should also consider and address their ability to serve as TRAILS editor. The editor of this curated electronic library of teaching resources is a volunteer who does not receive support from the ASA for office space or release time. Members of the ASA Executive Office, including the Director of Academic and Professional Affairs and the TRAILS coordinator, will collaborate closely in the management of TRAILS. TRAILS area editors collaborate with the editor in soliciting and, reviewing submissions and identifying gaps in the library’s substantive content. The TRAILS editorship includes an honorarium of $1500 per year.

The applications packet should be sent to TRAILS@asanet.org with the subject: TRAILS Editor Application.

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