Posts filed under 'Teaching and Learning'

Learning Portfolios Day: McMaster University

Members of your ePortfolio teams were lucky enough to attend McMaster’s day-long exploration of its Learning Portfolio initiative. There were many interesting aspects – a panel of faculty, spotlight on how it used out of the Student Success office, panel of employers, and a student showcase. I think capturing the experiences will take two posts. For this first one, I will concentrate on connections to Mohawk’s ePortfolio project from the keynote speaker, Dr. Randy Bass, an impressive educator and scholar from Georgetown University. I will lay out a few of his interesting statements and pose some questions. Let’s start a conversation around his spotlights by using the “Comments” section.

New division of labor: How computers are creating the next job market posits that there will be three kinds of work in the future:

1. solving unstructured problems
2. working with new information
3. carrying out non-routine, manual tasks

Meeting current vocational standards likely prepares students for the third type of work. However, to meet the first two kinds of work will require the skills better aligned to our Institutional Learning Outcomes. Do you agree that the ILOs appear to be a better embodiment of attributes and skills required to meet the unknown careers of the future or are there other initiatives that capture the future better? Perhaps an even better question might pose, what kind of education is required for these conditions?


Dr. Bass also challenged that the real tension in teaching and learning today is not f2f versus online, but integration versus disintegration. Stopping to consider how many companies and people are now in the “learning business” drove this idea. Consider the number of companies promising to improve retention, boost engagement, and solidify satisfaction. Most of them did not exist a few, short years ago; the “learning business” was primarily in the hands of educators.

DISINTEGRATIVE = granular; measurable e.g. outcomes, competencies
INTEGRATIVE = holistic and coherent

Dr. Bass and his like-minded colleagues see definite changes and challenges when the locus of knowledge moves from disintegrative to integrative. The locus moves from skills, abilities, and competencies to those of dispositions and character traits such as empathy, grit | resilience, curiosity, risk taking. What likely jumps out is that these dispositions or character traits cannot be taught as skill can. Instead, opportunities need to be provided that cultivate character and grow these positive dispositions. How do you see this changing  how we educate our students? If this move of the locus of knowledge is more than a positive hypothesis, what things need to happen within our educational structures?

I promise part two post on our eP Day will include information actually on ePortfolios! There was a plethora of wonderful, eP-specific information shared among the panels and participants.

Add comment March 31st, 2014

Education Technology Strategies 2014: Summit in Toronto (March 4th & 5th)

A small, but mighty contingent of Mohawk educators - including support staff, administration, and faculty attended this fourth annual conference. From across the country, contributors to K-12 and post-secondary education met to:

Unlock technology to enrich and personalize learning. Reform your organization as part of a progressive ecosystem to nurture engaged students and catalyze innovation.

At this unique forum, obtain strategic insights from education leaders on how to improve student achievements with meaningful use of technology. Acquire cost-effective deployment solutions and incorporate sound pedagogical practices into your curriculum design and delivery.

Benefit from first-hand experience to implement blended, mobile, and BYOD initiatives at your institution and classes. Empower educators with practical tools and techniques to prepare your students for the 21st century knowledge economy.

Improve engagement, maximize learning outcomes and increase retention. Capitalize on emerging innovations to make a dramatic difference to the quality of your education. Adapt to the new paradigm and strive for excellence”

~ Source: Conference site

I thought I would start by adding my Glog or interactive poster that can act as a springboard to more conversation and community building. I am hopeful other attendees will add their takeaways and Mohawk’s community will pose questions and comments.

Here’s my GLOG!

Add comment March 10th, 2014

Online Video - Is Shorter Better?

If you are creating online videos or doing lecture capture the following may give you pause.

Philip Guo, an assistant professor of Computer Science at the University of Rochester, recently published preliminary findings on research he is doing for edX, a major MOOC provider.

Guo reports two finding on video usage in online courses.
First: the attention span for a video lecture is shorter than for a face-to-face class; “the optimum video length is 6 minutes or shorter”
Second: while the average viewing time maxes out a 6 minutes, if the video is longer than 12 minutes the average time spent watching goes down.


For a 30-40 minute video, the average viewing time is 3 minutes or 10% or less of the content.

It’s not hard to imagine someone watching an online video for a few minutes and then moving the cursor to the bottom to see where that progress line is. If it’s past half way, they are likely to watch it to the end, if it’s still close to the left edge, they may give up then and there.

Short videos keep students engaged and may also give them an incentive to use short windows of time that might be available; in breaks between classes. for example; to watch when they couldn’t commit to watching a longer video.

As Guo writes “The take-home message for instructors is that, to maximize student engagement, they should work with instructional designers and video producers to break up their lectures into small, bite-sized pieces.”

Add comment February 6th, 2014

How to Answer when a Student Asks “Did I Miss Anything?”

For a new year and a new term; a perfect answer to an age-old question.

Did I Miss Anything?

by Tom Wayman
From:   The Astonishing Weight of the Dead. Vancouver: Polestar, 1994.

                                                        Question frequently asked by
                                                        students after missing a class

Nothing. When we realized you weren’t here
we sat with our hands folded on our desks
in silence, for the full two hours

        Everything. I gave an exam worth
        40 per cent of the grade for this term
        and assigned some reading due today
        on which I’m about to hand out a quiz
        worth 50 per cent

Nothing. None of the content of this course
has value or meaning
Take as many days off as you like:
any activities we undertake as a class
I assure you will not matter either to you or me
and are without purpose

        Everything. A few minutes after we began last time
        a shaft of light descended and an angel
        or other heavenly being appeared
        and revealed to us what each woman or man must do
        to attain divine wisdom in this life and
        the hereafter
        This is the last time the class will meet
        before we disperse to bring this good news to all people
       on earth

Nothing. When you are not present
how could something significant occur?

        Everything. Contained in this classroom
        is a microcosm of human existence
        assembled for you to query and examine and ponder
        This is not the only place such an opportunity has been

       but it was one place

        And you weren’t here

Add comment January 1st, 2014

How to Read Student Evaluations

It will soon be time of the semester again when the results of Student Feedback on Teaching Surveys will be coming out. Most faculty, no matter how long they have been teaching or how confident they are of their abilities dread them; few, if any, look forward to them with enthusiasm. So how can you read them and use them constructively?

Read Them
Seems fairly obvious, but what teacher has not been tempted to not read student feedback sometime? We don’t want to read negative things about ourselves; who does? But you have to start by reading them, and not just a casual glance through them.
They will provide useful information to improve your teaching practice. Keep that in mind and start positive.

Put Them Aside
Negative comments sting, exuberant praise makes us elated (and those who leave comments are most likely to be those who hate you or love you as a teacher). You need, in the words of Kipling to “…meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two imposters just the same.” The best way to do that is to give yourself some distance; go for a walk, a coffee or an ice cream and come back to them later. If you can leave them for a day or two or a week, so much the better, and you can then come back to them in a more objective frame of mind.

Look for Trends and Outliers
What are the general trends in the feedback? Identify categories that they fall into; they might be related to the course structure, assessment strategies or with the teaching style. What are the positives? What are things that work well that can be used to strengthen the areas that are weaker?
Look at the outliers. It’s tempting when overall data and comments are positive to ignore the outliers, but they do provide useful information. Perhaps your teaching style is not meeting the needs of all students’ learning styles, perhaps you need to be clearer in managing student expectations. Do you have underlying assumptions about your students that are no longer true about all of them?

Think Ahead
Use the questions in the Student Feedback survey to plan changes to your course. Not to ‘teach to the test’ or skew the course top get better ratings, but use them as a checklist for course design and teaching. For example: could you make it more explicit how the course connects to job requirements? Can you build in more opportunities for active participation?

Close the Loop
Record what you plan to do; not just to respond to specific issues that have been raised; but to improve your course and your teaching, because we can all always improve.

Links for further ideas on Interpreting student evaluations

Add comment December 5th, 2013

Gearing Up: Fall 2013!

Welcome back for another great semester at Mohawk!

As you put the finishing touches on your courses for Fall 2013, here’s a reminder of a few, new, cool tools brought to you by your CTL.

VoiceThread: Conversations in the Cloud

This newly integrated tool can boost engagement in discussions by allowing students to contribute using a variety of media. You and your students can also use it to showcase course material in a different format. Check it out!


Although not new, it continues to improve its integration with eLearn@Mohawk. Build and share your rubrics and comment sets to make feedback and assessment more seamless. Your colleagues are already making great use of comment sets - Language Studies instructors created and shared their own unique set. Students will receive comprehensive and consistent feedback and assessment and instructors will shave time!

Video Capture

Click on the graphic for the full lowdown.


Respondus Lockdown Browser

This is a customized browser that increases the security of online testing in eLearn. You as an Instructor can choose to require students to use the LockDown Browser when taking your quizzes. When students use LockDown Browser during a quiz, they are unable to print, copy, go to another URL, or access other applications until the quiz is submitted. Read more about it!

WISC Online Gamebuilder

Contact CTL to access this tool to change up your activities for diagnostic and formative assessment. There are a number of game templates to add more interest to quiz material. Here’s just one example:



This free tool is another great way to reinforce understanding of basic course concepts. Rather than a quiz on terminology, try Quizlet’s options. Your CTL has the paid version in case you want to use images and other affordances. Contact your Instructional Technologist. Here’s academic integrity terminology turned into a Scatter game: Play now!

Had issues loading large, homemade video to eLearn@Mohawk? We have the solution - Kaltura. The new Kaltura/eLearn integration allows you to easily upload large video files directly within eLearn to the Kaltura system, and easily publish and stream videos in eLearn courses.In addition, Kaltura allows you to easily create original recordings using your webcam, and integrate them in to your courses. Access the Info Sheet here.

There are many more interesting things afoot in CTL (Fennell A227). Make sure to check in with your eLearning contact for the latest and greatest teaching tools and learning support.

Add comment August 26th, 2013

It Was a Great Week to Be at Mohawk!

Wow - Mohawk was buzzing this past week. Unfortunately, I couldn’t participate in everything, but CEDP and Apps for Health were very worthwhile. Kudos to Roberta Burke, Christy Taberner and their crews and to Valerie Mitanoff and Jenna Pettit for keeping the the communication flowing.

At CEDP, it was great to meet faculty from multiple colleges who were eager and/or willing to overcome fear to experiment with educational technology to meet students’ need for differentiated instruction as well as align to their institutions’ strategies. Their questions and concerns were similar to those at Mohawk. They were a good reminder to double check understanding on a top concern.

  • A colleague at a sister college had to undergo an audit from Access Copyright. A good reminder that Copyright Law and attribution | academic integrity apply in online learning environments. Before, you would submit your courseware through the Book Store | Media Services where adherence to copyright was confirmed. But with many course resources living in eLearn@Mohawk, there is no process. To assist, the new templates for eLearn@Mohawk added a Resources sub-heading on its Module Overview page. Tracking the resources you use in each module will help cover you if copyright questions arise. And why not model proper citing for students and populate the Resources section in APA format! Check out Mohawk’s updated Copyright policy and connect with your Library with any questions or concerns.

Apps for Health’s panel presentation on Gamification sparked some thinking - the very idea that ‘gamification’ may be ephemeral. The three panelists of game designers proposed as sound instructional design is better understood, the reference to gaming will fall away. Structured activities that engage, challenge, and assess progress define the current buzzword, gamification, and have always defined sound instructional design.

A great observation by Andrea Bielecki (Invivo and Spongelab) highlighted further merging or more holistic thinking. A few years ago, a company may have considered its marketing strategy and then how a web presence might be factored into the mix. Nowadays, strategies would include all media - a company wouldn’t dream of excluding online in its initial strategy and budgeting.

I wonder how far are we from experiencing all players in education, considering the online requirements in teaching and learning and planning accordingly from the start? Rather than designing and developing a course and then figuring out what to put online, considering that online learning and the use of educational technology is just now part of our learning ecology. With this realization, the necessary players - SMEs, technologists, and designers - can come to the table and be given the time to collaborate and build (education’s strategy and budget) the best teaching and learning experiences.

Add comment May 21st, 2013

Academic Integrity: TurnItIn Supports Your Efforts

Plagiarism appears rampant at secondary and post-secondary institutions. TurnItIn has recently released interesting research on a number of facets relating to academic integrity. Here’s an example:

  • The Sources in Student Writing: Post-secondary: Captures information and feedback from 900 institutions worldwide, it presents a comprehensive perspective on the top sites used in students’ writing. From this infographic, you can connect to the full white paper.

To assist you in communicating plagiarism issues to your students, TurnItIn has re-crafted the spectrum of the 10 most common cases into student-friendly language and graphics. With a Creative Commons license to re-use freely for educational purposes, consider adding it to eLearn as a springboard to discussion or individual review. You can also read the entire 19 page report here.


A final aid in your efforts to teach students academic integrity is an interactive rubric to assist with your assessment of their understanding of resource evaluation. The SEER rubric, developed in collaboration with educators, has 5 criteria and 5 levels of performance ready to go! Because of its Creative Commons license, I was able to re-build it in eLearn@Mohawk. If you would like to associate this rubric with your Dropbox folder(s), please let me know (

If you are keen to inject more academic integrity activities and safeguards into your courses, stay tuned to the CTL PD calendar. There will be sessions targeting plagiarism and academic integrity during June and August - months the college’s focus turns to quality and innovation.

Until then, don’t hesitate to contact your colleagues in CTL with any questions or concerns.

Add comment April 26th, 2013

Blended Learning: Crib Sheet 1

Momentum is building with blended learning and CTL supports this momentum in many ways. Add a series of blog posts providing useful distinctions for Mohawk on the terminology surrounding blended learning to the support. Communication and collaboration require we come to the table with common understanding

This week’s crib sheet focuses on two communication points:

1.     communicating blended learning in your course(s)

2.     eLearning versus eLearn@Mohawk

Communicating blended learning in your courses

gin-and-tonic2501Mohawk faculty provide engaging and interactive learning environments in both physical and virtual spaces. But how are we communicating the difference to peers and most importantly to students?

Perhaps a post-work analogy works best. You decide to have a mixed drink after a long week of work e.g. gin and tonic.  You pour the gin and add the tonic to create your libation or blended drink.

You decided to mix your course delivery. You design and develop f2f activities for the physical classroom. You design and develop virtual | online activities for the virtual classroom. Combining them creates your blended or hybrid course. Ideally the f2f and virtual complement similarly to the gin and tonic and are equally refreshing to the consumer!

Consider how this analogy differs from the following: “We meet f2f (gin) on Tuesdays, but Friday is your blended class | learning”.  Friday is actually the virtual or online learning (tonic) for your blended course.

eLearning versus eLearn@Mohawk

With CTL as your go-to spot for assistance with both eLearning and eLearn@Mohawk, understanding the differences between these two terms really helps us to help you. We can direct you more efficiently to the right CTL contact or team.


Mohamed Ally from Athabasca University, in Theory and Practice of Online Learning, provides a helpful definition:

“the use of the Internet to access learning materials; to interact with the content, instructor, and other learners; and to obtain support during the learning process, in order to acquire knowledge, to construct personal meaning, and to grow from the learning experience” (2008, p. 3).

This builds on the earlier explanation by Bonk and Reynolds (1997) stating eLearning:

“must create challenging activities that enable learners to link new information to old, acquire meaningful knowledge, and use their metacognitive abilities; hence, it is the instructional strategy and not the technology that influences the quality of learning” (p. 171).


d2l-logoThis is Mohawk’s branding of Desire2Learn’s learning management system (LMS). It is the college-wide platform supporting your teaching and your students’ learning. For more information on D2L’s learning suite, check out this info page.

Connect with eLearning Services in CTL for more information. And stay tuned for more crib notes!


Ally, M. (2008). Foundations of educational theory for online learning. In T. Anderson (Ed.) Theory and practice of online learning. Edmonton: AU Press.

Bonk, C. J., & Reynolds, T. H. (1997). Learner-centered web instruction for higher-order thinking, teamwork, and apprenticeship. In B. H. Khan (Ed.), Web-based instruction (pp. 167-178). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Educational Technology Publications.

Add comment March 8th, 2013

Four Stages of Learning

We know from learning style theory that there is no one best way for students to learn. The “Four Stages of Learning a New Skill” initially developed by Noel Burch provides a model for learning. This model of moving from incompetence to competence helps us to identify the instructional supports required to assist someone with learning a new skill and building confidence.

1. Unconscious Incompetence – One doesn’t know what they don’t know.
Inability to see the usefulness or value of the skill is characteristic of the first stage of learning a new skill. The individual doesn’t know how to do something and does not necessarily recognize the deficit. The individual must understand the value of the new skill before he/she will be able to move onto the next stage.

Teaching Strategy: One of the first principles of adult learning theory is to demonstrate the relevance of this skill in the real world. Build interest and understanding. You might use a case study, scenario or recent article that depicts why this skill is important in their field of study.

2. Conscious Incompetence – feels overwhelmed by learning the new skill and lacks confidence. Oh my, now they know what they don’t know.
Though the individual does not understand or know how to do something, he or she does recognize the deficit, as well as the value of a new skill in overcoming the deficit. The individual may feel overwhelmed by the learning of the new skill.

Teaching Strategy: Connect new learning to something they already know. Build confidence. Make learning appealing: gaming strategies may make learning fun. Sequence the learning, break it down, and outline the steps or parts. Will you move from simple to complex or from unified picture to specific parts? Provide support: use study partners or collaborative learning projects, and discussion groups.

3. Conscious Competence – the new skill requires effort and concentration.

The individual understands or knows how to do something. However, demonstrating the skill requires effort and concentration. There is heavy conscious involvement in executing the new skill.

Teaching Strategy: The skill may be learned incrementally. Provide opportunities for practice, reflection and continuous feedback. What worked well? What might I do differently next time? Give feedback to others.

4. Unconscious Competence – the new skill is done with ease - mastery!The individual has had so much practice with a skill that it has become “second nature” and can be performed easily. As a result, the skill can be performed while executing another task.

Teaching Strategy: Provide opportunities to apply this learning in new situations, to teach others; present on a panel, make a poster, or create an occasion to apply learning in an authentic situation that would benefit others. Reward and celebrate excellence.

Add comment March 7th, 2013

Previous Posts


April 2014
« Mar    

Posts by Month

Posts by Category