Starting the Conversation around Flipped Learning

In an article in Faculty Focus entitled Three Critical Conversations Started and Sustained by Flipped Learning Robert Talbert of Grand Valley State University suggests for conversation starters, not just responses to common student complaints about flipped classes.

Talbert writes that it’s easy to get defensive in the face of unhappy students, but their objections can open the way to conversations about fundamentals of teaching and learning that students may seldom consider.

His suggested conversation starters for common complaints are:

  • Student comment: “I wish you would just teach the class.”
  • Conversation-starter: Why do we have classes?

When students raise this concern, it is an opportunity to have a conversation about why classes meet — or for that matter, why they exist —in the first place. When students want the professor to “just teach”, the professor can pose the following: We can either have lecture on basic information in class, and then you will be responsible for the harder parts yourselves outside of class; or we can make the basic information available for you prior to class, and spend our class time making sense of the harder parts. There is not enough class time for both. Which setup will help you learn better?

  • Student comment: “I learn best through listening to a lecture.”
  • Conversation-starter: How does one learn?

Talbert responds to this with a question: “What are the three most important things you have ever learned? Here are my three: speaking my native language, feeding myself, and going to the bathroom. When the student comes up with his or her list, I follow up: How did you learn those things?”

  • Student comment: I shouldn’t have to teach myself the subject.
  • Conversation-starter: Why are we here?

In the flipped classroom, students are expected to gain fluency with basic ideas in preparation for class time, rather than as the result of class time. It is easy for a student to see this as self-teaching and respond negatively. A variant of this is, “I’m paying you to teach me!” At its core, this is not an issue about who is paying whom, but about the purpose of higher education. We might approach the student simply by asking: What is the purpose of college? Why are you here?

These questions are so basic: “What are classes for?”; “How do you learn?”; “Why are you here?” that our students, and we ourselves, may not think about them until the established patterns of educational behaviour are challenged and disrupted. What would happen if we started having these conversations in all our classes; flipped, face-to-face and online? Wouldn’t considering what we’re doing, how we’re doing it and why ultimately benefit students and teachers?

You can read the full article at: Three Critical Conversations Started and Sustained by Flipped Learning

Add comment March 2nd, 2015

Winter GIFT Conference is Coming

The Winter GIFT Conference is almost here.
25th February in iWing

15 of your Mohawk colleagues will be presenting their Great Ideas for Teaching, sharing how they strive to improve student engagement, learning and success.
To give you a flavour of what is in store, here are the titles on some of our planned sessions.

  • A Faculty Driven Approach to Program and Career Launch (PCL)
  • Using ePortfolio as a Self-Reflection Assessment for Students
  • Recording Booth to the Rescue: what to do if a lecture goes bad…..and so much more!
  • Secret to successful blending
  • Copyright for Faculty
  • Pedagogical Principles, Techniques and Tools for the Virtual Classroom
  • Peer Mentorship – A Leadership Activity.
  • Digital Poster Sessions - Using Digital Tools to Transform Learning
  • Motivating Students for Mastery
  • ONCAT ONTransfer, and Exemption Tent
  • Pecha Kucha: A small presentation with a BIG impact!

As you can see, whatever your program, whatever your area of interest, there is Great Idea For Teaching for you here. All this and lunch and refreshments too.
Register today HERE

Add comment February 18th, 2015

Horizon Report 2015 - New Media Consortium (Post 1 of ?)

You may have noticed that CTL was a buzz last week. The latest NMC report for higher education hit the wires. (Lauren was particularly ecstatic and will no doubt be adding her thoughts to this blog and tweeting up a storm.) This collaboration between the New Media Consortium and ELI (EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative) forecasts the trends and challenges in a variety of educational settings. Of particular note is its three dimensions - LEADERSHIP, POLICY, and PRACTICE - and the detailing of impact and implications from each perspective.

There is so much to discuss! I will limit this first post to two projects on which I am currently involved. These projects address assessment and open educational resources.

Learning Outcomes Assessment

“We are just beginning to understand which data is useful for advancing learning” (New Media Consortium, p. 12). Not that long ago, the Office of the (former) VPA collected data on all Mohawk courses. This first step tracked the presence of basic information for course set-up. With basic course information covered, our next challenge is how to begin to mine data that is useful for advancing learning. From the focus on the LMS and online content over four years ago, we have recommended an adaptation of USC-Chico’s rubric for online instruction. As with most rubrics, it deals with qualitative data, which is time-consuming and labour-intensive to code, analyze, and report. Mohawk’s online learning environments are developing to complement our rich f2f learning environments. As we grow eLearn from a repository of information (uploaded docs and presentations) into a learning environment optimizing eLearn’s powerful space and tools e.g. Discussions, Quizzes, Dropbox, Rubrics the world of quantitative data opens. Insights is eLearn’s built-in tool to harness data.

D2L | Brightspace’s analytics tool, Insights, has numerous benefits:

  • once competencies are mapped, students see their achievement of course and program learning outcomes - allowing them to take more responsibility for learning and for learning to be more transparent
  • instructors, Student Success Advisors, Counsellors, and administration can query for students falling behind and implement intervention strategies early in the semester
  • meaningful data is at-the-ready for outside accreditation - PQAPA or a program’s external standards.

Mohawk is currently in a partnership with McMaster, University of Waterloo, University of Guelph, Wilfrid Laurier University, and D2L to improve their Competencies tool and ultimately Insights. We are in year two of a five-year commitment and just beginning to map activities to learning outcomes to vocational standards. Stay tuned for more information on this exciting project and its possibilities.

Open Educational Resources

The cohesive movement gained momentum at the turn of the century (2000) and defined open educational resources (OER) as “teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others“(Hewlett Foundation, n.d.). In a recent survey of over 2 000 faculty, only 5% were very aware of OERs, but over 75% expected or would consider using them in the future (NMC, 2015). This hints at an approaching tipping point.

There are great examples of faculty implementing OERs in their course development. Beyond the cost savings for students (free instead of fee-based textbooks) they are participating in a tenet of education - SHARING. Sharing openly and freely is the surest way for knowledge to spread and wisdom to grow.

With Open Education Week approaching (March 9-15) why not commit 30 minutes to learning more about OERs or exploring one of the many OER respositories to see how your students could be enriched - both in their minds and wallets. The granddaddy of repositories is MERLOT ( Beyond being the oldest (established 1997) and the largest (six figures), it also includes a peer review function and great filters to find appropriate resources and activities for your course curation.

Your CTL and Library have teamed up to provide information sessions on OERs to grow awareness. Consult the CTL PD calendar. If you can`t make a session or can`t wait, talk with your Librarian, or shoot Peggy French an email to learn more about using OERs in your courses or for your own professional development.

I`ll leave with a short intro to Creative Commons. I am hopeful it will inspire!

Add comment February 17th, 2015

Free MOOC for Educators on Designing Blended Learning

According to The Journal the University of Central Florida os offering a MOOC “Becoming a Blended Learning Designer” for teachers focused on blended learning.

“BlendKit2015 will be facilitated by UCF Center for Distributed Learning instructional designers Rohan Jowallah and Sue Bauer,” according to a news release. “The course is free and open to any learners, who can also elect to participate in a low-cost certification track. This more rigorous option includes a full portfolio review and, upon completion, offers a certificate from Educause and the University of Central Florida and a digital badge that participants can include on their Educause profiles and professional/social networks.”

Features of the five-week course include:

  • Assessment and critique of course design work from experts and peers;
  • Frequent interaction with other students and course facilitators;
  • The opportunity to interact via blogs or social networks;
  • Guest presenters each week;
  • Tutorials and document templates; and
  • Scholarly reading selections on blended learning.

Registration for the course, which begins February 23, is currently open. For more information, or to register, visit A video showcasing the experiences of educators who participated in BlendKit2014 is available at

If you do enrol, let us know about your experience.

1 comment January 29th, 2015

Musings on the Myths and the Marvels of the Flipped Classroom

Flipping the classroom is gaining momentum for a variety of reasons. In K-12, teachers’ desire to facilitate and ignite students through the more challenging application and analysis phases motivates the flip. Traditionally, teachers provided the foundation or introduction in class and then assigned the practice and extension activities as homework.  The flip allows them to be present for the more challenging aspects of learning (and teaching!).

In higher education, an additional catalyst for the flip is hybrid or blended learning. As higher ed institutions work to increase students’ responsibility for their own learning, provide more flexibility, and grapple with space issues, flipping the classroom is a popular re-design for blended or hybrid delivery.

For the purposes of the blog, I’ll provide a few musings on the myths and marvels that I believe will benefit Mohawk faculty and students. We will start off with one myth buster and one marvel that assists the bust…..

Myth #1: So, I just have to record myself doing my 2 hour lecture and post it?

For student engagement and retention, you will still want to package the information in to manageable chunks. Likely, in your lectures, you take breaks to confirm understanding every 7-10 minutes. This should be replicated online.

If you are concerned about the best way to build your facilitation of course foundational or introductory information, Richard E. Mayer, an educational psychologist, and Ruth Colvin Clark, an instructional designer, have done some wonderful exploration into the science of eLearning. Their cognitive load and design principles research provides recommendations on combining formats (text, audio, video, animation) to optimize processing and knowledge acquisition by students. Get the book at Mohawk Library! If you had to place a hold on the book, this article will whet your appetite.

Marvel #1: With the omni-patient computer it is actually easier to provide appropriate reinforcement of concepts for all learning styles and preferences in the online learning environment. There are many, free educational technologies that can assist. Let’s highlight one of my favourites - Quizlet.

Have terms and definitions or pictures and definitions that would normally have students creating flashcards to commit them to memory? This tool allows you or students to enter the terms | pictures and definitions once and create not only interactive flashcards, but simultaneously other, scaffolded games | challenges.

Take a look at the Quizlet below. I have entered the names of your CTL frontline staff and their titles | areas of responsibilities. I have chosen the Scatter mode. This mode assumes some level of knowledge. If you are new to Mohawk, you may choose the flashcard mode. If you are a regular user, try the harder, Space Race mode.

Your frontline CTL staff

[Note: CTL staff also includes Anna Johnston (Director), Nadine Ogborn (Manager), and Kelly Riley-Dunbavin (Promotions and Events). But we wanted to keep the game manageable and 8 is the magic number!]

Track your time and challenge your colleagues!

Stay tuned for more myths and marvels of the flipped classroom. In the meantime, if you want to continue the conversation or start a collaboration, contact Peggy French.

Wordle of flipped classroom terms

Add comment January 21st, 2015

Teaching Circles at Mohawk

This term Mohawk College Faculty are invited to participate in a Teaching Circles Project, Beginning during the week of February 2nd.
Teaching Circles are a widely used and recognised way of bringing faculty together for mutual support and development.

Kick-off meetings will be held at each campus during the week of February 2nd, to establish the Circles, and the process will take six to seven weeks to complete.

What are Teaching Circles?

The Teaching Circles Project attempts to improve teaching and build community through a structured, non-evaluative process of classroom observation and shared reflection.

A Teaching Circle consists of a small of group faculty participants (ideally from different disciplines) who:

  • Observe at least one class taught by each Circle Partner
  • Reflect on the class observation experience
  • Share reflections with Circle Partners
  • Share Circle observations with Project participants as a whole

Your Teaching Circles experience offers you the opportunity to improve your own teaching by observing your Circle Partners in an actual classroom situation.

By participating in the Teaching Circles Project you will have an opportunity to:

  • observe, analyze and celebrate good teaching
  • increase your understanding of and appreciation for the work of colleagues
  • experience the joy and confusion of being a student
  • formulate a plan for enhancing your own teaching based on your observations and reflections and the shared reflections of your Circle Partners.

Cornerstones for Participants
Teaching Circles is unique in offering a classroom visitation process free from evaluation.

The Cornerstones of Teaching Circles are the positive attitudes and behaviours that create a mutually supportive, energizing environment for sharing the joys and challenges of teaching.

Cooperation and shared responsibility facilitate a team effort and a team result.

Reciprocity Appreciation Reflection Respect

For more information or to register please email
Or call Leslie Marshall at extension 3449

Add comment January 20th, 2015

Space Design Pedagogy

Constructivist Learning Spaces
There has been a shift in learning pedagogy for teaching practices to follow student-centred, constructivist methods (Long,& Ehrmann 2005). Constructivist methods, and more specifically, social constructivist methods advocate that knowledge is constructed through the active participation of individuals and crowds. If we compare what we know now about learning to our current institutional infrastructure, one can recognize that they often do not parallel each other; the infrastructure we have now is a legacy of what we didn’t know about teaching.

Mohawk is leading the way in space design pedagogy. Yes, there are classrooms that still need to be updated, but that takes time. If we consider our collaboratory, student learning commons, and alternative gathering spaces, our students, faculty, and staff are fortunate to have access to such spaces.

The Mohawk Collaboratory

Mohawk Collaboratory Source Mohawk College 2014

Mohawk Collaboratory: Source Mohawk College 2014

Lomas & Johnson (2005) have offered an alternative design method to the traditional approach to space design. They have propose the CDIO process (conceive, design, implement, operate), in which the learning environment is not viewed as space that needs to be redesigned but rather a “product” which needs to be developed. Following this CDIO process, we can ask the questions, “What kind of a space will produce creative and innovate thinking? What kind of space will support social constructivist learning pedagogy?”

Our learning collaboratory is just that. The traditional library has gone through a transformative change as students are less likely to browse the stacks for books when research and articles can be accessed digitally. Conversely, the modern library “speaks not of books, but of information: pellets of useable data, as smooth, precise, and indistinguishable as the screens themselves”. Yes, books still play an important role and will always have a space in our institutions. However, the modern idea of individual and collaborative learning space is considered to be just as critical. Bennett (2005, as cited in Bailin, 2011) notes that “flexible and responsive space
among students”. This idea is reflected in our learning Collaboratory as the space accommodates a variety of uses and learning styles.

The Mansueto Library, Chicago

Mansueto Library, University of Chicago: Source University of Chicago

Mansueto Library, University of Chicago: Source University of Chicago

Mohawk College is not alone in their thinking. The Mansueto Library at the University of Chicago is a state-of-the-art facility that epitomizes the modern library. It combines learning space and print resources on site. The learning space, which holds up to 180 users, is designed for quiet study and consists of fifteen four-person tables, four long rows of reading tables, and seven interconnected four-person tables. The books are housed in an underground storage facility; students make a digital request, the automated book retrieval system locates the book, and the user is notified that the book is ready for pickup. The process is designed to take less than five minutes. A video explaining the process can be found here.

Considering all of this, Mohawk is in fairly exalted company and is at the forefront of space design pedagogy. We are putting students first and are on our way from moving from good to great.

Lauren Soluk - CTL


  • Bennett, S. (2007). First questions for designing higher education learning spaces. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 33(1), 14-26.
  • Mohawk College. (2014). Collaboratory. Retrieved from
  • Doorley, S. & Witthoft, S. (2012). Make space. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
  • Lomas, C.P. & Johnson, C. (2005). Design of the learning space: Learning design and Principles. EDUCAUSE Review, 40 (4), 16-28. Retrieved from
  • Long, P. D., & Ehrmann, S. C. (2005). Future of the learning space, breaking out of the box. EDUCAUSE Review, 40(4), 42-58. Retrieved from

For further reading:

  • Doorley, S. & Witthoft, S. (2012). Make space. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
  • OWP/P Architects, VS Furniture and Bruce Mau Design. (2010). The third teacher. China:Abrams.
  • Moore, A.H., Watson, E. & Fowler, S.B (2007) Active learning and technology: Designing change for faculty, students and institutions. EDUCAUSE Review, 42 (5), 42-61. Retrieved from
  • Lomas, C.P. & Johnson, C. (2005). Design of the learning space: Learning design and Principles. EDUCAUSE Review, 40 (4), 16-28. Retrieved from

Add comment January 13th, 2015

Creating a Blend: Enabling Virtual Learners by Design pt 4

It’s been a while since we started this series, but we’ve come back to it.
In the fourth of her blog posts on Enabling Virtual Learners by Design Jennifer Hofmann discusses getting the right blend in blended learning.

We have many options available to us when creating blended training programs. We can build self-paced programs using learning portals, websites, and e-learning. We can develop moderated discussions using social media, discussion boards and email. Finally, we can create real time events using traditional classrooms, videoconferencing, and virtual classrooms. The trick is learning what technologies to use and how to facilitate the blend.

Hoffman points out that while everyone is talking about building the right blend, achieving it requires work; specifically instructional design work; and time to facilitate successful blended learning experiences.

With traditionally delivered courses we often short-cut Instructional design because we feel familiar enough with the medium that we can anticipate how exercises will go, how the audience will respond and what instructional strategies to use; and how to adapt rapidly if the unanticipated occurs.

The online environment doesn’t allow for that.

Instructional Design Basics
Hoffman says designing online learning starts with the basics of Learning Outcomes and assessment techniques.

Once you’ve identified the performance objectives and assessment techniques, think about how you would assess that objective in the online environment. A multiple-choice test? Written essay? Oral feedback? Group application? If the assessment technique is individualized and objective in nature, such as a graded test, then that objective may be effectively delivered asynchronously. If performance is best assessed in an oral or group situation, such as giving effective feedback to a peer, a synchronous delivery method might be most effective for that part of your program.

Keep to the point
A really interesting point she makes is that it is tempting to put background, historical “nice to know” information into the online content. This is a bad idea; if you’re not going to test it, don’t teach it is the rule for online. Why? Maintaining motivation and engagement is a major challenge online. Students need to feel that what they are doing online is directly relevant to what they are trying to achieve or they will lose interest.

There’s a lot more to her challenging and thought provoking article so check it out at this link

Add comment January 5th, 2015

How to Read Student Feedback on Teaching

It’s that time of the semester again when the results of Student Feedback on Teaching Surveys are 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 16th, 2014

How about a side order of PD with your holiday lunch?

In the sharing and giving spirit of the season, the CTL and Library are teaming up this month to offer two professional development sessions for faculty at each of the campuses. The sessions will be offered around the holiday lunches at each campus.

The morning library session entitled Keep up with Keeping up will be facilitated by Cynthia Williamson. Cynthia will walk faculty through ways to find and save professional development resources that are readily available in the library.

The afternoon CTL sessions at IAHS and Stoney Creek, entitled How Can You Measure That They Can DO It? will be facilitated by Leslie Marshall and will focus on assessing psychomotor skills. Leslie will take you through methods of evaluating skills that can reduce subjectivity while ensuring that students receive the feedback that they need to develop competence and be successful in workplace settings that demand safe, skilled practice.

For the afternoon session at the Fennell campus Christine Boyco-Head will address Creative Problem Solving. She will share methods to recognize and overcome obstacles to creativity, discover, discuss and practice the CPS process, and identify ways to use it in the college classroom.

The sessions and their locations are as follows:

  • Monday, Dec 15th – IAHS Rm 243A: Library 10:00 – 11:30 | CTL 1.30 – 3.00
  • Tuesday, Dec 16th – Stoney Creek Rm A127: Library 10:00 – 11:30 | CTL 1.30 – 3.00
  • Wednesday, Dec 17th – Fennell Rm i102: Library 10:00 – 11:30 | CTL 1.30 – 3.00

Visit the CTL Calendar and reserve your spot today!

Add comment December 5th, 2014

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