Teaching + Learning News 2.06

Semi-regular reports on higher-education teaching and learning from the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Arts. By Michael Ullyot, Associate Dean (Teaching + Learning): saving your inbox from overload since 2014. Follow me on Twitter, if you do that sort of thing. Feedback and submissions are always welcome. Leave a comment below, or drop me a line.


News + Announcements

It’s been too long since our last newsletter. In related news, Winter 2015 has also been a busy term for Teaching and Learning in the Faculty of Arts. The Teaching and Learning Committee has been working hard and thinking about Graduate Attributes; there have been workshops on topics like preventing plagiarism; we’ve hosted some lively student-faculty forums on creativity and popular culture; we’ve hosted CEOs and football players; and (personally) I’ve been teaching an intro-Shakespeare course with digital badges.

And those are just the things I can think of at the moment. Here are a few other things you should be aware of:

If you’re like me, you occasionally need to review a student’s grades or assignments in the old Blackboard system — like when they unexpectedly ask for a reference letter. If so, you should know that the university’s archival license for Blackboard will expire in May 2015, after which you will no longer have access to your archived courses.

If you’re an instructor, please make sure to check your migrated courses in D2L. If the courses are missing any content, you have to submit a request to the IT Support Centre (itsupport@ucalgary.ca) by April 30, 2015.

Include the following details in your email:

  • Full name of the course and/or Course ID
  • What specifically needs to be recovered, e.g. course files, Grade Center record, etc.

A new searchable eLearning web site has been launched. Please feel free to use the pilot version of the website at http://elearn.ucalgaryblogs.ca and let the IT Support Centre (itsupport@ucalgary.ca) know if you have any feedback about the usability, design, or content of the site.

The existing http://elearn.ucalgary.ca website will be replaced by this resource before too long.

The end of April will also see the end of our D2L Coaches program in the Faculty of Arts .  If you still need help afterwards you can do one of the following:

  1. Access self-help located at http://elearn.ucalgaryblogs.ca/
  2. Open a ticket by emailing itsupport@ucalgary.ca
  • include D2L prominently in the subject header so IT can redirect your request quickly
  • describe your problem as concisely as possible at the beginning of your email (supporting details can be added in the body of the email)


Teaching + Learning Workshops

These are cross-disciplinary workshops that will directly affect your course designs and delivery. Each has a topic chosen by you and your colleagues, and has an immediate and concrete impact: you’ll draft a rubric or a laptop policy to use right away.

They are also expressly designed for teaching faculty in the Faculty of Arts. The Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning offers a broader array of workshops open to you.  Registration for our series is required, so I can recognize your participation. (Remember, you get formal recognition if you attend three or more workshops in an academic year, or if you present in any workshop. This will testify to your professional development in merit, promotion and tenure applications.)

Here are the remaining workshops in 2014-15.

Dates and times are varied to accommodate different teaching schedules. If you can’t attend, each workshop will post online materials.
1. Course Outcomes and Assessments: April 2, 9-10:30, SS 1332

Presented by Patrick Kelly and Lin Yu (Taylor Institute)

During this hands-on session you will have the opportunity to write student-centred course outcomes using Bloom’s Taxonomy for courses you are teaching. Based on the course outcomes, you will then create a student assessment blueprint to evaluate student learning. Through individual and small group work you will assess the alignment between the course outcomes and assessment blueprint.  For those who are interested, a follow-up work session is scheduled for Thursday, April 16 from 9-10am where you will be able to obtain feedback on the alignment between your course outcomes and assessment blueprint.

Please register for the session here:  https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/course-outcomes-and-assessment-tickets-15947457274

2. Your Teaching Dossier: May 20, 11:30-1:30, SS 1339

Presented by Mike Adorjan (Department of Sociology), Carol Ann Berenson (Taylor Institute), and Michael Ullyot (Associate Dean, Teaching + Learning)

Student feedback forms — which many of us are circulating to students these days — are valuable enough as a measure of teaching quality. But are they really enough? Are you satisfied letting them testify to your teaching quality, like the professor in this classic Onion article? Learn how to assemble an effective teaching dossier to capture the habits and principles you put into your teaching.

Note: This workshop is the second offering on the same topic, and will cover the same material as in the fall.

Please register for the session here: http://www.eventbrite.ca/e/your-teaching-dossier-2-tickets-16131871863

Consult your Colleagues

Have you ever struggled with a pedagogical problem, only to discover that someone two offices away resolved it in her class last term?

Consult your Colleagues is an anonymous advice column for issues that arise in your teaching.

This time, I have a question of my own (if I may), that’s arisen in my first-year Shakespeare course (enrolment ~110). It is:

What are my office hours for, and how can I do them differently? 

Here’s why I ask: every Thursday morning I sit in my office for an hour with the door open, and none of the students come. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t mind having an unexpected hour to myself each week, to catch up on things.

But it feels like something’s not working. I think I’m approachable enough. I even ran a Doodle poll with my students to choose the hour of the week that most of them are available. And my office isn’t in some distant corner of campus; it’s just upstairs from our classroom.
2015-03-12 10.38.13

Here are some thoughts about why students might not be coming to my office hours, and what I could do differently:

  1. The first question is, what are my office hours for? To my mind, they’re about my being accessible to students, about having conversations on the course assignments and material, and (yes) about allaying their anxieties and preventing problems before they get worse. And I get something from it, too: a sense of who my students are, why they’re taking the class, and — let’s face it — who will struggle most, and who will earn the best grades. (It’s rarely the middle-achievers who come see me.)
  2. So what’s the best way to offer those services, and to get to know my students? Most of the advice I read on office hours suggests that students are opting more for electronic contact than “facetime,” as in-person conversations are now called. I’m okay with that: I tried D2L chatrooms during the same hour, but only a single person logged in each time.
  3. So maybe students prefer asynchronous contact (i.e. e-mail) to those mechanisms. Or maybe they want face-to-face forums like Skype or Google Hangouts. It’s worth a try.
  4. Maybe, too, I need to get out of the office, and meet students on their turf. We could have drop-in sessions in the Arts Lounge or a conference room at the TFDL. Other ideas? The Starbucks at Mac Hall is tempting, but way too busy; and the Black Lounge would definitely not be appropriate.

What do you think? Do you have this problem, too? Or the opposite?

There’s an open-thread conversation on Profhacker that raises some of these questions.

Are you a student who also wants to weigh in on this question? Have I utterly misread what you want to get from office hours, and why you don’t come? Let me know.

Reply by e-mail or in the comment box below.

For the next newsletter, please e-mail me your questions: I promise to keep them in confidence. I’ll do the same for responses, but only if you ask me to.

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