Teaching + Learning News 3.02


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.

This month brings a somewhat abbreviated version of the newsletter, focusing on our new Learning Technologies Coaches. I’ve added a new section of curated readings on teaching and learning topics, which includes summaries and links.

I welcome your feedback on the Teaching + Learning News, via the contact form below. Do I send the newsletter often enough? (Are you not getting enough e-mail?) Or are there sections or features you’d like to see, like last year’s ‘Consult your Colleagues’ advice column? Your suggestions and — better — submissions are always welcome.

Learning Technology Coaches


The Faculty of Arts has hired a team of Learning Technology Coaches, with the generous support of the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning. These coaches are graduate students from various departments in the Faculty who will provide learning technology support for instructors and teaching assistants as needed.

The coaches’ main focus will be to assist in integrating technologies in the classroom to support and enable student learning. Coaches will provide technical support and advice on how you can best meet your current teaching goals by enhancing the learning environment of all classes across the Faculty of Arts.

How might learning technologies help your students participate in large lecture classes? How can learning technologies encourage student communications that foster a community extending outside of regular class hours?

Coaches will not be able to assist you with desktop or hardware issues, but they will focus on training instructors in programs that will help develop your teaching goals and invigorate their classrooms.

How might you use a Learning Technology Coach?

Here are just a few ideas:

Find out how to transform the mobile devices students already own into powerful tools for active learning and large classroom interaction with programs like Top Hat, or implement blogs, wikis, or discussion forums to encourage students to learn and engage outside the classroom before they arrive for a lecture or tutorial.

Learn how to use the University’s learning management system for more than final grades. Set up a gradebook to track student progress as the course goes on, use discussion boards or surveys, promote digital submissions, post relevant and related course content to share with students, and more.

Students can collect, store, and make connections between artifacts from programs of study, courses, and individual learning experiences.

E-portfolios help students to see how their learning is connected, relevant, and applicable to life outside the classroom, and allow instructors to “quickly and effectively gauge a student’s development of ability over time, and captures many ways of demonstrating knowledge that move beyond traditional exams or writing assignments” (“E-Portfolios: Purposes and Rationale for Use in Higher Education”).

Discover how to create dynamic new presentations, narrate PowerPoint presentations for preservation on the web or for distribution to students, or embed audio or video to assist and augment classroom discussions.

Learn how to facilitate online meetings or classrooms for collaboration between people near and far, which can be recorded or shared, and which include functions to take notes or conduct polls with other participants.

Figure out how best to share your research or class information with students. Decide what type of communication is right for you: a website, blog, vlog, newsletter, social media or something else. Learn how to utilize social media in the classroom by creating a class Twitter Hashtag or creating a class blog or Facebook Group.

Click here to make an appointment with a Learning Technology Coach in late November or early December. (They’re being trained as we speak, so bear with us for a week or two.)

Book with glassesReadings

Occasionally I read articles that provoke further thinking. These are a few that I’ve read lately, and would recommend re-reading. I offer brief summaries, and links to the original articles and to further readings on the subject.

If you come across articles on any subject in teaching and learning you’d like to see featured in a future newsletter, send me a note using the contact form below.

Cornell Tech is an applied-science graduate school on Roosevelt Island, opening in 2017. “[T]he campus is being planned now by people who know they cannot imagine how the intervening years will change the way we interact with the digital world, maybe even with each other.” Its designers are trying to engineer agility, flexibility, and future-readiness into its physical environment: “there are “office zones,” which will be filled with workstations; those seeking some form of enclosure can enter a “huddle room,” “swing space, “collab” room, or “hub lounge.” The entrepreneurial patois, conspicuous as it sounds, reflects a real attempt to break down traditional academic boundaries.”

Flexibility makes a lot of intuitive sense; we ought to make spaces that are more adaptable than the solid walls and enclosed buildings we work in today. Universities can learn a lot from the co-working spaces (like this one, here in Calgary) appearing in the downtowns of many cities: spaces where entrepreneurs have the platforms (infrastructure and support) they need to do their best work, with plenty of in-between places and re-purposable spaces for serendipitous discovery. This “adjacent possible” model is where real innovation comes from.

Tony Bates argues in this trenchant article that “the current professional development model for faculty – and almost as much for instructors in colleges – is broken,” because there’s “no requirement to take any faculty development courses for tenure or promotion, and faculty can choose to do whatever they think is most appropriate as professional development.”

He diagnoses a few causes for this problem, but concludes that “the main reason lies in faculty’s interpretation of academic freedom.” “The fear is that by being trained to teach professionally, outside standards or processes will be imposed on academics and thus force them into some kind of bureaucratic conformity that does not meet the needs of the subject or field of study.”

Now that the MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) conversation has moved from the height of expectations to the plateau of mixed experiences (if not the slough of despond), here’s a post from Alex Usher on how online courses compare to on-campus learning. In short, “universities are about environment and not about content,” particularly if that content can move online. University campuses offer “an architecture of discovery … that isn’t, at the moment, replicable online”: in our classrooms but also in our hallways, common rooms, dorm rooms, and other informal meeting and learning spaces. “It’s the shared experiences that build up over time” that make an education, not just a downloadable lecture.

For a classic take on MOOCS and the opportunities they (might) pose in the future, my favourite article on the subject is still Clay Shirky’s 2012 “Napster, Udacity, and the Academy.”

Teaching + Learning Workshops

Workshops now have a dedicated page of their very own — because really, doesn’t that make more sense than posting them in every newsletter?

Our next workshop, on Engaging Large Classes, is on Wednesday, November 18th from 11-12 in SS1339.

Contact Form

Leave a Reply