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Welcome to the KPU Teaching and Learning Commons Blog!

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Contributions by KPU Teaching & Learning Community members for the broader community. KPU educators, students, staff and administrators are invited to post your T&L stories, experiences, resources and events. “Login” (bottom right) using your KPU credentials to post. N.B. Postings are moderated to ensure tagging consistency and will appear on the main TL Commons page 15 minutes after approval.

Symposium 2018 Event Registration

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Join BC colleagues in this year’s Symposium on Scholarly Teaching & Learning in Post-Secondary Education. The Symposium is an annual one-day event presented by the BCTLC and BCcampus that brings together speakers, presentations, discussions, and networking with colleagues who share an interest in scholarly teaching and learning in post-secondary education.

Oct 24, 2018 at SFU Harbour Centre, Vancouver

Register at: bccampus.ca/symposium

Open Learning | Nominate a colleague at your Institution for Awards for Excellence in Open Education.

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The Awards for Excellence in Open Education recognize outstanding contributions to the open education movement in British Columbia. These contributions may include significant leadership, OER development, research, or advocacy by faculty, students, support staff, or administrators at post-secondary institutions in BC or others that support the post-secondary system in BC.

Individuals or teams may be recognized. Nominations are made in writing via the online form. The open education team at BCcampus adjudicates the award each month.

Award winners will receive a certificate of recognition and be profiled on the BCcampus website. Previous honorees include Grant PotterIrwin DeVriesTara RobertsonChristina HendricksTannis MorganInba Kehoe, Diane Purvey (KPU), and Maja Krzic.

Upcoming Deadlines for KPU Scholarship, Funding & Awards

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Don’t  miss these fall deadlines to nominate a colleague for a distinguished service award, or to apply for scholarship, professional development or leadership opportunities.

KPU supports leadership and professional development activities through the following programs:

Scholarly Inquiry Grants (SIGs) are available for KPU faculty/instructors. The grants are intended to enhance students’ learning experiences by encouraging faculty-led investigation of new or innovative teaching and learning practices.  Deadlines are October 1, February 15 and June 1. [More info]

0.6% Faculty Professional Development Fund
Faculty PD Fund applications involving research, conference presentations, enhancing teaching and learning as well as support for tuition are some areas considered for funding. Call for applications occur three times a year. Administered by ORS. Next Deadline: October 1 | [Info]

Teaching Fellows Program
This is an opportunity for KPU faculty to take on an educational leadership role and advance University priorities. They are seconded from their respective faculty appointments through partial time releases

Teaching Fellows Call for Applications Fall 2018
Teaching Fellows provide an educational development leadership opportunity for KPU faculty members. They are seconded from their respective faculty appointments through partial time releases. Next Deadline: October 11, 2018 | More info

Faculty Educational Leave
This program is adminstered by HR in accordance with the KFA Collective agreement (Article 14). The application is due by December 1 of the year preceding the fiscal year of the proposed leave. For more information refer to HR’s SharePoint page on Faculty EdLeave or contact educational.leave@kpu.ca

KPU recognizes and celebrates outstanding teaching and scholarship in its diverse forms.

The Distinguished Teaching Award is intended to recognize remarkable teaching as demonstrated by a KPU educator. Administered by SSCT. Nomination Deadline is October 1 each year. [More info]

The Distinguished Scholarship Award recognizes and celebrates outstanding examples of scholarship.  Administered by SSCT. Nominate a current or former KPU employee by October 1 of each year. [More info]

The Distinguished Service Awards honour and recognize exceptional, long-standing service to KPU and/or the educational community that it serves. Nominate a current or former employee in 1) staff or 2) faculty category. Administered by SSCT. [More info]

Emeritus/Emerita Designation
This honorary appointment recognizes distinguished performance of an employee, honours the employee’s standing of high regard in the eyes of peers and colleagues, and anticipates the continuation of the employee’s academic contributions to KPU past retirement. Administered by SSCT. [More info]

Visit the T&L Commons website.

Reflections on the Festival of Learning

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FOL2018 CarolineHow many of us have been to conferences that we may have enjoyed, but we also forgot what we heard soon after? Or did not find any of it relevant to our practice? I know I have. The Festival of Learning this year was anything but that! Under the theme “Higher Education – Handle With Care”, the sessions I attended indeed focused on fostering a caring environment that is meant to improve education for the student. In this context, the faculty are seen as caretakers and caregivers. A very interesting perspective!

So a semester later, what sessions and conversations am I still pondering on my bike rides to Richmond campus? I’m pondering the ones that either made me uncomfortable, or enthused. Or the ones that directly affected how I might do my job at KPU. Here they are!

Jesse Stommel kicked off the conference with his views on compassion and empathy, and how we can make sure it exists in our classrooms. Within the first few minutes I was intrigued to hear compassion linked to pedagogy; but what really made me perk up was his idea during the Q&A of showing compassion for fellow faculty in more practical ways – some that I think the library could help with.

  • Takeaway #1 for me: First Year Experience for Faculty. Yes! We often talk about first year experience for students but what about faculty? I know we have an onboarding process for new faculty at KPU but I’ve lost track of what it does for new faculty to support them in their pedagogy and overall introduction to teaching at KPU. I know in the library we used to deliver workshops on this (using library resources in the classroom and in your online courses), but we have lost them in all the shifts our organization has gone through. Join them with delivery from the Office of Teaching & Learning and I think we could provide great support for new faculty. Perhaps it’s time for reconsideration.

Monique Gray Smith, was the third day keynote. I don’t think anyone in the room could say they did not learn something! Monique spoke of the art of listening, choosing our words, and identifying student gifts – many of which have been highlighted already by other contributors to this blog. But my takeway was not about teaching, it was about tea!

  • Takeaway #2: Tea cures all. It does. Monique’s suggestion to bring a pot of tea to the classroom – to use it as a tool increase relationship building, make connections and raise the comfort level. Yes tea! While I know the idea of bringing objects into the classroom is well known through public schooling, to hear it mentioned in the post-secondary environment was refreshing to say the least!

Numerous other sessions I attended also definitely sparked my interest, and their delivery is worth noting. Gone are the days when you sat in seats and presenters talked at you during conferences! I role played at We need an instructional designer stat, developed a survey on the fly with Making Pressbooks Better, and participated in a fish bowl at Communities of Praxis. But we all know that sometimes the coffee break conversations we have at conferences can make us think as much as sessions we attend. A conversation on the exclusiveness of the Open movement that actually went on for over an hour, still gives me pause. This conversation actually took the place of a session for me. A group of us sat in an empty room and I listened to colleagues and practitioners who felt outside, and left out of the open movement. To hear such frankness on a topic has made me adjust how I approach my work in this field. The next coffee break conversation that I am still considering is how our quick fix society and parenting tendencies are having an effect on childhood resilience, and can contribute to the anxiety in post- secondary which is often portrayed as the end of the ‘hand holding era’. Uh oh. A fellow parent expressed her views that we are too quick to solve our child’s problems meaning they don’t act on their own behalf, and lowers their resilience as they enter their adult life. I took this to heart over the summer with my own children – if you interviewed them, they might regret that I had this conversation! It was a classic example of work life touching my family life.

  • Take away #3: Have difficult conversations. They are uncomfortable, but something good can come out of them.

Thank you BCcampus for taking such amazing care of your conference attendees – yoga, childcare AND chia pudding all at the same conference? Over the top! A loud shout out to the Centre for Teaching and Learning for supporting my enrollment at the Festival of Learning. As Jesse Stommel noted in his presentation, if your organization sent you, it means they care and you should feel lucky! I like that!


Festival of Learning – Not just another conference: Reflections of a jaded conference attendee

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FOL2018 BethBI have attended a lot of conferences. When I say a lot I mean A LOT! In my career as an educator I have attended and presented at over 100 conferences. Some were good, some were bad, some were mediocre at best and some, like the Festival of Learning 2018, were brilliant. I would count the Festival of Learning as one of my top 3 conferences. Attending this conference (thank you Teaching and Learning for sending me) was a struggle. I was teaching full time and had to get into downtown Vancouver and back to Surrey everyday and focus on my students. To be honest, I was feeling skeptical and jaded about attending when I realized I was teaching at the same time. What would this conference give me? How would this conference be any different from other conferences? Will I take anything away that I could actually use in my classroom? Will I be stretched too thin to learn? Over the three days of the conference I laughed, questioned, struggled, reflected and came out the other side invigorated, motivated and inspired. Exactly what a conference should do for educators.

The first morning with keynote speaker, Jesse Stommel set the tone for my entire experience. He started with “What motivates you to teach?” It stopped me in my tracks. I think as educators we don’t reflect on this question as much as we should. I hit pause. I really thought about this. The theme of the conference was ‘Handle with Care’ and I began to think about this as well. I was reminded about studying Nel Noddings and her work on the ethics of care in graduate school. How soon we forget, I realized! Jesse made me remember to pause, to reflect, to work with compassion and bring that to our classrooms. “Learning happens in tangents, diversions, interruptions…” Jesse stated. He talked about scaffolding learning to build a structure for our students and WITH our students to facilitate growth and learning. To be better teachers we must study pedagogy in higher education across disciplines. It shifted my focus when I drove back to Surrey to teach. I looked at my students with fresh eyes and more compassion. Thank you, Jesse Stommel. In one keynote speech, you reminded me of what my motivation really is…the success of my students!

The keynote on day 2 was a panel of students and academic leaders and another inspiring morning. It felt like a continuation of Jesse Stommel’s talk focusing on student needs articulated by students themselves. They told us. And we listened, in rapt attention. Advice to heed; value other ways of knowledge gathering, through lived experience; look at new ways of knowing from a First Nation perspective; create welcoming spaces for all learners, really listen to your students to let them know you are actually hearing what they are saying. The most poignant moment for me was when one of the students said “I am more than just a student.” Hmmmm….I think we, as educators forget this sometimes. I championed KPU by speaking about our classroom/gathering place in Cedar 1015 where our ELS students have a place to belong, study, eat lunch and learn with our weekly Lunch & Learn talks. We learn a lot about our students during these informal gatherings and it helps in the classroom.

Day 3 keynote was  Monique Gray Smith, an author, educator and brilliant public speaker. Her wisdom in reminding us to pause and connect is where relationships start, with our students and with our colleagues. She said “words to your students can be medicine for them, so be careful what you choose to say.” From just that statement I went to my class in the afternoon and practiced. I was shocked at how choosing my words could shift the culture in the class. I gave more space to the students because I listened more carefully before I spoke – thank you, Monique. She also stated that post secondary is a privilege and we, as educators must contribute to the wellness of our students and fellow faculty members to influence their hearts and minds. Reflecting on what you learn everyday was also a message she repeated…another excellent reminder for all of us! A highlight of Monique’s talk was when she honoured all of the teachers in the audience by having everyone stand up with years of teaching, from new teachers (teaching for 1 year) to experienced veterans (teaching over 60 years!). Brought tears to our eyes to see the wealth of knowledge in the room – we need to honour that more often! I was also grateful to have her give me a copy of her book, ‘You Hold Me Up’ a picture book focusing on teaching young people about reconciliation. Beautifully written and illustrated.

I attended other sessions throughout the conference, OER a Student Perspective (enlightening and inspiring to begin creating more open access materials); Transformative Music Education at KPU brilliant work from our own KPU faculty on open inquiry; Consulting with Care – Supporting Faculty Development and program enhancement (presented by faculty from Vancouver Island University) focusing on taking what is great about a program and enhancing it; and OER-Exploring the Experiences of Educators with PhD candidate Michael Paskevicius, interesting data on our definitions and work with with OER. All fascinating but I wanted to focus on the keynote speakers.

As jaded as I came into the conference I left with a new sense of wonder, excitement and motivation to be a better teacher and colleague. I am looking to collaborate more, share ideas across disciplines, share my experience in teaching across KPU and at outside conferences. Thank you to the Festival of Learning 2018 in helping me renew my love of teaching AND learning!

Reflections from the Festival of Learning: Our thinking, being, and doing as educators

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FOL2018 CandyHo“How could we be better caretakers and caregivers in the context of post-secondary education and in service of student learning?” This was one of the two key questions posed as part of BCcampus’ Festival of Learning conference in Vancouver at the end of May 2018; the theme, “Higher Education: Handle with Care,” was delivered through an array of keynote sessions, poster presentations, and workshops. As a conference participant, I was able to arrive at my own response to the question – that we as educators can take care of our students and support their learning, through our thinking, being, and doing.

Through thinking. The conference reinforced my thinking around exhibiting care for students beyond teaching courses by interacting with them within and outside of the classroom. In particular, the keynote student and administrator panel on student wellbeing, facilitated by Jonny Morris (former Senior Director at the Canadian Mental Health Association and leader in the Healthy Minds/Healthy Campuses community), considered ways faculty and administrators should rethink systems and structures in place to help post-secondary students thrive. Key ideas included:

  • acknowledging that students learn in different ways, and as such allow for multiple ways of knowledge and learning demonstration in our courses and curriculum;
  • investing in physical spaces that promote meaningful interactions between students and faculty, and between students themselves (a proud KPU moment took place during the Q&A portion, when Beth Beeching shared how our ELST department used their classroom to promote a sense of community through informal social interactions); and
  • recognizing that students may at times experience “belonging overload” and feel overwhelmed by involvement opportunities – the goal for us as educators then is to help them develop self-awareness, so that they can curate these opportunities and decide on the ones that would help fulfill their personal and professional goals.

Through being. To be a caring educator, we ought to recognize the various life roles our students assume in a concurrent manner, aside from being a learner in our courses. For instance, they may be employees who hold multiple part time jobs (often to pay for tuition), or parents who provide care for their children and other family members. Jesse Stommel’s keynote presentation titled, “Centering teaching: The human work of higher education” reminded me to consider the circumstances and pressures students often face when they manage and negotiate between their life roles. He encouraged attendees to think about the assumptions we have about our students, and the relationships we want to cultivate with them. When we believe student requests for assignment extensions are based on procrastination or laziness, what impressions might we formulate about them that may negatively impact our relationships? Developing negative impressions may prevent us from digging deep into their requests and learning that, for example, they have been struggling with mental health issues and require our compassion and support during their crises. My favourite quote from his presentation: “We can’t get to a place of listening to students if they don’t show up to the conversation because we’ve excluded their voice in advance by creating environments hostile to them and their work” (Slide 29).

Through doing. While there were many workshops highlighting caring practices, several sessions I attended were worth noting:

  • Set for Success: Multi-institutional Perspectives on Orientation for International Students: Colleagues from Selkirk College, Thompson Rivers University, University of the Fraser Valley, and University of Victoria shared their initiatives to help new students transition successfully to their institutions. These included: incorporating a MOOC on academic integrity as part of their first year curriculum; offering one-credit courses on student success skills; and providing an comprehensive training session to new faculty teaching first year courses.
  • Convening a New community of Practice: Reflection, Learning, and Mutuality: Rebecca Wilson-Mah discussed how her and her colleagues at Royal Roads University formed communities of practice (CoP) to exchange and advance practices and support one another. She shared advice on setting up a CoP, from articulating goals and objectives, assigning roles and responsibilities, to identifying resources for support and capturing process and learning.
  • Measuring the Institutional Impact of OER Initiatives in BC: Challenges and Preliminary Results: Colleagues from Douglas College, Royal Roads University, and KPU (our very own Rajiv Jhangiani!) described the preliminary results of their research on the impact of the adoption of open educational resources (OER) on students and institutions. Another proud, inspiring KPU moment was learning that students enrolled in Zed Cred courses tend to earn higher grades and have higher mean GPAs, confirming the need for us to encourage further OER adoptions to enhance student success.
  • Supporting Student Wellness Through Experiential Learning & Career Mapping: Linda Pardy shared her impressive research on career mapping as a strategy to help students and faculty realize career is not linear. As an example, using LinkedIn as a data source, she effectively expanded the traditional list of vocational possibilities associated with specific majors. The expansion of career opportunities, in turn, encourage students to be open-minded and explorative with their post-secondary education by using both their curricular and co-curricular experiences to develop knowledge and skills to benefit their future.

The learning derived from this conference will continue to unfold as I transition to my new role as a faculty member in EDST this Fall. I look forward to attending the next FoL and would like to take this chance to thank Dr. Stephanie Chu and the KPU Teaching and Learning Commons for their support to KPU presenters to attend the full conference.

Just one of the many thoughtful features of the conference: A thank you card writing and mailing corner. Christy Foote and the BCcampus team deserve much recognition for transforming various hotel conference spaces to facilitate dialogue and encourage reflection.

Just one of the many thoughtful features of the conference: A thank you card writing and mailing corner. Christy Foote and the BCcampus team deserve much recognition for transforming various hotel conference spaces to facilitate dialogue and encourage reflection.

Confessions of a Data-Driven Educator: Reflections on the Festival of Learning

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FOL2018 Christina

What does it take to create the best possible environment for student and faculty success?  I’ve often looked to answer this question by looking at research, in a quest to ensure that I provide students with what is likely to be most successful.

Conferences like the Festival of Learning provide an opportunity to learn from the research of other colleagues – to find out what initiatives are successful and worth pursuing.  So, as a part of my commitment to continually improve my own practice, I took the opportunity offered by the Teaching and Learning Commons to participate in the Festival of Learning.

Learning Strategist Christina PageAs someone who might be described as a data-driven educator, the Festival of Learning met my expectations.  I was stimulated by well-thought out presentations, largely stemming from successful initiatives at other institutions, that can inform my own practice.  However, the conference also provided me with something beyond data.  With this year’s focus on the theme of care in education, the Festival of Learning demonstrated that compassion, empathy, and care are vital parts of creating excellent educational environments.

Within the broader theme of care, I noticed three other key themes throughout the conference: (1) Knowing and recognizing our students’ gifts and contributions, (2) Collaboration, and (3) Effectively using technology to support student and faculty success.

 Key Theme #1: Knowing and Recognizing Our Students’ Gifts and Contributions

The conference’s opening keynote by Jesse Stommel emphasized the need to show compassion and empathy for students in their work of learning.  Jesse highlighted the value of compassion in creating learning environments that facilitate effective learning.  The second conference keynote featured student leaders from several BC post-secondary institutions, demonstrating the value of student perspectives in shaping our campus environments.

 A significant session I attended related to this theme was Students as Partners in Developing Curriculum and Teaching and Learning Initiatives, presented by Laura MacKay, Radovan Marek, Alea Rzeplinski and Andrew Willis (the latter three were student presenters).  The session described the active engagement of students on student success committees. Often, as educators, we fail to incorporate student perspectives even when we are seeking to support student success.  As I reflect on the session, I have been considering how we can harness the talent of our KPU students in more meaningful ways.

 Key Theme #2:  Collaboration

A second key theme throughout the conference was collaboration.  Several of the presentations I attended modelled collaboration between institutions, between faculty and students, and between faculty and teaching/learning professionals.

Consulting with Care: Supporting Faculty Development and Program Enhancement through Collaborative, Relational Practice (presented by Kathleen Bortolin: kathleenbortolin.com,

Marilyn Funk and Sally Vinden) was a particularly high-impact session along this theme.  The session highlighted the value of deep and long-lasting partnerships between faculty and teaching/learning professionals to create positive program changes.  The session demonstrated the way that relationships built on trust can help us work together across departments to create positive changes in teaching and learning environments.

 Key theme #3: Effectively Using Technology to Support Faculty and Student Success

Throughout the conference, using technology well to support learning was emphasized.  This theme ran through sessions on Open Education Resources, as well as demonstrations of specific tools to support learning.  Rather than focusing on technology for its own sake, conference presenters focused on its role in supporting learning.

 One effective session along this theme was Venturing Beyond the Walled Garden: Building Online Learning Activities Outside of the Learning Management System that Allow for Flexible, Adaptable and Meaningful Learning (presented by Liesel Knaack viu.ca/ciel and

Michael Paskevicius michaelpaskevicius.com/).  They focused on effectively choosing tools to support meaningful learning in online and blended environments.  Their resource handouts were particularly effective, and are linked below:

 Learning Inside And Outside Of DLE Knaack Paskevicius PDF

Learning Inside And Outside LMS Knaack Paskevicius PDF

Key Principles And Practices Of Effective Design Knaack Paskevicius PDF

 Why Attend the Festival of Learning?

The Festival of Learning organizers provided a high-quality learning experience for participants.  As with any strong teaching and learning conference, I grew in my knowledge of good practices and was inspired by the successes of other colleagues.  I’d recommend attending the conference to my colleagues for the following reasons:

  • The conference brings together educators from different “streams” of the teaching and learning world to collaborate together. This experience meant that collaboration was not an abstraction, but a lived reality throughout the conference experience.
  • The design of the Festival of Learning allowed for meaningful networking. By spending time with other KPU colleagues and colleagues at other local post-secondary institutions, the conference conversations were meaningful, and can continue into the future.

BC Campus Festival of Learning: key messages

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FOL2018 DeirdreM
Thank you to Stephanie Chu and the Teaching and Learning Commons for supporting my attendance at the recent BC Campus Festival of Learning.

BC Campus is becoming a teaching-learning support for BC (bccampus.ca/festival-of-learning-2018). I attended the first day key note, a session on creating an inclusive classroom, and a session on Open Education.


The keynote address was by Jesse Stommel (jessestommel.com) of the University of Mary Washington, Virginia.

Jesse Stommel researches pedagogy: his research shows that only 12 percent of instructors report having teacher training, which makes it hard to teach effectively and compassionately. Instructors are assigned classes and enter into what he calls “the bureaucracy of learning” with norming of behaviour/scoring tests/neat metrics. Instructors don’t know how and/or don’t have time to listen to individual students.  In fact, instructors are “pitted against” students in the post-secondary system. He says to advocate for and show care and compassion for students. He states, “Rant up”. He means don’t blame students for the stressors of the education system. Instead, push issues up to senior leadership.

Jesse Stommels’s slides are here: slideshare.net/jessestommel/centering-teaching-the-human-work-of-higher-education

Workshop on Inclusion

In the workshop by David Geary and Ki Wight, Capilano University instructors, we practiced some ways to be more authentic ourselves as teachers in the classroom thereby encouraging and protecting diversity. We tried the Maori practice of introduction (state your mountain, river, tribe, song, ancestors before your name when introducing yourself) since David Geary is a Maori person originally from New Zealand. That way of introducing oneself was just an example of an inclusive classroom practice. (Ki Wight introduced herself as queer.) The message of the workshop was that we instructors can figure out ways to bring our own lives, culture, and so on into the classroom as a way of encouraging the students to do the same. (Many faculty at KPU already do this and I look forward to hearing more ideas.)

The workshop leaders shared this definition of “diversity”: gladstone.uoregon.edu/~asuomca/diversityinit/definition.html

The concept of diversity encompasses acceptance and respect.
It means understanding that each individual is unique,
and recognizing our individual differences.  These can be along
the dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs,
political beliefs, or other ideologies.  It is the exploration
of these differences in a safe, positive, and nurturing environment.
It is about understanding each other and moving beyond
simple tolerance to embracing and celebrating the
rich dimensions of diversity contained within each individual.

Our KPU policy on diversity is here: kpu.ca/sites/default/files/Policies/HR15%20Diversity%20and%20Inclusiveness%20Policy.pdf

Workshop on Open Education

For me, there was one memorable item which arose in the session on Open Education / Open Resources run by BC Campus. It seemed that teachers were concerned about student privacy. If we use open pedagogical tools such as getting students to write real, publicly available blogs, then we need to consider if students are compromising their privacy. We also need to consider what the impact is on students with disabilities of being out on social media as part of class projects. We could be encouraging students to be too exposed in public.

Upcoming External Conferences, Workshops and Events

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July 12– An Innovative Approach to Universal Design Learning: Engaging All Learners (Live webcast)
Join this live webcast to learn how inclusive education practices remove barriers and engage students of all learning styles.
Free | Offered through Academic Impressions membership. Any KPU employee can create their own individual account.

Sept 17-21 – Creating & Using Rubrics Micro Course (Online)
Well-designed rubrics are very effective assessment tools. Create a rubric that will clarify course expectations, guide your learners, and assess their progress. Learn what goes into the process then do it.
Free | Info and registration at bccampus.ca

Oct 1 – Nov 2 – Facilitating Learning Online (FLO) Fundamentals (Online)
Facilitating Learning Online (FLO) helps instructors develop and enhance the skills needed to effectively facilitate learning in online environments. This five-week course stresses the importance of mini-facilitation sessions to give instructors an opportunity to practice online facilitation techniques and receive feedback geared towards growth and improvement.
$250 | Info and registration at bccampus.ca

Oct 22-28 – 2018 International Open Access Week.
This year’s theme is “Designing equitable foundations for open knowledge”
Details at openaccessweek.org

Oct 24 – Scholarly Teaching & Learning in Post-Secondary Education Symposium (SFU Vancouver)
The Symposium is an annual one-day event presented by the BCTLC and BCcampus that brings together speakers, presentations, discussions, and networking with colleagues who share an interest in scholarly teaching and learning in post-secondary education.
$95 | Registration is now open at bccampus.ca

5 things I am taking away from the 2018 Festival of Learning

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FOL2018 posts Melissa

I had the pleasure of attending the Festival of Learning hosted by BC Campus at the end of May.

The theme of the conference was care in higher education—care of students; care of teachers; care in practice; care in technologies; and more—and the conference organizers did a fantastic job of embedding care into all aspects of the conference. There were quiet, reflective spaces and multiple yoga classes each day. There were walking tours led by volunteers. The food was the most delicious (and healthy) I’ve ever had at a conference. There were gender-inclusive washrooms and there was child care. On top of all that, the conference volunteers and staff were incredibly welcoming.

While I was inspired by all of the sessions I attended, here are the top five sessions (in no particular order) that resonated with me:

1. Jesse Stommel’s keynote presentation

If I were to describe Jesse Stommel’s opening presentation in one word, “wow” would be fitting.

Jesse talked about how teachers can centre their teaching around care and compassion for students. He explained that learning happens in tangents, diversions, and interruptions, and it is not a linear process. What students need are thoughtful, critical, and skillful teachers who centre the specific needs of students in their courses. In order to understand the needs of students, we as educators need to ask students—and listen to the answers! Jesse stated that this compassion and care are rooted in trusting students. Furthermore, he said that “fairness” is not an excuse for a lack of empathy. Students are not machines, and they are not interchangeable. Their needs are unique, and teachers need training, institutional support, and collegial support in order to effectively meet the needs of students.

Review Jesse’s slides >

Watch Jesse’s presentation >

Follow Jesse on Twitter >

2. Ki Wight and David Geary’s session on accessibility and diversity

From the interactive session by Ki Wight and David Geary, I took away two practices I will incorporate into my classes.

When thinking about course accessibility, it’s important to think beyond learning accommodations. Creating a document shared by the entire class and encouraging students to add their class notes throughout the term helps make the course content more accessible to everyone in the class, not just those who may require a notetaker. Any student who misses a class now has on-demand access to a collectively curated set of course notes.

Asking your students to provide examples and stories from their experiences that are relevant to the course material and then sharing/using these (with permission) in future classes is a great way to increase the diversity in the examples you use in class.

Follow Ki on Twitter >

Follow David on Twitter >

3. Student panel discussion

At the beginning of the second day of the conference, four incredible students participated in a panel discussion. One thing I took away from that moving conversation was that it can be a very, very fine line between surviving and thriving for students—and this is an important perspective to bear in mind.

4. Peter Arthur’s session on critical thinking

Critical thinking is a skill that takes continued practice to build. Self-reflection is another skill that also takes continued practice to move beyond the “grocery list” approach. Critical challenges, which are structured opportunities to help students develop interpretation, analysis, and evaluation skills, can be applied and adapted in many ways. From Peter’s session, I took away a critical challenge activity for developing critical thinking AND self-reflection skills and which I’m excited to try in my classes.

The critical challenge begins by asking students what makes a good reflection. The class collectively brainstorms and then clusters the criteria. Given a prompt, students then try writing a short self-reflection that uses the criteria the class curated [interpreting]. Students then exchange and peer assess their papers [analyzing] and discuss how they could make their response more powerful/better using the criteria [evaluating]. The activity concludes with students sharing what they learned from the activity.

Review Peter’s slides (including critical thinking questions to ask, more critical thinking activities, and rubrics) >

5. Monique Gray Smith’s keynote presentation

On the last day of the conference, Monique Gray Smith gave an inspiring presentation. Monique said that a teacher’s words can be medicine for students–or not. She explained it’s important to look for the gifts our students have and to name them because we, as teachers, can change trajectories. Her presentation was a good reminder about the emotional impact that teaching and learning can have on students (and instructors).

Follow Monique on Twitter >

Watch Monique’s presentation >


Event Page: https://bccampus.ca/festival-of-learning-2018/