Karen Bourrier – teaching in the TI

This is cool. Karen is teaching one of her Victorian literature classes in the Taylor Institute, and redesigned the course to take advantage of the flexible space and collaborative technologies. Awesome. I can’t wait to hear more about how it goes (as well as learning from the 20 other instructors and ~2000 students working in … Continue reading “Karen Bourrier – teaching in the TI”

This is cool. Karen is teaching one of her Victorian literature classes in the Taylor Institute, and redesigned the course to take advantage of the flexible space and collaborative technologies. Awesome. I can’t wait to hear more about how it goes (as well as learning from the 20 other instructors and ~2000 students working in the TI this semester, and even more queued up for W2017!)

This semester I decided to do something a little different. I have the privilege of teaching my Victorian literature class in one of the fancy new classrooms at the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning at the University of Calgary. My 40-person class has six big touch screens, and as a result we’ve been able to do a lot of hands-on work in small groups leading into discussions with the whole class.

Source: Blog – Karen Bourrier

Redesigning the UCalgary D2L homepage

It seems like a small, unimportant thing, but the D2L homepage is probably the single most important web page for students. While they occasionally use the university website, and periodically use the my.ucalgary.ca portal (to sign up for courses and pay fees), D2L is where they spend a substantial chunk of their time as they … Continue reading Redesigning the UCalgary D2L homepage

It seems like a small, unimportant thing, but the D2L homepage is probably the single most important web page for students. While they occasionally use the university website, and periodically use the my.ucalgary.ca portal (to sign up for courses and pay fees), D2L is where they spend a substantial chunk of their time as they work through their courses and programs. We’d launched D2L with a news-centric homepage, so that we could easily push notifications and support resources during the transition from Blackboard. It worked well for that, but became a dumping ground for accretion – links added, blurbs added, until it was a wall of text that everyone basically ignored.

So, we took a look at how students use D2L, and what they needed on the homepage. It’s their place, not The Institution’s, so it needs to be useful to students with a much higher priority than anyone else. The first thing students need is access to their courses. That used to be tucked into a small widget in the right sidebar. Now, it has the prime spot at the top of the main content area (where it should have been all along). Then, they need to be able to see what’s coming up – important dates on the calendar. Also, now right on the homepage. And they can enable it to show events from any of their courses as well (and then integrate it into their phones etc… through the iCal format). One thing that surprised us was the seemingly-trivial idea of having a weather widget on the homepage. Why on earth would that be needed? Clearly not necessary. But it can’t all be about need and necessity – sometimes it’s important to have a subtle reminder to go outside on a nice day (or a reminder to stay inside and study when it gets crappy outside).

I also made the decision to take many of the “Important Links” out – they were important to the people that wanted them there, but not necessarily to the students. We looked through the aggregated (and anonymized) web analytics to see which links had actually been used since January 1, 2015. Not many. So we made the call to remove several.

Also, we added a link to let students (and others) give feedback so we can hear complaints or suggestions and respond more quickly.

The Instructor-focused portions are not displayed to students – they don’t see the Instructor Resources or Grades Export sections because they’re not relevant. Students now get a pretty streamlined homepage (as it should have been from day 1), which should help them get to what they need, and to help keep organized throughout the semester.

It’s a collection of many small, seemingly trivial changes, but the overall redesign should make things much less painful for students.

D2L homepage, comparing old crappy version and awesome new version.
Left: the previous version, accreting things since launch in 2013. Right: Redesign with student needs given priority.

Dee Fink’s keynote at #TICONF2015

Dee Fink, giving the opening keynote presentation at the 2015 University of Calgary Conference on Postsecondary Learning and Teaching. The theme of the 2015 conference is Design for Learning: Fostering Deep Learning, Engagement and Critical Thinking. We hadn’t planned to record the keynote, but Dee asked us if we would, so we set something up that … Continue reading Dee Fink’s keynote at #TICONF2015

Dee Fink, giving the opening keynote presentation at the 2015 University of Calgary Conference on Postsecondary Learning and Teaching. The theme of the 2015 conference is Design for Learning: Fostering Deep Learning, Engagement and Critical Thinking.

We hadn’t planned to record the keynote, but Dee asked us if we would, so we set something up that morning. The video is usable, but we’ll be producing higher quality recordings for future events…

relaunching elearn.ucalgary.ca

This has been a project within the Technology Integration Group for the last several months – redesigning the elearn.ucalgary.ca support website so that it can be more useful to instructors and students who are integrating technology into their teaching and learning. The previous site was nearly a decade old, and had been designed by accretion … Continue reading relaunching elearn.ucalgary.ca

This has been a project within the Technology Integration Group for the last several months – redesigning the elearn.ucalgary.ca support website so that it can be more useful to instructors and students who are integrating technology into their teaching and learning. The previous site was nearly a decade old, and had been designed by accretion – full of links, documents, links to documents, etc… but difficult to actually find things that are important. So, the redesign.

First, we moved from Drupal to WordPress – the new site runs on UCalgaryBlogs.ca. This gave us the flexibility to treat it like a knowledgebase, apply a more useful theme, and enable some additional functionality like tagging and live search of content.

elearn-relaunch
Previous Drupal-powered site on the left, new WordPress-powered site on the right. Both screenshots are of approximately the same square region “above the fold” on the homepage of the site.

With the knowledgebase model, content is available right away, without layers of drilling down. The search box is live, so people can just start typing what they’re looking for and it searches all content to find relevant bits. (no siri support. yet.)

I’m super proud of what my team was able to accomplish with this1 – and excited to see how we grow it from here. Now that we have more flexibility on what we can do with the site, we have lots of plans to revise some of the content, incorporate contributions from the community, and start a series of showcase articles to highlight innovative and successful applications of technology-enabled learning.

  1. and lots of other things – I need to write a post about our awesome new app for the 2015 Postsecondary Conference on Learning and Teaching!

on banning technology in the classroom

UCalgary made the national news, with this segment titled “Calgary professor bans modern technology in his classroom”1. I really don’t know what to say about this. My gut reaction is something like “if they’re tuning out and checking Facebook in class, that’s data about how the class is going, and banning technology would just hide […]

UCalgary made the national news, with this segment titled “Calgary professor bans modern technology in his classroom1.

I really don’t know what to say about this. My gut reaction is something like “if they’re tuning out and checking Facebook in class, that’s data about how the class is going, and banning technology would just hide the symptom rather than actually fixing anything.”

Also, the prof still uses her own tech in every class, with laptop and projector etc… fired up. So, it’s not about technology on its own.

This is about control, more than technology. I’m not sure what to make of that. I don’t know the prof, and have never seen her teach. She teaches linguistics and psychology – perhaps her specific subject matter or teaching style work better without “technology”?

I have a bit of a problem2 with instructors having that much control over adult students. She does allow some technology – students are using pens and paper – but bans other technologies that are deemed disruptive3. As one student says in the segment – they’re paying to be there, and they should be able to make their own decisions about what technologies they use.

Ironically, I also see instructors who fall on the other side of the spectrum, mandating that students MUST USE TECHNOLOGY because of reasons. We’re talking about adult students from diverse backgrounds and contexts, and mandating (or banning) anything may just not be appropriate.

Yes, there should be codes of conduct. Mute your speakers. Don’t use loud clicky keyboards. Don’t sit in the front row and watch Netflix marathons, etc…. But, is “banning” technology really a solution? Does it just emphasize that The Instructor is In Control, and that Students Must Behave? The reinforcement of the power relationship may be doing more to have students “on task” than the lack of modern technologies.

update: Dr. Siedivy wrote an article in the Calgary Herald back in September, I’m still not sold. This feels like conflation of cause and effect. Are students unengaged because they have Modern Technology™, or are they facebooking and tweetaring because they’re unengaged in the class? She talks about her sister being unengaged in her technology company meetings, and “multitasking” on mobile devices instead of being bored. Sounds familiar. But, in meetings/conferences/whatever where I’m engaged, the Modern Technology™ either a) stays closed, or more likely b) gets used to support engagement in whatever conversations are happening. Boredom begets unengagement begets “multitasking”. Banning multitasking doesn’t make people magically feel engaged and included in the activities.

  1. although it’s clear that the professor is a woman, so whoever titles segments at Global National obviously doesn’t watch the segments, and has a strong sexist bias when it comes to professors, who are certainly all men of course
  2. as the manager of the Technology Integration Group, I may have a bit of a bias
  3. Disruptive as in “causing a distraction”, or Disruptive as in “giving power to those who are not standing at the front of the room”?

on enabling innovation to enhance learning

When we work with instructors, there are 3 general groupings, in terms of their comfort level and technology integration and innovation in their courses. Reluctant There is a small group that doesn’t use much technology, doesn’t integrate much in their teaching, and don’t pursue any strategies that would be considered “innovative.” From the outside, this […]

When we work with instructors, there are 3 general groupings, in terms of their comfort level and technology integration and innovation in their courses.

Reluctant

There is a small group that doesn’t use much technology, doesn’t integrate much in their teaching, and don’t pursue any strategies that would be considered “innovative.” From the outside, this group is often labelled as Luddites or dismissed as being laggards, but that is definitely not always the case. There are important innovations happening in this group, but they may not be visible to outsiders because they aren’t using the shared language of silicon valley innovation. Not every innovation requires high technology, or even technology at all. We can learn much from the Reluctant adopters, because many of them are reluctant to adopt mainstream technology because it doesn’t do what they need.

Mainstream

There is a second, much larger, group that does integrate some technology, tries some new and changing pedagogical strategies, and basically is self-supporting as a status quo. This majority adopts technology because it’s there, and looks to their peers for guidance on what to do, and how to do it. Again, this is not a bad thing. These people are experts in their fields, and they adopt “innovation” when it suits their needs. And they ignore the new shiny when it doesn’t solve an immediate problem. And that’s fine.

Pioneers

A third group, at the “high end” of the bell curve, explores new technologies, integrates them into their teaching, and tries emerging strategies to try to engage students. This group builds stuff, finds new stuff, and tries new things. The Shiny. They take risks. Which is great, but not everyone has the time, comfort level, or experience to do that. So we need to learn from this group, give them support to help them do the stuff they’d do anyway (but maybe do it more? do it better? do it more successfully?), and learn from that.

Innovationcurve

It’s tempting to focus on the Pioneers, because that’s where new ideas are usually introduced, but we need to focus on all three groups in order to effect real and sustained innovation across the university. We need to work with all three groups, learn from what they do (and what they don’t do), and then showcase successes to help everyone adopt things that will help them in their practices.

This is basically just another way to look at Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovations double-S-curve. Ron Newmann presented a version of it at the 2013 LiFT Conference. They’re looking at how to identify new innovations, and track their adoption from 0-100%, rather than trying to help foster adoption of constellations of innovation across a population, as we’re doing at the university level.

I see our job with the technology integration group as being the green arrows in the diagram. We work with everyone, and help them to enhance the learning experience. We work with them to identify, support, and enable innovation and successful integration of appropriate technologies, and to push the state of the art of teaching. That’s how we can help support and sustain real innovation broadly across the entire university.

I keep coming back to the guiding statement our group came up with:

To enable innovation and creative integration of learning technologies to continuously enhance the learning experience.

This is why we do what we do. It isn’t about shiny tech. It’s about working with everyone to help them enhance learning.

2014 week 41 in review

A busy but quiet week. Learning Outcomes in D2L Working with the Schulich School of Engineering to figure out how to map the CEAB Graduate Attributes and supporting outcomes into D2L, so they can report back through the accrediting process about their curriculum and the students’ overall competency at The Attributes. Lots of struggling on […]

A busy but quiet week.

Learning Outcomes in D2L

Working with the Schulich School of Engineering to figure out how to map the CEAB Graduate Attributes and supporting outcomes into D2L, so they can report back through the accrediting process about their curriculum and the students’ overall competency at The Attributes. Lots of struggling on my part, trying to work through the D2L documentation to figure out how to model the outcomes hierarchy, and then to figure out what kind of reporting and rollups can be generated. Hopefully, we’ll figure this out in time for them to use it for their faculty accreditation process.

Retreat!

Almost-final planning for our 1-day all-hands retreat next week. This is going to be exhausting, but I know we’re going to learn a lot about what the EDU is, and how we all see the pieces fitting together. We’ve got a really good plan for the retreat (and the overal strategic planning process), and I can’t wait to get to it!

D2L Course Administrators Community

We had one of our quarterly community gatherings this week. Almost 30 people, from every faculty across campus. We shared a whole bunch of info about the state of the transition from Blackboard (i.e., IT’S DONE), and tips/tricks/etc… for getting stuff done easily. Started to share info about the move to a more community-based support model, now that we’re done with the Big Surge of F2F Training Workshops to support the transition. More on that later…

Taylor Institute construction

We now have some roof, some of the upper floor, an elevator core skeleton, and a wall! progress!

Quick demo of the Swivl robot camera mount

I picked up a Swivl robot camera mount to kick off our “tech lending library” here in the EDU. It’s a pretty interesting piece of kit that will let anyone record a session without having to spend $100K retrofitting a classroom with PTZ cameras and switching boards. Slap this thing onto a desk or tripod, […]

I picked up a Swivl robot camera mount to kick off our “tech lending library” here in the EDU. It’s a pretty interesting piece of kit that will let anyone record a session without having to spend $100K retrofitting a classroom with PTZ cameras and switching boards. Slap this thing onto a desk or tripod, drop your iPhone (or iPad, or Android device) into the slot, plug the microphone cable into the mic jack on your device, and hit record. Done. It now automatically tracks the lanyard, which also has a built-in microphone that sends decent audio to the recording device. Nice.

Swivl Demo from UCalgary Taylor Institute on Vimeo.

If you want to sign the thing out to experiment with it, let me know.

2014 Week 40 In Review

Designing Libraries for the 21st Century I attended the 3rd annual Designing Libraries for the 21st Century conference on campus. Library-design-folks from around North America (and Australia and the UK) came together to talk about what future libraries need to be. It was my first library conference, and I was struck by 3 things: What […]

Designing Libraries for the 21st Century

I attended the 3rd annual Designing Libraries for the 21st Century conference on campus. Library-design-folks from around North America (and Australia and the UK) came together to talk about what future libraries need to be. It was my first library conference, and I was struck by 3 things:

  1. What an amazing, open, inviting group of people. It didn’t matter who you were, or where you were from, people actively welcomed everyone in conversation.
  2. Librarians are really thinking critically about what a “library” means, and coming at it from how to best support the activities of the people. Books? Necessary but not sufficient. They’re doing some amazing design work on how to deconstruct and redesign library spaces.
  3. They sure do like to sit and listen to people talk. The presentations were good, but many could have been ably replaced by MP3 files.

I have 10 pages of notes from this, and it’s triggered and reinforced some plans I’m working on for our group in the EDU. Faculty Makerspaces? Hell yeah. Collaboration with the TFDL (and other library) folks? You bet. Technology lending fleet? Yup (already have some cool things to loan out for experimentation by profs). Field trips and site visits? Yeah! And more to come, once plans are worked out a bit more.

Designing libraries notes

Moving D2L from “project” to “sustainment”

We had been running the D2L transition as a full-on Project for the last 15 months. And now we’re moving it into ongoing sustainment mode as a regular production service. We’ll be seeing different composition of the D2L teams as we figure out the best way to run/support/extend it now that everyone is in the pool together. Lots of planning meetings to figure out that transition, made more fun by a re-org in IT.

John Dawson in the house!

He’s visiting for a few days, and the team got to pick his brain yesterday. We had a really great conversation that covered just about every topic from how to design a multi-year biology program, to how to do quick-and-dirty DIY classroom lecture capture, to how to set up a course in D2L to let students have as much access to their own data as possible. And lots of other stuff. We tried recording the session on the new Swivl camera mount, which worked GREAT!

John wound up his visit by giving a presentation with Natasha on “Using Curriculum Mapping as a Vehicle for Faculty Engagement in Teaching & Learning“. Great discussion of what is involved with the process, with an emphasis that it’s not about the data as much as asking “what are we trying to do? and what are students learning?” etc… Looking forward to seeing these conversations grow on campus.

IMG 3992

Planning for Peer Review

We started the early discussions/planning for what might be involved in building/integrating a peer review process into D2L (or offering it as a standalone tool/platform/service). Still too early to even have a timeline, but this is going to be an interesting project. We’ve been looking at options (including native D2L functionality, which is absent, and other tools which don’t appear to be shared or open source), but it looks like we may need to build our own tool. Which will, of course, be made available on our GitHub account when we have something ready to share.

D2L changes

This week, we saw a new Technical Account Manager, and a new Account Manager. We seem to burn people out pretty quickly. Not sure if we’re just extra-demanding, or if there’s something else going on…

The Boy™

  1. Dang. Almost a freaking teenager. So fast.

2014 Week 39 In Review

I’m taking a page from Clint Lalonde’s book – he’s been writing “week in review” posts for awhile, and it’s been really interesting to see what he’s up to. I don’t think I’ll be able to recall that level of detail, but having some kind of record of at least the bigger things each week […]

I’m taking a page from Clint Lalonde’s book – he’s been writing “week in review” posts for awhile, and it’s been really interesting to see what he’s up to. I don’t think I’ll be able to recall that level of detail, but having some kind of record of at least the bigger things each week will be helpful to me. So…

New website launched

The new website for the new Educational Development Unit of the new Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning launched on Monday. It was a highly collaborative design project, built within the Unit. I’m really happy with the website, because we managed to steer completely away from “hey! let’s reproduce an org chart as HTML and call it a website!”. I think it’s a much more usable/useful website, and early feedback from the folks that actually need to find people and stuff has been extremely positive. Awesome.

Teaching and Learning Committee

I was asked to give an update to the General Faculties Council Teaching and Learning Committee (basically, the Associate Deans from all faculties, coming together with Vice Provosts to make decisions and actually work on teaching-and-learning stuff – it’s a really amazing group!). I had to give an accelerated version of State of D2L and Connect (our 2 key institutional eLearning tools, both of which are new at the institution this semester). I’d forgottenblocked out that for about half of the campus, D2L is new this semester. We’ve been working on the project since last summer, and have been adding faculties and courses since then, but Fall 2014 was the first full-scale semester with 100% of online courses being run in D2L.

The slides I used are available as a PDF.

I described the semester launch, and that we are now basically done with the transition. It’s time to reduce the number of intensive F2F workshops, and start the shift to a community support model. The EDU will take the lead in coordinating and building capacity, but it’s time to move past the initial orientation-level sessions. Also, it’s finally time for us to move past “OMG LMS”, and get into the more interesting/impactful/meaningful things we can be doing to improve teaching and learning, and the tools we use to support that.

UCalgaryBlogs

Still getting support emails for this – mostly from people who don’t receive the account notification email, so they have no idea how to login. I had a new blogs@ucalgary.ca address set up so that it would hopefully bypass spam filters that have apparently latched onto the account built into the server. Now, to make sure all sites are able to send mail via SMPT using that account…

Technology Integration Group planning session

We’re still a new group, and we need to find our voice. Part of that involves developing a shared vision and mission for the group within the context of the EDU, and within the broader University. We had a really amazing brainstorming session on Monday, and came up with a really great description of the purpose for our group:

To enable innovation and creative integration of learning technologies to continuously enhance the learning experience.

Yeah. Still sounds a little marketroid buzzwordy, but we can work with it. It’s good.

Outcomes and Competencies

Had another great meeting with some folks who need to run a faculty-wide outcomes/competency analysis as part of their accreditation process. We’re looking at the tools within D2L (which appear to come up rather short from what they need, but we’re hopeful that this will eventually help), as well as dedicated tools to manage the data and analysis. Holy. That’s going to be a big project, but it has the potential to really change (and improve) the entire learning experience in the faculty.

Qatar campus

Met with the IT Partner for our Faculty of Nursing in Qatar, to talk about how we can better work together to support instructors and students over there. We have lots of great ideas (unfortunately, none of them involved “send D’Arcy to Qatar for a few days”).

Starting to plan our shift to community support model

As mentioned above, it’s time to shift from intensive face-to-face support – that was absolutely necessary to help people with the transition to D2L and Connect, but that’s just not sustainable. We have essentially 2 FTE dedicated to instructor support, and we need to plan how to change what we do to help people Out There, without them having to come to the mothership for support. Lots of ideas there – we’ll be rebuilding the elearn.ucalgary.ca and open.ucalgary.ca websites, and building many more resources to help out. We’ll also be working with the IT Support Centre to help build capacity there, so instructors and students are able to get many of their questions rapidly handled at that level without needing to be escalated over to the EDU for high-level support.

President’s Community Report 2014

Holy cow. What an update! It’s easy to gloss over the whole “Eyes High” vision as just a marketing ploy, but dang have we ever picked up our game as a university! I’ve been (mostly) on campus since 1987 (starting as an undergrad, then an undergrad in another field, then as a consultant, staff member, and now a manager). I’ve never seen this level of activity on campus. We’re aiming high, and are actually pulling it off. Wow.

The biggest takeaway for me is that the University is counting on us making the Taylor Institute the “go-to place in North America” for research and innovation in teaching and learning. That’s a big goal, especially considering the building currently looks like this and we’re just getting started. Pretty amazing, to know we have that level of support at the university!

Research collaboration

I’m involved in a proposal for a research project involving theatre, library collections, teaching and learning, and some really high goals. Can’t share details yet, because it’s just starting to get fleshed out, but this collaboration has been absolutely amazing. My brain hurts after our last planning session.