Setting a Table for Collaboration

This week we started into the Collaborator module at Ontario Extend.  This module is the one that I’m a bit intimidated by.  While many people come to Ontario Extend with a well-developed personal learning network, my network is somewhat limited.  Those who I do consider to be in my network are generally as unconnected technologically as I was prior to starting Ontario Extend.   I’m anticipating a challenge in the activities of this module.   That said, I’m also greatly looking forward to building a network.

So far, in the activities through Ontario Extend, I’ve met many wonderful people who bring not only a love of education but a wealth of knowledge to the table.    Rather than being that lone practitioner sitting in a coffee shop, working away, I now am starting to feel like someone who can enjoy a meal out with a large, boisterous, and fun group of peers.

This brings me to the activity “The Collaborative Dining Table”.   In this activity, the goal is to reflect on the last year of our professional life and ideas or projects that you’ve collaborated on.  Then one of those projects will be explored via the collaborative dining table.

Brainstorming……   what have I worked on this year?

This is a great exercise to review accomplishments for this year.

  • SNAP – Investigating and implementing a new technology for Microsoft Office courses
  • Instructional Design lead for revised Anatomy & Physiology course
  • Developer for an Organizational Behaviour course for the health sector, including a semester-long integrated case study
  • Developer for a new Records Management course for Health Information Management
  • Team member on Big Data Analytics course initiative
  • Instructional Design lead for revisions of Web Developer course
  • Participated as a reviewer for CHIMA’s Canadian HIM Lifecycle book
  • Neehr Perfect – championed the adoption of new Electronic Health Record for use in the classroom
  • Copic 2 – Development of a new art course

The project I’m going to look at for my dining table is the SNAP project.

I was asked to take over a course on Microsoft Office applications for one of the programs at Fleming College.  This occurred mid-semester, making it an interesting entry point to the course.  By the end of the semester, I knew changes needed to happen for this course to engage students and be effective.  As luck would have it, the version of Office used by the school was being updated over the summer, making it the perfect time to transition.

I invited the students to speak openly with me about what they thought was working and what wasn’t in the course.   Two major issues emerged from these discussions.  The first was that students were assigned a very large textbook which only a few students ever opened.   The paper-based text was bulky, meaning students weren’t invested in bringing it and the exercises assigned out of it, which were intended to build skills, were rarely completed.  The second major issue was in the huge range of skill sets with which the students entered the course.  Those who had familiarity with the products were often bored and disengaged, particularly at the start of the semester.  Those who had no experience sometimes found the pace challenging.  Getting a middle ground proved very difficult.

Eventually, I decided on implementing Paradigm’s SNAP tool.  This web-based training and assessment tool let me address the issues I was seeing with the course.   This tool has several advantages.  Students can use pre-assessments to gauge their level of competence.  If they have the skill level, the course was set up to let them move into the assessment.  For those who didn’t have the skill level, there are exercises, tutorials, and guides, offering a variety of levels of assistance.  This allowed students to get the support they needed while avoiding having them spend significant time on topics they had skills in.  The tool also got rid of the bulky textbook.  The tool includes an electronic version of the text if students need to reference it.     While there were a few teething pains with using the tool, the students were much more enthusiastic about this approach and the class had higher marks than its previous incarnation.