Extend, Scholar

Subterranean Scholarship Blues (#oext138)


Today’s Daily Extend (#oext138) is titled Subterranean Scholarship Blues.

This Extend challenged us to consider instructional challenges we have faced in the past.   This Extend ties into the Scholar Module during which we will explore the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL).   The Scholarship module is all about evaluating your teaching practice and finding the places where it’s just not working, where we can improve as teachers, or how we can better support our students.

For this Extend, I decided to create a mini-presentation about an instructional challenge I faced.

A few years ago, I was asked to step into a course that was half-way through the semester when the original instructor had to leave.  This course which taught Microsoft Office applications was a challenge for me.  I quickly found that the students were struggling and were not very engaged in the class.  We shuffled through the remainder of the semester as I tried a variety of approaches, none of which seemed to do much.

At the end of the semester, I asked the students to participate in an open discussion about the course with the goal of researching and experimenting with alternative approaches in subsequent years.  Once the students realized there would be no repercussions for speaking up, the floodgates opened and a productive talk ensued.  The key issues that the students had with the course were:

  • A huge spiral-bound textbook which only 2 people in a class of 35 had ever opened and used – no one would carry it to class
  • Slide decks for the class were not engaging
  • More demonstration and less lecture were wanted
  • The computer lab was tightly scheduled, leaving them little time outside of class for practice
  • Students like to work on their own devices, not be tied to the school computers
  • Students have many outside commitments and want flexibility as to when they work on their studies
  • Initial student proficiency has great variation, meaning some students are bored and some struggle to keep up

Research into the tools which might be available to improve the situation led me to Paradigm’s SNAP tool.  This tool allows for web-based training and assessment.  The textbook comes in a convenient electronic format bundled into the web tool.  Pre-assessments, guides, and tutorials allow students to self-assess their proficiency for each lesson and adapt the level of study needed.  Students can break out of the classroom, have availability to work at any time, and can access the tool from their own devices.

We’ve just gone through the first semester using the new tool.  While there were a few teething pains, overall the response from the students was very enthusiastic.  In future classes, I’ll continue to refine how the tool is used with the goal of increasing student engagement, learning, and satisfaction.

The link below is the slide deck I created for the Daily Extend.

A huge thanks to Greg Rodrigo (@greg_rodrigo) for his recent workshop on Creating Dynamic Presentations.  He helped me to break free from the PowerPoint bullet list.

Instructional Challenge Presentation


Reflections on Extend East Launch


A short while ago, I did a short reflection on my experience so far with Ontario Extend’s East Cohort.  I was lucky to have that reflection shared at the eCampus Ontario site.    I’m also going to repost it here (thanks for the suggestion Terry Greene!) to share with those who are following the Domains of Our Own blogs.    If you’re here and haven’t been part of an Extend Cohort, I highly recommend it.  (Next Cohort will start on May 5 – signup here: https://bit.ly/2GwMwWu)  Read on, for my thoughts on Extend!

I joined the Extend East cohort of eCampusOntario’s Extend initiative as a means to developing skills in online learning and teaching, especially in the area of emerging technologies. I’d stalked the Extend site in the past and had seen the modules based on the Anatomy of a 21st Century Educator. This fit in with some of the institutions where I work, who use the framework for instructional design. Rather than just work through the modules on my own, I decided to join a cohort going through the modules together. Has it delivered what I expected so far?  Absolutely not.

Wait a minute? Not?

Let me explain. I expected an introduction to the framework. I expected to gain knowledge in the six modules. Check and check. So far, so good.

What is not what I expected is what else the Extend experience has delivered. While there are many aspects of Extend that go above and beyond, here are a few of my favourites.

Sharing resources. The Extend community is very open about showing off things they’ve done or discovered and making them available for everyone to use. I feel like someone has just handed me a beautifully wrapped gift that, when opened, has a wealth of tools, educational resources, and ideas that I can use and adapt to enhance my course design and teaching. Open educational resources – what a wonderful new world!

Fun. This is not the dry, boring experience I was expecting. What people contribute is often silly, humorous, or just plain weird. And that only enhances our learning.

Community. For the most part, I’m an isolated practitioner, working for several clients in a distance format. This means that I’m often very isolated both socially (no water cooler to chat around!) and from a sharing of professional knowledge perspective. Working through the experience in a cohort has introduced me to many amazing people with a widely diverse range of knowledge and experience.  I feel like I’ve suddenly become connected to a network of brilliant professionals that will continue to expand and grow even after the cohort has finished the Extend.

Extend hasn’t met my expectations, it has shattered them with an experience far beyond what I anticipated. Huge thanks to everyone at eCampusOntario / Ontario Extend and to all the other Extenders out there.  It’s been a blast so far. Can’t wait for more!


I’m an Extender!


Today I joined the ranks of previous Extenders to take part in the latest cohort of Ontario Extend.  As part of Extend East, I’ll have the opportunity to explore new practices in online and technology-based learning.   This fits right in with the work I’m doing developing and leading online courses.   It will enable me to expand my teaching practices, try new things, and become part of a growing community of educators who are exploring the intersection of education and technology.

Meeting this fantastic group of people as we prepared for and participated in the kick-off activities today has given me a boost of enthusiasm.  There are so many creative minds out there.  I’m looking forward to sharing with everyone!

I’ll be documenting my activities here as I progress through the modules, take part in the daily Extend and the Activity bank.