New Centre at SFU launched!

I tripped over news of an exciting change happening at Simon Fraser University in an email I received through the ISW network. On July 15, 2019 SFU launched the Centre for Educational Excellence (CEE) under the direction of Elizabeth Elle, Vice-Provost and Associate VP, Learning and Teaching. This is a major change in the structure and organization of the university and I’ll be curious to hear/see what impact it has for instructors and students in the months ahead.

a simple chart showing the intended organization of Centre for Educational Excellence

The new Centre will include the current divisions: Teaching and Learning Centre (TLC), Centre for Online and Distance Education (CODE), and the Centre for English Language Learning, Teaching and Research (CELLTR). The launch message from Elizabette Elle indicates that the purpose of the re-org is to encourage better collaboration, streamline the services they provide to instructors and students, assist in the university’s indigenization and internationalization efforts, and add some additional capacity (?) in educational assessment). While I appreciate the recognition of the blurring of boundaries between modes of learning, and the intention to move away from compartmentalized services, I’ll be curious to see which area gets the most attention. I’m not a big fan of an entire area devoted to quality assurance and analysis as so much time and money was spent in Alberta and Ontario to develop guidelines and then they weren’t maintained – will this initiative consider “lessons learned”? But I have been impressed by SFU’s creative and dedicated staff in the TLC and CODE areas in the past, so I’m looking forward to positive changes from the intended focus on teamwork. and innovation.

Found: KPU’s helpful experiential learning advice

I took another look around BC’s teaching and learning sites and discovered a wealth of materials, tips and suggestions for experiential learning through KPU’s Teaching & Learning Commons. This agglomeration of resources could be enormously helpful to any instructor debating how, when and where (and why) to implement different types of experiential learning.

KPU’s Experiential Learning pages go beyond presenting video stories from students and community partners or links to specific courses or programs that include experiential learning/ opportunities. The Experiential Learning pages are full of practical advice and helpful forms and resources. You can explore:

  • a Guidebook with practical advice about how to plan and implement experiential learning
  • forms
  • tips for community partners and students, and
  • a motley assortment of external resources to broaden your understanding of the history, pedagogical foundations, and leaders of this field.

If you’re considering adding some experiential learning activities or assignments to your teaching, this looks like a great place to start.

Found: A map of engagement

During my random treasure hunt through compilation of BC’s teaching and learning websites, I noticed an interesting subsection in UVic’s Learning and Teaching Support and Innovation site (what a mouthful that must be to share when you meet others at a conference!) – the subsection is called Community-engaged Learning. I was curious partly because I’ve been working with a community planning consultant and educator from Whitehorse who has opened my eyes to possibilities for engaging rural and remote communities across the North, but also because I’m always looking at ways people interpret and advance basic learning theories. The Community-engaged Learning site began with a definition:

Community-Engaged Learning (CEL) is a form of experiential learning and community-engaged scholarship whereby students actively engage with course content through the combination of collaborations with community and facilitated reflection.

So, I was curious to find out the ways UVic’s interpretation or application might involve different approaches based on experiential learning. Although I didn’t find what I was hoping for – guidelines or tips on facilitating/managing experiential learning in the field/community to ensure meaningful learning (i.e., how to prevent disasters and go beyond – “I had such a great time”), I did find some interesting first steps CEL pedagogies and flagged that for future exploration.

My first find though was the searchable, international, multi-faceted Engagement map. The visual of the map gives you a sense of the surprising spread of UVic community-engagement activities and you can find public lectures, partnerships with community groups, community-focused research, and guided walks (if you’re in Victoria).

The map is pretty straightforward to use: either click on a blue circle in a geographic location that interests you, or use one of the nine filters or try a keyword search.

My initial explorations led me to co-op programs and then to impact stories from young participants and their community groups or health organizations. I discovered a unique Fraser Valley ethnohistory field school hosted by the Sto:lo that has been running since 1998!

I found out about a community research project that resulted in Victoria rain gardens that contributed to our understanding of municipal stormwater management. Other stories introduced me to international impacts where UVic students work to find business models to help Zambian goat farmers find the best markets for their animals. A Social Sciences community partnership allowed students to work with UVic sociologist William Carroll to develop a new online mapping tool to highlight 50 of the most influential fossil fuel industry players in Western Canada and develop our understanding of the power relationships within this sector.

So, if you’re looking for inspiration in terms of making your teaching more relevant and meaningful for your students, you might pick up some ideas while exploring this map. While the stories featured are somewhat lean on the realities of how to actually facilitate the learning and to keep the community projects manageable for students, partners and yourself, you could always follow up with the university or keep an eye on their CEL website. Enjoy!

BC Teaching & Learning Centres

BC’s Teaching & Learning Centres

Have you ever gone looking for inspiring ideas or examples of teaching (and learning) and come up empty? Or wondered about what educators at other institutions were thinking about, working on, or practising that might be useful in your teaching context?

As an educational developer and facilitator I’m often curious about what’s happening. So I started poking at the websites of Canadian higher education institutions. I found it too slow to start from each hi-ed institution’s website so I found various listings. But I wasn’t really thrilled with those either – too many dead links – not enough information to do a quick scan to pick up points of interest. So, I’ve created my own page(s) – organized by province and listed the main areas each teaching and learning centre shared publicly that might be of interest.

It took me far longer than I anticipated and it’s still a work in progress but I’ve got BC done finally! Check it out:

Teaching and Learning – British Columbia

Along the way I’ve found some really interesting podcasts, newsletters, ideas, explanations, images and videos. I’m going to follow my nose and do some blogging about what I find when I do the ‘deep dive’ into the websites of those institutions that still share a lot of their knowledge and activities publicly (sadly many are putting resources for teaching and learning behind a staff/faculty login.

Let me know if you find errors or omissions. And better still, if you find this useful! Enjoy.