Perspectives on Pro-D

I’ve been thinking a lot about what we mean when we talk about professional development, especially when we talk about it in the context of higher education (or post-secondary education). As a long-time edu-consultant, I’ve been in a kind of ongoing flow of PD throughout my career; sometimes that PD was formal and credentialled but often it was open, self-directed and visible through my practice or open sharing. I’ve been involved in helping faculty, staff and students learn more effectively with and through technologies. I’ve often wondered at the lack of consistent approaches to PD and varying reasons given by faculty, administrators and technology staff as to why everyone is not more ‘digitally literate.’

A recent research report (Summer 2020) by Professor George Veletsianos and colleagues offers some insights derived from a careful analysis of narrative comments in data collected by annual surveys (2017-2019) conducted by the Canadian Digital Learning Research Association (CDLRA). (Note: a brief summary of findings is available on Veletsiano’s blog Institutional Perspectives on Faculty Development for Digital Education in Canada.) 1

Although the report’s findings and suggested actions are often derived from a relatively small number of responses to the pan-Canadian surveys, they are supported by some significant prior research papers or publications. As I finished reading the paper I was not surprised to learn that the digital education PD training was handled differently across the country, that it wasn’t always available to non-faculty, and that faculty was often perceived to be uninterested in teaching online.

The recommendations for action included finding ways to change the institutional culture to support and reward or recognize ongoing PD and to collaborate with other institutions to offer some types of digital education, accessible to all (the paper specifically mentioned the efforts of BCcampus and eCampusOntario in this regard). While it is useful to have such a thorough analysis of Canadian educational institutions (thanks to the work of the relatively new CDLRA) and the recommendations are useful, I think that they didn’t go far enough in encouraging collaborative PD options through a focus on Openness.

I have been an enthusiastic participant, consumer, producer and practitioner in many open educational opportunities over the years (despite being on the outside of formal options through higher education). And, luckily for me, we live in a province where the government supports an organization like BCcampus and they, in turn, provide so many Open options and offer me ways to share my enthusiasm for Open with others.

During this final week of January we (I’m co-facilitating with my colleague Gina Bennett) are offering a FLO MicroCourse – Open Options to Enrich your Career. Gina has been exploring and participating in Openness for longer than I have and in different directions so we’ve had a lot of fun pooling our resources and experiences in open learning and practices. I’ll be blogging and tweeting any highlights or issues that catch my eye and interest and, better still, after we’re done, BCcampus will convert the resources and basic learning structure into a freely available OER on SCoPE.

1 The paper is open access: VanLeeuwen, C.A., Veletsianos, G., Belikov, O. Johnson, N. (2020).  Institutional perspectives on faculty development for digital education in Canada. The Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology, 46(2), 1-20.

More perspectives on professional development in higher education –

Learning about inclusive design with Josie Gray

February was Inclusive Design month for BCcampus! Josie Gray, Coordinator of Collection Quality for Open Education, facilitated all four sessions and left us with a rich collection of ideas, tips, examples and guidelines of how we can all improve our practice when preparing / delivering / sharing information and ideas in our teaching or instructional design efforts. Check out the BCcampus video channel Open Education

I reviewed Part 1: Inclusive Design webinar in some detail in a previous blog post as Jess Mitchell of the Inclusive Design Research Centre at OCAD was setting the context for the series. The remaining three sessions focused on: Presentations, Pressbooks and Inaccessibility.

Part 2: Presentations webinar was reported on by Michelle Reed from University of Texas at Arlington – see Presentation Recap Josie’s webinar recording ( in the Open Education channel of the BCcampus video collection includes links to the resources she used to ground her exploration of four main elements: Slide setup, Slide content, Inclusive presentation strategies, and After the presentation. One of my personal “I didn’t know that!” moments was learning that text boxes are NOT accessible and, in fact, should always be accompanied by an ALT text description. Lots of other helpful tips and tools are covered by Josie Gray during the session.

share written version of keynote
provide multimodal options

I found Josie’s example of Robin De Rosa’s before- and after-sharing really inspiring! Robin shared a written version of her talk ( via Twitter before she delivered her keynote. The written version included image slides with written descriptions for screen readers and her video of the talk included captions. And Jess Mitchell also makes a practice of sharing her presentation slides with slide notes and a transcript through her Slideshare channel ( Something to strive for – I often feel that I just don’t have enough time when it’s a new presentation or topic.

Part 3: Pressbooks demonstratede Josie’s expertise with the tool as she provided sevveral constructive ways to approach the complexity (from my perspective) of Pressbooks publication requirements. As a newbie to Pressbooks, I found it helpful but can only suggest you watch/read Josie’s presentation ( yourself before you start your next Pressbook’s publication!

Part 4: Inaccessibility began with a design thinking approach as Josie challenged participants to think about making an OER inaccessible. The resulting suggestions demonstrated that her audience had been listening during previous sessions (or were very experienced with issues of accessibility.) Some of the challenges the group suggested:

  • Money/cost – find OER to reduce the barrier
  • Limited access to digital devices – provide multiple formats
  • Limited access to Internet – design learning events that limit the time students need to be connected
  • Varying levels of digital literacy – demonstrate/teach about ways to utilize basic tools like pdfs – help them to navigate, highlight important features of course environments, provide access to alternative formats
  • Language-comprehension – use key terms, glossary lists, avoid jargon and figures of speech, structure topics, highlight main ideas, provide audio

Josie reminded us of Jess Mitchell’s advice to go beyond checklists for accessibility and to try to think ahead to challenges that the next presentation, course, book or any activity might cause. If we could think of disability as relative, subjective and dependent on context, we would be more likely to ask more questions, to be curious, and to try different solutions.

Thanks to BCcampus for offering such a meaningful professional learning opportunity, and to Josie Gray for her clear explanations and examples.

Connecting With Open Learning ’17

As I browse the cloud, some things just seem to jump out at me – I saw an invitation to a cMOOC with the name Gardner Campbell attached to it. Well, I participated in an interesting cMOOC a couple of years ago called Connected Courses and had the opportunity to hear Gardner Campbell and others explain the logic and power of connected, open learning. I was already a convert to openness; I’m still somewhat uncertain of the power of BIG networked learning.

But who can resist – so by this blog post I agree to participate and share in the open, selectively connecting to nodes and parts of the course that have relevance and meaning to me or that help me build relevance and meaning for others (interesting twist eh?)

Actually, this post is to establish an RSS for my blog category and to put up my virtual hand to say “I’m here – bring it on!”

A BC coastal connection 😉