Concurrent Sessions 3: Research Paper Presentations

Wednesday, June 18, 2014, 3:30 - 4:00pm (30 minutes)
McArthur Hall, Queen's University

CON3.01 – To Experiment and to Evolve: Meeting Students’ Needs through Online Skype Writing Consultations (Room A227)
Jodie Salter (University of Guelph)

This presentation addresses how both university teaching and learning experiences continue to transform in response to new learning paradigms and pressures for online instruction and service delivery. The landscape of the Learning Commons is changing. In response to a nationwide increase in the number of distance education courses and the number of commuting students, Canadian universities must explore ways that virtual learning environments can both supplement and complement on-campus support services for students. Most university writing centres in Canada already provide various types of online learning and teaching tools. Some centres also provide writing consultations via email and over the telephone. However, I argue these mediums for writing support have a tendency to be too directive and didactic. Often they mirror traditional asynchronous forms of feedback, functioning more as an editing service than as a pedagogical opportunity for students to develop as writers.                                                              

As an alternative to in-person face-to-face writing consultations, online consultations require an increased awareness of new and emerging pedagogies and technologies for online teaching and learning. Educators need to determine which strategies can be adopted and which need to be modified in order to transform their professional practices to more effectively deliver writing support and instruction using online technology.

Skype is an online face-to-face conferencing software frequently used in professional settings that allows for communication at a distance. I propose Skype needs to be studied for its potential uses in university learning commons because it offers the opportunity for online writing support to be synchronous and face-to-face.

At the University of Guelph, Writing Services has been offering online Skype writing consultations since September, 2012. First piloted for graduate students, the option now extends to any Guelph student registering for a writing appointment. Our statistics show that most Skype appointments occur during the summer months, and graduate students primarily use the service. Currently, our student feedback is minimal and mostly positive.

This study evaluates the effectiveness of Skype writing consultations at the University of Guelph as a tool for providing synchronous communication and effective feedback in the writing centre. I am interested in determining how the physical separation between the consultant and the student’s paper during Skype writing consultations instigates the use of new pedagogical strategies. Does this multimodal teaching and learning experience decrease a consultant’s tendency to edit, increase the necessity for dialogical exchanges, and prompt students to take greater ownership of their writing and consequently become more active learners?

Ultimately, this study will help us better understand how Skype and other online consultation tools can be best used in one-to-one writing instruction. This knowledge will guide our development of best practices for online delivery of writing instruction, support, and feedback.

CON3.02 – Deciphering the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) Ecosystem: What Makes Successful MOOCs? (Room A241/242)
Ido Roll and Simon Bates (University of British Columbia)

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are online courses that are offered for free using several platforms (such as Coursera, EdX, and Udacity). While learners in these courses do not receive official university credits, hundreds of thousands of learners register for these courses. The MOOC phenomena has led to a vivid discussion regarding their impact on higher education and the job market. However, one variable that is often left out of the conversation is quality of learning. As each MOOC often has tens of thousands of students, there is only limited or no interaction between learners and the course staff. Instead, learners interact with each other via discussion boards and peer feedback. Furthermore, learners often come from diverse populations and are not traditional university students. Thus, learners have a variety of goals from these courses.

In this talk, we seek to put learning in the forefront of the MOOC discussion. After reviewing existing research on learning with MOOCs, we will propose several metrics for defining successful MOOCs. Specifically, we argue that successful courses are ones in which students persist in the course, report to achieve their personal goals, and engage with a variety of learning activities (such as quizzes and discussion boards). We will demonstrate the usefulness of these metrics and begin to establish their validity. Second, we will identify course elements that correlate with productive learning. For example, as previously shown, longer videos seem to lead to reduced engagement. However, a closer examination suggests that it is the overall length of the videos per week, and not their individual length (or overall length per course), that matters. That is, courses with several short videos per week show similar engagement levels to courses with fewer longer videos. Another one of our findings suggests that size of support team does not appear to be critical. While some courses attempt to support learning by offering extensive support, our data suggests that the available support does not improve engagement, probably due to the overwhelming number of leaners. Interestingly, and somewhat counter intuitively, it seems that geographical location matters. That is, learners tend to prefer courses from nearby institutions, even though the courses are given online with no on-site component. We intend to demonstrate these findings using data from several institutions.

Participants in the session will gain better understanding of the varied institutional goals for MOOCs and means to achieve these. Findings that will be shared in the talk will facilitate the formulation of design guidelines for MOOCs. In addition, we anticipate that our methodological contributions will help participants in evaluating their own MOOC data, whether MOOC instructors, researchers, or designers. The session will include built-in time for comments and Q&A in order to receive feedback on our suggested measures of success and productivity of course elements. We hope that encouraging additional institutions to use similar metrics will facilitate a broad set of findings that will improve our collective understanding of the MOOC ecosystem.

CON3.03 – Third Age Learning: Beyond (and Back to) The Classroom (Room A239)
Ginny Ratsoy (Thompson Rivers University)

As baby boomers retire, Canadian universities have the opportunity to meet a growing interest in what is variously called “third age learning,” “lifelong learning” and “adult learning.” Several existing models partly meet this demand; for example, Continuing Education and Elder Colleges are firmly established at some Canadian universities.

However, not only are baby boomers more numerous and better educated than previous groups of seniors (and thus, studies show, more likely to engage with educational opportunities in retirement) they are also more diverse and, arguably, more independent. This presentation will contend that, while existing models serve some facets of the growing population of seniors effectively, Canadian universities would be wise to adopt multiple flexible platforms from which to foster lifelong learning.

Specifically, I will take a case study approach to espouse what small cities researcher Lon Dubinsky refers to as “organic collaborations” between universities and independent learning organizations. As a professor who has volunteered for, and completed primary research in the form of interviews and surveys, on such an organization, I will advocate for organic collaboration as a tool for community outreach, university- community collaboration, and faculty and student enrichment – even transformation. Universities and individual professors have much to learn from independent third age learning organizations – including how to reinvigorate their own classrooms.

Participants in this session will come away with an overview of the state of third age learning in Canada, an enhanced knowledge of the needs of independent senior learners, and a greater understanding of how working with these learners can foster innovative learning for younger university learners.

CON3.04 – Teaching Competencies for the Online Environment (Room A240)
Jennifer Ramsdale (Fleming College) and Heather Farmer (Algonquin College)

The goal of this study was to identify key competency areas that lead to success in online instruction in order to develop a framework to support professional development and self-assessment. In order to identify the key competency areas, the skills and behaviours presented within current literature were analysed to note commonly identified competency areas, identify gaps and determine levels of competence in each key area. As a result, five competency areas were identified: Classroom Decorum, Active Teaching, Instructional Design & Organization, Tools & Technology, and Leadership & Instruction.  The resulting analysis produced the Online Teaching Competency (OTC) Matrix.  This leveled competency matrix not only can be used to inform professional development in the online teaching environment, but can also be considered a useful guide as it relates to portfolio design and self-assessment.

This brief research paper presentation will explore the use of competencies for self-directed learning and provide insight into skills and behaviours to consider when teaching and facilitating online.  The OTC Matrix provides a framework with which to guide us while discussing and exploring the learning experiences of both students and instructors in the online classroom. Participants will take part in facilitated discussions around how this framework could influence their individual learning plans and to consider other ways that this framework could be implemented within their institutions.

CON3.05 – Designing for Learner Motivation in Online Courses (Room A333)
Mary Pringle, Corinne Bossé, Terry Taylor and Cindy Ives (Athabasca University)

Learner motivation has been found to be a complex and nuanced phenomenon; at the same time, we have some fairly reliable general predictors of success (Keller, 2006; Hartnett, St. George, & Dron, 2011). For this study, a seasoned and innovative educator was interviewed to harvest qualitative observations in the context of a course development and learning design pilot project. The instructor was asked about his approach to designing online courses that support learner motivation and help passive students become active learners.

 In 2011, a course design pilot was started for Athabasca University courses in the School of Computing and Information Systems (SCIS). This project built on a development pilot initiated after a program review. The goal was to share an understanding of theory and effective practice for online learning and to develop guidelines to facilitate creative design and solution finding. 

At that time all SCIS courses were developed using one HTML design template. Initial changes were made to give each course its own visual identity and add course-specific resources. The next level of the design pilot looked for more effective ways to present content in the form of learning activities.

In 2013, a formative evaluation was undertaken of the content and presentation of courses and of the design process with the goal of informing improvements in both courses and process.  The coordinator and course author, TerryTaylor, (who was interviewed for this study) introduced effective new ideas for presenting content, and the evaluation team wished to know more about his approach to motivating learners. 

The session reports on this study and provides concrete ways to help passive online students become active learners. Participants will learn and be able to apply some of the reported strategies to increase learner motivation and engagement.

CON3.06 – Information Fluency in the Teaching of History (Room A334)
Stéphane-D. Perreault, (Red Deer College)

History as a discipline is transformative: it aspires to alter our views of the world by making us aware of the dynamics that have shaped it. It can even challenge our sense of place and identity. And yet, such a powerful discipline has too often been content with lectures as a way of carrying its message. Assignments as a whole have been predictable and, while sometimes intellectually challenging, they have not necessarily been met with great enthusiasm by students. In other words, history is ripe for a transformation if it is to be a true learning experience.

One way to achieve this is to refocus the expected outcomes of history courses. I am an educator in a transfer institution, where students typically complete the first two years of their undergraduate education before moving on to a university to complete their bachelor’s degree. This has confronted me with the challenge of making history transformative, especially to students who do not specialise in the discipline. And this is where information fluency (IF) came into the picture.

Students come to our courses because of an interest in and a curiosity for history, but they are rarely equipped to succeed in historical research. As a result, with the collaboration of Library staff, I have been changing my approach to teaching history. In order to unlock the research potential of students, I focused on developing their information fluency skills while also increasing their knowledge and awareness of history by weaving IF in the very fabric of the courses. This has meant new course structures, revamped assignments… and an emphasis on transferable skills that students can acquire in history courses and use throughout their chosen career.

The decision to use information fluency was one that came through an organic evolution of these courses in the environment of a transfer college; however, it has become informed by SoTL theory and is now part of a larger institutional research project on information fluency. In this session, participants will explore ways in which information fluency may apply to their own disciplines.

CON3.07 – How to Turn Group Marks into Individual Grades (Room A339)
Normand Perreault (Queen’s University)
This session reports findings related to the use of a new approach for the grading of undergraduate assignments.  The premise of the experiment is that undergraduate students in Political Science benefit greatly from group work, but that there is of yet no effective method to deduce individual course grades from group marks.  The requirement to produce individual grades thus acts as an obstacle to efforts to transform learning groups into a true learning community.  By using a relatively simple mathematical technique, this experiment demonstrates that it is possible to generate individual course grades while assigning only group projects and producing only group marks.  The audience will be asked to participate in the interactive validation of the experimental results.  This will insure that they are appraised of the mechanisms involved in this new approach, in addition to being more aware of the practical usefulness of the theoretical premises that support this approach.
CON3.08 – The Effects of a First-Year Seminar on Student Use of Research Resources (Room A232)
Jacqueline Murray and Nathan Lachowsky (University of Guelph)

First-year seminars (FYS) are one means by which universities are addressing the challenges of large impersonal classes, lack of student engagement, and increased skills development rather than content delivery. One question that is frequently asked is whether student learning outcomes merit the higher costs associated with delivering an intense small group experience compared with the large, cost-effective lectures that dominate first-year course delivery at many Canadian universities. This study examines the types of research sources first-year students access before and after taking a first-year seminar. It seeks to reveal if the FYS experience leads students to consult more reliable, scholarly sources after completing a FYS. Approximately 916 students who were enrolled in an FYS at the University of Guelph from September, 2011 to April, 2013 completed a research resources questionnaire at the beginning of the seminar and again upon completion. Results were assessed to identify any change in students’ selection of research sources between the pre- and post-seminar surveys. Comparisons were also made between the results of FYS students in their first semester and those who took an FYS in their second semester. This study addresses the question of the benefits and learning outcomes of small classes in the first year. It concludes that all students, irrespective of being enrolled in semester one or semester two, report consulting enhanced research resources. Moreover, comparison between semester one and two students finds that students who completed an FYS in semester one have better research resource use than students who begin to take an FYS in semester two. In other words, the improved results are not attributable to the normal transition and maturation process experienced by all students in their first semester. Thus, interdisciplinary First-Year Seminars, which focus on engagement, skills development, and active learning, are shown to enhance student learning beyond general first-year courses.

CON3.09 – Engaging Students in First Year Chemistry: The Blended Learning Project at Queen's University (Room A234)
Nicholas Mosey, Hugh Horton, Brenda Ravenscroft and Ulemu Luhanga (Queen’s University)
Engaging students in large lecture-based courses presents a challenge. Queen's University is addressing this through a project that redesigns traditional courses into blended versions that integrate "in-class, face-to-face learning with online learning in a purposeful, thoughtful and complementary way to enhance student engagement." This paper presentation describes how the introductory chemistry course has been redesigned into a blended format, and discusses the effectiveness of the redesign. The course has undergone significant changes: weekly lectures have been reduced in number and refocused, online learning activities have been introduced, and labs and tutorials have been integrated more purposefully. "Routine" lecture material (primarily problem-solving techniques) is delivered using a publisher-supplied online problem and assessment system, enabling lectures to focus on "big picture" applications and current research relevant to the weekly lab sessions. Labs have been completely redesigned to consist of intensive weekly 90-minute benchtop experiments, coupled with tutorial sessions in which students engage in group-based inquiry. A course website integrates all these activities, acting as a primary resource for students. Key to this project is an evaluation of how students engage in their learning differently in blended and traditional course designs. We present the results from a series of classroom student engagement surveys (CLASSE, similar to the program-based NSSE surveys) conducted on student populations who took the traditional lecture course, and the new blended version.
CON3.10 – Emerging Faculty Learning Modalities as Disruptive Innovations: Implications for Leadership Hierarchies in Postsecondary Education in Canada (Room A317)
Julie Mooney (McGill University/Dawson College)

“Popularized by Clayton Christensen of the Harvard Business School, ‘disruptive innovation’ is described as change, usually technological, that causes upheaval of an entire industry sector” (in DiSalvio, 2012). This paper presentation explores leadership implications of technological and social disruptive innovations in education. In an era of increasing tuition fees, a rising cost of living, and shrinking budgets, it is understandable that questions about the value and quality of education are placing significant pressures on postsecondary institutions (DiSalvio, 2012). Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) have emerged as a widely accessible alternative learning format. Communities of practice have sprung up among college and university educators, as a disruptive innovation in response to shifting landscapes in tertiary education.

This qualitative pilot study gathers rich descriptions of leadership models and professional learning initiatives within postsecondary educational institutions in Canada. The researchers are interested in ways in which traditional academic and pedagogical leadership models are being disrupted by innovative professional learning initiatives. Specifically, the study asks:

In what ways, if any, are self-organized, informal, and non-credentialed professional learning initiatives disrupting traditional leadership hierarchies in postsecondary education?

A purposive sample of faculty, educational developers, and academic leaders in colleges and universities in Canada, known to the co-investigators through their professional networks, were invited to respond to an anonymous, online survey. Sixteen (16) people, representing sixteen (16) different institutions, responded to the online survey, a forty-seven percent (47%) response rate. Narrative data collected was subjected to thematic analysis in order to propose possible implications of the study for postsecondary educational leaders. The evolution of a teaching and learning book club was examined as an example of a disruptive innovation in faculty development.

When distributive and democratic leadership approaches are applied in postsecondary education, learning is placed at the centre. In this more open, participative environment authority and responsibility for instruction, traditionally held exclusively by teachers, is shared among a network of learners. This model promotes a shifting of roles, allowing teachers to be learners as well as experts, and learners to share their prior knowledge while they engage in relevant learning that aligns with their goals and priorities.

When learning is undertaking in this way -- as a social, interactive, and constructivist process, engaging networks of people and systems -- knowing how to access and assess information becomes a more important skill than acquisition and recall.

As postsecondary institutions re-vision their purpose and place in an information age replete with distributed learning opportunities, the researchers in this study remain curious about how traditional leadership models are evolving and responding. The more open teaching and learning become, the more they problematize the place of traditional institutions as repositories of knowledge and sources of accreditation. Participants in this session will be invited to reflect on the disruptive innovations that are taking place in their own institutional contexts, and to inquire into whether and how they are influencing the academic and administrative leadership approaches at their institutions. Participants will be invited to share their reflections and to pose questions or offer comments following the formal presentation of this paper.

CON3.11 – Educational Developers and Their Uses of Learning Theories: Conceptions and Practices (Room A313)
Klodiana Kolomitro (Queen’s University)

This presentation reports on a study designed to understand how learning theories fit in the practice of educational developers; specifically, developers’ conceptions of learning theories, their use of theories, and, finally, factors that influence the way learning theories shape developers’ practice. To investigate these questions, a qualitative study was undertaken with eleven Canadian university educational developers. By taking an exploratory approach, while drawing upon learning theories and educational development literature, aspects of educational developers’ understanding and use of learning theories were highlighted.

The findings showed that educational developers in this study: (i) conceptualize learning theories as lowercase ‘lt’ as opposed to uppercase ‘LT’, and (ii) define learning theories based on their prior disciplines. These practitioners didn’t associate learning theories with formal academic theories aimed at understanding a situation; instead, they had formed their own synthesis of theories to help them perceive the characteristics of a particular situation. Also, the way the participants defined and conceptualized learning theories seemed to correspond to their prior disciplines and areas of study. Five definitions of learning theories were identified among educational developers: philosophy, language, educational-psychology, holistic, and neuroscience-based. In terms of how theories shape developers’ work, developers were categorized in three groups: (1) those who had a tendency to implicitly use learning theories –focusing more on practical explorations for achieving a desired outcome (seven in total); (2) developers who had a tendency to consciously use learning theories – taking more of a comprehensive approach by examining their assumptions and focusing on causes and effects that influence their practice (three in total); and, (3) one developer who had characteristics of both groups. Factors such as educational background, professional identities, and perceived audience readiness appeared to influence participants’ uses of learning theories. Seeing their work as part of a collective, and attending to the emotional needs of their audience also seemed to impact these practitioners’ work. Considering the limited research examining how educational developers conceptualize learning theories and the way theories inform their practice, this research contributes in generating discussions and future research in a community that continues to grow and situate itself within the higher education landscape.

By sharing highlights of my research, I intend to engage developers in critical thinking and help them articulate what they are trying to accomplish, how they will go about accomplishing this, and based on which learning theories. Through this process, educational developers will be able to subject their own theoretical claims and practices to analysis and thoughtfully revisit the views they hold regarding learning, knowledge, and teaching. I am hoping that the insights and recommendations discussed in this presentation will represent a vehicle for the ‘development of the developers’ and help them reflect on the relevance and effectiveness of their learning theories.

CON3.12 – Using Rubrics to Provide Effective Feedback to Transform the Assessment and Learning Process (Room A301)
Tess Miller and Sue Dawson (University of Prince Edward Island)

This presentation will focus on the use of a rubric as an effective assessment instrument in veterinary medicine to assess students’ clinical skills. More specifically, we will draw on current theory and literature to discuss why many rubrics are nothing more than instruments that facilitate assessment in comparison to well-designed rubrics that can transform the learning and assessment process by supporting as well as measuring student performance. This session will make connections to practice by sharing the rubric we developed to assess fourth year students’ clinical skills and the findings from a survey of students and instructors experiences with the instrument.

CON3.13 – Queen’s Joanna Briggs Collaboration and ‘the Room of Horrors’ (Room A342)
Christina Godfrey and Kim Sears (Queen’s University)

The Queen’s Joanna Briggs collaboration (QJBC) was established in 2004 as the first and only Canadian collaborating centre of the international Joanna Briggs Institute.  QJBC’s mission is “To improve the quality and reliability of practice and ultimately health outcomes by enabling the use of best available evidence on patient safety.”  QJBC is achieving this by synthesizing evidence based on priority topics identified by diverse partners, and by adapting synthesized evidence from one context to another. The QJBC team is comprised of academic and clinically-based faculty, library scientists, methodologists and core research staff located at Queen’s University School of Nursing.

As part of Canadian Patient Safety Week, QJBC sponsors an interprofessional event called “The Room of Horrors”. This event is run between the Schools of Nursing, Rehabilitation Therapy, Medicine and Pharmacy residents and staff. The purpose of this event is to increase students’ awareness of patient and provider safety and to engage in problem solving with health profession colleagues. The event challenges interprofessional teams to identify potential safety issues that occur in the provision of care to patients.  The Faculty of Health Sciences Patient Simulation Labs are set up to provide a variety of scenarios and simulation mannequins have actors providing audio feedback to the students as they progress through the patient care activities. Some scenarios have actors role-playing as health professionals providing care to patients while the students watch and discern where the patient’s safety may be compromised.  Students also complete patient safety knowledge quizzes.  The first three teams scoring the highest marks for the quizzes and simulation exercises win prizes. All students receive a certificate of participation and tokens for participating.

This presentation will demonstrate how this innovative teaching event develops the skills of the healthcare students, with the following goals in mind:

  • Simulate interdisciplinary interaction in the health care setting
  • Promote dialogue between students from different disciplines
  • Build increased awareness of patient safety issues
  • Provide opportunity for students to identify patient safety hazards within a   simulated & safe environment
  • Keep learning fun!

We will share the opportunities and challenges involved in planning, implementing and evaluating the Room of Horrors and the potential for this type of platform to be used in various educational settings. It will also demonstrate the application of theory to hands-on practice that has occurred over the four years of running this event and identify changes that have been implemented based on evaluation of student and provider feedback.