Why Consider Open Educational Resources?




Sessions on this topic will be held during the Fall Fortnight:

  • Open Educational Resources (Monday August 22, 2016 from 9-9:25 AM) – Register
  • Using and Adapting Open Textbooks (Wednesday August 24 from 1-2:30 PM) – Register

There has been a lot of talk around the University of Saskatchewan during the past year about the use of open educational resources (OER), specifically open textbooks. During the 2015-2016 academic year, approximately 900 students benefited from the use of these textbooks instead of traditional commercial textbooks, saving the students approximately $90,000 overall. We expect that number to increase during the 2016-2017 academic year as more instructors have indicated that they will opt for using these resources.

In addition, there are currently six open textbooks in production at the U of S, with some being adaptations of existing resources and others being new books.

This growing interest in the use of OER isn’t limited to financial savings for students. The licenses attached to almost all open textbooks allow instructors to adapt the resources to best meet the needs of their particular courses. For example, an economics text written in the United States can be modified to update spellings and provide Canadian examples for learners. Chapters can be rearranged, removed, or replaced. Individual images or sections can be combined with other OER to create entirely different resources.

The licensing of OER also allows for having students adapt and create course content instead of simply reading or watching it. Open pedagogy moves away from the “throw away” assignment (the ones students complete, instructors mark and return, and students then throw away) and towards more practical work.

Open textbooks are currently being used at the U of S in the Edwards School of Business, the College of Agriculture and Bioresources, and in several departments throughout the College of Arts and Science.  Open textbooks exist for almost all common first year courses in Economics, Biology, Chemistry, Accounting, Sociology, Psychology, History, Anatomy & Physiology, Math, and other subjects. There are also resources for many upper year courses.

If you’re interested in using an open textbook or other OER in your courses, please see the Open USask website to see some of the many resources available in a variety of subjects. If you have an interest in adapting an existing resource, turning some learning materials that you’ve created into OER, or including open pedagogy in your courses, the U of S has supports in place to assist you. Please contact Heather Ross for more information.

 

3 Ideas for Promoting Academic Honesty



With Elana Geller (Student Learning Services at the University Library) & Heather M. Ross (GMCTE)

A session on this topic will be held during the Fall Fortnight on Wednesday August 24, 2016. Register here.

Beauty of Reading
#1 Student skill development (Libraries)

Most students will make the right choices given enough knowledge. In order to support students attaining this knowledge the University Library maintains a number of resources including a citation guide, which can be accessed at http://libguides.usask.ca/citation. Students can also ask questions about citations at the Research Help Desk and Writing Centre, either in person or online. The Library is also looking into the creation of a tool that would have more breadth and would organize academic integrity information in an easy to use format. This tool would go beyond citation styles, to include information on collaboration, possibly specific field or discipline content, and policies. This endeavour will be one of collaboration. If you have any advice about what you would like to see in such a tool please contact Elana Geller at elana.geller@usask.ca.

#2 Technologies to detect potential plagiarism (GMCTE)

Both students and instructors have an interest in preventing and detecting potential plagiarism. For instructors, cutting and pasting questionable passages can assist in detecting materials that may have been taken from websites, journals, and other resources found online. In addition, SafeAssign is a copied text detection tool available within Blackboard. While this can be used for comparing student work to other works found online for the purpose of identifying potential plagiarism, it has great power as a teaching tool. If faculty set SafeAssign so that student can submit and then make changes based on the report, students can learn from their errors.  For more information about these issues, how to use SafeAssign following U of S guidelines, and how to use SafeAssign and Google for plagiarism detection and as learning tools, please contact Heather Ross at heather.ross@usask.ca.

#3 Assessment design (GMCTE)

When students regard what they are being asked to produce to represent relevant, valuable learning and when they believe they know what is expected and that they reasonably have the ability to do what is expected, they are more likely to invest the effort and submit authentic work for grading. With variation in disciplines for what makes an assessment appropriate and valid, not one piece of advice fits all. If you’d like to talk through some ideas for “cheat-proofing” assessments, please contact Susan Bens at susan.bens@usask.ca.

Picture courtesy of Luke Hayter and carries a CC-BY-NC license.

 

Gearing Up With Fall Fortnight 2016




Fall Fortnight Postcard - Front“Happy New Year!!” That is how I think of September and the new school year. This often coincides with a strong pull to stationary stores, tidying my office, organizing my supplies, reading new books, and pulling out sweaters and warm socks.

Gearing up for the Fall Term is exciting. There’s often anticipation, hope, renewed energy for trying new things and looking forward to tweaking things I tried last year. I think about taking a class. There are new “school” clothes, crisp mornings, and longer shadows when I head for home. All of that is bundled together as the new term starts. I think about the new faculty, staff, and students joining the community of University of Saskatchewan in the most beautiful city in Saskatoon. And meeting new people and renewing connections with colleagues after the summer is fun.

The Fall Fortnight 2016 tugs on all these feelings of fresh starts, new ideas, learning that leads to change, connecting and reconnecting into the campus community, and gearing up for the 2016-2017 teaching and learning adventure. With over twenty sessions on a wide variety of topics in a variety of formats you will no doubt find something that intrigues you or answers a question you might have. There are Just-for-YOU sessions for new faculty, grad students, and post-docs in addition to all the other sessions on offer. New this year are sessions on the ADKAR change model and strengths-based approaches to setting up groups for success. For more highlights and a description of the sessions types take a look at this short video:

And it’s easy to register too. Check out http://www.usask.ca/gmcfortnight/

If you don’t see what you are looking for, drop us a line and let us know what you would like to see on the schedule next time around. And you can also request a tailored session—we work with you to design a session on the topic of your choice specific to your unit’s needs.

Looking forward to seeing at you at the Fall Fortnight (or in the Bowl or at a stationary store).

Fortnight Postcard - Back

A Short Reflection of a Graduate Student Fellow



By Ayodele Olagunju, Doctoral Candidate, School of Environment and Sustainability

Ayodele OlagunjuMy time working on a graduate fellowship at the Gwenna Moss Centre for Teaching Effectiveness highlights a most significant period in my graduate program. As a doctoral candidate with a deep longing to be part of a vibrant academic community, I did have a clue of my job description, which was to support some GSR classes, among others, and I was confident it was going to be a two-way opportunity both to equip and to be equipped in the areas of effective teaching. The only fear I had then was that despite a fair amount of exposure to teaching at the university level, teaching about teaching was not a familiar terrain for me. But sometimes in life, to discover what you are good at, you need to get the opportunity to try, sometimes to fail, at other times to surprise yourself, and eventually to succeed.

During my time at the Centre, I had opportunities working with great colleagues—faculty, staff, and students. I explored, engaged, learned, and evolved. In the process, I became much more aware of myself as an instructor through reflective practices and interaction with colleagues. Over time, it became increasingly clear that what stimulated my interest in the fellowship originally was my desire to always be the best I could through openness to learning and willingness to take intelligent risks as an instructor. From my experience teaching as a sessional in the department of geography and planning at the university, I had known at least from student feedback that my teaching strengths include my ability to experiment with different learning activities in order to cater to diverse a student audience, to facilitate an interactive and safe learning environment where students can have poly-logic conversations, and to provide constructive feedback during the learning process. However, it wasn’t until this fellowship that I was able to put these qualities into perspective, as I had to shift my role from learning about teaching to contributing to teaching about teaching. With this opportunity, I developed the confidence to share my stories—successes and failures—with graduate students and colleagues who enrolled in the courses I was part of.

Pondering on my experience at the Centre, there are two key take-aways for me as an instructor. Firstly, my experience reinforces my long-held belief about teaching, particularly that a teacher is a leader—a builder of dreams, a model, a motivator, and a mentor. The teaching team I worked with exemplified these characteristics in the way the classes were facilitated and from the various formative feedbacks obtained from students in the process. Secondly, and more importantly, is that an effective teacher is a life-long learner. Like we say in sustainability parlance, sustainability effectiveness is a journey, not a destination. So also is teaching! It is a journey of learning, of giving and receiving, of reflection, of discovery, and of accomplishment! The experience has been a real challenge as I have entered an unfamiliar territory, but an essentially transformative one. The fellowship has not only enabled me to advance my teaching skills, it has also helped me to re-evaluate my approach to teaching and learning, to observe model teachers, and more importantly, to be inspired to take risk by stepping out of my comfort zone, both at the Centre and in other classes I teach on campus.

And if, in this process, my contributions have enabled graduate teachers enrolled in our classes to become more confident, more aware of their actions and beliefs as teachers, and more effective and engaging teachers, there is no greater sense of fulfillment better than this for anyone with such opportunity. My experience is that what I have learned through this fellowship is both reassuring and transformative, and offers a springboard to future teaching successes. The course on the Philosophy and Practice of University Teaching is definitely one that cannot easily go away; I have learned about teaching and learning in a more practical sense as a member of the teaching team. Many of the questions I had before taking up the fellowship have now been dealt with, and it’s time to move on with those valuable insights with the hope that I can inspire others with them.

I am thankful for the great relationships I have built with students and colleagues across the campus, who repeatedly motivated me through their comments, feedback, and inspiring personal stories about teaching and learning. Thanks to the great team at the Gwenna Moss Center for Teaching Effectiveness, and to Dr. Kim West in particular, for being my guide on the journey, and for the opportunity to contribute my perspectives to the team. Life is a continuum; the end of one phase is the beginning of another. While the interval between the two offers opportunities to explore, to discover, to be challenged, and to adapt, endings are an opportunity to assess, to reflect, and to be motivated for the future ahead. And whatever direction the journey of life takes me; the Center will always be part of me.

Reflecting on Assessment and Feedback




At this time of year, faculty can see the learning that has occurred for students reflected back through the culminating assessments. Whether it’s the term project, the research paper, the reflective portfolio, the group presentation, or the final exam – this is a means to discover what has been learned by students and to what standard.

Bicyclist Looking in MirrorHere are 10 questions gleaned from a 2004 article by Gibbs and Simpson on assessment that support students’ learning. Looking back at the term, an instructor may ask:

  1. Did the assessment require sufficient time and effort on the kind of learning intended?
  2. Did the assessment indicate the appropriate proportion of effort to be allocated compared to other course elements?
  3. How did the assessment encourage students toward productive practice or learning?
  4. Was feedback provided often enough and in enough detail?
  5. Was feedback focused on learning processes and actions under students’ control rather than grades, competitive rank, or the student as a person?
  6. Did the feedback arrive in a timely way?
  7. Did the feedback align with the purpose of the assessment and to the criteria for success?
  8. Was the feedback at the right level of sophistication for students to benefit from it?
  9. Were students motivated to attend to the feedback?
  10. To what extent was the feedback acted upon?

After a sufficient look back, these questions also help instructors to look ahead and contemplate the adjustments they can make next time around to provide students well designed assessment of learning and effective feedback for more learning.

Several of us in the Gwenna Moss Centre for Teaching Effectiveness have an interest in assessment design. Feel free to contact us to discuss ideas.


Gibbs, G. & Simpson, C., (2004). Conditions under which assessment supports students’ learning. Learning and Teaching in Higher Education. Issue 1, pp. 3-31.

Picture courtesy of Oregon Department of Transportation via Wikimedia and carries a CC-BY license.

Open Now: The USask Open Textbook Authoring Guide



By Jordan Epp, Instructional Designer, Distance Education Unit (DEU)

The adoption and adaptation of open textbooks at the U of S has been an organic process up until this past year, with faculty and departments independently making use of open textbooks and resources to fulfill their own course needs. In 2015 the U of S announced the Open Textbook Creation/Adaptation Fund managed by the GMCTE. At that time the Distance Education Unit’s (DEU) Instructional Design (ID) Team was tapped on the shoulder to officially support these funded activities as well as the growing number of grassroots developments taking place on campus. The DEU’s busy ID team helps design, develop and maintain literally hundreds of online and distance delivered courses for a variety of colleges, departments, units, and centres across campus under the leadership of director Cheri Spooner.

With the Open Textbook Creation/Adaptation Fund’s call for proposals closing, DEU worked with a tight timeline to ensure everything would be ready to support these upcoming initiatives. Preparations for these new open textbook projects included the installation of a new online open textbook publishing platform, Pressbooks (openpress.usask.ca), and the adaptation of the BCcampus Open Textbook Authoring Guide for use at the University of Saskatchewan. The USask Open Textbook Authoring Guide piloted the Pressbooks platform to transform the BCcampus guide to focus on the needs of faculty and staff here at the U of S. Contents of the guide include information on;USask Open Textbook Authroing Guide

  • Adopting an open textbook
  • Adapting an existing open textbook
  • Creating a new open textbook
  • Pressbooks – Online Publishing Platform
  • Writing tools
  • Guidelines for Text Editors
  • Copyright and licensing information
  • Accessibility Toolkit and resources
  • And a Learning More section of Supplementary resources.

This book is a practical guide to adapting or creating open textbooks using the Pressbooks online publishing platform. It is continually evolving as new information, practices and processes are developed. The primary audience for this book is faculty and post-secondary instructors who are developing, adapting or adopting open textbooks at the University of Saskatchewan. However, there may be content within this book that is useful to others working on similar Open Educational Resource initiatives. This guide is openly available for download as a PDF and EPUB or is viewable online in its entirety at openpress.usask.ca/authoring.

The DEU is looking forward to supporting the upcoming U of S open textbook initiatives as well as continuing to support Online and Distance Education developments across the University of Saskatchewan.

Using Reflective Practice to Become the Teacher You Want to Be





With Wenona Partridge, GMCTE

Richard Feynman was a great physicist and exceptional teacher, and generally cool person. He had a vision for how he wanted to teach and kept moving towards that vision. For a glimpse of Feynman, see the video at the end of this post (or read more and see the video), and think about the kind of teacher Feynman chose to be.

So what is your vision for your teaching? What are your goals? What do you want your feedback from students to say? What stories would you like students to share about your class?

One of the ways to move toward your vision is by using a practice of reflection and action. Reflection with action can move you closer to your teaching goals, and generate energy to move you forward and enact change. This is a process of constant learning. For more on the WHY of reflective practice, take a look at this summary of the work of Donald Schön and Chris Argyris.

The process of constant learning through reflection begins with two questions:

(1) What is the current state? What am I am doing and how is that working?

(2) What could I DO to take me closer to the vision I have for myself as a teacher?

If you choose to actively reflect on your teaching practice, you can also choose to do so in a more or less structured way. This process needn’t be thought of as being done in a right or a wrong way, but there are different ways in which you can reflect. One thing to consider is that, in reflecting on your teaching, you are reflecting on who you are as a whole person, in all of your professional and personal capacities since the beliefs you hold about teaching and learning are not formed through or reinforced by only your professional experience. In other words, “[c]onsciously we teach what we know, unconsciously we teach who we are” (Hamacheck, 1999, p. 209). One guide we recommend to structure the process of reflecting on your teaching and learning can be found here: http://writeonline.ca/media/documents/ReflectiveToolbox.pdf

Now that you have reflected on your teaching practice, it is time to ACT! If you are looking for new ideas or want to brainstorm, get in touch!

Open Education Week Coming to USask




Open Education Week LogoDuring the week of March 7 the University of Saskatchewan will be offering several sessions related to open textbooks and other open educational resources (OER), along with a session on the Tri-Agency open access publishing requirements as part of International Open Education Week.

“Open Education Week is a global event that seeks to raise awareness of free and open sharing in education and the benefits they bring to teachers and learners. Coordinated by the Open Education Consortium, the event showcases projects, resources, and ideas from around the world that demonstrate open education in practice. The open education movement seeks to reduce barriers, increase access and drive improvements in education through open sharing and digital formats.  Open education includes free and open access to platforms, tools and resources in education, including learning materials, course materials, videos, assessment tools, research, study groups, and textbooks, all available for free use and modification under an open license.” (Open Education Week website)

The integration of open textbooks has grown considerably in the past couple of years at the U of S, with at least seven open textbooks now being used in courses, effecting more than 900 students. Sessions related to this will include one providing introductory information, another on what supports (financial, pedagogical, and technical) exist at the U of S for those interested integrating open textbooks or other OER, and one on the role librarians, instructional designers, and others on campus who support those interested in using, adapting, or creating open materials.

A session will be offered aimed at students on how to find and use open resources, as well as opening up their own work. Faculty may also find this a useful session to hear about ideas for creating “non-disposable” assignments.

A session will also be offered on the Tri-Agency policy that now requires those receiving funding from any of those three agencies – SSHRC, NSERC, and CIHR – to publish a version of their articles in either open access journals or institutional repositories.

Registration is now open for all of these sessions. You can find a complete schedule and register through the Open Education Week page on the Open USask website.

Historical Biases in Understanding Culture – A Barrier to Indigenization?




Western society has made significant advances in empirically derived truth and scientific inquiry (e.g., anthropology, psychology, linguistics, etc.) since the Age of Enlightenment (e.g., Descartes, Diderot, Montesquieu, Turgot, Vico, Voltaire, etc.). The impact and importance of this epistemological approach to the world and its mass adoption by Western societies can be perceived in many elements of European civilization and culture (Boon, 1972; Goodenough, 1961; Keesing, 1974; Triandis, 1994).

The rise of Europe’s epistemological renaissance occurred during the era of colonial expansion. At the time that Europe was pressing itself onto numerous societies around the world, dominating the global stage, many Western thinkers were using this colonial perspective as the backdrop for their formation of a scientific approach to culture. From their perspective, culture comprised of a society’s knowledge, values, beliefs, arts, technologies, morals, laws, customs, practices and habits (Boon, 1972; Goodenough, 1961; Hofstede, 1984, 2001; Keesing, 1974; Triandis, 1994). While this is a reasonable interpretation, it contained, unfortunately, the value of innovation and technological advancement (see Tylor, 1871; Harris, 1971; Stocking, 1966). This innovation approach to knowledge and culture is a European value rather than a core component of culture. The problem with this misattribution is that it is self-serving; it allows for the imposition of continuum-based view of a society’s culture based on their technological sophistication and advancement. For Europeans, this provided them with the appearance of an unbiased way of judging societies as more or less civilized (or savage). Furthermore, this social evolutionist perspective of culture (Harris, 1971; Long & Chakov, 2009) allowed colonial societies to believe, naively or not, that less civilized societies would eventually evolve toward the same position as Europe, especially if they were given the ‘right’ support and guidance (Boas, 1904).

Fortunately, more modern social scientific thought posits “that cultures be understood in their own right, not as a rung in a hierarchical ladder of evolution, […] but simply as a qualitatively varied entity” (citing Boas; Hogan & Sussner, 2001, p. 22). Despite this more equitable and relativistic approach to culture in social scientific disciplines, it is very difficult for the typical citizen to not use what they know and value as a filter for examining other cultures and ways of knowing. Without the appropriate training and critical reflection, anyone can be forgiven for not recognizing this misattribution bias. From this perspective, I sometimes wonder if remnants of Tylor’s 1871 perspective of culture still exist in our society? How pervasive is the use of one’s own values, beliefs and institutions in trying to understand, and judge, other cultures? Can we find ways to move past these types of biases to build a pluralistic cultured environment at the University of Saskatchewan?

As always, I would appreciate hearing from you about your thoughts, concerns, or suggestions on this blog post. Please contact me to talk (stryker.calvez@usask.ca).

If you would like information about the GMCTE including about the programs and supports we offer, please contact us at gmcte@usask.ca

References
Boas, F. (1904). The history of anthropology. Science, 20, 513-524.
Boon, J. A. (1972). From Symbolism to Structuralism: Levi-Strauss in Literary Tradition. New York, NY: Harper and Row.
Goodenough, W. H. (1961). Comment on cultural evolution. Daedalus, 90, 521-528.
Harris, M. (1971).  The rise of anthropological theory: A history of theories of culture. New York, NY: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, Inc.
Hofstede, G. (1984). Culture’s consequences: Differences in work-related values. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications Inc.
Hofstede, G. (2001). Culture’s consequences: Comparing values, behaviours, institutions and organizations across nations, 2nd Ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Inc.
Hogan, J. D. & Sussner, B. D. (2001). Cross-cultural psychology in historical perspective. In L. L. Adler & U. P. Gielen (Eds.). Cross-cultural topics in psychology. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers.
Keesing, R. M. (1974). Theories of culture. Annual Review of Anthropology, 3, 73-97.
Long, H., & Chakov, K. (2009). Social Evolutionism. Retrieved on April 30, 2010, from: http://web.as.ua.edu/ant/cultures/cultures.php.
Stocking, G. W. (1966). Franz Boas and the culture concept in historical perspective. American Anthropologist, 68, 867-882.
Triandis HC. 1994. Culture and Social Behaviour. New York: McGraw-Hill
Tylor, E. B. (1871). Primitive Culture. New York, NY: Brentano’s.

Reading Students Work With Them Present – A Different Take on Marking




Many years ago, while I was a student at a community college in California, I took two courses that fell under the very general subject banner “Humanities”. One was The Individual and Society and the other The Individual and The Arts. These classes met for three hours twice a week and were team taught by three instructors that almost always were on the stage together at the front of the lecture hall that held about 100 students.

I took these courses early in my post-secondary education, but the teaching style has stayed with me as much as the content.

One aspect, in particular, comes up frequently when instructors ask me about issues related to academic integrity. I recall that we submitted papers twice in each of those classes. Each time, students would individually meet with one of the instructors and he (they were all men) would read the paper sitting next to us in the lecture theatre. He would read, mark some notes on the paper and ask us questions while he read.

keith goyne_snr_eniv. sciences_0021The instructors accomplished this by holding these individual meetings during class time. The instructors held these meetings with roughly 30 students each. Yes, it took away from class time (two 3 hour class sessions per paper assigned), but as I’ll explain below, the benefits were worth it.

First, if I hadn’t written the paper or if I had inserted chunks of work from others, it would have been difficult for me to engage in conversation about the paper. The instructor got a clear idea if the work was my own and if I understood the content.

Which leads to the second benefit. If I had been knowledgeable enough about the topic to engage in conversation with the instructor, but been a poor writer, this would have allowed me to demonstrate my understanding. This may have improved the mark that I received compared to if the instructor had read the paper without me present.

Finally, in a class of 90, having these individual meetings with an instructor to discuss my work, and often other aspects of the course, I felt like at least one of the three instructors really new me as a student. It was a wonderful way for these instructors to build rapport with the learners.

Again, yes, these individual sessions took away from class time, but not from “learning time”. Engaging students about their work is part of the learning for them, plus instructors can address some issues around academic integrity while building rapport.

Is this appropriate for every course? Probably not if you are the sole instructor teaching a large course, but for smaller courses or those team taught, consider this alternative to marking papers isolated from the authors.

If you would like to discuss the concept further, feel free to contact me at the GMCTE at heather.ross@usask.ca

If you would like information about the GMCTE including about the programs and supports we offer, please contact us at gmcte@usask.ca

Picture courtesy of the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources and carries a Creative Commons Attribute Non-Commercial license.