Why Mentoring for New and Pre-Tenure Faculty? Academic Success!


By Dr. Jim Thornhill, Special Assistant to the Vice-President Research

Mentorship of pre-tenure faculty is a key component to academic success. Sutherland and Peterson (2009) advocate from a national study conducted throughout New Zealand that early academic success of new faculty is determined by 3 factors:

  1. Prior training and experience of the new candidate,
  2. Personal characteristics of the candidate (tenacity, resolve, work/life balance) and
  3. The institutional support provided (e.g. time, space, resources).

At the University of Saskatchewan, The Provost’s Office via the Gwenna Moss Teaching & Learning Centre and the Vice President Research Office via the Research Mentorship Program have come together to highlight and support mentorship in assisting new faculty in planning and implementing their teaching and research plans.

This video introduces how academic mentorship teams support new faculty at the University of Saskatchewan with their two major mandates, namely their teaching and research portfolios as experienced by two pre-tenure faculty in The College of Kinesiology. Dr. Leah Ferguson and Dr. Marta Erlandson, along with Dean Carol Rodgers, discuss what academic success looks like, how their mentorship committees were formed, the benefits to working with mentorship committees, suggestions based on their experiences, the importance of a diverse committee, practical considerations for a positive mentorship experience, and how mentorship can contribute to academic success.

If you have questions about mentorship activities at the University of Saskatchewan, please contact: Dr. Jim Thornhill, Co-Lead of University Mentorship Program at jim.thornhill@usask.ca.

Complying with the Tri-Agency Open Access Policy on Publications


By Diane (DeDe) Dawson, Science Liaison Librarian, University Library

The new Tri-Agency Open Access Policy on Publications came into effect on May 1st 2015. This policy applies to all grants awarded from that day and onward (exception: CIHR has had this policy in place since Jan 1, 2008). This blog post is intended to be a handy, practical introduction to the policy and how to comply.

The Policy Details:

“Grant recipients are required to ensure that any peer-reviewed journal publications arising from Agency-supported research are freely accessible within 12 months of publication” (emphasis my own).

There are two routes to achieve this:

  1. Online Repositories (a.k.a. the “Green” route)
    Grant recipients can deposit their final, peer-reviewed manuscript into an institutional or disciplinary repository that will make the manuscript freely accessible within 12 months of publication. It is the responsibility of the grant recipient to determine which publishers allow authors to retain copyright and/or allow authors to archive journal publications in accordance with funding agency policies.
  1. Journals (a.k.a. the “Gold” route)
    Grant recipients can publish in a journal that offers immediate open access or that offers open access on its website within 12 months. Some journals require authors to pay article processing charges (APCs) to make manuscripts freely available upon publication. The cost of publishing in open access journals is an eligible expense under the Use of Grant Funds.

Tips and Tools for Complying:

Green/Repository Route:

  • You do not need to publish in an OA journal – just make sure that the journal you want to publish in complies with the Tri-Agency OA Policy. This means the journal/publisher must allow you to post a copy of the manuscript in a repository within 12 months of publication (often known as the “embargo period”).
    • Check Sherpa/Romeo for publisher’s policies.
    • Carefully read your Copyright Transfer Agreement (CTA) when publishing; negotiate with the publisher to keep the rights you need to post a copy (use an addendum tool).
    • Make sure you post the proper version of the article. Most publishers permit posting of the “post-print” or “author’s accepted version” (the final copy of the manuscript after peer-review and after final revisions have been made). Sherpa/Romeo and your CTA will tell you which version is acceptable to post by your publisher.
  • Currently the U of S does not have an institutional repository, but there are a growing number of disciplinary repositories that you can post to. Search the Directory of Open Access Repositories (OpenDOAR).
  • Posting on your own website is not enough. You must also post in an institutional or disciplinary repository. Although the Tri-Agency has not clearly stated this, it is likely that posting in a social network site like ResearchGate is also not an acceptable route to compliance.

Gold/Open Access Journals Route:

The Green and Gold routes are not mutually exclusive. If you publish in an OA journal, you can still post a copy to a repository. In fact this is encouraged. Why not have your article available in more than one location? It will increase discoverability, accessibility, and ultimately readership and citations!

All of these resources (and more!) are listed on the University Library’s Open Access Guide.

This is a modified version of a blog post originally posted on May 1st 2015 here: http://words.usask.ca/openaccess/2015/05/01/complying-with-the-new-tri-agency-oa-policy/

What is the science behind your course design madness?


By Fred Phillips, Professor, Baxter Scholar, Edwards School of Business

As we begin another year, students are encountering some of the course design decisions made by their instructors. Some will be introduced to “flipped classrooms”, where students prepare by reading/viewing/responding to a learning prompt before it is formally taken up in class. Others will encounter new learning tools, such as adaptive reading systems that embed interactive questions within reading materials with the goal of assessing each student’s comprehension so that new topics can be delivered the moment he or she is ready to comprehend them.

Just as instructors have questions about these approaches and tools, students are likely to be curious about whether there is a method to our course design madness. To help explain the underlying learning science, I have made a few videos that describe relevant (and fun) studies that lend support to these pedagogies. Each video focuses on a particular question that students (and possibly instructors) are likely to have about elements of their courses. Each video describes two or three relevant studies in just enough depth to convey the gist of how they were designed and what they discovered. And, in the spirit of a TED Talk, they are each less than 10 minutes in length.

My thought with these videos is that instructors can send each link to students at the moment they expect their students will be asking the particular question, or they can provide them en masse. My hope is that the videos will help students appreciate why our courses might be designed as they are. And, if we’re really lucky, the videos will inspire our campus community to learn more about the scholarship of teaching and learning. Enjoy!

1. Why do we have so many tests? (7 min 24 sec)

  • Students often wonder why I plan frequent quizzes and exams throughout the term.

2. Why attempt to answer questions before “being taught”? (7 min 22 sec)

  • Students often think that there isn’t benefit in attempting to answer questions before they are formally taught content.

3. Is easier and more convenient learning better? (8 min 54 sec)

  • Is it more effective for students to have a cramming study session or to study throughout the term? When practicing, should students group questions of similar type or mix different question types? Does use of analogies help or hinder student learning?

Undergraduate Research: Co-Publishing With Students


By Jason Perepelkin, Assistant Professor, College of Pharmacy and Nutrition

Passive listening and dumping information on exams doesn’t give students the depth of learning and experience that lasts beyond the scope of a course. Having students engage with practitioners and specialists and in a real world environment helps students learn more deeply; chasing grades doesn’t do this but chasing experience does.

The elective fourth year course Marketing for Pharmacists is designed for up to 20 students. The course is a project based course where students, working in groups of two to three, work directly with a practicing pharmacist. By working directly with practitioners, on an issue identified by the practitioner, the students learn, in a hands-on manner, about a specific practice site, while the practitioner learns about marketing and how it can be used to enhance practice.

In the first year the course was offered there were 20 students, which is the maximum. This year, 6 students were enrolled, and as a result it could be run much more as a seminar. Half way through the course I thought (out loud), based on the enriching discussions around current events in pharmacy, if I was thinking we would’ve written a manuscript on these issues. The students came back a week later and said “can we do this?” I said only if all of you are willing to be involved. They said yes, so I approached a journal to see if they would be interested in an article surrounding our class discussions; the journal responded indicating their interest.

After working on the article as a group, and in consultation with myself, we submitted the manuscript for peer-review to the Canadian Pharmacists Journal at the beginning of December. In early January we received notification that our manuscript was accepted for publication, but required some minor revisions first. Since the students were not in the course anymore, and were out on experiential learning rotations across the country, I wasn’t sure if I was the one that would be completing the revisions; however, the students jumped at the chance to revise the manuscript, and even spoke of how they learnt, from the reviewers, how the manuscript can be enhanced. This allowed the students to experience the entire process, from the idea, to the research and drafting of the manuscript, to receiving feedback from peer-reviewers, and ultimately to acceptance. The manuscript was accepted the day after the revised manuscript was resubmitted, and will be published in the May/June 2015 issue.

I am not sure if this would work as well as it did, especially since it arose – after the course was half completed – from an organic process of critical thinking and discussion in class, with a different group because the maturity of the group and their willingness to cooperate was very high. As a sign of maturity, at the beginning of the course when students are to form groups of their choice, all agreed they were willing to work with anyone in the course (despite not being in the same ‘clicks’), and therefore I put all of their names in a hat and randomly selected members of each group.

Some students want to do this sort of a project and these students are the ones working on projects before they even start the course. If enrollment increased, it would be harder to ensure all papers got published and this could lead to disappointment for the students. A smaller class allows full participation in the publishing process, and in the course as a whole.

Context is incredibly important in making this work. For some students in this college marks are not as important as experience and peer-accountability is in motivating them to first enroll in the course, and second engage in the course and project. This sort of course gives students a different experience from traditional pharmacy courses, and brings recognition to other concerns such as how marketing can be used to better meet the needs of patients and the health care system as a whole. This is the first course of its kind in Canada, and provides those students that take the course the ability to learn a unique skill set that is not readily available once they enter practice; there are only a minimal number of continuing education opportunities in the area of marketing.

Developing ePublications


By Adrienne Thomas and Wayne Giesbrecht (Media Production)

With discussion surrounding open resources, this is a good time to talk about actually developing epublications and ebooks. For the past 3 years, Media Production (formerly eMAP) has been working with faculty and content creators to realize epub resources. With each new project, we have learned more about what to do and how to do it – an ongoing lesson as the software, media files and platforms continue to evolve.

Interprofessional Skills Learning GuideWithin the university environment, we are all concerned with the development of unique and immersive material to be used for information, education, research or knowledge mobilization purposes. If you want to make your content available as an epublication, you need to first determine who your end users are, and secondly, how they will access the material. Once you have made these decisions, it is a matter of formatting your content and designing a publication which will meet your informational or educational objectives to greatest effect. This can be a relatively easy process such as a PDF document converted to an epub format for web browser access to a more involved publication with media-rich/interactive content to be distributed across multiple supported platforms.

When thinking about access for your readers, you will also need to determine if this material will be open or free, or if it will be monetized and distributed commercially. If you self-publish, there is an opportunity for not only creative control, but price control. This was a major consideration for Dr. Bruce Grahn when he decided to e-publish his last textbook Ocular Diseases of Companion Animals for international distribution. Working with Dr. Grahn and the associated contributors, we formatted a full reflow etextbook, navigated account setups, acquired an ISBN and the required approvals (with associated proprietary file formats!) from commercial distributors. The textbook is now available for purchase on ITunes and Google Play.

The creation of the text was cost effective and any future revisions will automatically be updated in all distributed editions at no extra cost to the end user.

A media-rich experience and end user access were the requirements when we started working on an interprofessional education guide for the College of Medicine. There was a need for flexible access which would allow for independent learning or small discussion groups via mobile devices. Working with Heather Ward and Dylan Chipperfield, this project allowed us to develop an ebook which used video to moderate the content and present simulations. Embedding video within the epub presented interesting challenges, particularly for multi-platform access. When adding media-rich content (video, audio, animations, quizzes etc.), file size, reflow and platform incompatibility can be problematic and requires more consideration in layout and formatting. The project, Interprofessional Skills Learning Guide, was completed and is now accessed by health care professionals through the College of Medicine website, on ITunes and Google Play.

`Traditional publishers are invested in ebooks, it is an emerging technology likely to hold. It is also a gateway to open source educational materials and immersive experiences for students.

For more information about creating an eBook, please contact Adrienne at (306) 966-4280 or Wayne at (306) 966-4287.

Mental Illness, Disability, and the Inclusive Classroom


By Adam Pottle, Graduate Fellow

In its Campus Climate survey report, which was released in November 2014, the University of Saskatchewan identified a number of areas it needs to improve in terms of making students feel safe and comfortable. The survey summary, which can be found at http://www.usask.ca/ipa/documents/Assessment/Surveys/2014_campusclimatesurvey_summaryreport.pdf, reports that

 [s]ome students in minority groups had less positive experiences when compared to their counterparts, especially some Aboriginal students, other visible minority students, sexual minority students, and some students with a disability. On average, those indicating a mental health condition generally had fewer positive experiences than all other students. (4)

The survey goes on to state that “57% of those with a mental health condition reported they either considered leaving or did leave the U of S” and that students “with a mental health condition…were twice as likely to report experiencing insensitive behaviour, exclusion, harassment and/or discrimination as compared to the overall survey population” (4). These results are troubling, especially given recent nationwide efforts to generate awareness and discussion, such as Bell’s “Let’s Talk” program. Clearly, more work is needed.

Mental illness has long been a stigmatized condition, namely because it is difficult for people to understand. In the classroom, it is easier to understand and include students with physical disabilities because any hindrance to accessibility assumes a tangible, physical form. Spaces can be rearranged; lectures can be recorded; hearing devices can be implemented. Mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, and paranoia cannot be seen with the naked eye. They are obscure, and because we tend to fear what we do not understand, we stigmatize these conditions.

To help provoke dialogue around this subject, and to help instructors devise teaching strategies to promote accessibility, the Gwenna Moss Centre has created a workshop called “The Inclusive Classroom: Fostering Accessibility for Students with Disabilities.” The first offering of this workshop will be held on Monday February 9, 2015 from 1:30 to 4 PM and will feature presenters from Disability Services, the Canadian Mental Health Association, and the Learning Disabilities Association of Saskatchewan. Although the workshop will consider all disabilities, it will focus on mental illness and learning disabilities because these two conditions most commonly affect students at the University of Saskatchewan. Participants will discuss how to create open, inclusive classrooms and how to employ diverse teaching strategies for students with disabilities. This workshop will hopefully generate productive dialogue and help diminish the stigma of disability and mental illness.

The workshop will be held Murray 102. To register, please visit the events page on Gwenna Moss website and scroll down to February 9.

What A Good Leader Does to Enable Good Teaching


By Jay Wilson, Department Head and Associate Professor, Curriculum Studies & Fellow at the GMCTE

As a result of a number of encounters this week my thoughts turned towards the important role of leadership in educational institutions. Here I will share the reasons why I think leadership is valuable. The thoughts are not groundbreaking or especially new but it is important to remind ourselves why strong leadership makes our organizations successful.

The characteristics that true leaders possess are instrumental in the success of our institutions. The list of traits includes many descriptors such as mentor, advocate, and champion. To put things in context, people need to know that those of us who work in public institutions are inundated with a variety of factors that may influence our work as teachers. Pressure from those who do not understand our process or our content can be immense. The outside lens that ranges from casual observations to formal ratings, can attempt to undermine our life’s work. Without a true understanding of our world the general public may see us negatively as a result of the opinions of others.

It is during these times that we are reminded about the importance of strong leaders. It is their job to understand and reinforce an institution’s mission or objectives. They are able to tune out the negative waves and remind members of an organization why what they are doing matters and why it is important to follow the plan. Leaders build confidence in teaching staff by reminding them that what they are doing matters and in the end those who do not have a clear picture will be surprised by the results. When a strong sense of confidence exists, teaching staffs are empowered. Confident faculty members take chances for the benefit of their students and innovate for the health of their institution. Leadership develops, fosters, and maintains this confidence. Organizations without good leadership move back and forth searching for a better way or trying to please others. Mentorship is also a key trait of good leadership. It involves working with those who have a new or creative idea. Not saying “no” – but saying “why not” – builds a positive spirit in an organization. Advocacy is important. If we do not look after each one of our staff and value their contributions then we are missing out. Bigger and brighter is not always the answer. The programs that exist to fill an important role need to be protected and maintained. Good leaders recognize this need. They promote and protect which is not always the easy choice. Riding along with successful self-sustaining projects is not leadership. Helping instructors to grow passions into programs that support and nurture others is a true sign of leadership.

Keep these thoughts in mind if you are in a position of leadership or aspire to be in one. Your job is to be active and involved to support people and programs.

College of Education Adopts Use of ePortfolios


By Tim Molnar, Assistant Professor, College of Education

The College of Education recently implemented an electronic portfolio system (ePort) called Mahara™. This open source ePort emerged from a collaborative venture funded by several post secondary institutions and government bodies in New Zealand. In Maori mahara means “to think, thinking, or thought.”

Mahara_logoOur intentions with implementing Mahara™ are to enhance teacher candidates’ learning by offering a place for the collection of evidence, analysis, representation and sharing relating to their experience as developing educators. Instructors and cooperating teachers have the opportunity to examine, assess and provide feedback to teacher candidates on their efforts and progress. Using Mahara™ also offers an opportunity for a teacher candidate to address the new Saskatchewan Teacher Certification Competencies (STCCs) being established by the Saskatchewan Ministry of Education and demonstrates our College commitment to meeting those competencies through our program. Instructors identify which of the STCC’s align with their course outcomes and so allow teacher candidates opportunities to address the teaching competencies directly and through out their course of studies.

Using Mahara™ since 2008, with both undergraduate and graduate students, my first impressions of this software remain. Mahara™ is a flexible and adaptive environment that is highly configurable affording a wide variety of media (evidence) to be incorporated, made sense of, and shared with instructors, colleagues, potential employers and others. The drag and drop features of Mahara™ allow a user to quickly and efficiently develop a page or series of pages around a topic that include typical features such as text boxes, images, image galleries, PDF files and other embedded media. A journaling feature is available as well as the ability to call upon various Google Apps such as calendars, documents, books and maps integrated directly into a page. External media such as TeacherTube, Youtube, Prezi, Vimeo, Google Video, Slideshare and other media can be configured and integrated directly into the page one is crafting. If a user is inclined they can further craft their page or pages with HTML. A useful feature is the ability to create groups, which allow instructors or students to create places for sharing work (within course and program work but also publically). There exist also a resume tool that allows a user to develop a professional presence that can call upon the work that has been created in the portfolio. While no technology meets all demands it is intended to address, Mahara™ is a helpful and useful environment for meaning making and sharing.

I am looking forward to examining and acting on the challenges and benefits to our students, instructors and involved others as as we move forward with the use of Mahara™.

Twitter As A Catalyst for Science


By Jorden Cummings, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology

In May I had the pleasure of participating in a symposium at the annual Association for Psychological Science (APS) conference entitled Social Media as a Catalyst for Psychological Science. (The organizer of that symposium, Cedar Riener, wrote a great summary of our symposium  – including the slides from our talks). My own contribution was specifically about using Twitter as a psychological scientist. In fact, the very reason I was invited to participate in the symposium is because I follow Cedar Riener on Twitter, and responded to his tweet looking for someone to fill in for a symposium speaker who could no longer make the conference.https://g.twimg.com/Twitter_logo_blue.png

I started using Twitter more actively in my teaching (which is primarily online) a little over a year ago, as a way to connect with other researchers, and to disseminate the research activities my lab participates in. Even though not many of my colleagues follow me on Twitter, I get asked a lot about it: How does Twitter work? (I’m happy to show anyone). Does it take up a lot of time? (Not really, personally). Is it worth it? (For me, yes). Why should I use it? (More on that in a minute).

I also encourage my graduate students to utilize it as a means of self-promotion, to stay up to date on the research literature as it develops, and to connect with other scientists. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to convince many of them. (For great reasons on why graduate students should be part of Twitter, you should check out this blog post on the Thesis Whisperer).

For me, Twitter is a means of engaging in conversations with other scientists and “meeting” interesting people – many of whom I have since met face to face. Unexpectedly, my Twitter engagement has led to several research opportunities: the conference talk at APS in May, a research study currently under review (which was conducted entirely via Twitter), another manuscript in preparation, and an invitation to speak at A.I. Dupont Children’s Hospital in Wilmington, Delaware later this month.

Approximately 1 in 40 researchers is active on Twitter (Priem et al., 2012). Moreover, Twitter provides increased speed and breadth compared to traditional networking (e.g., local colleagues, conferences, and email; Darling et al., 2013). In fact, Darling and colleagues reported that, on average, a scientist’s Twitter following was 7 times larger than his or her home department. Furthermore, top cited articles can be, according to some data, predicted from tweeting frequency about the article (Eysenbach, 2011).

Why should you, as a researcher, use Twitter? For that I direct you to this excellent post by Hope Jahren: “What I Say When My Colleagues Ask Me If They Should Be On Twitter” as well as the article by Darling and colleagues (full text available online) that outlines how Twitter works and the advantages/disadvantages to using Twitter as a scientist. Twitter doesn’t work for everyone, but I encourage my students and colleagues to at least give it a try. For me, it has opened the door to multiple research opportunities in only a year. But more importantly, it has also offered me a large, personalized, and positive support network – which is well worth the (small) effort, regardless of what Twitter allows me to add to my CV.


Darling, E., Shiffman, D., Côté, I., & Drew, J. (2013). The role of Twitter in the life cycle of a scientific publication. Ideas in Ecology and Evolution, 6. 32-43

Eysenbach, G. (2011). Can tweets predict citations? Metrics of social impact based on Twitter and correlation with traditional metrics of scientific impact. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 13, e123.

Priem, J., Piwowar, H. A., & Hemminger, B. M. (2012). Almetrics in the wild: Using social media to explore scholarly impact. arXiV preprint arXiV:1203.4745.





USask Professor Adopting Open Textbook


By Eric Micheels, Assistant Professor, Department of Bioresource Policy, Business and Economics

The following post was written by Eric Micheels of the University of Saskatchewan and was originally published on his blog on October 6, 2014, under the title, The Economic of Economics Textbooks. It is reprinted here with his permission.

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of having a meeting with Heather Ross, an instructional design specialist at the University of Saskatchewan, where we discussed open-access textbooks. The meeting came about after a conversation on twitter where I mentioned that I was considering adopting an open-access text for AGRC 113, a course that has a heavy micro-economics base but tends to drift into more practical applications and current issues in the agri-food industry. In the past three years, I have gone through the gauntlet of texts. I started with an agricultural economics text (Drummond and Goodwin), then changed to the more popular microeconomics texts. In years 2 and 3, I used McConnell, Brue, Flynn, and Barbiero and Mankiw, Kneebone and McKenzie. I decided to go away from the agricultural economics texts as 1) I think it helps agricultural students to see the broader picture, and 2) these texts were the ones used by ECON 111, the main prerequisite for my course.

However, not all students take my course immediately after they take ECON 111 (for whatever reason). Therefore they get stung with the pain of selling their text back to the bookstore after ECON 111 only to have to buy a newer version at a higher price point a couple semesters later. The Economist had a recent post that discussed the steep increase in textbook prices (which is in itself an economics lesson in captive markets and inelastic demand). This led me to a search for a better option for these students while also not causing undue financial strain on students who are taking the course in the recommended sequence.

Through BC Open Campus, I was able to review a completely open-access text authored by Timothy Taylor of Macalester College that I think rivals those of McConnell and Mankiw. In terms of economic material, the Taylor text covers the same material as the McConnell and Mankiw texts, while also providing more detailed coverage on information, risk and insurance, and financial markets. These two topics are pretty important in agricultural systems, so I view their inclusion as a real advantage. The chapters give adequate detail of economic concepts while also including text boxes that show how the concepts can be applied to current issues in the world. The Taylor text also provides a variety of self-review questions at the end of each chapter that allows students to see which concepts are clear and which require further study. For instructors, the publisher provides access to all the normal accoutrements (solutions manual, PowerPoint slides, test bank) that other non-open-access texts also provide.

In terms of benefit cost, I think that the Taylor text is a clear winner. It provides the a strong foundation in the core concepts of microeconomics (scarcity, consumer choice, supply and demand, market structure, externalities, and trade) while also providing detailed material on two other important topics: risk and information and financial markets. It does this at a cost much below those of McConnell and Mankiw. One negative of the Taylor text is that it is written for undergraduate students attending U.S. colleges and universities. While this may be an issue for some students and will require a bit of legwork on my part to bring in Canadian examples, I still feel the benefits of the open-access text far outweigh the costs.

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