2014 Higher Ed Horizon Report Released


Every year the New Media Consortium (NMC) and EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative release a series of reports on what they see as the coming trends in learning technologies. One such report looks specifically at higher education and the 2014 edition was recently released.

While the report has always included what these groups see as the “important developments” that will be adopted in this area in three time frames (within one year, in two to three years, and in four to five years), this year’s report also includes “Key Trends Accelerating EdTech Adoption in Higher Education” and “Significant Challenges Impeding EdTech Adoption in Higher Education”.

The “key trends” are broken down by likeliness and the expected time frame until they “create substantive change”, while the “significant challenges” are in categories of “solvable”, “difficult” and “wicked”.

Both of the “important developments” that they see as being adopted within the next year are already happening here at the University of Saskatchewan – flipped teaching and the use of learning analytics. Contact the GMCTE for more information on these initiatives.

You can read the entire report or a shorter “Preview” version on the NMC Website.

The following is a brief video summary of the report.

Using Google Hangouts to Bring in Guest Speakers


This post was originally published on Heather Ross’s blog on February 28, 2014.

I’m considering myself very fortunate that I’m the instructor for Introduction to Learning Technologies. I get to meet with students in the blended cohort. I get to communicate with participants in both groups through email, Twitter, Facebook and Google+, and a couple of weeks ago I got to sit down and have a Google Hangout with John Boyer, a geography professor at Virginia Tech. He’s done some amazing things with learning technologies in his World Regions course.

I started following John some time ago on Twitter and he was kind enough to respond to my tweets and follow me back. While planning this course I got it in my head that he would make a great guest speaker. During initial planning I thought that I could bring him in through Skype to chat with the students in the blended cohort during one of our face-to-face sessions, but then we decided to offer the course as a TOOC so I had to come up with an alternative.

In early 2013 I took a MOOC on Gender Through Comic Books through Ball State with Christina Blanch as the instructor. Every week she brought in guest speakers to this online class using Google Hangouts. This allowed the sessions to be live, open and recorded for viewing later. Students were able to watch the sessions live from wherever they happen to be and send in questions to the speaker through Twitter (questions could have been emailed to the instructor ahead of time as well).

I asked John if this would be acceptable to him (the live, open and recorded part) and he was all for it. We did a test on the Friday before our live session on Monday February 10. John had his technical advisor Katie at his side and all went well for the test, which thankfully was the story for the live session as well.

I received a couple of questions from students through email before hand and the Twitter stream (the course hashtag is #ilt_usask) was a buzz with questions for John that I relayed to him during our hour long chat so that he didn’t need to watch Twitter. He was gracious, insightful, funny and I can completely understand why he literally has thousands of students wanting to take his course.

Everything worked perfectly with only a few second delay between our conversation and what others were seeing live. The link for the live stream automatically became the link for the recording which meant that I didn’t need to make any changes once I initially posted it.

As I was setting up my laptop in our unit’s boardroom, Ryan Banow reminded me that I should use an ethernet cable to hardwire my Internet connection instead of relying on wireless. This is very good advice if you’re going to live stream a Hangout. Also, I picked the boardroom for the quite and used headphones to reduce chances of feedback from my laptop’s speakers.

Overall, this was an amazing experience for me and have heard only positive feedback from those who have watched it. You can view the entire recording below. If you have any questions about how I did this or the course in general, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Pedagogy First When Selecting Learning Technologies


I teach the Introduction to Learning Technologies course from the GMCTE. In the past I’ve also taught a similar course for undergraduate students in the College of Education and over the past several years I’ve given a number of workshops on to the topic. I always give the same one bit of advice and the same caveat related to learning technologies. The advice is to never put post anything online, including in an email that you wouldn’t want your mother, your boss or your grandchildren to see. You don’t want to embarrass Mom or get fired from your job, and your content will be out there long enough for your grandchildren to see it, whether you want it to be or not.

Hammer and Screw

The caveat has to do with coming to me for help with learning technologies. I welcome you coming to me with an educational experience that you want to create or improve, possibly with the help of learning technologies. Do not come to me with a shiny new technology and ask me to help you find a use for it. I liken this to going to a hardware store and buying a hammer and then going home searching for a nail to drive into a wall and discovering that you have things that need to be done that would be better accomplished if you had a miter saw or even simply some carpenter’s glue.

Before selecting a particular learning technology for use in teaching and learning, you need to be clear of what need you are going to meet with it, much like when choosing a teaching strategy or type of assessment. Pedagogy must come first. For a given situation an enterprise solution, such as Blackboard or Echo 360 might be best pedagogically for your students. But perhaps what will be best, again pedagogically, for your students may be a free and / or open source tool like Mahara (for ePortfolios) or Skype. And the reality is that there are many situations where the best pedagogical solution will still be pen and paper (which are also considered learning technologies).

The point is, don’t try to use a hammer for a job that calls for a screw driver or paper clip just because you want to try a new tool or it’s the one your most comfortable with. Choose a tool based on what will help you accomplish your goal. Choose a learning technology that will be the best pedagogical solution for you and your students given the learning goals you want to meet, never the other way around.

Picture courtesy of Justin Baeder via Flickr with a Creative Commons license (Attribution – Some rights reserved)

What Do We Mean by ‘Open’?


As I wrote about in an earlier post, the GMCTE is launching what we believe is the first “open” online course from the University of Saskatchewan. Introduction to Learning Technologies is being offered simultaneously to both a small blended cohort (mostly online, with five face-to-face sessions) and a much larger open group of participants. This course is designed for faculty, instructors and grad students who wish to learn more about effective uses of learning technologies. Participants will explore pedagogically-informed use of blogs, podcasts, social bookmarking and a host of other tools, in addition to considering the implications of copyright and Creative Commons, digital citizenship and digital literacy for their teaching practice.


Many of you have probably heard the term MOOC, which stands for Massive Open Online Course, but the prevailing model for most MOOCs these days involves the course being housed in a closed platform such as that used by Coursera. Participants must register to view the course content and materials cannot be used outside of that course. Participants usually only communicate with others in the course and sometimes not even then, and yet the first “O” in MOOC stands for “open”, something most are not.

The open course from the GMCTE is what we consider to be a truly open online course or TOOC. The course is built on the open source blogging platform, WordPress and all materials developed by GMCTE carry Creative Commons licenses, allowing anyone to use, remix and share them. While participants are encouraged to register to make it easier to reach those interested in completing the course as a cohort and to get an idea of who is going through the course, it is not required to access the course materials.

The open nature of the TOOC not only benefits participants directly through their ability to learn from a variety of perspectives, but also the designer and course facilitator, which in this case is me. With almost two weeks to go until the course officially launches, I have already received valuable feedback provided by other educators who are not registered, but have browsed the course materials.

You can view the course materials and register on the course site, and follow the course hasthag, #ilt_usask on Twitter.

GMCTE to Launch First Open Online Course From USask


On January 21, 2014, the Gwenna Moss Centre for Teaching Effectiveness (GMCTE) will launch the first open online course (OOC) from the University of Saskatchewan, Introduction to Learning Technologies. This course, aimed at novices, will invite participants to explore pedagogically informed use of blogs, podcasts, social bookmarking and a host of other tools, in addition to considering the implications of copyright and Creative Commons, digital citizenship and digital literacy for their teaching practice.

The course was initially designed to be a blended course with a small group of participants coming in for face-to-face class meetings five times throughout the term, but with the bulk of the materials being open to anyone who wished to access them. Jim Greer, Nancy Turner and I decided to stick with that small cohort who will receive hands-on help throughout the course, but to simultaneously run it as an OOC.

All videos included in the course are on YouTube, all readings are from freely available online sources, and the course itself carries a Creative Commons license.

All 15 spots available for the on-campus cohort are already filled, but registration for the OOC is unlimited. A registration link is on the home page of the course.

The GMCTE is excited to be starting 2014 off by continuing to offer informative, engaging programs including Introduction to Learning Technologies. We hope that you will join us. For more information about this course specifically, please see the video below or feel free to browse through the course itself. For more on our other offerings, please see the GMCTE Website.

GMCTE YouTube Channel Filled With Open Resources


The Gwenna Moss Centre for Teaching Effectiveness, as a unit, is a proponent of “open” resources in education. We’ve created a number of digital and print resources that we’ve added Creative Commons licenses, we opened all of the content from our Introduction to Teaching Online course (another course will be open starting in the January 2014, but that will be discussed in a future blog post) and we help to educate the campus community about open access resources.

In 2012, the GMCTE launched our YouTube channel where we have videos on a wide variety of topics including course design, experiential learning, flipped teaching, curriculum renewal, learning technologies, teaching strategies and all of the videos from the Introduction to Teaching Online course. As of the writing of this post, there are approximately 125 videos on the GMCTE YouTube channel, all bearing Creative Commons licenses.

Below is a video of a talk given by our new Program Director, Nancy Turner, when she visited the U of S about six months ago. Her talk, “Open Education as a Disruptive Force in Higher Education” seems appropriate for this blog post.

GMCTE Welcomes New Program Director

The Gwenna Moss Centre for Teaching Effectiveness is pleased to welcome our new Program Director, Nancy Turner.

Nancy TurnerHer role, which she assumed on November 1 involves strategic leadership of the Centre and leading and contributing to institutional initiatives to enhance learning and teaching.

Nancy has returned to Saskatchewan after a decade working in London England, most recently as Associate Dean of Learning, Teaching and Enhancement at the University of the Arts London where her work focused on initial and continuing professional development of faculty, technology enhanced learning, reward and recognition for teaching, student engagement and open education. Her main areas of research are professional development and change in Higher Education, self-belief and open academic practice.

Nancy has taught for over a decade in Canadian Higher Education in classroom, laboratory and online learning environments and has lead curriculum design and delivery at Masters level in the UK.

Using Google Forms for Student Feedback


My colleague here at the GMCTE, Kim West  introduced me to integrating formative feedback into my classes. Through this I get some valuable feedback from students about my teaching and the course in general, and it goes a long way in helping to build rapport between me and the students. Following Kim’s lead I would print out sheets of paper that had four instances of a feedback form asking questions like, “What’s one thing you learned today?” or “What questions do you have after this week’s classes?”. I would cut them into four and take them to class. They were voluntary, but students completed them in high numbers.

Students would complete these on Thursdays and every Tuesday I would go over the overall themes and address questions or concerns. It took about five minutes at the end of Thursday’s class and about the same at the beginning of Tuesday’s.

One Thursday last term I forgot my slips and quickly recreated that day’s feedback form using a Google Form.  At the end of class, instead of handing out the slips, I posted the link to the online form and told students what this was about. The rate of completion was roughly the same, and I was able to email the link to students who weren’t there on that day, but had been in class on Tuesday, giving those students and opportunity to offer feedback and ask questions. On the following Tuesday, when I went over the results, the students told me that they wanted to always do the formative feedback this way.

I was all for this. I saved trees, didn’t have to print and then cut the slips and Google Forms automatically took the data and created an easy to read spread sheet with it. There was no downside.

Google Forms can be used for surveying students about a number of topics, as well as a sign up sheet for presentations or meetings. Creating them is easy, as you can see in the video below. To share the form with the students, simply copy the URL from the live version and email it to students, post it in BBLearn or add put it on a screen during your class (in a slide for example). To create a shorter version of the URL (especially useful when putting it on a screen in class) you can use Bitly.com or one of the other URL shortening sites.

The Importance of Technology Integration Across a Program

At the recent EdMedia conference in Victoria, BC, I noted a recurring theme around the integration of learning technologies. Many people were talking about the ongoing issue of these technologies being used in a course here and there as opposed to being integrated across programs. There are a number of problems with this approach to learning technologies.

Blogs and ePortfolios can both be useful tools for students to assemble evidence of their learning, reflect and show their growth. When these are only used in a course or two throughout a students program, the blogs and ePortfolios are often incomplete, interrupted (if used in two courses at different points in a program), have less depth and the students see little value (the same is also true of non-electronic student portfolios).

It makes more sense to the students if these tools are used throughout their programs as opposed to the current smattering that many of them encounter. In addition to the reasons mentioned above, there are some significant advantages to programs making a concerted effort to use the same or similar technologies.

Students can see a greater connection between courses when their work and reflections on each course are collected into a cohesive volume. They may also find it easier to reference earlier materials when beginning work on a capstone project for a program.

Less time can be spent showing students how to use a type of technology, whether it’s a blogging or ePortfolio platform, clickers, wikis, Blackboard, etc. if courses across a program use the same types of technologies, something that will be seen as a benefit by both students and faculty.

A concerted integration of technologies throughout a program also creates an opportunity for instructors to support each other in the use of these tools in their teaching and learning (yes, instructors should be using many of these same tools for reflection, collaboration and growth).

If you’re interested in learning more about using learning technologies for teaching and learning at the U of S, please see our Web pages related to Educational Technology, register for the new Introduction to Learning Technologies course or contact us at the GMCTE for consultation. If you are looking for more technical assistance with learning technologies, please contact ICT.

Formative Feedback For Improving the Teaching and Learning Experience

In January of 2012 I taught my first university level course in the College of Education. It went “OK”, but not great. I had a good rapport with many of the 24 students, but no overall sense of connections with the class as a whole. Some of the comments on the SEEQ at the end of the term really surprised me and made me question myself as an educator. Teaching students is not a required part of my job, but rather an opportunity, and I was left wondering whether I wanted to let the opportunity slip away.

Instead, I looked over the SEEQ results for recurring themes and looked back on any notes that I had made throughout the term. Based on these and discussions with colleagues I made some significant changes to the course.

It’s a very hands-on course in educational technology (ETAD 470) where students learn about the technical and pedagogical aspects of using blogs, wikis, podcasts, social bookmarking and other tools for teaching and learning. I realized that a multiple choice, matching, short answer and essay question type final exam probably wasn’t a great way of assessing what I wanted the students to be learning, so I dropped it and increased how much the practical projects were worth.


I also listened to the students feedback about how little value they saw in the mid-term project so I completely changed it to something they might actually have to do once teaching in a school system.

Finally, and this is really the key point of this post, I took the advice of my colleague, Kim West and implemented the use of formative feedback from the students. The class met on Tuesday and Thursdays and each Thursday I handed out a “two-minute memo” or other such slip of paper to try to gauge student understanding and concerns. On Tuesday I would go over the questions and points raised by the students on those slips (without using any names). Students had to option to leave off their names unless they had a personal note they wanted me to respond to, yet overwhelmingly students included their names, which I took as a sign of trust.

On one Thursday I forgot the slips in my office so quickly created a version using a Google Form. The students were happy with this different format so I stuck with it for the rest of the term. The responses from the students automatically ended up in a Google spreadsheet for me to easily review. I put the URL to the form on my last slide of the day and also emailed it to students (so I reached students who weren’t there that day). This would be a great way to do formative feedback in a large class as well because the collection of “data” would be automated.

I made it clear to the students at the start of the term that I had made changes based on comments from the previous year’s students and that I would be eliciting their feedback through these memos and the SEEQ for continuing changes in the class.

My impression was that the rapport in this class was far better than in the previous and this was confirmed when I received my SEEQ results. They made me feel all warm and fuzzy with comments about me as a teacher, which of course is great, but they spoke of the whole experience in the same way. They were invested in the course because A) they saw the practical assignments and activities as learning experiences that they would utilize beyond the end of the term and B) they had somewhat of a say in how the class evolved and in how it would be changed for future students.

Formative feedback like I used doesn’t have to be administered every week. It should be done as often as is appropriate to stay in touch with what your students are thinking about the learning experience (are they confused, can they hear you in the back of the room, do they love your use of examples, etc.). It should be done to find out what tweaks or larger changes you should make to your course. It should be done with an open mind. It should be done to shape the changes you think you need to make and make the teaching and learning experience better for everyone.

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