Shall I Google That For You?




A vital skill for faculty and students alike is to make effective use of search tools.  Google is used millions of times every minute yet most folks are using only a tiny fraction of Google’s ability.  In particular, when we wish to use Google for supporting our scholarly work, there are particular strategies, tactics, and features that everyone ought to know.

I recently came across a blog post at LifeHacker.com on “Google tips and tricks every student should know

The best part of this post was the 41 minute video resource (embedded below) on making effective use of Google Scholar. A default Scholar search results are normally sorted by relevance, rather than by date.  For example, to find newer articles you can click “Since Year” to show only recently published papers, or click “Sort by date”.  The library search link is also of great benefit.  Watch the video – it’s well worth your time.

Taskforce Identifies Gwenna Moss Centre Programs as “Candidate for Phase Out”




The University of Saskatchewan is currently engaged in a program prioritization process, known as TransformUS.  Two task forces were struck in April 2013 – one looking at academic programs and one looking at support services.  The programs of the Gwenna Moss Centre were analysed along with nearly 400 other support services representing every aspect of the university – from groundskeeping to human resources, from financial management to library services.  The support services task force consisted of 6 tenured faculty members, 10 professional staff members and 2 students.

The task force grouped programs into “quintiles” with descriptors:

  1. Candidate for enhanced resourcing
  2. Maintain with current resourcing
  3. Retain with reduced resourcing
  4. Reconfigure for efficiency/effectiveness
  5. Candidate for phase out, subject to further review

The programs (major functions) of the Gwenna Moss Centre were evaluated as follows:

  • Director’s Office – quintile 5 – Candidate for phase out, subject to further review.
  • Administrative & Operational Support – quintile 5 – Candidate for phase out, subject to further review.
  • Curriculum Development & Instructional Design – quintile 5 – Candidate for phase out, subject to further review.
  • Educational Development  – quintile 5 – Candidate for phase out, subject to further review.

This was a very surprising result for the leadership and staff of the Gwenna Moss Centre.  We wish to point out that this report of the task force is only the first step in the program prioritization process and that the report is presented as advice to the President and Provost, who will be making decisions regarding our future in the next few months.  The University is now engaged in a process of feedback and consultation (through January 31, 2014).

Public comments  are invited at http://words.usask.ca/transformus/reports/sstreport/ or you can post a comment below.  Private comments can be emailed to jim.greer@usask.ca or nancy.turner@usask.ca.

The full task force report is publicly available at http://words.usask.ca/transformus/files/2013/12/Support-Services-Report.pdf.

Decisions regarding the fate and future of the Gwenna Moss Centre and its programs will be forthcoming in the next few months.

Meantime the staff of the GMCTE will be continuing with business as usual.  We believe that the functions we perform for the campus are necessary and valuable.  All of our planned programming for the upcoming term will continue including:

  • Courses for faculty and graduate students
  • Our workshop and presentation series
  • Faculty teaching award programs
  • Indigenous Voices faculty and staff development gatherings,
  • Our SoTL symposium will happen in early May
  • Our curriculum innovation team will continue working with academic units as usual
  • Our instructional designers will be offering an online course in teaching with technology and running the course design institute in May
  • Consideration of funding requests to the Curriculum Innovation fund and Experiential Learning fund will continue

All commitments made to graduate students, faculty and academic units for consultations, curriculum support, course design and development, will be honoured as we work with University leaders to re-imagine our future.

Again, we invite your feedback.

An Update on Open Courseware at the U of S




Last year we ran a blog post about the Open Courseware (OCW) initiative which is a joint venture of ICT, SESD and the ULC at the U of S. This portal offers a gateway to every course offered at the UofS and provides a space where instructors may choose to open up course information or learning resources to the world.

There has been a lot of talk around the university lately about syllabi being open through OCW, which is now in accordance with the Academic Courses Policy. I thought that these conversations make it an appropriate time to write another post on this initiative.

Instructors have the option to choose whether and how much material appears on ocw.  Adding open content is done within the BBLearn Blackboard system by simply turning on Public Access for any individual documents an instructor wishes to make available.  Course syllabi are set by default as Public Access documents (but with one click, instructors may restrict access to syllabi, if they so choose).

It is important to know that copyright of course materials on the open courseware site remain with the instructor responsible for the course.  Unlike open courseware sites like the one at MIT, where every document has a standard Creative Commons license agreement, the UofS open courseware site has no such blanket policy.  Instructors remain the owners of their intellectual property.  Individual instructors may label their materials on ocw with a Creative Commons license if they wish, and are encouraged to do so.

A valuable resource that comes along with open courseware is the ability to search through the calendar descriptions of all UofS courseswith ease. A quick search for “sustainable” retrieves 21 courses from 8 different colleges and schools. A search for “experiential” retrieves options from 7 colleges.

This concept behind this easy to navigate site is gaining popularity in several other Canadian universities.  It’s good to see the UofS leading the country in this innovative approach to openness.

Dean Stoicheff Speaks on the Value of an Arts and Science Degree




The College of Arts and Science at the University of Saskatchewan is unique in Canada, bringing under a single college governance structure, 21 disciplinary departments ranging from fine arts and humanities to social and natural sciences.  The extreme diversity in disciplinary areas, along with the rich potential for interdisciplinary and multi-disciplinary programs within the College offersunique opportunities for students.

At our recent campus-wide Celebration of Teaching and Learning, Peter Stoicheff, Dean of the College of Arts and Science was invited to speak about the curriculum renewal process in the College.  The video clips below include his full 20-minute presentation as well as a shorter 6 minute excerpt.  Peter speaks to the value of an Arts and Science degree and references Chris Hedges’ Pulitzer prize-winning book, “The Empire of Illusion: the end of literacy and the triumph of spectacle”. Peter also offers as own vision and the College’s vision for interdisciplinary, theme-based programming that can offer a broader perspective and deeper insights for students about the world’s big issues and challenges. His are intriguing ideas worth exploring… “watch the movie!”

Curriculum Change in a Time of Transformation



This piece was previously published in the GMCTE publication Bridges.

As the University of Saskatchewan wrestles with program prioritization and all academic programs are thoroughly scrutinized, analysed, and criticized, there is a temptation to hunker down, do nothing, and wait for better times.  Academic units have just completed a major self-assessment of their core programs and naturally have put forward a strong case for continued support (and perhaps worked hard to justify the status quo).  It is risky to openly contemplate curricular change in an environment where admitting the need for change may risk resource loss or even program elimination.

Yet if the self-examination of academic programs has revealed some warts, redundancies, gaps, or misalignment, a tremendous opportunity is within reach.  In 2012 a major investment was made by the University of Saskatchewan in curricular innovation and experiential learning.  The University Learning Centre and Gwenna Moss Centre became the trustee of substantial central funds to support curricular renewal.  A $1.5 million fund for curriculum innovation and a slightly smaller fund for experiential learning projects was established – with the firm commitment to move every dollar into the academic units to support improvements to academic programs, enhancement of the student experience, and alignment with university areas of priority.  These funds span IP3, i.e. the years 2012-2016.

Many academic programs have received financial support through these funds; many more have utilized the curriculum design and instructional design help freely available from the Gwenna Moss Centre.  Many units have now established their desired program specific graduate attributes / program-level learning outcomes.  Some have not.  Many units have explored using the “Curriculum Alignment Tool” available through the Gwenna Moss Centre, to examine how individual courses contribute to their overall programs.  Some units have begun to explore, through surveys of their faculty, students, recent graduates, alumni, employers, and community stakeholders, what changes to their programs might be plausible and attractive.  If you haven’t, there’s no time better than now!

I want to add that consultations with our curriculum design specialists and instructional designers can be candid and confidential.  Units may feel vulnerable when taking an honest look at their programs during times of program prioritization, but an honest assessment with a neutral third-party can open exciting new possibilities.  The Gwenna Moss Centre is available to coach, facilitate, and even help to finance innovation ideas that will make academic programs and learning experiences richer for your students.

Find out more on our Curriculum Innovation Fund  or our Experiential Learning Fund web pages.

Copyright – Easing the Pain?



Canada’s new copyright bill has passed Parliament and Senate and there are several things instructors on our campus need to know.

1. What copyrighted electronic materials can I share with my students?

Answer: share links, but if you are copying or uploading articles for students to access, make sure copyright is cleared (I.e. open access materials, material for which you have publisher permission to reproduce, or material for which a license to copy is in place).

2. May I post a PDF article on my class Blackboard or Paws site?

Answer: NO, unless you have copyright clearance do so, or it is open access, creative commons, or created by you.

3. May I hand out printed copies of a copyrighted work in my class?

Answer: NO, unless you have copyright clearance do so, or it is open access, creative commons, or created by you.

4. Am I allowed to display copyrighted materials in class?

Answer: YES you can enable your students to view images or several other copyrighted works in your classroom by displaying them on a data projector.  The sources should be cited.  Video presentations from the open Web that you can access without a login or password (eg. YouTube, movie trailers or tv show clips) are ok to be shown.  Movies, sporting events, or TV shows that you record with your PVR or rent on a DVD cannot be re-transmitted in class without a performance licenses.

5. Does this mean I can include copyrighted material (images, tables, figures, etc.) in my PowerPoint slides?

Answer: Yes if it is for display purposes in your classroom and for subsequent posting of displayed materials on Paws or Blackboard.  Students need to be told not to re-distribute or reproduce the powerpoint slides other than for personal use in the class.  Such materials need to be taken down from Paws or Blackboard within 30 days after the class ends and students should be instructed to destroy any copies after that time as well.

6. What if I need to video-record or lecture-capture my classrooms presentations – do I need to to limit what is shown in my slides?

Answer: whatever you can show in class, you can also record in a UofS lecture-capture system for your students.  We view lecture capture as time-shifting the presentation of streamed classroom presentation for later viewing by registered students only.  It is not a copy that students or others can reproduce.

7. May I email a PDF file or other attachment containing a copyrighted document to my students, or my colleagues, or my research group?

Answer: NO, unless you have copyright clearance.

For more information about copyright at the U of S, please see the Copyright Management Website.

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