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e.SCAPE 2015: teaching for tomorrow

This month, Concordia’s annual eLearning conference tackles the future of digital education
October 6, 2015
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By Tom Peacock

e.SCAPE: “We’re trying to think about how we engage our students and train them for the future.” “We’re trying to think about how we engage our students and train them for the future.”

What defines good teaching at Concordia? That’s the question at the heart of this year’s edition of e.SCAPE, the university’s annual eLearning conference.

Open to all faculty, staff and students, e.SCAPE is designed to promote discussion around digital education, and to get people thinking in new ways about how technology can contribute to and improve students’ learning experience at the university.

Jen Ross Jen Ross, e.SCAPE's key speaker

This year’s edition, scheduled for October 14, will feature a keynote address by digital education expert Jen Ross from the University of Edinburgh. The co-author of the Manifesto for Teaching Online will deliver her talk using the Blue Jeans video conferencing software now available at Concordia.

The choice to have Ross present remotely was a conscious one, explains Catherine Bolton, vice-provost of Teaching and Learning. “We want to give professors end everyone else attending e.SCAPE a small taste of the online learning experience enjoyed by some of their students, because for a lot of us, it’s still very new.”

In her talk, Ross will discuss emerging challenges and opportunities in digital education. Her experience in the field is extensive: she ran the University of Edinburgh’s Masters of Science program in Digital Education for three years, and developed her own massively open online course (MOOC) called eLearning and Digital Cultures. Ross is also a member of the Digital Cultures and Education research group.
 

'Students are much more comfortable in the digital world'

Ross’s presentation will be broadcast on both the Loyola and Sir George Williams campuses. Audience members are invited to take part in a discussion afterward about the future direction of teaching at Concordia, and how technology will play into it.

Bolton says the conversation will serve as the launch pad for a broader, year-long project under way in Concordia’s Centre for Teaching and Learning to define good pedagogical practice at Concordia — part of the strategic directions initiative.

“We’re trying to get faculty members to think about what they value in their own practice. We’ll then use their feedback as the basis for a definition of good teaching that we can promote and adopt across the university, and that faculties can use as a basis for their own discipline-focused discussions.”

Asking big questions is important, particularly in an age where technology is constantly changing the way students learn, Bolton says.

“We’re trying to think about what we need to give to our students, how we engage with them, and how we train them for the future” she says.

“It’s clear to us that students are much more comfortable in the online, digital world than we are. They’re taking part in online courses and digitally enhanced courses at a very early stage in their careers, and if they come to university and wonder why there’s not more on offer, then we’re failing them.”

While there has been a gradual increase in the adoption of new teaching technologies and online course offerings at Concordia, Bolton says she would like to see more faculty members testing the waters and moving beyond some of their more traditional approaches to pedagogy.

“It will always be a challenge to take people out of their daily lives, so they can find out about what’s out there. But that’s why e.SCAPE is good, and this time particularly. You don’t have to leave your office if you can’t make it. You can apply for one of the licenses and join us online. We’re trying to make it as easy as possible for people to learn about these new technologies and new ways of thinking.”

 

e.SCAPE takes place on Wednesday, October 14, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in Room EV-2.260 of the Engineering, Computer Science and Visual Arts Integrated Complex (EV) on the Sir George Williams Campus (1515 Ste-Catherine W.), and in Room CC-101 of the Central Building on the Loyola Campus (7141 Sherbrooke W.).

The presentation by Jen Ross will be followed by an open discussion about teaching values at Concordia, part of the university’s strategic directions initiative. If you can’t make it in person, you can register to attend e.SCAPE online.

 



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