Insights from STLHE 2012 Conference – Montreal Quebec

My initial comment after attending the opening reception of the STLHE conference was that they didn't do much to help facilitate networking. I had connected with the person I already knew, and no one else. Fortunately, my first impressions of the conference could not have been more wrong. It turned out to be an awesome networking opportunity, as I was able meet people from a variety of institutions, in a variety of roles, and inquire of them about their professions and research (although mostly of their professions – as many of the people where educational developers).

One of the more useful things I learned at the conference was that there are career-oriented positions in educational development. I'm doing a PhD in Education, but a don't have a B.Ed. This means that I am not a K-12 teacher, and as a result, I am not qualified to teach most of the B.Ed. classes. It also means that if I want a tenure track faculty position, I'm limited to insitutions that have a Master's program in either distance education or learning technology. That is pretty restrictive! However, I now know that there are insitutions, such as Thompson Rivers University, that have tenure track employees who do both research and educational development – that is, their "teaching" responsibility is to work with professors to help them teach better. Since my research is all about helping university professors teach better, and my background is in instructional design and online learning development, I'm well suited for a position in educational development. It seems that many of the Universities with Centres for University Teaching (or equivalent), are moving towards having positions that combine both educational development (e.g. consulting with professors, creating and delivering workshops) and research in the area of SoTL (Scholarship of Teaching and Learning).

Other random things I picked up at the confernence:

  • University of Western Ontario has been renamed and rebranded as Western University.
  • SoTL stands for Scholarship of Teaching and Learning.
  • There are many names for faculty development including: educational development, academic development, professional development. Educational development is more common in Canada, and Academic development is common in Australia. A person who does educational development is an educational developer.
  • University of Calgary is lacking expertise in Program Evaluation (something that U of Ottawa does well).
  • "Understanding by Design" and "Teaching for Understanding" provide a framework for creating university courses that involves the development of a conceptual framework, so content isn't just presented as a series of topics.
  • Excellent use of Prezi at the Alan Blizzard Award Plenary.
  • Book recommendation: "iBrain: Surviving the technological alteration of the modern mind" by Small and Vorgan (2008)
  • Social media is not just Facebook and Twitter.
  • Facebook groups can be made "secret" which is private enough to make it through ethics for a Master's research project at Ontario Insitute of Technology.
  • Some professors use Twitter to share links to resources with their classes.
  • To increase student engagement, give them options to use social media but don't make it manditory – that is, make it possible but not required. For example, ask students to post an introduction in 140 characters or less (they can then either use Twitter or the course LMS).

As a result of this conference, I'll be looking at attending the Educational Developers Caucus in February, and definitely plan to return to STLHE next year in Cape Breton!

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