#OEORangers: Reflections on a Open Education Summit

The busyness of the day settles into my body as I turn toward the CN Tower and make my way, slowly, back to Union Station and the train that will take me west(ern) bound. I mindlessly traverse the cityscape. The chance to turn off my thinking brain is a welcome change of pace.

I’ve been at the inaugural Open Education Ontario Summit at OCAD University. All day long I’ve been busy turning over all kinds of big questions around Open Educational Resources, pedagogy, practices, policy, the 5Rs… the list goes on.

Having attended the day, I’ve been officially dubbed an ‘Open Ranger’.

[Insert originally evoked imagery here – Power Ranger, Lone Ranger, Loan Arranger]

As chuckle-worthy as the title might have first been, I’ve been tossing the idea around all day. The label of Ranger is more intentional, I think, than a simple way to brighten up a day-long conference. It served as a way for a small community to become acquainted, bonding over a shared identity. As we traverse the new terrain of open education, we’re going to need community, certainly. Championing the kind of shift that open culture calls for is akin to forging a new path. Every once and a while it will be nice to come back to base camp and regroup with likeminded people. There’s a whole wide network of people who are doing all kinds of creative things to support open education. If someone’s not already working to a solution on a problem you’re facing, then at the very least, there will be understanding folks ready to empathize and lend an ear.

Rangers are guides. They anticipate the pitfalls yet know the summits and how to reach them safely. They are adept at navigating, reading the signs, acting on intuition. They are well equipped and ready for anything – there’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing (Alfred Wainwright). As a new idea, open educational practices require small through to major shifts in thinking and action. A ranger’s navigational skills will come in handy for acting strategically and thoughtfully to anticipate the future possibilities of open education from individual course activities through to institutional policy.

Finally, A park ranger is a steward. They are a keeper of knowledge and practices that protect the land, it’s terrain, and inhabitants. They are part of an ecosystem that serves to protect and educate. Open education values a freedom of sharing. A choice to exercise autonomy over corporate structures of ownership and control. In a society so often focused on the bottom line, commodification, and a preference toward the disposable, a spirit of openness is one worth protecting. Yet, it seems, there are more misconceptions than there are people ready to buy-in to the idea of open with both feet. And so a ranger is that of an advocate, willing to be the keeper of the knowledge and the practices that will not only protect open but enable it to thrive through sharing it with others.

All in all, I’m wearing that Ranger cap with pride.


Cover Image Credit: Brownie and Cub compare badges by Girl Guides of Canada (CC BY)

Learning Outcomes: Evolution of Assessment

“Slow is smooth, smooth is fast” 

Two days after the Learning Outcomes: Evolution of Assessment conference, this quote as shared by keynote speakers Charles Blaich and Kathy Wise, rings through my reflections. When it comes to intentional process and action, fast can’t come first without sacrificing either quality or cost. We must first slow down, pay attention to each of the parts and make adjustments, before bringing elements back together again in a highly refined, smooth process. Only then can we expect the speed of efficiency.

There are two key take-aways I wish to reflect on as being a delegate at this conference. Both of which will take time, ongoing and thoughtful exploration of the parts that make up a larger whole, to reach a point of refined practice.

The Answer to a Program’s Quality is Not Found in the Tables

As you can guess by the title, we talked a lot at this conference about learning outcomes, the quality assurance process, and assessment of course, program, or institutional quality. There were a lot of beautiful examples of program mapping software and processes for analyzing learning outcomes….Many of which have inspired my thoughts for supporting faculty to engage creatively with investigating and articulating  arguments for program quality in, say, self-studies for program review processes.

Interspersed between conversations of methods, software, data, and reports was this key message: Assessment is about more than data sharing; the answers concerning a program’s quality is not found within the fancy display of data.

Assessment, rather, is an inquiry-focused process of taking data and converting it to evidence (making sense, interpreting) and experimenting by trying something new. It is about engaging in the dialogue necessary for moving beyond the appreciation of tables and figures to figuring out what it all means with an appetite for tinkering with possibilities.

What are the actionable steps forward for me?

  • Developing strategies for facilitating curriculum review processes as an inquiry-focused process
  • Fostering a “Creative Commons” atmosphere, where faculty come together in the spirit of collaboration to wonder and experiment together
  • Pose questions with regards to the data produced from self-study initiatives that focuses attention on making sense for trying out something new and sharing lessons learned with the community

7th Generation Outcomes

One of my favourite sessions at the conference was Called to Action: Creating Learning Outcomes Based on the Recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (Kahente Horn-Miller and Andrea Thompson, Carleton University). The session explored what’s currently being done to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) calls to action in post-secondary education across Canada. Further, it challenged delegates to identify how learning outcomes can be used as a way of expressing truth and reconciliation in curriculum.

While the authors work on developing TRC inspired learning outcomes that can be adopted and adapted by Carleton University instructors, more broadly, I’ve been thinking about how learning outcomes might embrace Indigenous perspectives by aiming 7 generations ahead.

Throughout the conference, there was lots of talk of skills development (e.g. “The New Skills Agenda” as posed by Ross Finnie during the State of the Union closing panel). We talk of what sorts of skills do we want to see in students as they graduate, start their jobs, participate in society…. What sorts of skills, values, or attitudes do we expect students to pass along seven generations into the future?



What are the actionable steps forward for me?

  • reflect on what ‘thinking 7 generations ahead’ means for my upcoming teaching of a course on university teaching and learning
  • spend some more time getting better acquainted with the TRC and indigenous leaders on campus



Facilitator Development Workshop (FDW) Certificate

In December of 2015, I completed the Facilitator Development Workshop (FDW) at the University of Guelph. The ISW Network describes FDW training as enabling participants to “refine their teaching techniques through the mini-lessons, and with guided practice and feedback, develop strategies for facilitating the group process”.

As a result of my training, I:

  • refined teaching skills as based upon the BOPPPS model of practice
  • developed a refined understanding my facilitator-self: what it means to be authentic and genuine in my approach to facilitation
  • continue to reflect on the approaches I take to facilitation in a variety of settings from workshops to individual consults.
  • now facilitate Instructional Skills Workshops (ISW) on an annual basis

ED Philosophy Themes

Conversational: The lasting impact FDW training has had upon my practice reflects engagement in dialogue and reflection. I now keep a journal of my facilitation experiences to reflect on what went well and where I’d like to improve in the future. The conversation also continues with colleagues when we discuss how certain approaches taken in educational development activities elicit a response from others.

Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans

In 2012, I was successful in completing a course in Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans as offered by the Tri-Council Policy Statement (TCPS2: CORE).

ED Philosophy Themes

Literature Informed: TCPS2: CORE is authored by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and serves as the standard Canadian introduction to ethical conduct in human research for primary researchers and research ethics board members. It communicates National standards, ethical principles and practices of ethical conduct for research involving humans. Such training continues to inform my research practices from methodological considerations to day-to-day research activities, to interactions with human research participants.

Rubric for eLearning Tool Evaluation

In collaboration with my colleague, Dr. Gavan Watson, we developed a Rubric for eLearning Tool Evaluation to support multi-dimensional evaluation of functional, technical, and social aspects of eLearning resources and tools. The rubric has been applied in two key contexts:

  • The rubric has been applied to the evaluation of tools featured on Western’s eLearning Toolkit in an effort to vet various tools for users.
  • The rubric has been used in consultations with instructors to aid in fostering comprehensive and critical conversations with regards to eLearning tools and their applications to teaching and learning


ED Philosophy Themes

Thoughtful Technology: Due to the way the rubric incorporates practice, pedagogy, and technological considerations, the rubric offers a framework for thoughtful integration of technology in the classroom. It’s not just about the tool and it’s features – it’s about how the tool will work for instructors and students in the classroom environment to achieve particular learning outcomes.

Tinkering: Development of the rubric was a collaborative effort that drew upon the collective knowledge of team members in the Teaching Support Centre and eLearning Team in ITS. I led an approach to rubric development that was iterative, allowing us to frame rubric elements around our practice wisdom, draw on the literature, and hone in on the criteria we valued.

Fissures of Opportunity: The project was inspired by identifying how we might improve our documentation and faculty support activities. It was clear that we regularly spoke to key considerations for evaluating eLearning tools yet did not yet have an articulated framework of evaluative elements. Developing the rubric has contributed to the improvement of one-on-one consults as well as support documentation, such as Western’s eLearning Toolkit.

Literature Informed: The rubric incorporated practice wisdom with literature as drawn from various areas of pedagogical and technological considerations for eLearning and technology use.

eLearning Programming Resources

As a member of the eLearning Team at Western’s Teaching Support Centre, I coordinate and lead various programs that promote thoughtful integration of technologies into university teaching and learning. In facilitating programs, I aim to provide contextual information by engaging participants in activities that allow them to dabble, discuss, and connect with literature and additional resources. The materials featured here serve to highlight the approach I typically take facilitate participants’ engagement.

Selected List of Programs and Resources

Event: Teaching with Technology Day 2016
Session: YouTube Lab for Instructional Videos
Audience: Faculty/Instructors
Resource Developed: YouTube Lab Manual (.pdf)
Description: I prepared this manual as a step-by-step guide for achieving various tasks in utilizing YouTube for creating educational videos. The intention of the guide was to engage users from beginner to advanced both during the workshop and beyond. YouTube Lab Manual by Lauren Anstey has been made available under the terms of a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Event: Future Prof Program 2016
Session: Open Educational Resources (OERs) for Teaching and Learning: Trends & Opportunities
Audience: Graduate Students
Resource Developed: OER Session Handout (.docx)
Description: This digital handout served as a summary of the various resources and information considered in the workshop. During the session, participants were supported to explore for themselves various examples of OERs and evaluate a resource upon a rubric. The handout was electronically provided to participants following the workshop so that they could connect with workshop resources and additional information. The Open Educational Resources for Teaching and Learning: Trends & Opportunities handout by Lauren Anstey has been made available under the terms of a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Event: eLearning for New Faculty Workshop 2016
Session: Organizing Content
Audience: Faculty/Instructors
Resource Developed: Infographic
Description: The eLearning for New Faculty Workshop structure was such that short 15-minute introductions preceded breakout tables for tailored and focused discussion. I led a mini-session on organizing content online and prepared an Infographic to organize the content discussed in the introduction. The Infographic provides three key considerations, as informed by the literature on digital content. The final section puts the considerations into context by introducing the Lessons Tool in Western’s LMS (OWL). The Presenting Content Online Infographic by Lauren Anstey has been made available under the terms of a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

ED Philosophy Themes

Conversational: Oftentimes, I aim to develop resources that invite ongoing conversation. I do this through offering additional resources that link participants to relevant and thought-provoking sources, by inviting questions and welcoming discussion beyond the confines of the workshop.

Thoughtful Technology: I aim to develop resources that place emphasis on thoughtful integration of technology for achieving teaching and learning goals. For example, the Infographic puts best practices first and foremost over technological considerations so as to model consideration of practices over tool selection and implementation.

Tinkering: Through the resources I develop, I support others to tinker and experiment with ideas, concepts, and tools. For example, the YouTube Lab Manual encourages the reader to test YouTube out in various ways in a low-stakes context so that they may more confidently dive into using YouTube for Instructional Videos.

Literature Informed: The resources I develop are regularly informed by related literature. For example, the OER handout includes reference to valuable journal articles on the applicability of OER

Ideas for Teaching and Learning

Ideas for Teaching & Learning was a regularly featured column in the monthly newsletter produced by the Centre for Teaching and Learning . Between 2012-2013, I wrote over 26 pieces conveying interesting ideas, strategies, and considerations for Queen’s faculty and graduate students. The featured Wordle gives an overall sense of the common themes and diverse topics conveyed in the authored pieces.


Here are two examples of Ideas for Teaching & Learning pieces I wrote:

Reconceptualizing Higher Education

In a recent article, Brew (2012) calls for the reconceptualization of higher education. This reconceptualization means appreciating, “the importance of context, the significance of interpretations and revision on the basis of looking again”. It means “the development of academic communities of practice where both students and academics engage as legitimate peripheral participants”. It means “bringing research and teaching together” to treat students as “the adult people they are, with something valuable to contribute as well as to learn”. In her paper Brew offers a model for this reconceptualization that combines teaching, learning and research together. Where does the future of higher education lie? How will we at Queen’s define reconceptualization in higher education? Will we take up the challenge of bringing research and teaching together to invite students into an academic community of practice?

We invite you to attend the I@Q Undergraduate Research Conference, where research, teaching and learning are combined, happening March 7-8, 2013 in the Queen’s Learning Commons in Stauffer Library.

Brew, A. (2012). Teaching and research: New relationships and their implications for inquiry-based teaching and learning in higher education. Higher Education Research & Development, 31(1), 101-114. doi: 10.1080/07294360.2012.642844

Reflective Practitioner: A Reading Week Reflection Activity

Reflection-in-action offers an opportunity to gain new perspectives and develop strategies within the immediacy of the moment (Schon, 1983). Situated within the bustle and activity of the winter term, reading week offers us pause – a chance gain new perspectives on current teaching and classroom action. To spur your reading week reflection, we offer an inspirational quote:  Creativity requires the freedom to consider the “unthinkable alternatives,” to doubt the worth of cherished practices – John Gardner

What cherished practices have you utilized so far this term? What has been effective or ineffective about your classroom and/or teaching? What “unthinkable alternatives” might in fact be a possible for you? Come visit CTL this reading week to critique cherished practices, tinker with “unthinkable alternatives”, and reflect amid the action of this busy term.

Schon, D. A. (1983). The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action. New York: Basic Books.

ED Philosophy Themes

Conversational: When planning for ‘Ideas for Teaching & Learning’ my goal was to write in a conversational tone to grab the reader’s attention. I aimed to inspire readers to learn more, and regularly included links to information and resources. Through informal conversation, I received feedback that the column was well received each month; inspiring a quick thought or reflection on teaching and learning.

Literature Informed: My column was regularly took one of the following forms: highlighting a seminal piece of literature, highlighting SoTL or referring to scholars to inspire reflection or innovative thinking.

Teaching & Learning in Higher Education Modules

In 2014 I worked as a Research Associate on the collaborative development of Teaching & Learning in Higher Education Modules. The project was a collaboration between Queen’s University, Western University, and the University of Waterloo. The three institutions were funded by eCampusOntario to develop six online modules centring on key concepts of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. The modules were intended to be adopted and adapted for a variety of contexts, particularly in teaching the foundations of teaching and learning in higher education to graduate students and instructors.

My responsibilities included the design and development of 2 of the 6 modules: (1) Principles of Course Design, and (2) Ethical Principles and Professionalism in University Teaching. I collaborated with the three institutional partners and the Instructional Design team from Desire to Learn (D2L) to produce the modules – integrating resources and expertise from the three centres to design, author, and develop the content and learning activities.



screen-shot-2016-10-06-at-11-50-20-amThis screen shot, from the Principles of Course Design module, shows a learning activity I developed as part of the Learning Outcomes component of the module. At the Centre for Teaching and Learning the Educational Development team regularly asks learners to assess learning outcomes for their quality based on a holistic rubric (i.e. is the outcome assessable? are the verbs too vague?, etc.). Based on our practices, I worked with the D2L team to develop a similar activity for the Teaching and Learning modules. After learning about what makes an effective learning outcome, users are posed with a series of learning outcomes. They are asked to use the checklist provided to assess the outcome posed. Feedback is provided after users complete their assessment so that common misconceptions can be addressed.

ED Philosophy Themes

Conversational: Modules were intended to be interactive and engage learners in activities for learning. The resources and activities I developed were intended to support ongoing conversation and engagement.

Thoughtful Technology: The D2L team offered technical solutions to brainstormed assets and activities. Given this approach, I designed modules by first asking – what actions would serve the intended learning outcomes of this module? I was then able to work with D2L to develop thoughtful technological solutions that engaged learners in ideal activities for learning.

Literature Informed: As with any teaching opportunity, I aim to incorporate best practices informed from the literature. Additionally, I seek to provide students with the skills and resources to interpret the literature for themselves. Module activities and content were both informed by literature in the scholarship for teaching and learning.

Certificate Program in University Teaching & Learning

In 2012, I began work with the Certificate Program in University Teaching & Learning at the Centre for Teaching and Learning, Queen’s University. The certificate program is intended for graduate students who seek one of four certificates to demonstrate advances in teaching development.

Initially, I was responsible for receiving applications, reviewing submitted materials, providing feedback, and awarding certificates. As my work developed, I began orienting other Educational Development Associates to the work. It was at this point that I proposed a review of the program. Programmatic outcomes were made explicit, certificate requirements were adjusted to align with outcomes, and rubrics were developed to support a more standardized process of evaluation and feedback.


ED Philosophy Themes

Conversational: The certificate requirements were designed such that applicants were asked to communicate their reflections, perspectives, and insights on teaching and learning. In feedback, I aimed to engage the recipient in conversation through critical questioning. I always ended my feedback with an invitation for discussion and candidates regularly followed up through consultation in which we shared experiences, discussed resources, and explored future opportunities for development.


Trajectories and Swirls

In these past few months in my new role as an eLearning and Curriculum Specialist at the Teaching Support Centre at Western University, the focus has been on orientation – getting up to speed on the role, the centre, and where I’m headed in this new work.

Some days feel like I’m lost down the rabbit hole as I explore the myriad of eLearning technologies, pursue blogs and articles, as I acquaint myself with all that there is to know and do as someone who is expected to represent Technology on campus.

Reading Malcolm Brown’s EDUCASE article Six Trajectories for Digital Technology in Higher Education this afternoon gave me my first real sense of where I am headed with all of this. That is, at least to borrow his notion of working on a trajectory:

With a trajectory, we know where something is headed, but we cannot say—or we refrain from guessing—where it will end. Working with trajectories is an admission that we cannot foresee the unanticipated factors and developments that might influence the trajectory, accelerating it or perhaps instead derailing it entirely. In this sense, working with trajectories is a more humble and realistic way of facing the future.

In this role, all I can do is work on the trajectory, and this feels a bit like juggling in the dark.
 Erwin Shoonderwaldt, Juggling in the dark CC AT-NC-ND

It’s difficult to see what balls you’re juggling with and where they are going to land once tossed into the air. How do I stay (read: get myself) to the forefront of digital technology in higher education so as best to represent it and work with the Western community to lead change? Brown’s list of six recommended trajectories to watch certainly helps. I will be gentle with myself enough to say that it is both unrealistic and impossible to keep track of every arising trend, and so I will capture a few thoughts on those trajectories I’d like to juggle:

Open Educational Resources (OERs)

If you want to get lost down a rabbit hole, I’d suggest a few days of exploring the internet for OERs. Proponents tout OERs as though they are the next big thing that’s going to transform education. If so, we have a long way to go in terms of entry, ease of use, and applicability. I am also weary and curious as to the hidden agendas lurking behind OERs. How is something considered open and yet there’s clearly a fee structure built into it with CEOs and development teams at the wheel?

Maker and Learning Spaces 

I am curious as to how the concept of makerspaces can be made into cognitive makerspaces of learning. Can we come to see learning as coming into a room with various resources available to us for tinkering and playing for inquiry? What would this sort of space (physical or virtual) look like?

Adaptive Learning Technologies

Brown focuses on the companies at the forefront who are looking to the development of adaptive learning technologies as the next step to learning analytics. From an inquiry-based learning perspective, I’m interested in exploring how a technology might adapt to a student’s changing patterns of inquiry so that student and tool enhance the exploration of ideas.

Just as Brown concludes with talk of Student Swirl, I’ll adopt this concept for myself for I have come to see myself as a swimmer in a large pool of swirling water where my own trajectory is one of navigating the waters to flow with the unanticipated.

Joris Louwes Swirl CC AT-NC-ND

Maybe appropriately so, that swimmer in the water is still holding on to the wall but in the water nonetheless- a swimmer participant-observer. In her suit and in the water, readying herself to push away from the wall and go with the flow

Creative Commons License

Trajectories and Swirls by Lauren Anstey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.