OTL301 – Post 6

In this, the final post for OTL101, OTL201 and OTL301 we have been asked to “to reflect on your learning journey through the course and to look ahead as you integrate your new knowledge into your teaching practice”. As a guide, the following questions have been posed.

  • What are the most important lessons you gathered from the course?

The courses discuss teaching and learning. These activities come naturally to everyone but can be optimized for each student cohort and student-teacher pair by keeping several principles in mind. First, courses should be constructed with clear learning outcomes and, if warranted, include all stages of critical inquiry (triggering events, exploration, integration and resolution). Beyond the construction of courses, student success is enhanced through constant feedback and interaction between a student and other students and the instructor. As the learning styles of everyone differs, these activities should modified and adapted to match the personalities of those involved.

  • How has your thinking changed as a result of completing the course?

I can’t say that my thinking regarding teaching and learning has changed. The courses, however, have helped me solidify and refine my thoughts on teaching and learning.

  • In what ways did the platform (WordPress) influence your interaction with the content and other people and what you learned?

Knowledge is advanced through dissemination and discussion. Improving how we learn and teach is no different, requiring extensive dialog. WordPress is a platform that extends the boundaries of those involved in the discussions of teaching and learning, and thus increases the amount of discussion possible

  • What learning strategies were most effective for you? Why?

The learning strategies I like to employ and those that work for me are generally those that involve personalized assignments that include all aspects of critical inquiry. An example is letting students compose discussion posts, essays and projects on topics of their own choice. This gives students a sense of ownership on a topic that is of interest to them. It is important that there is a mechanism for other students and instructors to give feedback on the submitted work. For essays and projects I often suggest that students resubmit their work after reflecting on the feedback received on the submission.

In addition to reflecting on your work, please include 2-3 ideas that you would like to implement in your own practice and how you might go about doing so.

In reflection and review of my previous posts for OTL101, OTL201 and OTL301, I sense that two changes in my teaching practice will go a long way to improving my teaching and the successfulness of students that I teach. First, I will strive to optimise my social presence with students. I feel that, by developing better relationships with students through introductory posts and one-on-one communications, students would be more connected and engaged with the course. Secondly, I will be striving to give more and better feedback to students. As everyone earns best from reflection of one’s own work, quality constructive feedback is essential to the learning process.

I enjoyed participating in OTL101, OTL201 and OTL301.


OTL301 – Post 5

The version of WordPress that I use doesn’t seem to lend itself to setting that the system described in the exercise. Thus I prepared the following Table that codes the phase of critical inquiry demonstrated in each of my previous posts.

  Triggering event Exploration Integration Resolution
OTL101 – Post 1 X X X X
OTL101 –Post 2 X X X X
OTL101 – Post 3 X      
OTL101 – Post 4 X      
OTL01 – Post 5 X X X  
OTL201 –Post 2 X X X X
OTL201 – Post 3a.b X X X X
OTL201 – Post 4 X      
OTL201 – Post 5 X X X  
OTL201 – Post 6a,b X X X X
OTL301 – Post 1 X      
OTL301 – Post 2 X      
OTL301- Post 3 X X X X
OTL301 – Post 4 X X X X

OTL301 – Post 4

In this post we were asked to interview a colleague about the strategies they use to facilitate both social and cognitive presence in a continuous intake learning environment. The faculty member that I interviewed was Dr. Alicia Mazari-Andersen. Alicia teaches, among other courses, BIOL 3431, Plants and People, a continuous entry course. I also teach Plants and People.

With the current format in BIOL 3431, the main way that cognitive presence is facilitated in the course is by having the students choose their own topics for the assignments in Unit 2 and for their Project. It is Alicia’s and my experience that students are always more engaged in a course when they are able to choose the specifics of what they research and learn within the framework of an assignment. Also, one can facilitate increased cognitive presence in the course with direct communication, through the discussion forums or by email, with students.

During the interview Alicia and I came up with additional strategies that could be implemented that would further increase the both social and cognitive presence in the course. These strategies are discussed below.

  1. A peer review component could be added to the student’s final project proposal assignment. Having another student review their proposal would increase the interactive student-student communications in the course. This activity is due early on in the course and, therefore, would likely help form linkages between the students that would stay with them throughout the duration of the course.


  1. Enrollment in the course could be moved to a semi-continuous model. Instead of admitting students continuously in the course students could be admitted in formalized groups of 2 or 3 students. It is likely that these students would form supportive groups that would increase their completion, engagement and success in the course.


  1. The final suggestion would be to alter one of the assignments in the course. In one of the Units in the course, students are asked to list and discuss 5 reasons that GMO technology is either good or bad. Instead of this, students could be asked to list and discuss 2-3 reasons why GMO is good and 2-3 reasons why GMO technology is bad. This change will move the students into the integration and resolution stages of critical thinking.

OTL301 – Post 3

For this post I am reiterating two learning outcomes and activities supporting them that I first introduced in my posts titled OLT201 – Post 3a and OTL202 – Post 3b.  These examples come from a course I developed, BIOL 3131, Introduction to Biochemistry. The pertinent learning outcomes from BIOL 3131 discussed in this post are that: students will learn to “search, retrieve, evaluate and synthesize information”.  The activities used to help students develop these outcomes are complementary to the student’s completion of their Major Project, writing a review essay on a biochemical topic of their choice.

The first activity has students conduct a literature search and set up an automatic email literature update using Science Citation Index, a scientific literature database. As such, this activity is directly linked to students’ learning to search and retrieve information relevant to a specific topic.

The Author Correspondence activity also supports students learning how to “search, retrieve, evaluate and synthesize information”. Once the students have retrieved and integrated a core amount of information they are directed to contact one of the authors from a recent article they have used to gain further insight and unpublished updates on their subject.

The description for the Literature Update and Author Correspondence activities from BIOL3131 follows.

“Literature Update-5%

As part of your major project you will need to gather 10 or so more references that relate to your chosen topic, the more current the references the better. In the first week of the course you will complete the following tutorial on how to search for relevant literature using the Science Citation Index (SCI). Once you have selected a topic and conducted your original search you will set up a weekly alert through the SCI. The alert signals the Institute of Scientific Information (ISI), the publishers of SCI, to email you all the citations for all the articles identified by your search during the last week. Forward a copy of the email from SCI each week for 5 weeks, beginning in the fifth week of the course, in order to get credit for this assignment. It is not necessary to get any hits with your alerts to get full marks. Your Open Learning Faculty Member will post a reminder in the course schedule for you to get started on this part of the project.”

Author Correspondence—5%

There is often a lag between when experiments are completed and when a scientific study is published. Typically, the most recently published scientific work is 6 months to a year out of date. In order to report on the current state of knowledge on your topic for your major project you will be sending an email to the corresponding author of one of your recently-published cited articles. In your email you should identify who you are, what course you are taking, your interest in the author’s research and inquire into any new developments they have had since publication. You should include this information in your paper as it may help you describe future research or recommendations. Use a text citation format such as, personal information, Dr. Smith, TRU. Submit your email correspondence to your Open Learning Faculty Member and then use the correspondence in your final paper.”


OTL301 – Post 2

For this post we have been asked the following questions.

  1. How has your view of the effective practice changed now that you have read more about teaching presence?
  2. In what ways did the effective practice that you identified show the characteristics of teaching presence?
  3. How could the idea of teaching presence have made the experience even more effective than it was?

I can’t say that my views on effective teaching practices have changed over the last several years. As highlighted in my first post, communications with students (teaching presence) engages students and increases their enjoyment and success in a course. In my example the communication I had with a few students was apparently sufficient to engage them and have them feel comfortable with me. I can improve upon this by forming such relationships with each student in each of the courses that I teach. The difficulty reaching this goal is that each student has a different threshold and type of teaching presence that can be used to effectively engage them in the course.

OTL301 – Post 1

The most effective example of a practice I’ve utilized is open and timely communication with students. Surprisingly, a few of the students that I taught in an OL format, one student in a course that I acted as a two week vacation relief, asked me for letters of reference. During the course of my career I have been asked to write many letters of reference. The surprise in receiving requests from OL students is that one doesn’t usually feel that you get to know the students that well, at least relative to when interacting with the students in a face-to-face modality. On a broader scale this demonstrates that very good connections can be made between teachers and students on-line. Good connections, as discussed in OTL201, undoubtedly enhance student engagement and success.

My brief bio (from OLT201):

Hi – I’m Ron. I recently retired and moved from Kamloops, where my family resided for 24 years, to Van Anda on Texada Island (look it up). Our new abode sits on a rocky point, comprising several iconic arbutus and juniper trees, giving us 270o of waterfront with views towards Desolation Sound and the mountains behind Powell River. Views also include close ups of wildlife such as whales, sea lions, seals, mink, river otters, raccoons, bald eagles, cormorants, king fishers, great blue herons, turkey vultures, humming birds, garter snakes and more. We are also quite attuned to the wind conditions, with breakers sometimes crashing on the rocks some 40 forty feet below us.

Audio: https://soundcloud.com/user-775495235/otl201