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they are directed to contact one of the authors from a recent article they have used to gain further insight and unpublished updates on their subject.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

OTL201 – Post 6B

For Lesson four of OTL201 I have decided to highlight two activities that I incorporated into RSMT 3501, Introduction to Research Methods. One of the activities, the Tri-Council Tutorial on Research Ethics (TCPS 2: Core tutorial), is highlighted in Post 6a. The second activity, highlighted here, was taken from Module 2, having students learn the importance of sample size in research studies utilizing surveys. These activities are taken from the courses Blackboard Learn site at:


The directions for the survey methods from the course, the topic for this post, follows.

“Surveys: Module 2 – Lesson 5

  • Read the following course notes “Survey Research Methods,” and review The Survey System website at http://www.surveysystem.com/sdesign.htm. Start thinking about the criteria that should be used in the evaluation in the design of a survey. Also, consider how the criteria for evaluating a study that uses survey data will differ from those using experimental approaches. Use the sample size calculator (on The Survey Systems website) at http://www.surveysystem.com/sscalc.htmto investigate the relationship between sample size, confidence interval, and confidence limit.’


The above directs students to visit two websites. The first supplements material provided in the module and introduces students the importance of setting sample size in order that the survey results provides statistically significant findings. The second website contains a calculator that shows how the confidence interval and confidence limits of the results vary with the sample size of the study. Understanding these relationships will allow students to evaluate published research studies and design their own projects now or later in their careers.

OTL201 – Post 6a

For Lesson four of OTL201 I have decided to highlight two activities that were incorporated into RSMT 3501, Introduction to Research Methods. One of the activities, the Tri-Council Tutorial on Research Ethics tutorial (TCPS 2: Core tutorial), is introduced in Module 1 of the course but is a component of the student’s Major Project. The Tri-Council represents NSERC, SSERC and CIHR, Canada’s three research funding bodies and all studies they fund must adhere to strict animal and human subject ethics protocols. The second activity was taken from Module 2, having students learn the importance of sample size in research studies. These activities are taken from the courses Blackboard Learn site at:


The description for the TCPS tutorial from the course, the topic for this post, follows.


During the next lesson, we will continue to examine research ethics. One of your main activities for the course will be to review and complete the TCPS 2: CORE tutorial, http://tcps2core.ca/welcome.

This activity will take you at least six hours to complete. You may want to take time this week to start the tutorial. This is an important component of the course which will inform how you approach research and research questions throughout, so it is suggested that you complete it as soon as possible. However, since it requires a large time commitment, this component of the final project will be due at the end of Module 2, though it is suggested that you complete it earlier.

TCPS 2: CORE Tutorial

Research with humans must be done using standards that meet the Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans (TCPS 2).

The Tri-Council has created the TCPS 2: CORE (Course on Research Ethics) online tutorial athttp://tcps2core.ca/welcome to provide researchers with an overview of the standards. This highly interactive tutorial provides you with a thorough foundation in ethics that is applicable to all disciplines and methodologies. The tutorial includes case studies, examples for you to work through, and quizzes. You are expected to complete all website interactive components, as doing so will assist you with learning key ideas, such as the three core principles of TCPS 2 and learning the terminology, and provide you with a reference for future consultation. Completing the tutorial will also give you an idea of what you must be aware of when creating a research proposal.

In addition, a study guide is available for you to download from their site has been created for you to help guide you through the tutorial. Click here to download the TCPS 2 Study Guide.

To complete this tutorial, first create an account at the TCPS 2: CORE website, http://tcps2core.ca/welcome.

  • At the site, click CREATE ACCOUNT.
  • On the next page, click Create new account here.
  • For Affiliation, select Other.
  • For Please specify Affiliation, type Thompson Rivers University.
  • For Email, use your @tru.caemail address.
  • Activate TCPS 2: CORE when you receive the email with the activation link.
  • You will be asked to participate in a pre-questionnaire—it is your decision whether or not you want to participate.
  • Also, you may need to download the most current version of Adobe Flash Player.

TCPS 2: CORE recommends that first-time users read its User Guide, which provides tips for first-time users on navigating the modules. Also, there is an FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) link and a glossary of acronyms and research terms. The tutorial has eight modules. As you work through the tutorial, the site automatically provides links, on its Dashboard, to your place in the tutorial.

Upon completion of the online tutorial, you will receive a certificate (as a PDF) from the TCPS 2: CORE website. Download and submit the certificate to your Open Learning Faculty Member. Completion of this certificate will be worth 5% of the Final Project’s total mark and is required to complete the course.”

RSMT 3501 introduces students to evaluate published research and design their own research projects. Given that all credible studies must follow ethics guidelines set out by national, provincial or state and institutional standards, this activity is invaluable. The Tri-Council resource is available to students for their life-long research endeavours.

OTL201 – Post 5

In this post we are asked, although in a slightly different order, to:

  • list the 2-3 most important concepts that have impacted your thoughts on student engagement and retention during this course;
  • post questions with respect to student engagement and retention and also a strategy for finding the answers;
  • discuss our rationale for implementing the above course facilitation strategies to increase student retention and engagement; and
  • identify 2-3 specific goals that you would like to achieve in light of what you have learned about social presence and creating effective educational media.

From post 2, I sense that the most important factor that enhances student engagement, beyond the student’s on self-motivation, is developing a personal connection with the student. The connections give students a sense that they are individuals and are respected. Related to this, and most important in on-line courses, is the use of audio visual media to help make connections with students. As discussed in this course, technology hasn’t tended to increase learning. However, the newer technologies can be used to make the on-line teachers real to students, hopefully increasing their engagement and retention.

The question that begs asking is the extent that student engagement, retention and success in a course can be increased by increasing the personal connection with their instructor. The answers to these questions could be investigated by comparing student engagement, retention and success in historical courses with the same course (and same instructor) that has been modified to include enhanced connections between the instructor and students in the course. Enhanced connections can be achieved by increasing communications with students and by including introductory faculty videos and using tools such as Blackboard Collaborate with full video to a greater extent. Student retention and success can be taken from OL’s records. A survey would be used to evaluate student engagement.

Increasing student engagement and retention is desirable and helps everyone; the student, faculty and OL Administration. Students benefit by completing their studies quickly and with higher success. Faculty would have a better sense of accomplishment and would make more money. Administration would be providing a product that would be attractive to other potential students.

Although the above study hasn’t be carried out at TRU I expect that increasing connections with students likely increases their engagement, retention and success in a course. Thus, my goal will be to enhance my connections with the students in the courses that I’m involved with.  In part, this will be accomplished by developing an introductory video of myself.