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Open Education

Enabling Student and Teacher Collaboration across the CEGEP network: VTE 2015/2016 Project Summary

By Gabriel Flacks. The 21 November 2016

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In early 2016, VTE was successful in receiving support from the Entente Canada-Québec, based on a 2015-2016 application, enabling the fostering of collaboration across the CEGEP network, expanding the use of online platforms such as newsactivist.com into new classrooms, institutions, and disciplines. Several experts in collaborative pedagogy worked together to achieve these goals by, in part, supporting teachers and students in developing this community across the network and enabling collaboration across campuses and borders to enhance student engagement and integration of platforms that support such coursework efficiently

This support took the form of direct outreach to individuals, creation and publication of support material, and via collaboration with networks already formed and involved with such work, such as the Dawson College Peace Centre and VTTN.

Summary

Between January and September 2016, several teachers worked as consultants for VTE in support for growing collaboration between teachers, students, and between existing collaborative projects across the College network. Building awareness about how collaborative teaching and online writing can increase student engagement via multiple strategies led to wonderful and meaningful new experiences for teachers and students. We were able to enhance student engagement by broadening access for both teachers and students to active learning, collaborative online learning, and blended classroom experiences, often facilitated by the NewsActivist platform, a system designed with the CEGEP community in mind.

We communicated with over 160 teachers during this time, 76 of who had already been in touch with project consultants via earlier support from ECQ projects from 2013-2015 and 90 teachers who were identified as well-fit with such projects, given their backgrounds. Many teachers responded with great enthusiasm (see below), leading to meetings and registrations with new users from John Abbott, Dawson College, Champlain College Saint-Lambert, and beyond. 35 total classes were hosted at the site in winter and fall 2016, enabling over 1000 students to participate in online collaboration serving a variety of pedagogical goals in many disciplines. Further, a Centre collégial de développement de matériel didactique (CCDMD) collaboration was developed, helping teachers share ESL resources, the first time the site has supported a “class” made up of teachers, without students involved. Consultants on the projects supported many students and teachers in the development of curricular strategies and the overcoming technical challenges. Finally, we made progress in discovering what kind of outreach works best in this context.

Outcomes

Participants in this style of pedagogy supported between January and September 2016 included classes from the following 11 CEGEPS: Cégep André-Laurendeau, Cégep du Vieux Montréal, Champlain College, Saint-Lambert, Centennial College, Collège Ahunstic, Cégep de Jonquière, Vanier College, John Abbott College, Dawson College, Collège Laflèche, and Marianopolis College.

Over 1000 students from a variety of disciplines collaborated via the VTE project, including ESL, FSL, Geography, Humanities, and English.

These classes were also able to collaborate with students and teachers outside the network, including from Germany, Japan, Ontario, and the USA, including New York and Rhode Island. 

Strategic Discoveries: We have found that developing a personal connection as a consultant with new teachers is ideal for helping teachers feel confident in platform appropriation. Being present at a college to meet teachers greatly increases the chances of resource adoption by new users and writing brief emails to open conversations is more impactful than writing and sharing longer introductions to the project. In other words, letting new users lead the process of platform appropriation leads teachers to feel more fully involved in the process and the unique nature of each teacher’s goals and challenges means letting new teachers lead the process leads to a higher rate of involvement by teachers that are new to an online collaboration model. It remains to be seen how effective articles written by consultants to VTE and published in the AQPC and Profweb are in bringing new teachers into the fold without outreach, but these articles have already proven valuable in bringing new teachers into the community of practice when directly contacted by consultants.

Feedback Looping Many teachers find a collaborative teaching partner to allow for timed assignments that unfold across a semester. One class may be asked to create and submit original content while the other class is assigned to comment on this work. Each class moves between the roles of original content contributor and feedback provider during the semester. For teachers using this kind of pedagogical structure, NewsActivist, a platform developed by VTE consultant Gabriel Flacks, allowed teachers to easily organize original content submitted by students as well as comments made in response to other material. The site includes tools that allow for privacy settings of classes and teacher collaboration to happen smoothly.

Examples of Collaborative assignments and Student Work:

Below, are links to some examples of assignments teachers shared this year. Access to student work can be found at newsactivist.com. 

Cultural Understanding Assignments

http://newsactivist.com/en/forum/superpost-and-commenting-assignment

http://newsactivist.com/en/forum/example-assignment-requiring-analysis-social-issue-part-1-and-responses-peers-part-2-ethics

Reading skill-building

http://newsactivist.com/en/forum/example-introductory-assignment-any-class

Writing skill-building

http://newsactivist.com/en/forum/example-assignment-using-newsactivist-receive-and-give-feedback-essay-outline

Community involvement

http://newsactivist.com/en/forum/comparing-assignments-1-peer-review-and-2-summaries-responses

Second Language Learning

http://newsactivist.com/en/forum/esl-topics-newsactivist

Critical Thinking skill-building Assignments

http://projectsomeone.ca/thinkcritically

Subject Specific Examples of Site Use

Use the below link to explore classes from a variety of disciplines that have use NewsActivist: http://newsactivist.com/en/list-of-classes

 


We look forward to further collaboration with VTE to continue to support such work.We hope to see the 2016-2017 ECQ grant turn out successfully to enable further work in bridging communities of practice such as the community summarized herein with other communities with similar priorities as well as individual institutions.

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