The Not-So-Distant Learning Podcast with Else Marie Knudsen

The main benefit, I think, was the ability to step back before we even ever started talking about how the course was going to look and… ask some big questions about what we were actually doing.

Else Marie Knudsen

In this episode of the Not-So-Distant Learning Podcast, co-hosts Maureen Glynn and Terry Greene chat with Dr. Else Marie Knudsen about how she worked to build not just an online version for her Social Work 1000 course, but also an entire community centre to go with it.

Some of the things we touch on:

  1. The SWRK 1000 Community Centre
  2. Online Course Design for Humans Workbook
  3. Flaming Whac-a-moles
  4. Online Learning Student Assistants
  5. The “Are You Struggling” student decision tree thing (H5P)

We hope you enjoy listening. If you’d like to get involved in a future episode, let us know by emailing online [at] trentu [dot] ca. You can also comment below (and subscribe to this blog below, too!)

Stay tuned for the next episode coming soon!

To view a version of this podcast with a transcript, please view the episode here.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

3 Open Source Tools to Help You Create

Over the summer the goal of our work was to help people scale up quickly and get ready to deliver the good stuff online in time for September. Now that we’re confidently knee-deep into autumn, and you’ve got the basics down pat, you might be considering taking it to the next level.

Below we’ve listed just a few open source media tools that can help you create, edit, and refine your learning materials. Depending on your technological proficiency these programs might look a bit daunting, but everyone starts somewhere. The more you play around and experiment the better you’ll get. And we’re here to help and encourage your experiments!

OBS Studio

Open Broadcaster Software gives you the ability to record or stream video all on your own. If you’ve seen some of the crazy things people can do while streaming on YouTube or Twitch, you get the idea of just how far you can take things. And OBS is a tool that many of them use to make it happen. With OBS, you’ll have the power to fine tune your video production (the layout of visual elements, organizing different audio inputs). OBS is a great tool to play around with if you’re looking to move beyond simple virtual backgrounds, or for anyone looking to add more visual flair to their videos. Here’s a guide to get you started.

Batman dropping in on a makeshift green screen created in OBS


GIMP stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program, a free and open source Photoshop alternative that has been in the works for decades. GIMP is packed full of features and tools that will allow you to create, edit, and save images in a variety of formats. While the interface might seem excessive, GIMP is an excellent choice when MS Paint or Preview won’t cut it—without the price tag that comes with a tool like Photoshop.

Toggling layer visibility in GIMP


Yet another open source tool that has stood the test of time, Audacity is a program that will let you record and edit digital audio. You’ll be able to visually observe your waveforms, snip and paste selected segments, and export your edited audio. Audacity is for people looking to record podcasts, or work with their audio independently of other media.

Cutting and pasting audio in Audacity
Cutting and pasting recorded audio in Audacity

It takes some time to master these open source tools, so don’t expect overnight edu-stardom (maybe give it a week or two), but as you learn the ins and outs and develop material, you’ll likely see how they can help you to refine and create even better stuff for your students.

Remember that as a student or faculty member you’ll have access to Trent’s Virtual Computing Commons, which will allow you to remotely operate a school desktop environment with access to a variety of specialized software.

Want to learn more? Shoot us an email at online[at]!

image source: “Open is Never Having to Say You Are Sorry” flickr photo by cogdogblog shared into the public domain using (CC0)

Humanizing Learning: A Round Up of Trent Online’s Experience at TESS2020

A few Trent Online staff had the opportunity last week to attend and participate in eCampusOntario’s TESS2020 Conference. We thought we’d put together a blog post to report back and reflect on our experiences. So keep going to read about some highlights from Maureen Glynn, Stephanie Park, and Terry Greene.

Maureen’s Highlights

eCampusOntario’s TESS (Technology and Education Seminar and Showcase) conference is always a highlight of the Fall semester for me, as it is an event that consistently offers practical, actionable takeaways and generous sharing of ideas by our colleagues from across the province (university and college faculty, instructional designers, technologists and educational developers). TESS is typically held in person, but this year’s virtual event did not disappoint. In fact, it was made all the richer by the fact that the participation was significantly expanded. Freedom from the logistics and constraints of a physical gathering allowed eCampusOntario to increase the number of available tickets (which were completely free of charge!). I gained insights from almost every session that I attended, but some of the biggest highlights of the conference for me included:

  • Student Perspective on Remote Teaching & Learning:

This panel, hosted by Chris Fernlund (a proud Trent alum!), who Manages eCampusOntario’s SXD (Student Experience Design) Lab, introduced the student voice to the conference proceedings early on the first day of the event. Given that the conference theme was Humanizing Learning, this presentation set a tone of empathy and inclusion, which would be echoed through many of the other sessions. I’d love to see more student panels as a standard element of higher ed conferences for teaching and learning.

  • James Skidmore- Communicating the Humanizing Qualities of Online Education

Since the beginning of the global “pivot” back in March, James Skidmore has generously and openly shared his advice and insights as an experienced online educator. In his presentation at TESS, he logically and systematically debated some of the current dialogue around the deficits of virtual learning environments, when compared to classroom teaching. His session, and the Q & A that followed helped to highlight the shortsightedness of pitting one mode of learning against the other and the wisdom of acknowledging that, as one participant observed (Kelly Brennan, Laurentian University) “Education is an experience, not a place”.

  • Fireside chat with Michelle Pacansky-Brock

This session was a favourite of many of the conference attendees, and it is difficult to do justice to Michelle Pacansky-Brock’s work in just a few sentences. That said, when it comes to online teaching, she recommends intentionally including humanizing elements to courses “from the first click”. Some great examples of Michelle Pacansky-Brock’s ideas in action were offered through Lisa Koster, Kim Carter, and Marie Rutherford’s Liquid Syllabus TESS presentation and the site (linked here) that accompanied it. 

Stephanie’s Highlights

The TESS conference has been on my radar for a while, but I hadn’t had the opportunity to attend previous years. I was extra excited to be able to finally attend this year for two reasons: #1- the theme “Humanizing Learning” is one of the guiding principles of my own work; and #2- I attended from the comfort of my home office and drank much better coffee than ‘conference coffee’! These are some of the highlights I’d like to share from my experience.

Innovation. Cue the session Secrets from the OER Lab with Sarah Stokes (Ontario Tech). Ontario Tech’s OER Lab is a student-run group and was founded this past spring. Their commitment to collaborating on the creation of more affordable and more accessible high-quality resources is seriously impressive. Not only is this a valuable contribution to the open education movement, but it is also a wonderful example of how to humanize learning by having the student voice at the heart of it.

Takeaways! And no, I don’t mean the buttons, pens, and other swag typical of in-person conferences (not to diminish those, they are great too!). I’m talking about both the concrete examples, tips, and points; as well as, the A-HA moments that are triggered by a simple sentence or phrase that you won’t soon forget. I came away with some really memorable and overlapping takeaways from the Fireside chat with Michelle Pacansky-Brock and the Keynote with Dr. Santa J. Ono (UBC)

Connection. Ono acknowledged how lots of faculty members are feeling unsure as to whether they’re doing a good job when talking to a computer screen because they are missing the usual in-person feedback like body language and facial expressions, especially when student cameras are turned off. Pacansky-Brock suggested instructors ask themselves why they want the cameras on and if their answers begin with, “I can’t tell…I don’t know…I…”, they might want to reconsider their motivation and rethink their position. She suggested instead to try inviting their students to turn on their cameras by simply expressing how much you would love to see their faces if that is within their ability to do so that day. Ono also shared a great tip that one of his faculty is using with success. She preselects 5-6 students per class to be designated respondents for each class who actively voice the questions from other students in the chat.

Vulnerability. Pacanksy-Brock had me at her inclusion of this Brene Brown quote, “Vulnerability feels like weakness, but it looks like courage”. She encouraged faculty to embrace their vulnerability and to share it with their students because it is where connections start, and it breeds empathy. Start small and see the impact. Ono echoed its importance when he said, “One of the most compassionate things you can do as a faculty member is to show your vulnerability…even when there isn’t a pandemic.” Honestly, I’m not sure there is a better takeaway from the whole of 2020 than that. 

Needless to say, TESS 2020 was worth the wait! A big thanks to @ecampusontario, to the organizers, and to all of the presenters for a great virtual experience. See you in 2021!

Terry’s Highlights 

I was afforded a bit of a unique TESS experience as one of the hosts for the VoicEd Radio Hospitality Suite. This was the second time I’ve joined Stephen Hurley to broadcast TESS conference discussion to anyone who cares to listen, whether they are part of TESS or not. Our plan was to host “Before or After Shows” in which those who presented could join us to discuss their sessions in a bit more of a casual environment. We ended up conducting over 20 interviews with presenters, attendees and organizers. I enjoyed every one of them,  especially with a few people whose work I hadn’t come across before:

  • Saddiya Rose from Humber College highlighted some of the tools that she uses to promote student voice in her classes.
  • Kahente Horn-Miller shared some insights about her work on the Collaborative Indigenous Learning Bundles Project at Carleton University 
  • Anna Rodrigues joined us to chat Designing for Diversity from her experience as an educator and visual artist.

All of the VoicEd Radio interviews will be made available soon. Also included are interviews with new eCampusOntario CEO Robert Luke, BC Campus Executive Director Mary Burgess, OCADu’s Jess Mitchell and many others. 

The theme of the conference seemed to set the tone for everyone who joined us as they openly shared their thoughts in a relaxed manner. We even had the chance to visit one of our guest’s backyard chicken coops to see how they were doing (they were doing great, in case you were wondering). And I directly benefited from all the humanizing myself, since no one got too upset with me when I accidentally shut the Zoom room down for everyone as I left an interview early to attend another one! Some may say that I was subconsciously trying to drive more attendance to the Online Course Design for Humans workshop with Trent Online’s own Maureen Glynn… We’ll never know for sure.

It’s Not Too Late!

If you want to catch all the action (and you literally can still catch nearly all the action) check out eCampusOntario’s Youtube Channel where session videos will be posted soon.

Photo by DESIGNECOLOGIST on Unsplash

The Not-So-Distant Learning Podcast with Amanda Paxton

I know that I’ve become a better teacher through the process… I think of what I’ve learned through working with Trent Online as a kind of pedagogical version of constraint based poetry.

Amanda Paxton

In this first proper episode of the Not-So-Distant Learning Podcast, co-hosts Maureen Glynn and Terry Greene chat with Professor Amanda Paxton about working with Trent Online to create an online version of her course “Write in Time”.

Some of the things we touch on:

  1. Constraint based poetry like the sonnet.
  2. Social Annotation tool
  3. Grammar Police Facebook page
  4. Dante’s Nine Circles of Hell
  5. House Plants
  6. Cobra Kai

We hope you enjoy listening. If you’d like to get involved in a future episode, let us know by emailing You can also comment below (and subscribe to this blog below, too!)

Stay tuned for the next episode which will feature Professor Else Marie Knudsen and her course SWRK 1000!

Photo by LeeAnn Cline on Unsplash

The Not-So-Distant Learning Podcast: Kick Off Episode

“It’s gonna be alright.”

The Hazelnuts

Trent Online would love to introduce you to the Not-So-Distant Learning Podcast! It will be a regularly posted conversation about work going on in the Trent online teaching & learning community.

In this inaugural episode, Fergal O’Hagan, Director of Trent Online, chats with eLearning Designers Maureen Glynn and Terry Greene about just what kind of things listeners can expect to hear in episodes to come.

Each episode will be accompanied by a post like this that will include links to some of the things we mention. Like this:

  1. Trent Online Website
  2. VoicEd Radio Show Page
  3. The Trent Online Team (this link includes members of The Centre for Teaching and Learning as well)

We hope you enjoy listening. If you’d like to get involved in a future episode, let us know by emailing You can also comment below (and subscribe to this blog via the commenting area below, too!)

Stay tuned for the next episode which will feature Professor Amanda Paxton and her course, Write In Time!

Photo by Aziz Acharki on Unsplash