Ontario Extend mOOC: The Penultimate pre-mOOC Check In

I am of the opinion that you never pass up an opportunity to use the word penultimate, so what we have here is the next to last post reporting in on our pre-mOOC Learny Journey through the Ontario Extend modules. To give you the bigger picture, in this post we are each around half way through our respective modules, and the next post will (hopefully) be us celebrating us receiving more badges (yay!). Blog posts after that will be coming to you from the real actual Ontario Extend mOOC 2021 hosted by Trent Online!

A reminder of the different paths we are on:

So without further ado, let’s hear about the progress that’s been made in the last couple of weeks!


It is that time of year. The snow has melted away, green shoots are beginning to appear on the landscape and many people, including yours truly, are thinking about the joys of creating a kitchen garden over the coming weeks and months. Soooo, my most recent activity for the Extend Collaborator module – titled Cultivate Your PLN – was quite inspirational and definitely on theme! To learn more about my plans to tend to my personal and professional development “garden”, take a look at my Collaborator – Activity #3 Response.


Because the questions of engagement with my SoTL were pretty rapidly done, I decided this time to bounce excitedly onward to my official Scholarship of Teaching and Learning plan! I decided to chew into the challenge that is always part of my work as I educate learners around the trans-Atlantic slave trade: how do you teach trauma without minimizing or retraumatizing? Having a plan was a very helpful way to come at the problem, and think my way through pedagogical approaches to address it. On my Google Document workspace, I’ve laid out the Extend Activity 2 and linked through in Extend Activity 3 to my plan. Check it out!


For my next activity in the Experimenter module, I thought I’d tackle A Serious Use for Silly Media and create a GIF! I use GIFs daily but always in casual messaging and for the purpose of conveying emotion and evoking smiles only. I’ve never used it as an education tool so the challenge was on. This was also the activity I thought I would try to complete using my phone (a suggestion in the module criteria) because giphy.com actually has an app, and I thought it would be pretty straightforward. Epic fail! I got completely frustrated on my phone only to find out that it’s not even possible to create the kind of GIF I wanted to on the app. I was able to create it really easily using my laptop, but it was certainly a great reminder to always consider limitations when designing activities in online spaces!

Here is my GIF – a quick Blackboard lesson on why it’s important to use Student Preview mode when designing your online course. 



What I’ll say after attempting this second Curator activity is that the process of ‘searching’ most definitely feels like diving underwater for extended lengths of time. You have to be down there long enough to give yourself the time to scour the seafloor and find the shiny things, but if you take too long it becomes a tiring exercise–don’t suffocate yourself! The ‘Find your fit’ activity (which I’ve linked to up above) asks us to put our newfound skills to the test and explore both repositories (places have the stuff) and referatories (places pointing you to the places with the stuff) and bring 3 useful things back to shore. I’ve documented my adventure in the usual place.


In a brilliant move to attract the busy modern educator, the Technologist module activities both build off of each other and result in the creation of something you can use in real life. By the end of it, you have identified a need or a gap that your students have and developed a technological solution to help. If you were to take the time to head over to my Extend workspace, you’d see that I worked my way through the Empathy Map, Learner Challenge #1, completing the SECTIONS model and finally Learner Challenge #2. You’d also see that the tech solution I believe I need is actually ridiculously simple! But effective, I hope. We shall find out. All I have left for the module is a prototype plan and to actually create it.

What’s Next?

Next week we’ll each be tackling some more activities in each of our modules. Don’t forget to add your name to the list if you’re interested in joining us in the spring. See you next week!

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Ontario Extend mOOC: Heading off in Different Directions

The Gang Decides to Scatter

The last you heard from us we were celebrating our achievements as we each received our Teacher for Learning Badges from eCampusOntario. WOOT WOOT!

Teacher for Learning Badge

In our 2nd episode of Extend Radio 2021, however, we may have cranked up the drama too much, making believe that we were worried that our work wasn’t good enough to achieve the badge. But it was all in the interest of radio drama. We knew we were good enough, just as we know you are more than good enough to be successful in the mOOC. And we can’t wait to get started with you in May!

So, with that being said, it is time for another update on the learny journey that we are on, as we continue to model the experience for you. If the analogy is that we’re trying to reach the summit of a big ol’ mountain, completing the teacher for learning module together was like reaching a spot to camp out. And this camp happens to have a helicopter pad that we’ve made use of as Kristine is flying off to climb other mountains, and Maureen and Katrina are flying in to continue up from here. Welcome to the team, Katrina and Maureen!

Oh and also we’re each going to head up the rest of the mountain taking a different route. From now on you’ll be seeing:

So without further ado, let’s see those reports!


The first step of the Technologist Module is to complete an unofficial Extend activity. It doesn’t count towards your badge, so if you live life on the edge, you could skip it. I for one live life with the edge in sight, but like not anywhere near it. That simple activity is to share your own definition of digital literacies. Here is what I came up with. It’s not heading to Oxford any time soon, but it works for me. Next up is what I consider one of the most important Extend activities of all, The Empathy Map. I should be able to get real input from my students on it, so I’m excited to see what they come up with!


I imagine that I’ll soon expand my personal learning network (PLN) with a whole new crew of fellow travelers on this Extend journey, so I’m excited to be working through the Collaborator module. I decided to jump in with the first two activities, which the module directly suggests might be shared via Twitter – one of the greatest places around to grow your PLN. Here are my activity responses including their related Twitter links.


I took a swing at the first activity in the Curator Module, which asks us to find an openly licensed image and explain how the process unfolded while making use of different strategies and spaces. After having aced the h5p quizzes testing my understating of the Creative Commons and Boolean operators, I felt geared out, tooled up, and ready to give it my best. From mirrors and movies to artificial bouquets, sometimes you don’t know what you’re looking for until you find it. As per the continuation of our explicit understanding, you can read about the beginning of my new adventure at the link.


“All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson.

I have always loved that quote and am very excited to be jumping into the Experimenter Module. Not only does this module encourage you to try new tools and design with new approaches, but it also offers a lot of flexibility. For this module, you need to complete three activities from a list of ten options. Who doesn’t love having options?! I chose to use Padlet for my first activity as a way of gathering some reflections on the past year of teaching remotely. I included five different reflection prompts and would really love to hear from you on one or all five – Remote Teaching: A Year in Review!


Learning how to bring my methodology from my research work into my teaching is an exciting step, and one I’m thrilled to be taking. Going through the thinking process and reflecting on what my motivations and methods are has been very important in this first activity. Here is what I got up to this week, in the interest of ‘showing my work’ – I began with expectations, and then you can see my notes as I went through each learning activity.

What’s Next?

Next week we’ll each be tackling some more activities in each of our modules. Don’t forget to add your name to the list if you’re interested in joining us in the spring. See you next week!

Stepping into the open…

A door opening with a view to a green and open space beyond

At a time when we all feel that so many of the things that we used to take for granted are “closed off”, or at least temporarily on hold, it is more important than ever to find ways to open ourselves to new and positive things. Did you know that next week is Open Education (OE) Week? Open Educational Resources (OER) and Open Educational Practices encompass a range of tools and approaches for teaching and learning that have steadily gained traction over the past decade or so, but, given the massive changes brought on by the pandemic they are now even more critical to our work as educators .  OER benefit students greatly due to the removal of cost barriers and ease of access. For faculty, OER offer ease of distribution as well as the opportunity to modify or add content to a resource based on context and unique expertise.

Want to learn more about OER and open pedagogy? Here are some primers that you might find helpful:

Looking to catch some of the excellent sessions planned across the globe in recognition of OE Week? Here are some of our top picks:

Want to know more? Feel free to stop into our “Ask us anything about Open Education” drop-in next Thursday, March 4th at 2 pm. We’ll have lots of resources and ideas on hand to share and look forward to fielding all or your burning questions!

Register here for the drop-in: “Ask us anything about Open Education” Registration

Image credit Photo by Jan Tinneberg on Unsplash

T-minus 3…2…1…Liftoff!

rocket launch

This week we all embarked on the Thought Vectors and Nuggets activity. This activity is taken from the Thought Vectors in Concept Space syllabus designed by Dr. Gardner Campbell for an undergraduate research and writing course at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). If you’re new to thought vectors, you might enjoy this short video explanation of what thought vectors are by Jenny Stout, Teaching & Learning Librarian at VCU.

Our first step was to choose an article from  The Open Faculty Patchbook, a collection of overviews on specific pedagogical skills. Once we selected an article that resonated with us, we then had to choose a passage or nugget from the article that evoked some kind of response in us – good or bad.

The thought vector aspect of the activity is to make the selected passage as meaningful as possible. The instructions “use your imagination” seem deceptively simple in length yet also complicated by their vagueness. It was time to get creative!

Start the countdown because we’re ready to launch each of our thought vectors into the concept space below!


The nugget I selected was from Patch 34: Connecting the Design Dots by Nada Savicevic. I had a lot of fun thinking about and exploring the ways in which I could express myself. If you’re interested in my written thoughts, as always, you can read on at this link. Featured in the video below is music by audionautix.com.


The article that resonated strongly with me was  PATCH TWENTY-THREE: (UN) PREPARED by Sherri Spelic. It was written two and a half years before COVID-19 ever came on the scene to turn our world and lives upside down. However, after I read it, I had to double-check the date it was written because it felt even more relevant now than ever before. I decided to use TikTok to create a video in an attempt to make these already meaningful words feel more profound with the addition of visuals and music. I suspect this might be my first and last TikTok, OR I’ll become a viral sensation overnight – it’s too early to tell which way it’s going to go. 😉 Check out my activity notes to read more on my choice of nugget and how TikTok failed me when creating this thought vector!


Words by Sherri Spelic

♬ Worship Instrumental – Instrumental – Adrian Jonathan


I chose the Colleague Swap article which discusses the relative importance of sustained communication skills and practice through a program for students, and outlines the use-value of a peer review activity as part of courses. 

I narrowed in on this passage: 

“Allowing students to critique each other’s papers also creates a more cooperative learning environment and increases student involvement in the content and flow of the course. It is only natural that students develop a greater vested interest in a class in which they believe their feedback matters.”

Using this, I have built out a Rise Module, which is visible here.


Wow those thought vectors up there were great! I’ll finish things off with a set of screencast GIFs, which I made using Gyazo. I chose to nugget up Patch 21 – Just Listen, by Chuck Pearson, which is about empathy in science pedagogy. Do yourself a favor and have a careful read of his post. It is epic. My attempt to make the piece more meaningful is to kind of make a preview walkthrough of what you’re getting into if you read through it. This is a bit of an experimental approach. All the GIFs may be overwhelming to see at once so just have a look at one at a time and remember that GIFs loop forever so you can take your time. You can find all this by clicking on Activity #6 in the table of contents on the left side of this page. You can even comment to let me know how much you (dis)like this approach!

What’s Next?

Can you believe we’re nearing the end of our first module already? Next week we’ll be completing the last activity of the Teacher For Learning module, which will bring us to the end of that journey and to the achievement of our first badge! Be on the lookout for our answers to the Your Metaphor activity and if you haven’t added your name to our list yet, please do so! We want to be able to keep you in the loop about the mOOC we’re launching in the spring. It’s a great opportunity to join our fun crew and learn alongside other educators from across the globe!

Featured Image Credit: Image by SpaceX-Imagery from Pixabay 

The Extend Radio Revival: Teacher for Learning – Part 1

Between Superbowl Sunday and this rollercoaster, it has been an exciting couple of weeks to say the least! Here at Trent Online, we’re looking to keep that energy alive with some excitement of our own. To start with, we’ve gone viral (kind of)! Our upcoming Extend mOOC has now, officially, generated interest both at home and abroad. We’re overjoyed by the initial enthusiasm and thought now might be a good time to kick off ‘Extend Radio 2021’.

As we work through the modules our goal is to publish a series of podcasts in which we explore and share our experiences with the activities. As well, once the mOOC officially kicks off this coming spring, it’ll serve as a platform which you can use to chat with us, each other, and everyone listening. In our first episode down below, we got together and chatted about our work so far with the Teacher for Learning module (along with some pretty rad song selections to round out all the pedagogy).

This week we tackled the “What’s in it for me?” (WIIFM) and the “Like driving a car” activities. WIIFM had us reinterpreting the relevancy of particular learning outcomes, while “Like driving a car” asks that we consider the component skills required of “mastery”. It’s all down below for your listening and reading pleasure. And if you’re interested in letting us know that you’re interested in being a part of the adventure later this spring, you can fill out our statement of interest form right here.


For the WIIFM activity, I tried to think through the process I use in Tech Tools to get students to complete one of their first assignments, a course conversion proposal (F2F to Online/Blended). A lot of students struggled at times with the idea of writing an essay in a tech tools class for elearning, but what I outlined was the central nature of good persuasive communication skills in the elearning field as something the assignment asks of students, and as skills for them to develop for their future jobs or work placements. I continued to focus on the Tech Tools class for the “Like Driving a Car” activity in which I breakdown the steps in order to develop a video recording from start to finish. See the WIIFM here and the Like Driving a Car here.


For this week’s activities, I continue to draw from my experience working with Trent faculty in assisting their transition to remote teaching. For the “What’s in it for me?” activity, the student perspective I am using is from the faculty members themselves as they have had to learn how to navigate from teaching in the face-to-face classroom to teaching in the online classroom. For the “Like Driving a Car” activity, I’m exploring the threshold concept in online learning design that online learning can be equal to or in some cases richer than face-to-face teaching. If that piques your interest or if you’d just like to see a GIF of Kermit the Frog riding a bicycle, please visit my responses and feel free to leave a comment. I’d love to hear your thoughts!


I used the WIIFM activity to try and brainstorm different directions for our professional development. Being able to move past the notion of “we need to do this because we have to” allowed me to nail down specifics and identify topics and outcomes that can build skills that will work beyond the LMS (things students will want to learn and build on). ‘Like driving a car’ got me to consider the importance of equipping people not just with “the answer”, but with the ability to creatively get to the answer in new and different ways. I tried a couple different things which you can check out at the usual place.


Head on over to my Teacher for Learning workspace to see my WIIFM list. It only really has two things (which is I guess the minimum number of things you need in order to be able to call it a list!) I think they are two pretty good ones so I’m happy with calling it a list. And below that, you can see how I think that creating a syllabus is like driving a car and how Maureen Glynn’s Online Course Design for Humans workbook is like the driver’s manual.

What’s Next?

Thought vectors is up next! An activity which Terry describes as “juicy”, we’ll all be reading through the award-winning Ontario Faculty Patchbook, extracting a choice passage that we feel speaks to us, and then creating something with that thought or feeling. It’s very iterative and very cool and we hope you’ll join us next week!

Interested in maybe joining us this spring? Add your name to the growing list of those interested in maybe joining us here!

Image Source: Sacha Verheij via Unsplash

The Not-So-Distant Learning Podcast – Ontario Extend

“It is the thing that it’s trying to teach us… it is what it wants you to be.”

Terry Greene (on the Ontario Extend Program)

In this episode of the Not-So-Distant Learning Podcast, Terry Greene chats with fellow Trent Online peers Stephanie Park and Christian Metaxas about their plans and schemes to host an offering of the Ontario Extend Program, which empowers educators in the digital teaching realm, in the spring time. We liken it to off-season training for teaching with technology. Listen in and consider joining us for the Ontario Extend mOOC (medium-sized Open Online Course) in the spring!

If you are interested in learning more and potentially joining us for all or part of the mOOC beginning in April, please add your name to the list here: Interest Form for the Ontario Extend mOOC 2021, hosted by Trent Online.

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

Stay tuned for the next episode coming soon!

For a version of this podcast with a transcript, listen on Stream.

Photo by Thomas Kelley on Unsplash

The Not-So-Distant Learning Podcast with Stephanie Park

“I think it’s really important that people don’t lose their voice in all of this…you can be personal with your students, build that relationship and still be super professional – and have a more successful experience with your students because of it.”

Stephanie Park

In this episode of the Not-So-Distant Learning Podcast, co-hosts Maureen Glynn and Terry Greene chat with one of their fellow E-Learning Designers, Stephanie Park, about her work supporting Trent faculty transition their courses to remote delivery over the summer and fall. It’s the last episode before Christmas break, so we also play a Christmas Ghost Game!

Some resources mentioned throughout the conversation:

  1. Save Me Dog Rescue is the organization Stephanie volunteers for and adopted her dog Cooper from!
  2. As a community-based organization, Contact North | Contact Nord helps underserved Ontarians in 800 small, rural, remote, Indigenous and Francophone communities get jobs by making it possible for them to access education and training without leaving their communities.
  3. Seven Fallen Feathers:  Racism, Death, and Hard Truths in a Northern City by Tanya Talaga.
  4. The H5P Studio from eCampusOntario is a great tool to help faculty create interactive activities.
  5. The Zoom Whiteboard and How To Use The Annotations Tool
  6. To play along with our Christmas Ghost Game, add these two classic holiday flicks to your must-see list: The Christmas Carol and Elf!

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

Stay tuned for the next episode coming soon!

For a version of this podcast with a transcript, listen on Stream.

Featured image: https://www.hughwhitaker.com/

The Not-So-Distant Learning Podcast with Dr. David Patton

“I think without question there are going to be some students who will not be comfortable in the in-person lecture hall in the next few years… and that gives us a reason to try and make our courses essentially fully accessible to students who aren’t there in person.”

Dave Patton

In this episode of the Not-So-Distant Learning Podcast, co-hosts Maureen Glynn and Terry Greene chat with Trent University’s sole Astronomer on faculty, Dr. David Patton, about how we took Introductory Astronomy I into a new, online space!

Some resources mentioned throughout the conversation:

  1. Seeing Mars in the Night Sky
  2. NASA image of the day
  3. The H5P Studio from eCampusOntario
  4. Yuja and Badly Dubbed Kung Fu Movies

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

Stay tuned for the next episode coming soon!

For a version of this podcast with a transcript, listen on Stream.

Featured image: NASA image of the day

How to Take Advantage of Random Blocks

I’m not talking about the gift-bearing cubes from Super Mario here (although that would also be very, very cool), I’m talking about the way that tests in Blackboard can be structured. Using random blocks in your test is great when you only want some of your test to be randomized. Or if you want to only serve up a fraction of the total question pool.

A quick demonstration of how to create a random block of questions in Blackboard

To create a random block, you’ll need to have already created a pool of reusable questions. After selecting the questions from the pool that you want to use (I opt to grab everything) you’re then able to select how many you’d like randomly displayed to students during the assessment.

If you’ve already created all your questions in a test but would like to take advantage of the block system, you can populate a pool with these by clicking the “Find Questions” button while in the Pool Canvas (this will be a visually similar process to what you see above, but instead of selecting questions from pools to put into your test, you’ll be selecting questions from a test to put into a pool).

Random blocks (and question sets) are great ways to organize and administer testing in Blackboard. Do keep the following in mind while crafting your assessments:

  • Double check how many questions you want to display from the number selected (this is generally set to ‘1’ by default)
  • All questions found in the block or set will award the same number of points; you are not able to adjust the scoring of individual questions.
  • The order of questions (or blocks) in a test can be adjusted by hovering your mouse over the left-hand side of an element, dragging, and dropping into place

You can learn more about Test Pools by reading Trent IT’s user guide. If you think you need a helping hand with things, or a couple extra pointers, you can get in touch with all of us by emailing online[at]trentu.ca.

Featured image by Christian Metaxas

Add Some Flavour to Your Discussion Boards

Are your discussion boards tasting a little bland lately? Maybe it’s time to pour some homemade sauce on that discussion board to spice things up.

These boards typically have but one ingredient: Endless, endless text. This simple recipe adds just a few more ingredients: openly licensed imagery, any photo editing software, and each other. Here are the basic steps for students to follow (That’s right, your students are doing the cooking):

  1. Skim, scan, or even read deeply through the threads for a quote from a peer that resonates with you. Any kind of remark that you feel deserves some recognition for being a smart one works. Copy that text and take note of who wrote it (for attribution).
  2. Head over to a place where you can get openly licensed images that you are free to use without worrying about copyright issues (like Unsplash, Pixabay, or Creative Commons Search) to find an image. Bonus points for an image that symbolically relates to the quote. For example, if the quote you’re saucing up is about “stretching our resources” your image could be someone pulling apart some play-dough or something. You get the idea. Take note of the source of the image (again, for attribution).
  3. Now that you have the quote and the image, you just need to put them together. Open up that image file in any photo editing tool or app that you have. Whether you’re on a PC, Mac or phone, there are instructions here to add text to an image.
  4. Once you have fancied up that quote with an awesome image, head on back to the original discussion board and post it! Make sure to let the person you quoted know about it, as they would likely enjoy seeing their words on display all fancy-like. Don’t forget to add alternative text to the quote for accessibility reasons.
  5. Enjoy the new taste sensation of a discussion board with some flavour!

Here, have an example (note that the quote is attributed to the writer and the image is sourced).

Terry Greene

Think this is just too crazy of an idea? Maybe, but it has been done before! Check out how Ontario Extend did it in one of their “Daily Extends”. If you try it out, let us know how it worked out!

Featured photo by Charisse Kenion on Unsplash