Yorkville University recently sent a delegation to the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (STLHE) conference in Ottawa.
Several of the university’s esteemed faculty, as well as Yorkville President Dr. Julia Christensen Hughes, presented at the prestigious conference. The theme of this year’s 40th anniversary symposium, which took place June 7-10, was Reconnecting and Reconstructing: Perspectives on Teaching and Learning.
For Christensen Hughes, a former President of STLHE, the conference was a welcome return to in-person sharing with a community she values so highly. STLHE is a community of academics dedicated to the enhancement of teaching and learning in higher education. It functions as a collective that shares research, collaborates, and explores scholarly teaching and learning methodology.
For many of Christensen Hughes’ YU teammates, however, this year marked a first time attending the STLHE conference, and all involved were thrilled to make the university’s presence known on a national stage.
“As an emerging university, we are coming out and marking that we are a significant player in the higher educational landscape as Canada’s largest private university,” said Angela Antohi-Kominek, Interim Vice President of Academics.
“It felt like a milestone in the evolution of the university,” added Ron Richard, Project Director, Program and Course Development. “I am struck by the dedication and commitment and genuine excitement these talented people have for the work we do and the students we cater to.”
Participating in workshops, listening to speakers from other universities, and receiving feedback from their own presentations afforded the YU team an opportunity to reflect on the university’s achievements as a higher learning institution.
“Conferences like this give a voice to us as an institution and allow our innovation to shine!” exclaimed Karen Stevenson, Project Director, Learning Experience Design. “I am reminded of how far ahead of the curve we are in delivering engaging and academically sound online courses for our students. There is a reason we continue to climb in student numbers as word travels fast. I love that we continue to nurture innovation and continue to advance our technologies within the higher education space.”
On the opening night of the conference, Christensen Hughes described Yorkville University as “an opportunity to embrace a new model of higher education in this country” and proudly noted a unique statistic about the school.
“At our recent convocation in New Brunswick, crossing the stage were graduates from every province and territory in this country. And, collectively, across our graduation, we had students from 36 different countries,” she announced. “I don’t know of any other school in this country that can make the same claim.”
Taking Stock 2.0 Book Launch
Following her introduction, Christensen Hughes, alongside co-editors Joy Mighty and Denise Stockley, launched their book Taking Stock 2.0: Transforming Teaching and Learning in Higher Education.
This publication serves as a follow-up to 2010’s Taking Stock: Research on Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, which was co-edited by Christensen Hughes and Mighty and became an academic bestseller and highly regarded point of reference for instructors and administrators in higher education.
“The first book focused on what was known about teaching and learning,” said Mighty. “We realized, of course, there was a lot that was being said that was not being adhered to. So, at the end of that book we challenged teachers and institutions to correct that flaw.
“With Taking Stock 2.0, we put out the call for people to tell us what has been done in the years since the first book. And also, what else do we envisage needs to be done? How do we continue transforming teaching and learning in higher education?”
For Christensen Hughes, there were key themes that emerged throughout the individually authored chapters in Taking Stock 2.0. What was surprising and exciting for her was that they represented an evolution of the ideas presented in the first book that shifts the conversation around teaching and learning in higher education to a more humanistic, student-centred approach.
“We must prepare our students for an ever-changing world, with the transferable skills and values that will help them contribute positively to the mounting problems of our time. This is our calling; I think it’s our ethical, moral duty. We must transform the practice of teaching and learning from transactional to relational, embracing a humanistic approach that is inclusive and supportive. And for that, we need aligned leadership, systems, cultures and values.”
This, she added, speaks to the importance of an organization like STLHE, which helps to disseminate research and share ideas amongst the membership, representing faculty and administrators in universities and colleges across the country. It was the intention of the editors of Taking Stock 2.0 that the book could support the work of STLHE and the higher education community into the future. That became manifest with the announcement that all their personal royalties from the sales of the book would be going to STLHE towards an equity-focused bursary or innovation.
Signature Learning Outcomes
One of the chapters authored by Christensen Hughes in Taking Stock 2.0 covers the evolving nature of learning outcomes. YU has developed a list of 10 Signature Learning Outcomes currently put before the Academic Council. They state that graduates of Yorkville University will be able to recognize and demonstrate an effective knowledge and competency in several core areas, including:
YU Faculty Presentations
There were several presentations throughout the week by other YU faculty.
Jill Cummings, Associate Dean, Faculty Development, who likened participating in the STLHE conference to “visiting an oasis”, spoke alongside fellow YU faculty member, Ismail Fayed, Project Director, Education Technology. Their presentation was based on their scholarly publication, Teaching in the Post COVID-19 Era.
During their lecture, Cummings and Fayed reported on how educators worldwide are engaged in sharing their innovative best practices during this transition to a new online and blended world in education. Concrete lessons and activities for implementing effective multimodal learning were illustrated. They explained how teachers have been using different delivery modes, technologies, contexts, and teaching activities to engage learners in these unprecedented times.
Acknowledging the massive challenges educators and higher education institutions experienced during COVID-19, transitioning their in-person curriculum into virtual and online learning, Cummings and Fayed teamed up for a second presentation later in the week, focused on a proposed Cross-Modalities Instructional Design Model (CIDM).
“Through the development of this new model, we’re aiming to introduce a more practical and integrated method for instructional design with more focus on online and blended modes of delivery,” said Fayed. “The new framework highlights the key components necessary for successful engagement and learning today, including elements like critical thinking, experiential learning, and feedback supported by suitable methods and recommended technologies.”
Nicole Stargell, Faculty, Master of Arts in Counselling Psychology, spoke about the increased concern on mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. Her presentation looked at safety assessments in the classroom and she discussed the educational relationship as a factor that promotes effective safety assessment and planning.
Shahid Hassan, Faculty, General Studies, presented a session called Publish and Flourish, which was an interactive workshop covering both foundational concepts as well as practical strategies for academic writing and publishing across disciplines. The workshop offered a skills development opportunity with a focus on three key aspects: demystifying manuscript development, choosing publication venues, and optimizing scholarly resources.
“As a faculty member, I was delighted to represent YU at this prestigious national forum,” Hassan said. “The conference offered a unique opportunity to learn about and share the scholarship of teaching and learning with delegates from across the country.”
STLHE Conference Takeaways
As the week drew to a close, the YU delegation shared their gratitude for the opportunity to attend the conference. The common theme amongst the group was hope and optimism for the future of the institution for which they hold so much respect.
“At YU, we take pride in putting the learner at the centre of our course design and delivery,” expressed Jon Hunter, Associate Vice President, Production and Development. “The STLHE conference opened my eyes to the creative ways we can do even more of that by truly making students active partners in how we teach and how they learn.”
“I think a big take-away for me was the idea of being a disruptor,” reflected Mercedes Cardella, Project Director, Curriculum Design, Toronto Film School.
“Meaning, to always challenge how things have traditionally been done, and finding new ways to bring innovation to a space that is in constant flux. I think we are in a very exciting time at TFS/YU, and I’m looking forward to being part of what this change looks like.”