Camosun Faculty Story #45: Bev

Bev is a faculty member in Psychology at Camosun.  She started our conversation by telling me she and her department colleagues had been using D2L to support their students before March 2020. “D2L is a big part of reinforcing what is taught in the classroom: posting news items and lecture notes, and encouraging students to monitor their grades, assignments, etc.”  Even with this familiarity, “When we transitioned, the biggest challenge was trying to keep student course engagement and connection, especially students who find questioning and talking freely in-person challenging and now their faced with working completely online.” Bev was thankful she already had developed a good rapport with her students. She emailed students of concern, encouraging them to meet in course collaborate, and offered flexible office times for them to do so.

May was fast approaching, and since Bev would be teaching in May and June, she needed to find a way to get ready. When students registered, for May/June courses, they were registering for face-to-face delivery. “I didn’t have a ton of time to get ready. Fortunately, I relied heavily upon our instructional assistant in Psych who is well-versed in online delivery.”

In April, Bev surveyed students about their online experience, access to technology, and what their living situations were like to help her think about how to set up her course.  “One of the things I had to be mindful of was their home environments. Many of them were sharing, for example, a one-bedroom apartment with four or five other students.”  Knowing the challenges her students would be facing, she worked hard to build in engagement, utilizing the breakout rooms in Collaborate, for student-student interaction and she set up discussion posts for supporting peer connections. A three-hour scheduled face to face class was now a three hour collaborate session, using break out rooms. “Collaborate and breakout rooms were as a new to them as they were to me, so I continually asked for feedback on what was working and what wasn’t working for them.”

Bev was using the synchronous environment for discussion and elaboration, and D2L as delivery of information; by the end of spring semester, she found herself flipping her teaching.  “I realized toward the end of June that my role as an instructor had changed. I was not delivering the content as much as I was elaborating on the content, meeting with students, addressing their questions, and building on the content in a number of different modalities, while students were more in control of navigating the course content on their own.”  What Bev found most valuable that spring was working with her two colleagues who were also teaching then.  “We would meet regularly and brainstorm what was working. It really helped when I was feeling overwhelmed or challenged, and this networking with colleagues became as important to me as networking with my students.”

Bev told me that by the time fall rolled around, “I was feeling less overwhelmed and really inspired because I realized all that this online environment could do.” She polled her students again in June around how the delivery methods worked for them and “was surprised with the results. Even though they said they thought it was intense, they liked the week-to-week engagement.”  Now, Bev faced a new challenge for her fall interpersonal communication course with a lab component. Her challenge was how to incorporate the experiential learning piece, “a lot of the skill development requires sitting together face to face and practicing the skills. Skill demonstration by me in a face-to-face class was replaced with videos downloaded in Kaltura from YouTube, uploaded in course media, and embedded throughout the lecture modules.

Additionally, Bev had about 11 students registered with the Centre for Accessible learning with a variety of accommodation needs.  “I was trying to get my head around how the online delivery can support students in meeting some of the course objectives, while at the same time address a few unique accommodations.”  To help her navigate the wide world of online accommodations and accessibility, Bev reached out to instructional designer. “She helped me not only design the course, but she also implemented BBAlly, which measures level of accessibility. This accessibility report includes a course percentile score and graphs areas for improvement. For example, I use a lot of images in my teaching, and I had to go back now and describe the images, put captions in the videos, etc.”  This work was eye-opening for Bev, because it “made me realize how much I assume that students understand given instruction, in classes face-to-face. I went back to what I had already set up in my D2L course and integrated more instructions. For example, I would put assignment instructions not only in the assignment itself, but also in a number of pertinent places throughout the D2L course.”

During the fall 2020 and winter 2021, Bev found very few students, in her asynchronous course, attended virtual office hour.  “I wondered if they were overwhelmed with everyone still facing isolation. Given their need for socialization, and the extent this process was lacking, links to various support services were incorporated into my course outline and flexible office times increase my availability to students.”

In addition to these challenges around connection, Bev found many rewards through teaching online.  In particular, “I saw the lock down as an opportunity to focus on my own learning, and it was also a refresher from face to face – being able to look at what works in a face-to-face environment and try to incorporate that into the online environment.  An online environment offers so much more than I expected, beyond my expectations.”  In the end, Bev says that “there’s a fine line between being a learner and being a teacher. And for me, it’s a circular process.  I’m thankful to have had this opportunity, this challenge, and at this time in my career, to discover what technology can do. I’m thankful I feel more connected to students now than I did at the beginning of the pandemic.

As to what advice Bev has for new online instructors?  “Identify what’s important to you in your course, where your strengths lie as an instructor, then reach out to others when faced with challenges. Remember that you’re not alone: whatever challenge you think you’re facing, expertise is available, and you do not have to face the challenge alone.”

Moving forward, Bev says she is sold on online learning.  In fact, when she was back teaching in person last fall, Bev found herself, wondering: “can I do this again? Can I be in a face-to-face situation?  Can I be as strong as I felt on the online environment?” And she discovered the online and in-person teaching/learning works together to support students. “I keep things pretty much as they were in a completely online environment.  I use BBAlly to measure the accessibility piece, and I think supporting diverse learners in an online platform with this piece is what I’m really sold on.”

An example is the communication skills course taught, fall 2020, is kept fully online to reinforce the in-person delivery.  “I tell students that the course basically is in D2L. I will be demonstrating some skills in class, but everything’s in D2L. I outline the advantages of coming to class, and do not penalize them if they don’t show up – I’m not measuring them based on skill participation in class. In this way, the class environment enhances the online environment.  I no longer see me as the deliverer of content. I see myself as the manager of content, more importantly, the monitor of student progress and the supporter to students ‘academically.”

Bev ends by telling me that she thinks there will always be a place for in-person learning. “The human connection is the piece that we don’t get online, for that we need face-to-face. In terms of the instructional piece, I don’t think we can afford to only deliver content face-to-face. I think we’ll lose too many students. How we see learning ongoing needs to be outside the four walls of the classroom and outside a specific timeframe. Face-to-face to me is just one modality – it’s a very small piece.”

Please Stop Creating PDFs that Aren’t Accessible

Do you create your PDFs by photocopying the source material? Do your PDFs have any handwritten notes on the pages?

If you answered yes to either of these questions, you should know that many students can’t read these PDFs at all.

  • A photocopied PDF is just a picture of the page. It is 100% inaccessible for any student who uses text-to-speech tools to access course content.
  • Handwritten notes in PDFs present challenges for ALL students, and are also unreadable for text-to-speech tools.

Before you spend hours at a photocopier scanning your course readings into PDF files: STOP!

Take your clean (i.e. no handwritten notes) source materials to Printshop Services and ask them to scan your course readings as OCR’d* PDFs. (OCR is a scanning process that extracts the text from the source material; PDFs scanned for OCR are readable for most students.)

For more information about accessible print materials, see:

*OCR = Optical Character Recognition.

Open Education Week is NEXT Week!

From Open Education Global:

An annual celebration, Open Education Week (OE Week) is an opportunity for actively sharing and learning about the latest achievements in Open Education worldwide.

Open Education Week was launched in 2012 by Open Education Global as a collaborative, community-built open forum. Every year OE Week raises awareness and highlights innovative open education successes worldwide. OE Week provides practitioners, educators, and students with an opportunity to build a greater understanding of open educational practices and be inspired by the wonderful work being developed by the community around the world.

Next week is Open Education Week and there are many amazing events taking place online you can attend or register for and get the recording.  A large list is available at OEGlobal Open Education Week (see the 2022 Activity Schedule).  This is a great chance to hear what people from across Canada and the world are doing to support OE initiatives, and to connect yourselves with the wider community.  I will be attending a number of sessions myself and will try to note resources to share with everyone after.  If you go to any sessions and find some resources, or hear of something interesting you would like to explore or share, let me know!!

Feel free to share these sessions with others – they are open to all.  Here are a few more:


University of Alberta Open Education Week events:


Sask Polytechnic


Creative Comments: An Introductory Discussion of Open Licensing

On March 7th from 12-1pm MT, Athabasca University will be hosting a lunch-and-learn discussion panel on open licensing. Join Dan Cockcroft (OER Librarian), Rachel Conroy (Copyright Officer) and Mark McCutcheon (Chair of the Centre for Humanities and Professor of Literary Studies) to discuss common questions and misconceptions surrounding open licensing. While the discussion will be oriented to instructors who are curious about open licensing, we invite everyone from the education community to participate. See you there! Grab your free ticket here:

Evaluating Excellence: A Conversation About OER Quality

On March 9th from 12-1pm MT, Athabasca University will be hosting a lunch-and-learn discussion on the quality of Open Educational Resources (OER). Join Dan Cockcroft (OER librarian), Dr. Connie Blomgren (Assistant Professor, Distance Education), Michael Dabrowski (Academic Coordinator, Spanish), Dr. David Annand (Professor, Accounting), and Dr. Dietmar Kennepohl (Professor, Chemistry) to discuss common questions and misconceptions surrounding the quality of open resources. While the panel discussion will be oriented to instructors who are curious about OER, we invite everyone from the education community to participate. Grab your free ticket here:


I’m excited to share SAIT’s Open Education Week activities.  We are still online for our classes and events, so two very talented students have developed the following online asynchronous activities that anyone can access:

Feel free to link to these resources. Our general calendar of events is available at

Camosun Open Sustainability Project: Project Story #7

And now for the seventh and final story in our ongoing series related to Camosun’s Open Education Sustainability Project:  Liz Morch.

Liz teaches in the Dental Hygiene program at Camosun, and her project was “to develop five modules covering basic topics in nutrition that could be used by anybody teaching foundational nutritional courses.  Using open technology, we have the opportunity to share learning materials rather than having to (re)create information that should be readily available, leaving more time for instructors to focus on student needs and student interaction.”  The five modules Liz created were around the topics of Carbohydrates, Proteins, Lipids, Vitamins, and Minerals.  “I think we created five solid modules on those components containing foundational information that anyone could use for their own courses, or adapt for use in their own context, whatever discipline they might be in.”

Using and creating open resources fits well into Liz’s philosophy of teaching.  “I think we need to understand today’s student. When I went to university, I didn’t have to work because I was fortunate to have family support and scholarships, so all I did was focus on school. Today, many of our students are balancing work, family commitments, financial constraints and learning challenges, as  well as navigating huge volumes of information that they encounter in school and on the Internet. As an instructor, it is important to consider the challenges students face when learning, however every time I push myself to do something different to address this, I’m always amazed at how well students respond!”

Liz believes in sharing the wealth through using open resources as well.  “One of the challenges we face as faculty is staying current in our discipline. Every basic nutrition course, no matter what program it is part of, has content focused on proteins, carbohydrates, lipids, vitamins, and minerals.  So, instead of creating and taking class time to deliver this common content every time you offer a course, students could complete these existing online modules on their own, and then classroom exercises can focus on  amazing discussions because they’ve had the flexibility to learn the content at their own pace and their own time.”

While creating and using open content is a priority for Liz, finding, adapting, or creating OER comes with challenges.  “During the semester, it’s very hard to find dedicated time for this kind of work.  Even when you dedicate focussed time, it’s amazing how many distractions come your way.”  While fortunately for this project Liz was given release time as a result of the grant funding, one other challenge Liz mentioned was the question of how much is enough?  “I want it to be extraordinary, so defining the breadth and scope for this project was a bit challenging. I wanted to make sure that it was not solely dental focused, and I also wanted it to be much more interactive, but I ran out of time.”

Despite these challenges, Liz still believes that working with open educational resources is the right thing to do.  One of the benefits she sees with her open project is the flexibility her nutrition site can afford students who have a very heavy course load.  “For my course within the heavy course load of our dental hygiene program, the end of their final semester students have many large comprehensive projects to complete. So, what I began to consider was how to organize my course to include these nutrition modules so that their work for the course was front loaded. In January, students have quite a bit of time, whereas in April, they are going to be stressed out and maxed out with projects that require considerable time and effort. If I create modules for them to work through on their own, then they can choose to finish 80 or 90 percent of this course in January so they have more time at the end of the term to devote to their final projects.”

When I asked Liz what advice she would have for other faculty wanting to work with open educational resources, she told me “We need to challenge tradition and consider not only a course’s learning objectives, but how to deliver the content in an inspiring flexible manner.  We have a responsibility in today’s world, where the volume of information and the speed of change is so great, to consider flexible ways for students to engage with course content so that it becomes more meaningful for them.”  Liz says she doesn’t see her role as being “a gatekeeper to knowledge, but rather as someone to bring course content to life.”

What’s next for Liz in the world of Open Education?  Well, she tells me she is close to retirement, but “if I could do anything, it would be to mentor new faculty and encourage them to not be afraid to think outside of the box.  I have tried many creative approaches over my career most of which have been wonderful with some that helped me learn tools to create the next opportunity.  I would love to support other faculty to figure that out, “that would be what I would really enjoy.”

Camosun Faculty Story #44: Kari

Kari is a faculty member in the English Department at Camosun College.  When the pandemic moved everyone online back in March 2020, Kari, who was teaching four in-person courses, says “at the beginning it was all panic and we just did what we could. But there one thing that happened despite that panic: we, in the English department, started supporting each other in amazing ways.” 

Finally, the winter term was over, and the summer term arrived.  While several English faculty members, including Kari, had scheduled development (SD) leave, there were three or four others who had to teach online with no prep time at all.  But they were not left to flounder on their own and their colleagues on SD stepped up to support them.  Kari related one example of that support: “Michael Stewart was teaching English 163, so I and two other members of the English department read and watched all the material in his class. Then Michael and the three of us created videos of us analyzing and discussing the course material, which Michael then posted on his D2L site for his students.” 

At one point as well, one of Kari’s colleagues sent out a cry for help asking for someone to co-create a lesson with her.  “So, three of us got together and created a lesson which I’m also using now because it is on a topic covered in multiple courses.”   But this co-creation of materials was not just a boon for faculty, but also useful from the student’s perspective.  “Because I’m still using some of those videos in my in-person class, using them as extension materials, students have the opportunity to watch experienced readers engaging in dialogue, building on each other’s ideas, disagreeing, and then finding understanding. We modelled discourse and disagreement, and how you can move through that to come to understanding, I think, from the student’s perspective, was really rich in building their understanding of these concepts.”  Another interesting outcome of this collaboration was that faculty members were essentially coming into each other’s classes reading each other’s course materials and discussing them, and Kari says she is grateful to have been a receiver as well as a giver within this context.  “On one hand, it’s important to have the academic freedom to do the things we want to do in our classes, but on the other hand, we don’t normally ever go into each other’s classes. We don’t ever see what other instructors are doing and seeing each other in action is a great way to learn.  This opportunity has helped us get a better sense of what other instructors do in their classes and how other they approach topics in our field.” 

One of the challenges Kari faced preparing for teaching online back in 2020 was that there is “a difference between taking an in-person class and throwing it online, and actually designing an online class, because it takes a long time to put together a well-conceived, well-supported online course.” And in addition to trying to create good online courses without adequate time, Kari told me that “the biggest challenge for me was not being able to put a face and personality to the students.”  To try and build some community, she set up online co-writing sessions with her students. “I said, I’m going to be online and I’m just going to do my thing, so you can come do your thing. Some of the students did come to those sessions which I think was valuable for all of us because I was able to interact with them directly.  It really brought home how much, for me, teaching is about interactions with people and watching them build community amongst themselves.” 

One lesson Kari has learned from moving courses online and working with students struggling during COVID-related stress and absences is that flexibility is important for both teaching and learning. As a result, she is now flipping her classes to leverage the best of both the online and in-person worlds.  “I’m saying to the students, all materials are online, and when you come to class, we’ll discuss the material and do writing exercises. Then when they do come to class, we are having great conversations, and doing in-class writing exercises and a lot of peer work because those are the things that you can’t do as effectively online.”  What Kari is also excited about is that flipping the class “gives students more autonomy. They can decide how much further they want to go with the material, if they want to learn more.”  And in addition, it opens the door for them to learn from others, including Kari’s colleagues.  “Often when students come into your classroom the only person they learn from is you, but this way they learn not only from you, but also from each other and from other instructors.” 

Kari has some advice for faculty moving to online teaching.  “First of all, ask for help. There is a lot of help available both institutionally, and within the department. And second, if you’re teaching online, keep it simple. Ask yourself what are the key things the students need? How can they achieve them? And finally, make sure to communicate with the students in whatever way you find most helpful.  What I do with my online students is I send a note on Fridays telling them what’s coming up the next week. And then on Monday I say, hey, welcome to this week.” 

Moving forward, Kari tells me “I feel like I would like to get better at figuring out what’s best online and what’s best in-person and taking advantage of both.” In addition, now that courses have moved back to a mostly pre-pandemic teaching mode, Kari and her colleagues are looking forward to building on the kind of collaboration that evolved over the past two years, creating course materials that can be used by many instructors. I know I am excited to see that, while the English department already had a strong culture of collaboration prior to COVID, it was further strengthened through the common goal of designing and sharing good online activities.