An Important Partnership

It’s no secret that we, in the E-Learning Office, love working with students. Faculty, we love you too, obviously… but you have to admit that working with students is super fun.

Two weeks ago Megan, one of our Instructional Designers, had the opportunity to attend and present at the annual conference for the Atlantic Association of College and University Student Services (AACUSS) held at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton, New Brunswick.


AACUSS is a wonderful organization that connects college and university Student Affairs professionals in the Atlantic Canada region. The annual conference serves as an opportunity to connect with counterparts at neighbouring institutions and encourage and promote professional and ethical practices in Student Services.

The obvious question at this point is: why is an E-Learning Instructional Designer attending a conference for Student Affairs professionals? Well, that’s a good question.

Those amazing people that work in Student Affairs and Services are the people that keep our students at the centre of what we do. As an Instructional Designer, it’s so easy to get caught up in the how of teaching that it’s easy to forget the why and the who of what we do. By making efforts to remain current in the issues facing the students on our campuses, we’re doing our best to ensure the courses we work on are designed with student learning at the centre.

The AACUSS conference kicked off with a pre-conference about assessment. Now, we spend a lot of time in the ELO thinking about assessment. This pre-conference workshop provided a great opportunity to reconsider our program assessment processes and set some new targets for our programs and services.

The conference schedule offered several concurrent sessions to learn more about programs and services at other institutions, current research in Student Affairs, and issues and trends in Student Services in Higher Education. Megan co-facilitated a session on Universal Design for Learning that explored UDL as a framework for designing programs and services to facilitate student success. The resources from the workshop can be viewed at this link:

The highlight of this conference was receiving an AACUSS Special Project Grant, which is a grant awarded to members to develop new programs or services related to issues in student services. In collaboration with Accessibility Services in UPEI Student Affairs, we applied for a grant to develop a series of OERs on the topic of Universal Design for Learning. With these OERs, we intend on building a training program for staff and faculty that can be used at UPEI and by our colleagues across the region.

Awards 1

Megan with Cathy Rose, Coordinator of Accessibility Services, UPEI and Sara Rothman, AACUSS Past President.

Finally, as a result of attending this conference, we are entering a new partnership with UPEI Student Affairs to develop a new workshop series for faculty on student-centred course design. We are looking forward to updating you on this series as it is developed. We are hoping to pilot some of the workshops this fall and are excited to get your feedback!

There is no question that our connection with UPEI Student Affairs is an important one. Our attendance at the AACUSS annual conference is just one of the things to do to make an effort to remain up to date on the current issues facing our campuses. We are truly grateful for the opportunity to remain connected with our students through our relationships and collaborations with student affairs professionals at UPEI

To all of our colleagues across campus who are busy advising, recruiting, planning programs, training student leaders, debriefing, reflecting, and supporting: thank you for all of the work you do to to create a safe and supportive learning environment for our students!

Getting the most from your Instructional Designers

Do you know who these cute faces belong to?

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We’re your friendly neighbourhood Instructional Designers! We work in the E-Learning Office and spend our days working with faculty, supporting the use of Moodle, developing resources, and (obviously) writing awesome blog posts.

We get really excited about helping you find new and exciting ways to deliver content, engage with your classes, and assess student learning. In the E-Learning Office, we get most excited about teaching with technology and spend most of our time supporting online courses. But we also work with faculty doing innovative things in face to face, blended, and hybrid courses.

But what, exactly, do we do? Good question. Every person we work with has different needs, but we can help with things including:

  • reviewing your course outline and offering feedback and suggestions;
  • discussing teaching methods and offering ideas for approaches to meet outcomes;
  • brainstorming and offering new ideas;
  • helping you sort through all those great ideas (see previous point) to find things that will work for you;
  • developing (or co-developing) assessments and instruments (e.g. rubrics, marking guides, grading schemes) for implementing assessment;
  • managing the course design (or re-design) process;
  • creating resources;
  • training on the use of Moodle, Blackboard Collaborate, Google Apps, and other tools;
  • supporting the use of Moodle in your courses (including content, activities, grading, reporting, etc.);
  • ensuring accessibility in your course content, activities, and assessments;
  • offering in-class (face to face or online) presentations, workshops, activities;
  • facilitating post-course debrief, self-assessment, and goal setting.

And much more!

As you can see, we are prepared to assist with any stage of course design or delivery. If you’re not quite sure what role we can play – get in touch with us! If nothing else, we can have a coffee and chat about your teaching. We’re very friendly.

So what can you expect when you start working with an instructional designer? And how can you make sure you are getting the most from us? Here are our top five tips for getting the most from your Instructional Designer.

Be honest.
It’s okay if you’ve never used Moodle before, but it’s important that we know that. It’s also okay if you are totally committed to a particular type of assessment or instructional method, but if we don’t know that we can’t help you find strategies that align with your philosophy and style. Every course will not look the same (nor should it!); it’s our job to learn about you and your students and find ways to meet your goals. You’re not going to like all of our ideas, and it’s okay to tell us that. We’re here to help you create something that you are proud of – honesty really is the best policy to get us there.

Stay in touch.
The people that have had the most success are those that book regular meetings, e-mail updates and questions, and attempt to touch base often. One of our favourite strategies is a standing meeting (every month, every other week, every week) to keep on track. This ensures that the project keeps moving forward with regular deadlines. As you get more comfortable with the tools and strategies you are using, your meetings will become more infrequent… but we still want to hear from you!

Do your homework.
Okay, maybe it’s not homework. But after a meeting or conversation, we will both leave with a list of things to do for your course. Maybe it’s research, reflecting, developing something, or writing questions for quiz banks. It’s really easy to push these things off, but please don’t! We want to alleviate some of the stress of designing your course, and regular communication and staying on top of the project will prevent us from falling behind.

Let us help you.
Often we will say that we can teach you to do something or do it for you (e.g. setting up your gradebook, importing quizzes). We mean it. There are a lot of things to learn. You don’t have to learn them all at once. We will share the work, and as you get comfortable and gain new skills you will discover you need us less. Which brings us to our next point…

Stay realistic!
You want to be the best, most amazing teacher ever. We get that. We’re also overachievers who don’t do anything halfway. But it’s a marathon, not a sprint. You don’t have to completely re-design your course in one semester, but a few intentional changes every year will shape your courses into something you (and your students) will enjoy.

We are very excited to work with you and help you discover some new teaching strategies. Please get in touch with our office to discuss how we can support you! There are lots of different ways to get in touch with us: e-mail, twitter, or visit us in the Office of Skills Development and Learning. You can also check us out on our new Pinterest page, where we pin things that we think are cool and interesting – check back often for new resources.

Stay tuned to this blog, where we post new content every Thursday! If you have ideas for future blog posts, let us know!

Happy exams!

Here in the Office of Skills Development and Learning, we love students. So to celebrate our wonderful students at the end of the semester, here are some of our top tips for a successful exam period.


Don’t cram up until the last minute…put your notes away at least an hour before your exam time and do something
fun or relaxing.
– Voilet Vadjina, Career Practitioner

Jason quote

“If the exam covers old material that’s been on quizzes or midterms, instead of reviewing them try re-doing them to help you prepare. Best of luck!”
– Jason Hogan, E-Learning Instructional Designer

Karen quote

“Anxiety is contagious so avoid other students who are overly nervous or negative on exam day. Try to stay relaxed by thinking positive thoughts!”
– Karen Dempsey, Manager,
Career & Adult Learner Services

beth quote“Do your best, but always remember that the grade you get on an exam is not who you are. You are unlimited!”
– Beth Janzen, Administrative Support

megan quote

“Don’t overdo it on coffee! Your brain needs good food to make it through exams. Drink water and eat well!”
– Megan MacKenzie, E-Learning Instructional Designer

ernie quote“Get adequate sleep! Try to stay calm! Read exam questions very very carefully! Tell them everything you know!”
– Ernie Doiron, Co-operative Education Coordinator

kristy quote“Get fresh air! If you’re feeling stressed get outside and go for a walk. This will give you a chance to clear your mind and when you get back to studying you will be ready to focus!”
– Kristy McKinney, E-Learning Multimedia Specialist

jennifer quote“Exams can be a stressful time for everyone so remember to take time out for yourself, relax, and breathe.”
– Jennifer Hogan, Business Development and Education Program Manager

From all of us to you, good luck on your exams and have a wonderful summer!



Why is it important to save your stuff? An introduction to archive portfolios

We spend most of our time blogging for faculty. But dear students, this one is for you!

… well, archive portfolios and the importance of keeping your work is relevant to faculty and staff as well. So let me revise that statement:

Dear students everyone who has ever or will ever produce work, this one is for you!

As we already know from our previous discussions on our blog, there are many different situations that you might use an ePortfolio. If you are applying for a job, you could develop an ePortfolio based on the qualifications and job requirements. In this context, you would choose artifacts from your best work that demonstrates the necessary knowledge and skills to succeed in the job. If you are trying to demonstrate growth or learning in a particular area, you could use an ePortfolio in which you choose artifacts that demonstrate growth, change, or mastery in a specific set of competencies.

Maybe you don’t have a specific event, but you want something online to build some online identity – something that pops up when someone Googles you. In this case, you might build a general ePortfolio in a personal website, blog, or LinkedIn profile.

The content, format, and location of your ePortfolio should always be driven by your audience. Considering your audience will help you make decisions about how you represent your knowledge, skills, and experience in a way that is accessible and relevant to your audience.

ePortfolios are great. We can talk at length about why you should use them. (And we will. If you want to chat about using ePortfolios, contact the E-Learning Office!)

The biggest complaint we get about ePortfolios is that people don’t realize how awesome they are until it’s too late. By the time they realize how amazing it would be to use an ePortfolio, they no longer have some really important artifacts from school, work, and life.

Enter: the archive portfolio.

An archive portfolio is a space where you keep, organize, and reflect on your experiences. The biggest difference between your archive portfolio and your career, developmental, or assessment portfolios is that an archive portfolio has no audience. It’s a space for you to keep track of your stuff, which makes it infinitely easier to build other types of ePortfolios down the road.

While there are many strategies for organizing your archive, here is an overview of a strategy we like, using Google Drive:

Create a Google Drive folder

It’s no secret that we, in the ELO, love Google Drive. But you can easily use whatever you like for storage including Dropbox, Evernote, or a simple external hard drive. Remember that we are dealing with your artifacts here, so whatever strategy you use, don’t forget to back it up! One great tool we use (all the time!) is IFTTT (If This Then That). There are many recipes on there for connecting different apps. You could use IFTTT to sync your archive portfolio folder from Google Drive to Dropbox, so you’ll always have a backup.

(We recognize that we just dropped a lot of stuff on you there, so get in touch if you need some help setting up your archive!)

Future blog post idea: some of our favourite IFTTT recipes! We’ll work on it… stay tuned!

Create subfolders based on competencies (or year, or experience, or…)

The majority of ePortfolios we use are competency-based, where you are trying to demonstrate a specific skill or set of skills. For this reason, we think it’s easier to organize your artifacts by competency. That said, if you prefer to think chronologically or some other way, organize your artifacts in any way that makes it easy for you to navigate. Remember, the purpose of your archive portfolio is to make it easier for you!

Create a master artifact spreadsheet

We like to use a spreadsheet to house all of the details about each of our potential artifacts. In this spreadsheet you could include artifact title, where it is located (and a link if it is online!), your reflections on the experience, and connections to other artifacts/experiences.

Keeping this spreadsheet is important. It helps facilitate the creation of your next ePortfolio, because the work of collecting your potential artifacts and connecting artifacts to competencies is already done. At that point, it is simply a matter of scanning your spreadsheet and choosing the best artifacts for your ePortfolio audience.

To help you get started, we’ve created a Google Sheets template with a few different possible formats. Feel free to make a copy and edit it to meet your needs!

Archive portfolio artifact master – template

Save everything!

And we mean everything.

Obviously, you will save things like papers, assignments, projects, presentations, and feedback. But consider what else you could use to demonstrate your knowledge and skills. In-class work, workshops, events, programs… snap a photo or jot down some observations. Capture anything that you could possibly use to provide evidence of your experiences.

You have unlimited storage in your UPEI Google Drive, so keep it all!

We love ePortfolios. We would love to help you figure out how you might use your ePortfolio. Get in touch with us with your questions!

UDL Week 4: UDL Toolkit

Yesterday was our UDL workshop, and we think it was pretty swell. This was the first step in many conversations to be had about inclusion and diversity at UPEI.

We want to take this opportunity to share a couple of UDL resources on our blog. As we build our community of practice, we plan in building out UDL knowledge base, but for now, visit our slides. The last few slides contain some resources and references to help you get started with UDL.

Check out our slides here:

Thank you for joining us on this #UPEIUDL journey this week! But the conversation doesn’t have to end here! Let us know if you are interested in finding a way to keep the discussion going.