Contributed by Jason Toal, SFU
Tell us a bit about where you work and what you do.
I am a Program Director in the Centre for Online and Distance Education, where I have worked in various capacities since the mid 1990’s. I work with faculties and departments to plan and develop their online course offerings. Currently I am responsible for 9 academic areas, some with large offerings and others just starting out with only a few online courses. I am directly involved with the courses from their inception, through development and then delivery. My research interests are study behaviour and student support and service. These interests go hand in hand with the development and delivery of our online courses. My goal in developing courses is to provide students with the highest quality product while minimizing the logistical requirements of either the student or the university as I have found that is often where problems arise and cause confusion and frustration for students in particular.
How long have you been involved in teaching and Learning and ed technology?
In 1994 I began teaching in the Military and became interested in pedagogy, then in 1995 I took a life changing course with Dr. Richard Smith in the School of Communication (http://thecdm.ca/people/director/drrichardsmith). It was titled New Media Technologies. Immediately I saw the potential for the use of technology in teaching and learning. I took at Coop job at the Ministry Of Education in the Technology and Distance Education Branch in 1996 and there began my career in Online and Distance Education. I started at a temp employee in Distance Ed at SFU and then became one of the first two Online Learning Technicians at SFU. I completed my MA in Education and eventually a PhD in Educational Psychology, both degrees investigating issues related to study environments and behaviours in the online classroom.
What’s one thing you really love about the work you do?
I really love talking pedagogy with Faculty. Solving problems. I am well connected at the university and if I can’t solve a problem I can connect you with someone who can. I really enjoy that. I also love seeing a student studying one of the courses I have developed and asking them how the course is going. Receiving that feedback is invaluable as ‘end of course’ feedback is often too personal it relates to the emotions of the student at the time, and doesn’t provide insight into the actual strengths and weakness of the course content or delivery methods.
How long have you been a member of ETUG?
Back in 1974 I attended my first ETUG meeting as a young computer enthusiast. I had sent my personal computer plans to Steve and Steve in Cupertino and they said it would take them about 10 years to do anything with such complex diagrams…. or…. When I started at SFU I began to meet interesting people in the area of Educational Technology and was told about a wonderful group I should join. It was the early days of ETUG and I am still in touch with so many of those colleagues I met going back almost 20 years. Having access to this wonderful group is always comforting when we run into a problem, I know there are so many people I can call or email for support.
What do you like best about this community and its activities?
I love the ETUG gatherings as it is such a nice group of like-minded people who love to help others and to come up with innovative solutions to educational and pedagogical issues. Always invigorating to talk about what is going on and comforting to know that the problems we have with certain technologies or policies are shared by other institutions. Also, I always come away with at least a few solutions to current problems, and only hope I solves some problems for others while I am there!!
Do you have a favorite ETUG memory?
I’ve always enjoyed the positive energy of some of the members, the laughing and jovial setting of the meetings. I really enjoyed a scavenger hunt we had at Kwantlen in Richmond a few years ago. I was grouped with people I didn’t know and we really got to know each other while running about the campus.
Do you have any special interests/hobbies?
I have three young children (2, 5 & 7) who really are my special interests at this time. I thoroughly enjoy skiing with them as the two older children can now ski most of Big White Ski Resort with me my challenge is keeping up to them! As they get older I am enjoying getting back outside and exploring the forest in our back yard with them. Seeing their excitement in finding a creek or a large stump is so much fun.
Anything special you what to ask or share with members?
I would ask that we continue to have lots of informal face to face get togethers. Something I started a number of years ago with another institution in town was an annual showcase. We would have their team come visit us, we would show each other what we were up to and have a casual conversation over lunch. I thoroughly enjoyed that level of collegiality. I would encourage other members to do the same. I miss that.
Contributed by Jason Toal, SFU