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[Institutional Update] Thompson Rivers University

Contributed by Troy Welch, TRU and SCETUG

Just like every other institution in the province, the past few years at TRU have been characterized by an exciting variety of changes, initiatives, and new faces and roles.

Our new institutional President/Vice-Chancellor Brett Fairbairn joined us in late fall and has hit the ground running by initiating a community-wide consultation called Envision TRU (https://www.tru.ca/envision.html).

This thematically-driven comprehensive process represents the discovery phase on our way to the next evolution of our institutional vision. Should be interesting.

In TRU Open Learning Don Poirier has ably stepped into the Associate Vice President (Interim) role following Irwin Devries’ retirement. Among other things, he has been leading the internal evolution in response to a recent institution-wide employee engagement initiative launched about two years ago.

ETUG 25th Anniversary Spring Conference @ TRU

We are absolutely thrilled to host the ETUG 25th Anniversary Spring conference on the TRU campus June 20/21. It is shaping up to be an excellent and engaging event. We are looking forward to seeing you there. Yes you. You are coming, aren’t you?

OpenETC Partner/Workshop hosts

TRU has been an active part in the formation of the OpenETC and its offerings. On June 19, just prior to the ETUG Spring Conference we are hosting a barnraising and planning day for organizers and users of the OpenETCs key offerings. We’re hoping to take stock of where we are and where to go next. It’ll be poultry in motion.

Technology News/Activity

Here are some of the highlights of stuff we have been working with of late:

Kaltura

We are super-excited that our Kaltura proposal has met with institutional support and it looks like we will be joining several of our compatriot institutions in BCNet’s Kaltura shared service. The news is recent enough that the gravity of the work involved in rolling this out has not fully sunk it, but we’re looking forward to it.

Moodle

TRU’s LMS of choice is Moodle. In fact, our IT team operates the BCNet Moodle shared service. We have been working hard on refining the user experience for our Moodle users. Late last year we introduced a custom Boost-based theme, and we are in the process of tackling general navigation, design, and usage elements in a more inclusive design process.

Our Moodle support model has also evolved greatly over the past couple of years. Support requests come in primarily through our IT Services Help Desk Ticketing system. This is coupled with proactive service offerings such as small group workshops and individual-focussed drop-in sessions.

WordPress

WordPress continues to play a huge part in our Ed Tech lives. We have several WordPress multisite installations we are involved with for the provision of general web communications, classroom support, student portfolios, event support, splot usage, and a variety of other use cases.

Trubox is our institutional flagship installation and hosts over 600 individual sites.

Opened.ca: We are also heavily involved in hosting the OpenETCs multisite at opened.ca. We are excited about an upcoming set of “bionic updates” crafted by well-known ‘wordpresstidigitator’ (as we like to think of him) Tom Woodward that will soon be coming to opened. Tom’s work is legendary. He blogs about it here: http://bionicteaching.com/.

Special Purpose: we also have a few special purpose installations including two program-specific Commons in a Box (https://commonsinabox.org/) installations as well as a Pressbooks (https://pressbooks.com/) installation.

Mattermost

We are involved in the hosting of two Mattermost installations, one for internal use at TRU and the second as the chat offering of the OpenETC. Mattermost is an excellent business chat tool that replaces Slack with something that meets our provincial privacy legislation, while retaining the functionality that users find appealing about Slack.

BigBlueButton (BBB)

We have also been working with the open source web conferencing tool Big Blue Button (https://bigbluebutton.org/). We love it. It is self-hosted and privacy compliant.

There are also a number of ways to integrate and access BBB including: via our LMS, via Mattermost, and also via a stand-alone front end called Greenlight. It has a great set of functionality including screen-share, whiteboard, and session recording.

Also, our IT Services department has been in talks with BCNet to be the shared service provider for Big Blue Button.

 

TRU Ed Tech Structure/Staffing

Positions at TRU related to educational technology, instructional design, and supporting areas can possibly be best understood through their institutional relationships. There are three key operational areas under the oversight of their respective directors:

  • Director, Learning Technology and Innovation, Brian Lamb
  • Director, Curriculum Development & Delivery, (announcement pending)
  • Director, Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, Catharine Dishke Hondzel

Further, each of these areas contain also faculty positions that are part of a single academic department called Learning Design and Innovation. Part of the strength of the TRU model is the faculty positions in these key areas. Recent arrivals here include: Carole Sparkes, Stephen Doubt, and Marie Bartlett in tenure-track Instructional Designer roles; Matthew Stranach and Brenna Clarke Gray (joining us in August) in tenure-track Coordinator, Educational Technologies roles, and Carolyn Ives in the Coordinator, Learning and Faculty Development role.

In the chart above you can see sets of positions that are primarily involved in the Ed Tech heavy world of online and open learning. Following 40 years of rich history, it is fair to say that Open Learning’s (OL) development and delivery model works well through its key stages: initial course development undertaken by the Instructional Designers as team leads with SME’s, Curriculum Services, Media Production through to final Program/Course Production followed by Program Delivery, which includes support, exams, etc.

There is a substantial amount of Ed Tech knowledge and experience in the Open Learning division, which is now being leveraged to better support face-to-face instructors, students, and their activities.

Over the past two years or so, the OL Production and Media Production units have been consolidated along with campus-based Media Production and support under the leadership of Brian Lamb, Director of Learning Technology and Innovation.

Additionally, several new roles have arisen in response to a broadened mandate to better support campus faculty and learners. A position has been reallocated to campus Ed Tech support, primarily Moodle, and is ably handled by resident Moodle expert Jamie Drozda. Recently two faculty Coordinator, Educational Technologies positions have been allocated to also better provide for campus-based educational technology needs.

Key internal partners

The Ed Tech world is all about collaborations and partnerships, and there are several other institutional units we depend upon heavily in our work.

IT Services (ITS)

There is not enough space to detail everything that ITS does, from provisioning to enterprise systems to technical services to help desk support. It would be fair, though, to say that everything that happens in Ed Tech is underpinned by the excellent work of ITS.

Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT)

We collaborate with CELT on a variety of initiatives involving teaching and learning, educational technology, and associated topics. In particular, we partner with them to provide a unified calendar of professional development events for faculty to tap into.

Library

Librarians are among the forerunners of trending topics in Ed Tech, pedagogy, open learning, and what the faculty are up to. The Library is a key partner in our Kaltura project and leads the charge on OER.

Educational Leaders

The work we do depends on so many faculty and administrators who are involved in the provision of teaching and learning. It is from them that we find out what the needs are and we love working with them to develop solutions.

See you all at ETUG in June!