Teaching

Teaching Online with Anne Trépanier

Published on: 6 May 2019

By Danielle Kinsey and Anne Trépanier
 
In 2015, Professor Trépanier, a specialist in Quebec Studies and Public History at Carleton University was awarded a “Teaching with Technology” award.  It came on the heels of a Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Teaching Award and a Graduate Students Association Excellence in Teaching award. In 2018, she was also one of the nominees for a Favorite Faculty Award.
 
Prof. Trépanier teaches courses in the School of Indigenous and Canadian studies, including two fully online courses. One is an introductory course about Quebec society and “Critical Nationalism,” is a second year course. She has just published a book chapter in Germany about cultural mediation  and online teaching, « Enseigner le Québec en anglais et en ligne: entre traduction et interpretation » in Sophie Dubois, Julia Montemayor Gracia and Vera Neusius (dir.) Les manuels de langue et de littérature étrangères comme médiateurs culturels : Québec-Canada-Europe/ Lehrwerke für Sprache une Literatur als kulturelle Mittler im Fremdsprachenunterricht : Québec-Kanada-Europa, Röhrig Universitätsverlag, p. 169-184 and a specialized article, co-authored with Maristela Petrovic-Dzerdz, on experiential learning in a digital age.
 
How has teaching fully online courses changed the way you teach? 
I believe that learning is about mobilizing the whole individual, brains and heart... I had to reflect about my learning experience before diving into the onlineteachingworld. It was of course achallenge to be adapting a classroom university course for the online format, redesigning all aspects of the course. This big task, done in 2013 for Introduction to Québec societyand in 2014 for Introduction à la culture et à la société québécoises, was carefully supported, encouraged and inspired by MaristelaPetrovic-Dzerdz, and prepared me well to create one «from scratch» in 2018, Critical Nationalism.
Maristela and I first discussed the assumptions of dryness of the platform, then challenged the idea that online teaching was going to be easy,  and elaborated on the new kind of authorship the creation of an online course demands.
 
The big challenge was to translate online what worked well in the classroom:  a portfolio, discussions, weekly reflective responses, library and archival research, and a debate on the sovereignty of Quebec at the end of the term. The key was to be able to create a safe space for students to cultivate their abilities to think critically, do research efficiently, develop an academic voice, and write effectively. It was about migrating these priorities and, hopefully, keeping my message the same. My intention was to create a stimulating and safe environment and provide opportunities for group work, research, and hands-on activities. I wanted students to be encouraged to interact deeply with the course material, which includes films and guest speakers, to develop and express an informed opinion, and to be able to summarize complex ideas while forging their own voice. I also needed to find a way to meet these objectives and evaluate the students’ progress.
 
How could I captivate a public that was not captive in a classroom but could skip my course and log out anytime? 
I decided to identify my transferable skills to the online platform and realized they were not really different from the normal skills a professor should have: expertise in the field, knowledge of primary and secondary sources, knowledge of theories, concepts and definitions and of course the passion for teaching…Plus, a whole team of passionate experts would help! EDC helped me develop pedagogy and assessment, CUOL assisted in the productions of videos, recordings, and interviews, and, of course, the instructional designer for creating activities that transferred online what worked well in the classroom... And made me reflect on goals and outcomes at every step. Maristela designed activities that matched the objectives I had for the classroom experience after I agreed to explicitly decide on specific objectives and outcomes for every weekly portion of the online course. The traditional lecture is non-transferable but the teaching/reaching techniques are.
 
This new challenge awakened a pedagogical epiphany: the professor is not there to provide information (it is already available in a variety of forms) but to guide the students in their meaning-making process while helping them develop critical thinking and effective research skills. I was obliged to trim my lectures and reorganize them into smaller portions. The lectures needed to be sequenced in chunks, suitable for learning on the go, yet still be in an intellectually-coherent and pedagogically-valid, user-friendly format (repetitive form, safe space, intuitive interaction) -- what Maristela called the Story-board. This repetitive, simple, well-organized lesson format permitted a rigourous application of learner-centered teaching. I opted for offering a great variety of activities embedded in this simple visual.
 
Teaching and learning deserve time, commitment and respect. I take my position of professor very seriously, teaching the students not only what to look at and how to look at information, but also how to behave as a learner, as an intellectual and as an informed citizen. Now, I also have to learn how to have other people, my peers and collegues, look at something that is very personal: my classroom! and my teaching. Since 2013, I have had to learn to let my online course become a site of interest and of possible criticism. That level of sharing and going public is one of the many transformations the online migration of my course has forced me to accept.
 
The statistics for my course are:
Number of Lecture presentation slides:  357 slides
Images in Lecture presentation slides: 459 images (half of them are pictures that I took)
Hours of recorded Lectures (Camtasia Relay):  11.5 hours
Number of weekly introduction videos recorded in CUOL studio: 14 videos
Number of weekly Lesson pages created in cuLearn:  110 pages
Number of links to web sources:  101 links
Hours of video material (movies, documentaries, interview s, songs, etc.): 8 hours
 
Are there ways that teaching online is more effective than face-to-face teaching?
In the age of Instagram, self-image and personal stories are key to getting in touch with students. I came to realize that they had to look at themselves in the mirror before looking at the world. Making the content and activities in the course relevant to students’ own life and experience further improves the motivation of students to persist and succeed in the course. This is of course being done in the classroom by my wonderful colleagues in Indigenous and Canadian studies. But I must say that when we touch difficult topics entering the field of critical nationalism or cultural mediation, the fact that the online course is asynchronic really helps… for instance, a discussion forum open for three days will increase a student’s sense of self value through peer-approval and dialogue and it brings to life theories of conversational learning. It also enables students from diverse cultural backgrounds and traditions to reflect on their own experience and bring unique personal perspective to the topics, which can be very motivational. For example, instead of opening a space for discussion to only those students who can physically get to a classroom and are confident enough to talk, a digital learning environment brings together students across time and space to engage in conversations where they can also take the time to reference and quote important sources to support their arguments.
 
What has been a particularly effective assignment or pedagogical strategy for you in the online medium?  
For instance, in “A discussion about culture”, small groups of students collectively decide, through online discussion spread over two weeks and three phases, on three items that help sustain a culture, and agree on a rationale. Using the private online discussion forum as a platform for conversation, each student contributes their own list of three items and a rationale. In the second round of discussion, they exchange ideas to produce a final list of three elements, put them in order of importance based on the consensus, and write a consensual rationale. Again, their final list is submitted through use of the database activity, visible to the whole class and open for comments.
 
Of greatest importance to me is information literacy i.e the ability to identify a need for information as well as the skill to research, access and evaluate sources. A field trip to the National Archives is always interesting and fun; but a similar navigation on the internet permits everyone to join at all times! The wonderful Martha, our subject-specialist librarian for Indigenous and Canadian Studies, was willing to help. Together, we were able to produce  learning activities which require students to understand the nature of key sources and to use a number of search strategies to find these sources. I had objectives and outcomes and ideas… Martha Attridge Bufton took up the challenge and created a set of original instructional videos that define primary and secondary sources as well as demonstrate the use of online repositories and archives to find materials such as archival documents, original audio recordings and photographs. Students are then assessed on their ability to find examples of such sources. I believe that the classroom experience, in contrast, would be much heavier and take up too much of my lecture time.
 
Who was a great teacher who inspired you and what made them such an effective educator?  
Madame Delaulne was a wonderful college professor at the International Baccalaureate Programme at the Petit Séminaire de Québec who did not spare her energy. Despite heavy course content, she was able to make the students interact deeply with the material by suggesting many creative assignments, such as making plaster masks to better understand both the Greek civilization through drama and the personality of the characters of a play we would study; she  would facilitate experiential learning through field trips; and she would help us reflect on language at every step of our written productions.
 
I met Monsieur Ségal at Laval university in the History Department. He taught a course in Public History – Communication de l’histoire. In that course, we accomplished so many things! He treated us as equal – just inexperienced -- and created opportunities for developing experience. We wrote historical chronicles for the Journal le Soleil, we drafted activities to be done during the les Médiévales de Québec, and we created a historical fiction play and performed it at the Congress of History teachers. He was such an inspiring and encouraging figure. I found later that he was the husband of Madame Delaulne! I can’t imagine how interesting their family dinners were!
 
How has learning changed since your undergraduate years and where do you think it is going?  
In my undergraduate years, I used to have a good portion of my course delivered in a large auditorium where group work was impossible and individual note taking a challenge… I got distracted by the many student conversations around me. I also had undergraduate seminars in which the learning and the sharing seemed to me the best way to learn. Tutorials, reading discussions, individual research and public presentations, were the best way to create a cohort, a sense of belonging but also a genuine sharing of knowledge… and research tips with the aim of improving oneself. But my best course was the one described above.
 
Do you have a favourite website or podcast you want to recommend for folks interested in teaching and learning history? 
I highly recommend my friend Laurent Turcot’s website called «L’histoire vous le dira» ; https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCN4TCCaX-gqBNkrUqXdgGRA 
We met as History students at Laval University as we were both in the Drama group, we studied together in Paris later on. His capsules are very instructive, well-researched and well delivered. He has so many followers that Le Mondeis preparing a special dossier on him. Maybe that is also because he was the historian for Assassin’s Creed’s French Revolution…
 
If you want to get in touch with Prof. Trépanier, her email address is: anne_trepanier@carleton.ca
 
Please feel free to leave comments below and if you would like to write a reaction piece to something Prof. Trépanier has discussed above, please contact Danielle Kinsey at Danielle.Kinsey@carleton.ca.

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