COHERE Conference, Toronto, Ontario - October 2010
It sure seems like I have been doing a lot of traveling this fall. I had just returned from Saudi Arabia and less than a week later I was off to Toronto for the 4th Annual COHERE Blended Learning Conference at York University and a visit with Cathy and Peter (plus pictures). It sure was nice to be able to take a direct flight from Calgary to Toronto. I arrived around 6pm on Wednesday night and managed to have a nice dinner with the conference organizers at a student pub/restaurant on campus. I had a surprisingly good sleep and woke up on Thursday morning excited/nervous about my opening keynote session on Design and implementation in blended environments: Maintaining high levels of student learning while increasing flexibility. I haven't done a session in Canada for awhile and most of the people in the audience were friends and colleagues. Fortunately, from my perspective, the session went well and I had some positive feedback from some of the participants. And, of course I made sure to take a set of notes for the conference.
I attended a series of "best practices" sessions in the afternoon. Interesting to hear how people are using blogs and discussion forums - very intentionally in their blended learning courses. Late in the afternoon, I tested out my left knee with a couple of circuits around the York Campus. It's a large campus with Tennis Canada and Toronto Track & Field facilities located around the periphery. For dinner, I joined the group from the University of La Verne in Southern California. There were seven of them and it was great to follow-up with them after my one day workshop on their campus - just over a month ago. They sure seem focused on improving the quality of the student experience by increasing their pedagogical and technological knowledge.
On Friday morning, Alan Davis, the President of Empire State College in New York, provided a keynote address on a "presidential" perspective to blended learning. Alan is a former actor who has a tremendous stage presence. After his session, there was a panel presentation from institutional members of COHERE. Two key take-aways for me were the new eLearning plan that York University has developed (the level of detail - especially with regards to costing was amazing) and the online/blended learning strategy that Memorial University has developed (the entire K to 12, college, university, and government system uses Desire2Learn and Newfoundland's vision is to have citizens create a "cradle to grave" portfolio in the D2L system).
The conference ended at noon and I then spent the afternoon in COHERE's annual meeting (Mount Royal is a new member along with Memorial and the University of Regina). We discussed a number of issues and Ron Owston (York University), Jim Greer (U of Saskatchewan), and me, volunteered to coordinate a COHERE blended learning case study. The idea being that each member institution would put forward one blended learning course for us to study during the winter 2011 semester. We might also use a modified version of our Student Engagement and Interactive Technologies survey (combination of the CLASSE and ECAR survey).
Sister Catherine picked me up at York University around 4pm and we headed to her and Peter's home in eastern Toronto. We all felt that we needed some fresh air so we walked down to Queen Street East in the Beach area for a yummy Italian dinner. Impressively, we also walked back home after dinner, which required a bit more effort since it was all up hill.
On Saturday we went for a very nice bike trip through the ravines to the downtown area of Toronto. We had our traditional peameal bacon sandwich for breakfast at St. Lawrence Market and then walked over to the Air Canada Centre to a new sport clothing store to see if I could find a Canadian Team Soccer Jersey for Eric. Unfortunately, no such luck so we walked back along Front Street with a stop in the TD Centre to view a news photographer exhibition (very graphic images from war zones). We then picked up some meat for dinner at the Market and cycled back home along Dundas Street East (Toronto now has a number of designated bike lanes). Back home, we had lunch on the back porch (wonderful to feel the warmth of the autumn sun) and then drove back into the city so that Cathy could get some reference books from OISE (I didn't realize that we she was taking four courses at U of Toronto this fall). Peter and I then drove east to Scarborough so that I could pick up a soccer jersey for Eric at a specialty store (Alex received the giant US Open Tennis Ball that Peter and Charles had picked up in New York, in early September). I then took a last spin on my rented bike. I headed back to the Beach area, where I watched a huge crane lift cabin cruisers and large sail boats out of Lake Ontario for winter dry dockage. We had a wonderful dinner with Ann and Andrew and then all too soon it was time to fly back to Calgary.