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Best Practices

The LTO Best Practices

Issue No. 46: The Future of Teaching at Ryerson

Welcome to the forty-sixth issue of The LTO Best Practices. Each month, the Learning & Teaching Office will be spotlighting a timely topic in education. This April, our topic is "The Future of Teaching at Ryerson."

This issue was inspired by the upcoming Faculty Conference, to be held on May 22nd.

Best Practices

In a recent post for Inside Higher Education, Steven Mintz discussed five ways 21st and 20th century learning will differ. This look toward the future of higher education discussed the growth of several trends:

  1. Open educational resources and collaboratively designed courses
  2. Peer mentoring and grading
  3. Learner-centered pedagogies and competency-based, outcomes-oriented approaches
  4. Educational methods based on the science of learning
  5. Data-driven assessment of learning
  6. Personalized and individualized learning
  7. Increasing use of connectivist learning technologies

One of the themes for this year's faculty conference is the future of teaching at Ryerson, and so in this issue of Best Practices we will examine some of these areas of growth.

Educational Methods Based on the Science of Learning

As described in Inside Higher Education, "recent research in neuroscience, cognitive and developmental psychology, and assessment has taught us a great deal about student learning... Among the evidence-based concepts which can help instructors enhance students’ motivation, memory, attention, and cognitive processing."

The science of learning was the topic of a recent LTO workshop on "How Students Learn," led by Kristin Vickers from the Department of Psychology. It was also the topic of our last issue of Best Practices.

Read Best Practices: How Students Learn.

The LTO strives to stay current in the latest educational research. One recent news item on research in the science of learning that has come to our attention is the finding that taking notes by hand benefits recall. This study found that "research suggests that even if laptops are used strictly to take notes, typing notes hinders students’ academic performance compared with writing notes on paper with a pen or pencil."

Researchers also pointed out that the reason taking notes on laptop was shown to be ineffectual is because typed notes tended to be made "indiscriminately or by mindlessly transcribing content." Often students have never had the opportunity to learn key study skills, like taking notes. On page six of our handout on "How Students Learn" [pdf] we have included a simple set of strategies that you can give students to help them learn to take effective notes.

Learner-Centred Pedagogy and Outcomes-Oriented Approaches

Student-centred learning lies at the heart of good teaching practice. Student-centred techniques, which include experiential learning, active learning, and collaborative learning, are a major part of teaching at Ryerson.

These learner-centred teaching techniques can be explored in greater depth on our page of related resources.

Using learning outcomes to assess learning, and developing competency-based approaches to teaching are also important, with all programs required to go through a review process ensuring they meet degree-level expectations (DLEs) set by the Ontario Universities Council on Quality Assurance.

Read more about writing program goals and learning outcomes and Degree-Level Expectations.

Download "Matching Assessments to Learning Outcomes" [pdf]

Inside Higher Education also points out that "the growing prevalence of grading rubrics is a sign that faculty members [are] becoming more explicit about clearly delineating learning objectives and articulating performance standards." Using rubrics to make course expectations clear is a practice supported by the LTO. We have also covered the use rubrics for peer based evaluation, another highlighted trend in higher education, in several of our workshops. For examples of some rubrics discussed in our workshop series, see:

Group work rubric, page 11 [pdf]

Online participation rubrics, page 4 [pdf]

Increasing Use of Connectivist Learning Technology

Inside Higher Education defines connectivist learning technology as technologies that "allow for learning anytime, anywhere... facilitating interaction of students to other learners, instructors and coaches, and experts." These technologies also "enable forms of active learning impossible in a traditional classroom, giving students access to simulations and educational games and to collaborative environments allowing them to create multimedia content which can be shared with others."

Ryerson supports many connectivist learning technologies that share the above characteristics. These technologies, which are supported by the Digital Media Projects office, include the webconferencing software Adobe Connect and the blogging software Wordpress. Ryerson also provides all instructors, students, and staff with access to Google Apps for Education, which includes Google Drive, a cloud based approach to sharing documents, creating presentations, and developing surveys. The LTO has collected a series of templates for use with Google Drive, including self-correcting quizzes, assessment reflection forms, and group work charters that can be easily shared between group members.

Access the LTO's Google Drive templates.

The Chronicle of Higher Education recently published an article summarizing all their recent posts on using games in the classroom. The article includes several apps for building your own games:


Open educational resources and collaboratively designed courses

The Library is at the forefront of the open access movement at Ryerson. As part of Open Access Week this year, the LTO and Library hosted a workshop on open access resources for the classroom. Many of these resources, including free case studies, public domain images, and open access textbooks are listed on the library's website.

Read more about open access teaching resources.

As part of the Ryerson Communication Centre's Transmedia Hackathon, the Ryerson Library proposed "hacking the textbook" to create an "Open Access textbook that reflects your program requirements, your environment, and your creativity" and to "remix, mashup, gamify existing information to make a free, unique resource that serves your needs, helps build a global knowledge base, and creates another Ryerson first in Ontario."

Learn more about Open Access textbooks.


Next Issue

"The LTO Best Practices" is produced monthly by Michelle Schwartz, Research Associate at The Learning & Teaching Office of Ryerson University.

Do you have any thoughts, suggestions, or best practices that you would like to see appear in this newsletter? Please send all submissions to We look forward to including your contributions in our next issue!

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Phone: 416.979.5000 x6598

Photo credit: Cover illustration by Harry Grant Dart for the magazine "The All-Story", October 1908, Library of Congress.