April 21, 2023

Collective transformation: How blended and online learning have changed post-secondary education

UCalgary to host conference on transforming higher education April 26-28
Sarah Eaton, Jesse Stommel, Aubrey Hanson, and Maha Bali
Top row, Sarah Eaton, left, and Jesse Stommel. Bottom row, Aubrey Hanson, left, and Maha Bali.

The University of Calgary is set to host a two-day virtual conference on transforming post-secondary education on April 26 to 28. The Conference on Postsecondary Learning and Teaching will offer more than 100 sessions and bring together course instructors, administrators, librarians, staff, students, and postdoctoral scholars to discuss innovative teaching methods, inclusive classroom practices, and other topics related to transforming post-secondary education.

In the past several years, post-secondary education has undergone a remarkable change in how we teach and learn, through endless adaptations, pivots and shifts. With that in mind, organizers chose this year’s conference theme, Collective Transformation: How Blended and Online Learning Have Changed Postsecondary Education. This theme will explore how institutions can build sustainable change that takes post-secondary education well into the future.

The two full days of interactive online learning and knowledge sharing will feature two keynote speakers, Dr. Aubrey Hanson and Dr. Maha Bali, as well as an online pre-conference with Dr. Sarah Eaton and Dr. Jesse Stommel.

Eaton, PhD, associate professor in the Werklund School of Education and inaugural educational leader in residence, academic integrity at the University of Calgary will lead the morning pre-conference with an interactive session Academic Integrity in an Age of Educational Transformation. Participants will share ideas and effective practices on how to help students understand academic integrity, analyze which aspects need to transform in the age of AI and connect academic integrity to ethical decision-making beyond the classroom.

When asked about her session Eaton says, “Just because technology evolves, that doesn’t mean we lose our ability to be ethical. We can shift some of our tasks to artificial intelligence, but we can’t shift the responsibility for our actions to AI. Humans remain responsible for the work they produce.”

The afternoon pre-conference session, Ungrading and Alternative Assessment, will be run by Stommel, PhD, a professor in the writing program at the University of Denver. Stommel advocates for ungrading as a way to reduce the pressure on students to achieve high grades and instead focus on learning.

Attendees from the 2022 Conference on Postsecondary Learning and Teaching

Attendees from the 2022 Conference on Postsecondary Learning and Teaching.

University of Calgary files

I’ve defined ungrading as ‘raising an eyebrow at grades as a systemic practice, distinct from simply not grading. The word is a present participle, an ongoing process, not a static set of practices.' Ungrading is a systemic critique, a series of conversations we have about grades, ideally drawing students into those conversations with the goal of engaging them as full agents in their own education,” says Stommel.

On the first day of the conference Hanson, PhD, associate professor, and director of Indigenous education at the Werklund School of Education will give a keynote titled Stories from the Pandemic: A Métissage on Digital Environments, Embodiment, and Indigenous Education.

“I think of Métissage as a weaving. Think of three threads that you’re braiding together. In my presentation, I have three strands; one strand is stories, one strand is reflection on the past few years, and one strand is a scholarly look at collective transformation in Indigenous education … For me, Métissage is a way of bringing together these different ways of thinking,” says Hanson

Hanson is an Indigenous scholar and has been recognized for her work on decolonizing higher education.

On the final day of the conference Bali, PhD, professor of practice at the Center for Learning and Teaching at the American University in Cairo will give a keynote on The Role of Intentional Equity and Care in Collective Transformation. This session will explore the importance of centring equity and care in our approaches to addressing institutional change in order to create a sustainable collective transformation that includes all stakeholders in the educational process, especially the most marginalized.

When discussing her session Bali says, “I think that systems of education are currently paying lip service to some levels of equity and care, but their efforts are more performative than truly impactful. All stakeholders within higher education, from students to professors to staff supporting education, would benefit from the introduction of more 'socially just care' practices, where all members of all levels have caring responsibilities, all receive the care they need, and where the recipients of care have a say in how they prefer to be cared for.”

The conference will also feature breakout sessions, panel discussions, and workshops on various topics related to transforming higher education. Attendees will have the opportunity to engage with the keynote speakers and other educators and researchers from around the world.

Learn more, or register for the conference. The registration deadline is April 21.

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