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Learning Technologies

Learning Technologies

News Review: Leading with Applied Improv

February 5, 2019 Review: Leading with Applied Improv

What do Saturday Night Live and Red River College have in common? More than you might think! Like Saturday Night Live actors, many of us improvise on the spot almost every day. Whether in the classroom or in meetings, unexpected situations arise constantly that require us to pivot quickly and work with others to identify the new direction.

Initially as an instructor and now as an administrator, I am fascinated by the relevance of improv principles to my own work. I am inspired by the speed at which the actors adapt and how they support each other. I believe there are many improv techniques that can directly apply to how we teach, how we work and how we lead.

My fascination originally led me to explore to improv techniques for adult learning at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. At the time, I discovered the value of building “play” into a teaching environment and of creating scenarios where everyone wins and it is safe to make mistakes.

I chose to watch this course because of its link between improv principles and key leadership practices. Through the use of entertaining workshop games, facilitator Izzy Gesell reveals that improv (like good leadership) relies on several key practices: the participants’ ability to be present in the moment; active listening skills; and the group’s commitment to co-creation.

This act of co-creation is built on the “Yes, and…” improvisation technique.  We have all heard “Yes, but…” when someone introduces a new idea. In improv, however, the substitution of “yes, and” instead of “yes, but” creates a space for creativity and possibility. I invite you to see how it feels to use “yes, and” instead of “yes, but” in a conversation (trust me, it really does feel different!).

Gesell illustrates another principle of improv through the activity of “one word at a time” storytelling. In this game, two people co-create a story, each contributing one word at a time. After watching the course, I played it with my wife and sons (who are 10 and 12), with hilarious results. As we played, I realized I could not control the direction of the story and, in fact, needed the other person’s contributions to know where we were going. It was a great leadership lesson to (re)learn.

Overall, this highly entertaining and illuminating course reminded me not only that I already use improvisation skills daily, but that I can apply the practices of improv to enhance my leadership and my life. As Amy Poehler, a famous improv actor, wisely explains:

“Listen. Say yes. Live in the moment. Make sure you play with people who have your back. Make big choices early and often. Don’t start a scene where two people are talking about jumping out of a plane.
Start the scene having already jumped. If you’re scared, look into your partner’s eyes — you will feel better.” (Harvard Commencement Address, 2011)

I would love to hear from you – in what ways do you find improv techniques to help with your teaching or professional practice?

Please e-mail me directly at Review: Conflict Resolution Foundations with Lisa Gates

January 29, 2019 Review: Conflict Resolution Foundations with Lisa Gates

I grew up in a family that expressed great love and equally great conflict. I remember laying in bed listening to my parents argue late into the night (usually in hushed tones, but not always). Similarly, my younger brother has turned every conversation into a jousting match. Perhaps then, it is not surprising that I learned early on to avoid conflict, to stay quiet, to be the good girl. I never felt physically unsafe, but the verbal sparring was often a source of anxiety.

As I got older and moved through my career (and a divorce), I learned that conflict is a natural and necessary part of the human condition. I also learned to lean into conflict and developed healthy tools to navigate differences of opinion, values, agendas and perspectives.

Because of my own history, this course was an unexpectedly profound learning experience. The instructor, Lisa Gates (one of the best instructors I’ve seen on Lynda, by the way), starts the course by suggesting that the way we respond to conflict is based on our upbringing. Her main theme is: “Work on yourself first” along with the mantra: “It is never about the other person. Never. Even when it is.”

It is so easy to blame others for conflict. However, in order to find resolution, we need to understand our default responses to conflict and recognize the stories we create in our minds about the situation. Then, we need to test our own assumptions and ask questions to open the space for other perspectives. Winnie the Pooh (one of my favourite modern philosophers) nicely sums up the importance of this practice:

“When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.” (A.A. Milne, The House At Pooh Corner, 1928).

This course illustrates the importance of seeking different perspectives through a simulated conversation between a senior engineer (Gina) and her manager (William). The scenario introduces several conflict resolution strategies, including opening the conversation (often the hardest part), reframing with tactical empathy, and engaging the other person in finding the solution. The conversation between Gina and William is very realistic (it even made me uncomfortable at times) and illustrated the use of these strategies towards a successful outcome.

This course was a surprise for me. I was not expecting its insistence on self-awareness as a core theme, and I did not expect to learn techniques that were immediately applicable. Instead, I found the learning both humbling and impactful. In fact, the techniques introduced in the course changed the way I approached recent conversations, including one with my Dad last week that went remarkably well.  I was also reminded yet again that my responses to conflict can be different from the ones I learned as a child and, for that, I am deeply grateful.

I encourage you to watch this course and would love to hear what you thought of it too – email me directly at

Flight Club: Drones and the Dawn of Personal Aerial Imaging

January 22, 2019 review: Flight Club: Drones and the Dawn of Personal Aerial Imaging

Drones (or UAV – unmanned aerial vehicles) fascinate me. While most well known for their military and surveillance uses, drones increasingly are being adopted for commercial purposes. Amazon has been testing drones for autonomous delivery service. Farmers use drones to map fields and spray crops. Construction firms deploy UAVs to inspect buildings and bridges. With the acceleration of related technologies (batteries, sensors, cameras etc.), the increased commercial possibilities for drones are seemingly endless.
Right now, drones are disruptors – both in the positive and negative sense. Not only are they positively impacting industries in the examples above, but they are also impacting peoples’ lives, and not always for the good. Shortly before this past Christmas, drones flying in the airspace of Gatwick airport in England disrupted travel plans for over 110,000 people and shut down the airport for 32 hours.

Drones are one of the technologies that we, as a College, have a hard time figuring out where to teach. They do not “fit” into our usual program fields, as they have aspects in manufacturing, engineering, software development, transportation, aviation, etc. However, I was both surprised and delighted that one of the first RRC program areas to embrace drones in their curriculum has been Teacher Education, led by Dr. Eva Brown (Teacher Education) and Jonathan Ferber (eTV Learning Technologies).
This video wasn’t so much a “course” as it was a genuine documentary short film. This documentary (23 minutes long) features the activities of a group of drone enthusiasts. Called “Flight Club”, the film tells the story of community coming together around a common technology. The members of Flight Club come from very diverse fields and contribute through the open sharing of knowledge. Several times throughout the film, interviewees mention how quickly both the drone technology and their own learning has accelerated in only two and a half years as a direct result of their collaboration.

The members’ work together leads to images that are visually stunning. The photographs and videography shared in the documentary are breathtaking, from aerial tours of national parks and a ghost town to night filming. My favorite shot is one of a kayaker beside a massive whale. These images remind me that technology can introduce not only greater efficiency for our world but also opportunities to experience beauty and wonder in new ways.
For someone new to drones, this documentary serves as a wonderful general introduction to drone photography on its own and as applied in various industries, including forensic visualization (re-creation of accidents) and the creation of 3D models. For my continued learning, I have explored other videos that discuss the use of drones, including Construction Technology and the Internet of Things.

As a result of watching this documentary, I bought my 12-year old son a small quadcopter that responds to the heat in his hand (for inside use only). It has been fascinating to watch him learn how to use it.

I would love to hear from you – what emerging technology fascinates you or has impacted your life in ways you didn’t expect?

Please e-mail me directly at Review: How Questions Shape Your Life

January 15, 2019

Review of “How Questions Shape Your Life: Using Questions to Foster Critical Thinking and Curiosity”

I’m a fan of good questions. Perhaps like you, I’ve experienced those magical moments in meetings where a question someone asks completely changes the direction of the discussion, opens up new channels of inquiry, and helps get us to a decision faster. I’ve also been in situations where I’ve given a presentation and no one had a question afterwards – which is a very disconcerting experience!

I chose to watch this course as a way of refreshing my skills on asking questions to stimulate creative thinking (my own and others’). The course provides a good overview of the reasons why good questions matter. My own experience confirms that thoughtful questions can help strengthen relationships, create trust, and express empathy. The course also talks about the negative impacts of either asking ineffective questions or no questions at all – which can be significant lost opportunities.

As a former instructor, I can certainly attest to experiences where asking well-timed and well-phrased questions generated great classroom discussion. Did you know that kids ask, on average, 125 questions per day while adults only ask six questions per day? With that statistic alone, the course reminded me of the importance of questions to help engage our natural sense of curiosity, which in turn leads to better retention of information. It also underscores how powerful questions can be for learning when students have the opportunity to explore topics or solve problems based on personal interest.

For my own skill development, I was hoping that the course would offer more concrete examples questions that work well to provoke divergent thinking or creative ideas. I would have liked to watch a few conversations that illustrated the impact of using “bad questions” versus “good questions.” While I did not find these illustrations in the videos themselves, the exercise files do offer some specific examples to reframe questions to make them more engaging. A very good follow up course called Asking Great Questions does provide an overview of specific types of questions.

At the completion of the course, I came away with a renewed commitment to using questions more often. So, when confronted with a problem, rather than simply say “I/We can’t because…” I might ask instead: “How could we….?” or “What if we….?” As the course reminded me, reframing the statement into a question creates space for opportunity, for possibility and for inclusion of ideas – which makes problem-solving more effective and fun! What is the best question you have asked (or been asked) lately that made a difference in your conversations? Review: Creativity Bootcamp

January 7, 2019 Review: Creativity Bootcamp

Do you consider yourself creative? Do you believe creativity is an innate talent or a learned skill? Do you have to be artistic to be creative? And, since creativity is considered a “soft skill,” can it somehow be objectively measured?

These are all questions I have been asking myself over the past year. In fact, I made a New Year’s resolution last year to seek out opportunities to be more creative. Now I wish I had watched this course to launch that resolution – it would have been a great start to my journey.

I am interested in creativity from both personal and professional perspectives. On a personal level, I have often questioned my own creative abilities. Taking creative risks can be scary. However, my two sons – Michael (12) and Matthew (10) – remind my wife and I every day that invitations to be creative do not need to be approached with fear or judgement. On New Year’s Eve, we created a “Nailed It” challenge for our family (based on the Netflix cooking show) and they enthusiastically participated! Their lack of self-censoring gave me hope that I can find non-judgmental ways and create safe spaces for me (and others) to enjoy creativity again.

Meanwhile, in my professional role, I have the responsibility to ensure that RRC anticipates and responds to the ever-changing demands of students, industries and communities. The ability to find creative solutions will be our competitive advantage, so it is key that we cultivate and support creative thinking across the organization. This Lynda review is just one way that I hope to ignite a spark of interest on this fascinating topic with you.

This Lynda course really does feel like a ‘Creativity Bootcamp’; it is fast-paced, completely engaging and very hands-on. The instructor claims that participants will be more creative by the end of the course and, in fact, that such an improvement can be measured. He also provides three Bootcamp “commands”, which serve as interesting provocations that turn assumptions about creativity on their heads.

The exercises are silly and fun (for instance, one centers on breakfast cereal toys) and are no longer than 5 mins each. The learning came in the de-brief, during which the science of creativity was explained. Of particular interest was a fascinating explanation of the “graph” of creative thinking, which maps out creativity within a group across time – a theory that I can’t wait to test with one of our academic teams.

As a starting point, this one-hour Creativity Bootcamp course served as an energizing and illuminating launching point for me to explore other courses and videos on this topic. Thanks to this course, I can confidently say that when I completed the exercises to measure the improvement of my creative ideas, I nailed it!

Nailed it examples

What’s Watson Watching

January 2, 2019

Since RRC’s introduction of in Fall 2018, we have been pleased with the enthusiastic response from staff and faculty across the College. Thank you to everyone who has explored the possibility of using in their courses and to everyone who may have accessed for their professional or personal development.

As someone who deeply values learning, I am a keen user of as a way of broadening my horizons and helping me acquire new skills. As one of my New Year resolutions (and I use that word with some reservation since not all resolutions lead to their intended outcomes!), I have made a commitment to take time to focus on my own learning. I believe can help me achieve that goal.

To hold myself accountable to this goal, I’ll be sharing my journey with the College community on Wednesdays in Staff News over the next 8 weeks, as I watch and review videos. I’ll share my honest reviews with you, including my motivation for choosing the video and how it met (or didn’t meet) my expectations and learning goal(s).

I welcome your comments, feedback and your own reviews as I share What’s Watson Watching each week!

Course Content – learner

July 26, 2018

View course content

Use the Content tool to access course materials, complete required activities, and monitor your completion progress on topics contained within each course module.

Content tool overview for learners

An overview of the Content tool

1) When you access a course’s Content tool for the first time, the first page you land on is the Overview, which instructors might use to post the course syllabus and introductory material. If your instructor has left the Overview blank you will not see it listed and you will land on the Table of Contents.

2) Topics you bookmark appear in a list on the Bookmarks page. The number beside the Bookmarks link indicates how many bookmarks you have.

3) The Course Schedule page lists course material due dates, start dates, end dates, overdue course activities, and all events within the course from the Calendar tool for the next seven days. The number of overdue items in the course appears in red. Course events are also listed in the Calendar tool.

Note: Adding a due date to a content item that is associated to an assignment submissions folder will override an end date that is also set on the same Assignments.

4) The Table of Contents panel lists all modules available in your course. If numbers appear beside each module name in the Table of Contents panel it indicates that topics are being tracked for completion, and that you have a number of topics you have not accessed.

5) The course content options located on the Table of Contents page allow you to download your course content in zip file format.

6) Print your course outline, or navigate to a module’s landing page to print a module’s outline.

Print a content topic

The print function may not be available for all file types.

  1. Click on a document topic.
  2. Click  Print or click  Download and print from your computer.

View overdue Content topics

View a list of all overdue content topics within a course in the Overdue tab in the Course Schedule area. The topics on this list are sorted from most to least overdue. You can click the topic to immediately access and complete the topic. Only topics with a set due date but no end date or an end date later than the due date appear on this list since you must have time remaining after the due date to access and complete the topic. The Overdue tab only appears if you have content topics that are not complete by the set deadline.

The number of overdue topics in the  Overdue tab appears in red beside Course Schedule in the Content menu. When you access an overdue topic, it disappears from the list in the Overdue tab. When you complete all overdue topics, the Overdue tab disappears from the Course Schedule area.


Grades – Learner

July 26, 2018

View grades and class progress

To view grades

Use the Grades tool to check your grades on assignments and tests. You can see your individual grades and comments, as well as class averages and feedback. You can also view your final grade and the grade formula used to evaluate you once your instructor releases your grades.


How do I know when my grades are available?

You can sign up to receive immediate text or email notifications when a grade item is released or updated.

Note: You must set up a contact method before subscribing to notifications.

  1. From your personal menu on the minibar, click Notifications.
  2. Select if you want to receive Email or SMS notifications for the option Grades – grade item released or Grades – grade item updated.
  3. Click Save.

View your grades

Use the Grades tool on the navbar to check your grades on assignments and tests. You can see your individual grades, as well as the grade formula used to evaluate you. Depending on how your grades are set up, you might be able to view comments and overall class performance statistics as well.

Note: Bonus grade items are displayed without the grade formula because they are added to the final grade after other calculations and may not adhere to the established grade scheme. Therefore you can only view the numeric value and possibly the weight of a bonus grade.

Viewing Grade Item Exemptions

Learners can view the grade item exemptions in several locations in Brightspace Learning Environment. On the My Grades page, exemptions are listed in the Grade column. Points and weights that appear on the Grades page are controlled by instructors; however, the Grade column always shows exempted grade items.

How rubrics relate to your grade

Rubrics are used to assess your achievement on course activities (assignments, discussions, and quizzes), based on predefined achievement levels and assessment criteria. They help ensure that activities are evaluated fairly and consistently, and can enable you to view the grading criteria in advance of submitting activities.

Figure: Graded rubric feedback for an assignment

Rubrics are associated directly with activities, so you may have the option you to view the criteria used to assess your activity before you submit your work. However, in some cases, your instructor may choose to hide a rubric for an activity until it is graded and feedback is published. This may be done to prevent learners from using rubrics as answer keys for activities. For example, your instructor may describe assessment expectations in assignment instructions, hiding the associated preview rubric. Once the assignment is graded, your instructor releases the graded rubric as part of your assessment details.

The graded rubric for the activity includes achieved criteria, personalized feedback, and score. In some cases, the activity includes a link to the graded rubric. For example, a discussion shows instructor feedback, score, and a link to the graded rubric.

Figure: A discussion showing instructor feedback, score, and link to the graded rubric

When you are notified that your grade for an activity is released or updated, you can view the feedback from the respective tool. For example, to view assignment feedback, go to the Assignments tool.


Connected College Options

June 15, 2018

Below are some sample options for streaming instruction. These options can be mixed and matched based on your specific needs.

Instructor to Many Students

One Instructor to Many Students Diagram

One instructor on their computer transmits to many students, each on their own computers.

Difficulty to Use: Low
Difficulty to Implement: Low
Cost: Low
Support Needs: Low

Equipment Needed:


  • 1 x Webcam
  • 1 x Microphone/Headset


More information on this model »


Instructor to Classroom

One Instructor to One Classroom Diagram

Difficulty to Use: Low
Difficulty to Implement: Moderate
Cost: Moderate
Support Needs: Moderate (1 Person)

Equipment Needed:


  • 1 x Webcam
  • 1 x Microphone/Headset


  • 1 x Camera
  • 1 x Room Microphone
    (per 10 students)
  • Speakers
  • TV / Projector

More information on this model »

Classroom to Many Students

One Classroom to Many Students Diagram

One instructor in a classroom transmits to multiple students, all on their own computers.

Difficulty to Use: Moderate
Difficulty to Implement: Moderate
Cost: Moderate
Support Needs: Low

Equipment Needed:

Instructor & Classroom:

  • 2 x Camera (front and back of the room)
  • 1 x Codec
  • 1 x Microphone (lapel)
  • 1 x Room Microphone (per 10 students)
  • 2 x TV/Projector
  • Speakers

More information on this model »

Classroom to Classroom

Classroom to Classroom Diagram

One instructor on their computer transmits to a classroom of students, all viewing through a single computer.

Difficulty to Use: High
Difficulty to Implement: High
Cost: High
Support Needs: High (2 people)

Equipment Needed:

Instructor & Classroom:

  • 2 x Camera
    (front and back of the room)
  • 1 x Codec
  • 1 x Room Microphone
    (per 10 students)
  • 1 x Lapel Microphone
  • 1 x Speakers
  • 3 x TV/Projector


  • 1 x Camera (front of the room)
  • 1 x Room Microphone (per 10 students)
  • 1 x Speakers
  • 2 x TV/Projector

More information on this model »

One-Way Streaming

Any of the above options can also be one-way or asynchronous. One-way streaming can be done with the assistance of RRC eTV Learning Technologies.

Use of the eTV studios for streaming requires booking in advance. Streams are handled on a first come first served basis.

Difficulty to Use: Low
Difficulty to Implement: Low
Cost: Low
Support Needs: Low

Contact RRC eTV Learning Technologies for more information