The purpose of Scholarship of Teaching and Learning -SoTL- events is to understand, improve, and share teaching and learning practices across disciplines and schools to prepare a new generation of lifelong learners.
The 4th annual international Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) conference was held on February 3, 2022, at EHL Hospitality Business School in Lausanne and online. After almost two years of "everything online", the topic for the conference was “The Human Touch: Engagement and Creativity through SoTL”. While the expectations had been to have humans engaging with other humans in person, the sanitary conditions (again) affected our plan. Thus, this conference was offered in a HyFlex manner, synchronously to all participants onsite or online.
Can online learning be as effective as the traditional classroom?
The conference began with an activity entitled Speed SoTL 1. Four "Speed SoTL" activities were dispersed throughout the day to help the participants identify a potential problem/issue/area of interest in teaching or learning that could serve as a possible SoTL research project in the future.
Some of the comments cited by the participants included finding new assessment methods, understanding how learning happens in the asynchronous study, and dealing with low attendance. The majority of the questions, however, focused on the return to onsite presence: "How do we keep the momentum of the positive elements of online learning (i.e., autonomy, flexibility, self-efficacy) when returning to face-to-face courses?", “How can we ensure a smooth return to face-to-face teaching?”, “How do we help students learn to learn in a classroom again?”. One participant suggested that we could, perhaps, reconsider a full return onsite: “Should we continue in hybrid/HyFlex modes for the benefit of the students?” It seems that the long-awaited return to the traditional classroom has led to more questions about the necessity of all courses going back to "pre-Covid" modes.
Skills gap and competency check for higher education
These questions led seamlessly into the morning’s sessions which began with a presentation on skill gaps and competency checks for higher education. Amrita Zahir compared three types of competency checks: SkillsFuture (Singapore), Joint Information System Committee (JISC) from the UK, and DigCompEdu, the European Framework for Digital Competence in Education. The audience was buzzing with questions and comments regarding these frameworks. How do you verify that participants have the competencies? How much faith can you have in these self-reported lists? How can you use these checks to develop personalized training?
How to create an active learning environment
In the second session, Gaby Probst addressed the question of engagement through active learning. Gaby likened the relationship between teaching and learning to a volleyball match rather than a game of ping-pong. Instead of going back and forth between faculty members and individual students (like ping-pong), Gaby suggested including the other stakeholders in the exchange. The faculty member then becomes the coach of the learning process, not the all-knowing guru in front of a passive audience.
There was nothing passive about THIS audience in the following presentation by Sebastien Fernandez. In his session, Sebastien helped us rethink how to connect with the students. Through a series of exercises, participants reflected on what is appropriate to share with students and how faculty members can establish the human touch moving forward.
The afternoon sessions began with a story about curriculum design and implementation from Alain Imboden from HES-SO Valais. Alain presented an innovative approach to tourism studies, from co-creation with tourism stakeholders and students to a competency-based curriculum and the use of a portfolio to showcase student achievements. One of the best quotes of the day came from Alain regarding assessment: “We try to devise tasks that make the students FORGET about the grade.” Don’t we all wish we could devise those tasks to encourage authentic learning in our students?
On an equally serious note, we were then privy to a presentation by Lauren Hays and Lindsay McNiff on humanizing secondary research. They introduced us to the SIFT fact-checker, a four-step process to determine if a news source or claim is factual and trustworthy. Simply put, SIFT stands for: Stop (question the source), Investigate the source’s veracity, Find the original source to confirm the information, and (look for) Trusted sources. A great resource to use moving forward.
The human touch and the power of play
After all of this fact-checking, it was time for some fun, and Sharon Lauricella and Keith Edmunds gave us plenty of that. In their presentation (which felt more like a game than work), we learned about ludic pedagogy based on four pillars:
positivity (good humor)
They demonstrated the power of play in a series of activities that seemed to end too quickly. We won’t publish the winner’s name; we were all winners in that session!
Nearing the end of the afternoon, we had a presentation from Mandy Frake-Mistak, Brian Nairn, and Ameera Ali on expanding institutional-wide SoTL programming. Their SoTL initiatives have already resulted in drafting the SoTL Interactive Guidebook, planning writing retreats, and preparing a Teaching Scholars Hub. We will have to wait until next year to hear how that’s coming along…
Our final presentation was a group effort (really!). In a session entitled “The Human Touch from Afar: Building Professional Relationships Through a Digital Divide”, six participants (Patrick Maher, Mandy Frake-Mistak, Anita Acai, Roselynn Verwoord, Cherie Woolmer, and Melanie Kotowich-Hamilton) spanning the whole of Canada presented their strategy to keep in touch during this pandemic. They found a peaceful and safe haven far from Covid-19 worries but focused on the mental well-being of scholars in the 21st century.
The sessions of the day embraced the spirit of SoTL. Participants discussed these topics and shared their concerns, apprehensions, excitement, and innovative solutions with others. We are already looking forward to the 5th edition of SoTL in Feb. 2023. Feel free to share your ideas for a conference theme or a session… or why not join us next year. We are the most inclusive group you will ever meet!