Monthly Archives: March 2013

Taking a look at Mendeley reference manager

When researching a topic and looking up articles, I have been trying to use Endnote for the Mac platform. Although, I have heard wonderful things about this program, and have seen it work efficiently, I encountered some problems saving some references and importing information about documents I had download from sites other than the University Library. Another feature I wanted, was the ability to sync article and reference access on my iPad. This caused me to search for alternative programs or servicse. This article will focus on some of the features I am finding beneficial in the Mendeley platform.

What is Mendeley?

Mendeley is a cloud based, internet service that will provide users with web, desktop, and mobile platforms for managing references for research purposes. The product allows you to import PDFs and have the meta data automatically extracted into a citation manager that is built into Mendeley. Although this is a great feature of Mendeley, and probably one of the main feature of the service, there are other products that perform this same function.

So what makes Mendeley different, and why would you want to use it instead of say Endnote or Zotero?

Mendeley integrates a social aspect into their services. All the platforms that Mendeley is available on (web, desktop, mobile) allow you to make connections with other researchers, share your articles with a targeted research community, as well as gather articles from other researchers. You can form groups and connect with other researchers and discuss articles right within Mendeley’s research platform. Mendeley even suggests articles related to the articles that you currently have added to your library.

How can you get started with Mendeley?

If you are interested in trying Mendeley, you can do so by visiting Signing up for an account is absolutely free, and they also offer free of charge, downloadable software for multiple platforms such as Mac, PC and iOS. Although a Android version has not been created by the company, they have released an API that has allowed third party developers to create apps for Android devices.

Is it really free?
Yes Mendeley is free. However, they do have paid plans available. These plans essentially increase your cloud storage. They also have team plans available if that is of interest to you.

Collaborating for Learning Conference

The University of Calgary invites you to present at its “Collaborating for Learning Conference”. Proposals are now welcomed until April 1, 2013.

In learning and in life, collaboration is often central to achieving the results we seek. When we reflect on our most satisfying and successful learning experiences, they frequently involve collaborations among and between students, professors, or people who support our learning or who have provided us with opportunities to learn by working on projects with them.

‘Collaborating for Learning’ focuses on the many ways faculty, students and disciplines collaborate to produce the meaningful learning we strive to foster in our students. The conference provides an opportunity for learning together in ways that allow us to enhance our practice, grow our research on how students learn, and build our community. Some of the themes include collaboration inside the classroom, outside the classroom, collaboration among the disciplines and collaboration in inquiry.

Keynote Speaker: Dr. Gary Poole, Associate Director of the School of Population and Public Health in the Faculty of Medicine and Senior Scholar in the Centre for Health Education Scholarship at the University of British Columbia.

Submitting a Proposal:  Further details and the proposal submission form can be found at
Questions:  Please go to the conference website or email

What is a MOOC?

Post by Brad Reamsbottom – Educational Consultant (Development) – Teaching Centre

One of the biggest trends that is occurring in post-secondary education, is the rise of the MOOC. A MOOC is a Massively Open Online Course. This is a course aimed at attracting large scale participation but often has no credit and tuition associated with it.

MOOCs have formed and are based on a theory of Connectivism.  Connectivism theory states that students are exposed to massive amounts of resources and learning takes place in a chaotic environment. Learning occurs as the student has to identify the resources and make decisions regarding the validity of resources in the course; not only the resources placed by the instructor, but the resources that are posted and created by all the students in the course.

Key features of a MOOC.

1. MOOCs are open and accessible to all

MOOCs are not restricted to who can join. They are open to everyone on the globe. Although registration occurs and usernames and passwords can be generated, this process should not restrict anyone from joining and learning.

2. Participation is required for learning

Although resources can be accessed by anyone in the course, a large portion of the learning takes place from the interactions that take place between users. Users are expected to post reflections, tweet links, and post photos among other interactions.  The interactions are often guided by a question or task.

3.  Distributed using various online technologies

A major part of MOOC success comes from the fact that connections are made among people, ideas and resources.  A MOOC may begin within a single website with forums, but may expand to include social media elements such as twitter feeds, blog posts, and videos.

4. Learners add resources to the network of learning

As stated in the last point, connections are made when the learners post material, ideas and feedback related to content they find and content already available in the course. This helps the learning ecosystem that is a MOOC grow.

5. Focuses heavily on authentic peer evaluation, and peer reflection processes

Because the course takes on an unlimited amount of users, it is hard to build in assessments that are implemented and evaluated solely by the instructor. MOOCs tend to use peer evaluation and peer reflection processes to help students explore and develop ideas and topics covered in the course.

This is very much an authentic process if you compare it to a working environment. For example, lets look at what you could do if you were tasked with exploring and implementing a new office software in your office. Most likely you will do the research to see what is available (identify initial resources, exploration, research).  Then you would ask people what their needs are (conversation and interaction, feedback). You would then explore how these different systems stack up against each other (compare, contrast, explore), while comparing them to your office’s comments and needs.  Finally after incorporating multiple perspectives and resources into the decision making process, you will identify a software suite that would work for your office’s needs (analysis and evaluation).

6. The learner is responsible for their own learning

Learners get what they put in when they sign up for a MOOC. If they are not involved in the interactions of the course; if they only lurk and complete the readings, then likely learning will not be optimal.  They will not be synthesizing, analyzing and creating; this will have great affect on their ability to comprehend the topics of the course.

Because MOOCs are open, there is often no credit associated with them. Evaluation is done through peer interactions and self evaluations. There is no one person or institution responsible for the students evaluation. The student must judge for themselves what learning occurred. Comments on reflections and posts by peers in the course will help students in the self evaluation process. As they incorporate feedback and new resources from their peers into their learning process it helps them form decisions as to what comments are relevant, and what is important to the learning of the key concepts in the course.

7. MOOCs are like ecosystems of learning

The ecosystem begins with initial resources posted on a website within a CMS or LMS possibly, but that ecosystem grows with the participation of students. The course itself becomes an interactive text book in a way. A text in which there are valuable resources that also interject comments and resources from peers. A text that interjects questions that build upon initial concepts. Networks are created among the participants. Pods or subgroups can form naturally dependent upon interest in course topics. The networks that get made in the course can lead to further exploration and learning. This idea of spawning new learning opportunities really feeds into the idea of life-long learning.

There is a lot of information out there regarding MOOCs. This article just looks at the MOOC in general and identifies some key pieces of a MOOC.

If you wish to look further at MOOCs, take a look at the resources posted below. They will help you get a better understanding of how MOOCs came to be, how they could be used, as well as how learning occurs within a MOOC.

MOOCS – Wikipedia

What is a MOOC?

Success in a MOOC?

Knowledge in a MOOC?

If you wish to explore building a MOOC, would like some clarification of how MOOCs work, or are interested in certain aspects of MOOCs, please contact the one of our consultants in the Teaching Centre.

Of Course I’m “Just Teaching to the Test”

Post by Doug Orr – Teaching Development Facilitator – Teaching Centre

A commonly voiced concern is that if students know what questions are on an assessment (assignment, quiz, test, exam) ahead of time, they will simply learn the content they are going to be assessed on. And, even worse, the instructor might simply teach them what they need to know to successfully complete the assessments. As horrific as this seems, let’s look at this idea from the perspective of course objectives, student outcomes, evidence of learning, and teaching and learning.

Consider …

  • What are your course objectives? What important knowledge, skills and understanding do you expect students to take away from your course?
  • What student outcomes derive from these objectives? How will students be expected to demonstrate the knowledge, skills, and understanding intrinsic to your course objectives?
  • What evidence will confirm students’ achievement of the outcomes which will demonstrate accomplishment of the course objectives?
  • What instructional activities and learning experiences will provide students with the skills and knowledge to produce this evidence?

What might instructional and assessment planning look like from this perspective? According to some theorists, students are able to demonstrate “deep” (rather than “surface”) understanding” of a subject when they can move beyond factual knowledge and skills (identifying, recalling, describing, calculating, etc) to relational and extended engagement (such as explaining, analysing, interpreting, applying, creating, criticizing, theorizing, generalizing, hypothesizing, and reflecting). Who teaches students these higher order attributes? Who shows students where and how they can demonstrate acquisition of these attributes?

One instructional construct suggests that an instructor could clearly explain to students exactly what knowledge, skills, and attributes they will be expected to demonstrate on specific assessments – based on the stated course objectives and learning outcomes for the course. Then one could structure instructional activities and experiences to explicitly and purposefully teach students the knowledge, skills, and attributes they need to successfully complete the course assessments (including tests and exams).

This would mean that an instructor would tell students what they were going to be required to do on an exam, and teach them how to do it. And students would clearly know what they were expected to learn and demonstrate on an exam, and then (hopefully) learn it and demonstrate it. That is – the course objectives would be met and the learning outcomes achieved.