Year in review: reflections

Pollock House @ UWO on a winter's evening with a slight sunset

This year was focused on preparing for and helping launch the University Studies Program. For me, this mostly revolved around the ePortfolio side of things – providing training and pedagogic support to the teaching community and recently to students. I’ve talked about this process before and will doubtless write something more substantial up as part of the communal reflection we’ll be doing on the program’s first semester during the coming month.

If I set the details aside and try to take a step back as I reflect on the past year (which inevitably this blurs into reflecting on my ~18months in this job), what has it held? I’ve an annual review coming up and am trying to take the opportunity to reflect on what I’d hoped this job would hold.

  • I’ve been running more training and professional development for the teaching community and others – both directly tied to ePortfolio work and occasionally pieces on social media, digital humanities, and open stuff. This has largely been enjoyable but has also reminded me of how much more I could develop my teaching.
  • I’ve got involved more deeply in the world of ePortfolios has been great and it’s been neat to connect this with other areas of my interests and expertise but there’s still much more to explore and learn. One of my open questions about going forward with ePortfolios is how much can I do without teaching a course. I’m finally having a chance to more concretely develop my own ePortfolio but I can see boundaries to that process. At what point do I reach a limit of my understanding in supporting others through which I can’t pass without using ePortfolios as an instructor? (and do I need to be in a course to do this or can I be creative).
  • I’ve had more interaction with students which has been a shift, sporadic reality check, but also a lot of fun. Both my role in Learning Technologies and much of my previous professional experience is not particularly student-facing so this was less familiar territory (I worked with students for a couple of years pre-Masters but that’s a while ago).
  • Connected to offering support to students I also secured two internal grants to provide ePortfolio lab support to students and for a student developer.  Getting project funding is not a new thing for me but it led to recruiting and managing student workers. Having some employees has been a largely enjoyable change for me. I’m grateful for the chance I’ve had to train and work with some talented students. Looking forward I want to work on ensuring that the students have more to do when the lab’s not busy and figure out how to help my novice developer find their feet some more.
  • I’ve been presenting about the same amount but writing much less. I’m getting better at putting presentations up on slideshare and feel like I’ve picked up the presenting pace a little this year but it’s been more local, I’ve a narrower focus and I’ve not had occasion or time to write much. I’ll not pretend that I like academic writing a lot but I like blogging and consider both academic writing and blogging to be a key part of professional development. Their decline concerns me somewhat.
  • I’ve been able to return to finishing my PGCert in Advanced Academic Studies. I finished the courses but not the coursework while at Strathclyde and hope to get this finished soon.
  • Despite offering some professional development sessions for faculty I’ve been a lot less involved in open stuff this year – this is still a shift I find difficult but is an inevitable and healthy shift to align with the priorities of this post.

Looking forward to this coming year, I’m excited that USP is progressing well. We’ve got opportunities to talk with colleagues and analyze some of the available information from last semester as part of planning the next stages of support. I’m also looking forward to seeing how the program capstone course develops but that’s largely now in the teaching community’s hands.

More generally I’m thinking through fit and direction. My professional experience is more in ‘investigate/ prepare and launch/ synthesize’ than running a steady state program so I’m getting towards newer territory for me. As I work through how the post should evolve as the program matures, I’m trying to be deliberate in planning what the post should be focused on. My understanding is that the intent is for the post to recur so I’ll also have to begin to work through and assess how what the post needs to become fits with what I’m best at and what I hope to work towards.

The time working with a student developer has been an all-to-limited a reminder of skills and knowledge I’m using less even as I’ve been developing in other areas. There’s a balance to be had between developing new and retaining old skills and expertise but there’s also a required intentionality and choice to be explored.