Peeking Behind the Campus Curtains: Learning Through Leadership — Fahd Munir, CTE Coop Student

blog picImagine a university experience without clubs, teams, or leadership opportunities. While academic achievement is important, many other campus opportunities provide chances to get involved in other aspects of university life. Going to class is usually the number one priority; however, that does not and should not make it the only priority. This idea of getting involved with campus life as a student leader is something I learned in my first year living at the Ron Eydt Village residence at the University of Waterloo.

When September rolls around, the campus is filled with promotions from the various student clubs, teams, and services offering leadership opportunities. So why get involved?  Why take on leadership opportunities at all?

Signing up for clubs and attending meetings sounds a bit overwhelming, especially with midterms, assignments, readings and finals all term long. This being said, once you dip your toe into the extra-curricular pool you see how easy it really can be! There are plenty of opportunities across campus that student leaders can utilize to refine their learning style.

Any first year undergraduate student can tell you about the challenge of making new friends in class. Most students are too focussed on lecture content to care what you have to say, and when you are finally able to strike up a conversation with someone, you don’t see them again in that same spot next class.  University is always a good place to find a common-ground with students who share similar interests. So how do you find these students if not in class?

One of the most comforting things to know as an undergraduate student is that there are students in my class that can be helpful if I miss a lecture due to illness or an interview. Not every student has the luxury in their first year to have a residence floor where making friends is as simple as saying hello every morning. Assembling study groups with the students in your residence is crucial to learning how to learn in a new environment away from home. Every student has a different mode of learning, so understanding what works on an individual basis is the best way to achieve academic success.

If you talk to any successful upper-year university student on campus they will tell you the same thing: they didn’t get to where they are alone – they needed the people around them to help put them in a position where they could succeed and learn more effectively. Study groups that may not have been as effective back in high school become much more constructive and useful around exam times. One of the most satisfying rewards that study groups or extra-curricular involvement provides is the chance to bounce ideas off of other students.

The Federation of Students(FEDS) works with services and clubs on campus that specialize in academics, religion, environment, politics, business, health, and everything in between. Learning is not limited to these types of clubs; it can also become easier by involvement in intramural sports, fitness classes and sports team. With all of these different ways to meet other students it was really up to me to pick what I felt best lined up with my interests.

So now that we have established the presence of opportunities on campus, the question becomes: do the new friends you meet outside of class help or hinder your learning? In other words, is student leadership a hindrance or a supplement to learning? Experiential learning is one of the pillars of the University of Waterloo’s strategic plan, especially with the emphasis on co-operative education for many students. Experiential learning, through club and service experiences, allows students with similar academic and employment aspirations to interact. This is beneficial to learning because it allows both students to gain a new perspective and discuss concepts more openly. See the Centre for Teaching Excellence blog written by Katherine Lithgow called “Providing Authentic Learning Experiences” for more information about experiential learning.

My own involvement with the Campus Response Team (CRT), which is composed of undergraduate students from all of the different faculties, shows how getting involved with other undergraduate students enhances one’s learning.  The bonds that I have made during my previous two terms volunteering have given me an outlet to ask for advice from the older students, as well as the opportunity to make some great friends to spend time with outside of classes. So how does this experience make me a better learner? Not only has the CRT boosted my confidence during a medical response, but it has helped reinforce important soft skills such as communication, teamwork and project management. CRT has also given me an opportunity to discuss academic interests, course content, lab experiments and instructor teaching styles with my fellow undergraduate students.

Clubs, services and teams help you obtain the soft skills necessary to succeed in the workplace and academic environment. The soft skills are transferable to different areas of learning, such as study habits at work or on campus. Learning how to communicate better can lead to setting up a study group which can actually lead to more success in academic work. Joining an intramural team on campus can be the perfect way to alleviate the stress that gets built up from assignments and exams. Without this burden of stress, students can learn freely and absorb knowledge better. Professional schools and graduate student programs in Canada are becoming more competitive, so it is important to be well-rounded through leadership experience.

Being a leader on campus is about more than just résumé building; rather, it’s about applying effective leadership qualities to the academic learning environment such as on a co-operative work term. Leadership opens the door for self-discovery, but it requires that we check behind the scenes of campus life to do so. So the next time the club fair rolls around, use it as an opportunity to sneak a peek behind the campus curtains.  What you notice might actually surprise you!

Fahd

Fahd

Special Projects Assistant for the Centre for Teaching Excellence for the duration of the Fall 2014 term. 3rd year biology co-op undergraduate student at the University of Waterloo. Currently a member of the Campus Response Team and a Research Assistant at the Social Health and Neuroscience Lab. I love basketball, hockey, playing board games and spending time with friends watching television shows.

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Wikispaces Goes Free for Higher Ed — Trevor Holmes

I have been using Wikispaces for many years now. It’s been a space to collaborate with peers on research, a space to house an organizational website that needs to be very flexible and easy to use while we seek permanent solutions, and a space for my students to go when other tools go down. By no means have I used Wikispaces to its full potential, but I do administer several wikis there and I’m thrilled that they are extending their ad-free version to higher education, after serving nearly a million K-12 users this way. A couple of examples of how I’ve used it:

  • A backup site for my Cultural Studies 101 course over at WLU
  • A working site for the Council of Ontario Educational Developers

If you’re interested in wiki use, we do have advice for you. And for ease of use plus the newly free adless version, I’d recommend Wikispaces as a strong contender for your time and energy.

trevorholmes

As Senior Instructional Developer, Curriculum and Programming, Trevor Holmes plans and delivers workshops and events in support of faculty across the career span. Prior to joining the Centre for Teaching Excellence, Trevor worked at a variety of universities teaching courses, supporting faculty and teaching assistants through educational development offices, and advising undergraduates. Trevor’s PhD is from York University in English Literature, with a focus on gothic literature, queer theory, and goth identities. A popular workshop facilitator at the national and international levels, Trevor is also interested in questions of identity in teaching and teaching development.

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Wikis + Interactive Teaching + Class notes = A new take on an old assignment – Seanna Davidson

I’ve often had trouble with the assumption made by students, that professors will post their PowerPoint slides or lecture notes online, and that they will contain all of the content covered in class. There are certainly some instances in which sharing lecture notes may be appropriate, such as for students with learning disabilities who need additional support.  But for the large majority of the class, if we are seeking to encourage active and engaged learning, posting notes online seems like a bit of a contradiction to me.   Many will skip class knowing the notes will be online, or attend class but play games or check their Facebook page instead of tuning in. Continue reading Wikis + Interactive Teaching + Class notes = A new take on an old assignment – Seanna Davidson

seanna davidson

As a Teaching Assistant Developer for CTE's, Certificate in University Teaching (CUT) program, Seanna is responsible for observing teaching events, facilitating workshops and providing feedback for participants in the program . She began her Geography Ph.D. program at the University of Guelph and while there, completed the University Teaching: Theory and Practice course. She is now enrolled with Department of Geography and Environmental Management at the University of Waterloo and is in the third year of her studies. Seanna has been a teaching assistant at York University, Guelph University and the University of Waterloo.

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Social Networking in Teaching and Research – Trevor Holmes

Lately I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the differences between Facebook and Academia.edu. While Facebook accomplishes so many different things (some great, some really horrid), Academia.edu seems to be a winner for those scholars who want to find contacts around the world in their research areas. It works based on a tree-like structure within each university that then cross-fertilizes according to one’s sub-fields across all universities in the system. Besides meeting academics with similar research interests, connections can be made via papers and citations (although I haven’t tested that aspect yet). Senior scholars and graduate students are getting involved. A brief review:

http://scienceroll.com/2008/10/11/academiaedu-social-network-in-science/

A final question: Will research-based social networking improve teaching? Directly? Indirectly? I’m asking this not only because I work at the CTE, but also because I do believe firmly that the “specialness” of university study is that one joins a community of intellectuals for a time — in short, there is and should be a link between teaching and research. More on that question later.

trevorholmes

As Senior Instructional Developer, Curriculum and Programming, Trevor Holmes plans and delivers workshops and events in support of faculty across the career span. Prior to joining the Centre for Teaching Excellence, Trevor worked at a variety of universities teaching courses, supporting faculty and teaching assistants through educational development offices, and advising undergraduates. Trevor’s PhD is from York University in English Literature, with a focus on gothic literature, queer theory, and goth identities. A popular workshop facilitator at the national and international levels, Trevor is also interested in questions of identity in teaching and teaching development.

More Posts - Website