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Dec 07
Happy Holidays from Paul!


By Paul Vogt, President

As we prepare for the upcoming holiday season, I wanted to thank you all for your hard work this fall.

It has been a busy and exciting academic year, with not only the usual crop of new students but several new programs, a new building (STTC) and some new ways of doing things.

I look forward to seeing you at next week’s holiday receptions here at NDC or at PGI.

If I don’t have a chance to see you, please enjoy your time away, rest and recharge and we will see you in the New Year!  



Nov 30
Working Smarter, Not Harder

Light at end of tunnel.jpgLast week a colleague told me there are three constants for an Instructor: death, taxes… and marking.

We can't help with the first two, but today we'd like to gather some end of term survival strategies for that mound of marking.  

From Janine

Here's an innovation that my colleagues and I developed:

We teach Marketing Research where students learn the entire marketing research process including data analysis using industry-grade software.

Three years ago, the final assignment on data analysis was done in a group. It was also an assignment that they had to physically hand in. The students would run various analyses and then write up their interpretation. That didn't feel quite right – it only proved that one student in the group knew how to use the software.

The next year, our teaching team agreed to make the assignment individual. However, that one assignment alone took me 12 hours to mark for two sections of students.

We needed another option.

Last year, we tried something new. We utilized LEARN to recreate the assignment as a quiz and called it a Skill Check. During an already scheduled lab, students individually complete the Skill Check. We ask them to complete various analyses in the software and then copy and paste their output into an open ended question format. Then we ask a follow up question to ensure they can correctly interpret the output. About half of it is autograded. The other half I can mark within an hour for all students.

For Instructors, this innovation saves time and allows us to assess each students' competency with the software. Students like the focus on proficiency versus all the details that come with submitting a written assignment and they get feedback much faster.

From Amanda

My love of reflective writing assignments is very apparent in my mound of end-of-term marking! But I've become smarter over the years by providing students with a detailed rubric. For example, rather than asking simply for a reflection on their learning about X concepts over the term, I now ask them something like this:

  • List three concepts (3 x 1 mark) related to the practice of supervisory management that you found interesting
  • Show your understanding of these concepts by explaining why each one is interesting to you (3 x 5 marks)
  • Provide an example for each (3 x 5 marks) of how you could apply this understanding to your role as a supervisor in the Class Company we created
  • Note: Marks will be deducted for language errors (grammar, spelling, punctuation) and poor formatting of your document.

This approach doesn't reduce the mound of marking, but it does help systematize my evaluation of the students' work. And I count that as a win at this time of the term!


How do you survive the busyness of the end of term? Do you have any encouragement? Any tips to work smarter, not harder?

Nov 23
Meet Gary van der Zweep

This fall one of our RRC own, Gary van der Zweep, won the Apprenticeship Manitoba Award of Distinction for Instructor of the Year.

Gary Van Der Zweek.jpgGary van der Zweep teaches Aircraft Maintenance at the Stevenson Campus.

We connected with Gary to learn more about the perspective and practices that are important to his career in education.

Gary noted that his students often have experience in the trade before coming to RRC. As such, a major priority for him is to include examples of the specific equipment the students have worked on in the past. For example, when teaching basic turbine engine theory, he researches how the theory applies to the aircraft that his students are familiar with. It’s more work, but Gary says it’s worth it to engage his students and keep his own skills current.

He also leverages his students’ practical experience by creating lots of opportunities for students to learn from each other.

Please join us in extending congratulations to our colleague!

Photo: Gary van der Zweep receiving his award from Colleen Kachulak, Acting Assistant Deputy Minister, Post-Secondary Education and Workforce Development, Manitoba Education and Training.

Nov 16
Advice to New Instructors
Can you believe it's the middle of November already? If you're a new Instructor teaching your first term, perhaps you're wondering, “Is it the middle of November yet?"

Hang in there. The end of the term is in sight.

Today we want to crowdsource just what new Instructors need: support and encouragement.

If you've been at this for a while, how did you make it through your first term? What do you wish you had known when you were just starting out? What constructive advice would you offer?    

Please sign in above and share positive suggestions with our new colleagues.

And to the newbies: Thank you. Thank you for the work you are doing to teach for learning.

Nov 09
Introducing the Centre for Learning and Program Excellence

By Nadine Ogborn - Director, Centre for Learning and Program Excellence

The Centre for Learning and Program Excellence exists to advance teaching and learning excellence at RRC to build our communities.

The Centre is still a new entity – established in 2018, we haven't even celebrated our first anniversary. The Centre for Learning and Program Excellence is located at NDC in FM28 (with eTV just a quick walk down the hall in GM32). In the three months since I arrived at RRC, I've gotten to know the current units that make up the Centre:

  • CLPE.jpgProgram and Curriculum Development
  • Teaching Learning Technology Centre
  • eTV
  • Recognition of Prior Learning
  • Staff Learning and Development

The varied skills, passions and investment the individuals in the Centre bring to their work is inspiring. Based on this, I was very excited for the Centre to come together for a full day in October to define our purpose that will help us move forward with greater integration and alignment of our units and services to support academic transformation at Red River College.

A few takeaways from the day:

  • It is DIFFICULT to get everyone in the same room on the same day. :)
  • We are continuing to learn more about each other and how we can integrate what we do.
  • Despite varied roles within the College and diverse experience and backgrounds, we were able to agree on the idea for our purpose quite easily:

The Centre for Learning and Program Excellence exists to advance teaching and learning excellence at RRC to build our communities.

This purpose is a first step in defining the Centre's vision, values and strategies to serve RRC faculty, staff, leaders and (OF COURSE) students. We will be providing support and working closely with instructors, staff, programs, chairs, and deans to develop, design and deliver high quality, innovative academic courses and programs that keep pace with the changing needs of our students, an evolving work-force and an ever changing economy.

Faculty Fridays is a great initiative to engage faculty across RRC's campuses (keep it up Amanda and Janine!). Please sign in above, then post a comment to share what you would like to see the Centre offer to support teaching for learning.

Nov 02
Introducing Nadine Ogborn

This summer Nadine Ogborn joined RRC as the Director of the new Centre for Learning and Program Excellence.

Next week Nadine will share a guest post in Faculty Fridays to introduce the Centre, but today we'd like to introduce her.

Nadine Ogborn.jpgBefore joining RRC, Nadine was the Manager of Teaching and Learning at Manitoba Institute of Trades and Technology (MITT). She returned home three years ago to Winnipeg from Hamilton, Ontario, where she worked at Mohawk College for eight years. She started at Mohawk as an Instructional Technologist and online instructor before moving into the role of Manager of the Centre for Teaching and Learning. 

Nadine holds a Master of Education in Administration and Leadership in Education (Brock University), Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration (U of Winnipeg), and a Certificate in Adult and Continuing Education (U of Manitoba).

Nadine's interests include blended and online learning, work-integrated learning, 21st century skills, instructor development and lifelong learning opportunities. These dovetail nicely with the focus of the Centre, which is to support the current and future learning needs of staff, faculty and students.

Nadine is married with two kids and two dogs that never run in the same direction. She enjoys cooking, watching HGTV and spending time with her family.


Please sign in above, then post a comment to share what you would like to see the Centre offer to support teaching for learning.

Oct 26
What Does Good Help Look Like?

Those motivated by teaching for learning want to help students be successful learners. But sometimes the process of doing that can be tricky. At least, that's how it felt recently to us. We have both been giving some thought to the amount of advance feedback we give to students on work that will be graded. We are feeling a bit confused about responsibilities and advantages.

Janine: I had a student email me his assignment to review before the deadline, but he had skipped my class that day. I decided to provide some high level feedback, but did tell him that in the future I would expect him to attend class to receive extra assistance. Is providing advance feedback a benefit to students who are done early or is it an unfair advantage? Should there be conditions to get extra support on graded work? 

Amanda: A student asked me recently to proof their resume. I'm not sure they always know what proofreading really entails (Hint: It means finding all the errors and correcting them!). Regardless, how much feedback is fair and how little is shirking my responsibilities as an instructor?

Now we're turning to our RRC network of support and asking you for input and advice: Can we sort this out together?

  • Do you offer to provide feedback on students' graded work prior to the deadline?
  • If not, why?
  • If so, is it a preliminary scan or a detailed evaluation?
  • Are there any conditions that the student has to meet in order for you to do it? (ie. actually come to class!)
  • Any other considerations? (ie. only if you have time?)

Thanks for helping us out!


Please sign in on the top right, and then add your comments to the discussion.

Oct 19
Using Reflection to Deepen Learning

Bloom’s Taxonomy graphically illustrates how learning increases in complexity as we demand more intensive work from our students. One of my favourite assignment types is reflective writing, which fits into the category second from the top. It is, arguably, more challenging learning, but that challenge comes with deep rewards – for both the students and the instructor.  Blooms newer.jpg

For example, in an assignment about their resume, I ask students not only to revise their document but also to write one paragraph about what changes they made and, importantly, why they made those changes. This causes them to justify their changes and, automatically, requires them to think critically and be reflective about their own work: “evaluate” on Bloom’s pyramid.

When I incorporate this activity into a course, I require that students use a claim + evidence pattern in their written response to demonstrate their critical thinking and their self-reflection. For example:

  • I improved my Skills section. [not acceptable]
  • I improved my Skills section by reducing the number of bullet points to 7 and tightening up the language of each bullet point to be more concise. [good]

I’ve used this technique successfully with students in a variety of programs and generally the feedback is positive. They appreciate that they are not simply completing a task for marks, but also reflecting on their learning and then describing it in a structured way. A bonus for me when facing a stack of documents to grade is that the assignments are much more interesting to read.

One important caveat: I give marks not for what the student says, but for their consistent use of the claim + evidence pattern in their statements. I’m not judging their thinking; I’m evaluating its rigour.


How about you? How do you incorporate higher levels of learning in your lesson plans? Do you have a specific assignment that others could use in their classes? Please sign in above and then post your comment below to share in the conversation.

Image Source: Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching

Oct 12
Where Are You on Cell Phones?

Last week Amanda and I initiated a conversation about the future of classrooms and teaching.

So, this week we wanted to circle back to an existing classroom challenge that will only become more embedded in the classroom of the future – technology.

Today we are keen to crowdsource your perspective and practices on cell phones in the classroom/shop/lab.

  • Do you allow cell phones in your classroom?
  • If not, why?
  • If so, do you have any parameters for students?
  • What are the consequences if students do not follow the rules?
  • How can cell phones be an effective tool for teaching for learning?


Please sign in on the top right, and then add your comments to the discussion.

Oct 05
Introducing the STTC!

This fall Red River College opened the new Skilled Trades and Technology Centre (STTC). Click on this picture to take a photo tour of the new facility.


Mark Blackner, Chair of Electrical, Mechanical and Manufacturing, shared with us examples of how the new building will contribute to teaching for learning - our focus in Faculty Fridays:

  • Labs have been designed to better prepare students for real-life working conditions and current industry trends/designs:
    • The wood floor in the Carpentry Workshop allows students to fasten structures directly to the floor to provide a stable foundation for the rest of the project. The floor is then easily replaced when needed.
    • The Innovation Lab/Smart Factory (to be completed by November) will expose students to Industry 4.0 processes, new equipment and machining techniques. 
    • New equipment in the Electrical, Robotic, Sheet Metal, Refrigeration, Heating/Cooling and Carpentry labs.
    • New spray booth in the Metallurgy lab for training on composite materials.
  • In addition, STTC includes state of the art computer labs with enhanced software to allow students easier access to complete projects and assignments. Classrooms are equipped with large windows, better lighting, idea boards, smart projectors, accessibility, instructor height adjustable desks, and better air quality. The STTC also includes more student breakout space for networking and collaboration.


We're so happy for students and staff that get to learn together in a state of the art facility like the STTC. The conversation about classrooms of the future will continue as the college begins building the Innovation Centre downtown. What are your priorities for a classroom of the future? Equally important, what do you think the future of teaching might look like? How can we prepare, individually and as an institution, for the future of teaching?

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Faculty Fridays is a blog to celebrate and nurture good teaching. Together, we'll put a face on teaching for learning at RRC. ​

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