#Bbworld09 : Bonita Bray Supporting Faculty

Bonita is at the University of Alberta where a team of 3.5 people work with 3,000 faculty members. U of Alberta is a research-oriented institution.

With great energy, verve and enthusiasm, Bonita told us the story…

Quote: “I have a friend who’d rather go to a dentist for a root canal than go to training.”

What didn’t work: generic, tool-based, 2-hour workshops at central location with no cost but sign-up. It was: never inspiring, poor attendance, very little knowledge transfer, little opportunity for best practices, no feeling of connection, disappointment- on both sides (faculty attending workshop AND those giving the workshop).

1st generation at improving effectivesness of faculty LMS training: different schedules, different delivery formats (virtual brown-bag lunch sessions or 2 hour virtual sessions).

Nothing made much difference but everyone still complained about the difficult of the system.

So… we made it a big deal

  • We stopped trying to minimize the need/time for training
  • We stopped being ‘low profile’
  • We made a big deal on making an investment with a big payoff (you won’t look stupid in front of your studenets).

Came up with “E-Learning Summer Institute”

Acknowledged blending learning with e-resources takes extra time and effort, but extra payoff.

Real investiment of time/real payoff -course ‘ready to roll’ at end of institute

Qualified participants through skills inventory and needs assessment prior to Institute

Be clear about teachers expectations

Focus on the Instructors – make them the stars

Eligibility: Can’t come if a post-doc or TA or a Dean, you had to be an Instructor. Come for 5-days, can not pick and choose sessions. Had to be willing to share this knowledge both during and after Institute (blended teaching). Did an hour interview to assess eligibility.

Set stage . We

  • Provided full catering to keep participants together
  • Set stage for building a community of practice
  • Acknowledged participants of ‘experts’ and encourage them to take knowledge back to their instructions.
  • Had morning sessions of instruction (Best practices, Issues, Tools, invited speakers from campus) followed by afternoon practice and application (well supervided labs).
  • Asked participants to do not less but more.


Created posters/send emails and waited.


More than 70 instructors applied. 60 attended. We ended up running 3 concurrent sessions.


92% noted that the Summer Institute had met or exceeded their expectations. Asked if they would recommend to a colleague? They said things like “absolutely” “without a doubt” and “definitely” recommend to a colleague.

Almost all participants wanted to get together again. They will return to this year’s Summer Institute as alumns (with special acknowledgement).

Analysis: Why it worked for those Leading the Summer Institute?

  • Excellent instruction- great team that worked hard to deliver.
  • Comfortable spacious labs that worked well for sessions
  • Needs assessment
  • Focused on teaching (NOT on the tool). ie You want your students to engage with your teaching, right?
  • Refreshments at each break

Analysis: Why it worked for those Instructors participating?

  • Thought about sessions before they arrived
  • blocked time off for the event (5 days NOT partial days)
  • gave themselves ‘permission’ to concentrate on course
  • got what they needed
  • met their peers

Summer Institute had words of welcome from the Vice Provost. Took lots of photos. Gave them some perks (custom icons /banner not just Vista default). Instructors became the stars, the leaders of bringing others along in blended learning.

Did a Spring Institute and a 3-day Winter Institute. Offered Day long courses for non-academic instructors (Radiation Lab Safety Course; Fire department; TAs and other Administrative Staff).

47 are signed up for this year’s Summer Institute with 20 posters around campus and 1 email.

Training Team consists of Excellent Team (ie needs assessment interviews, preparation, structure), support from upper management, time, $$ (food).

Q & A

How soon before the 5 day event did you start?

Dollars? $31,000 for food for 65 people for 5 days. (Not cold sandwiches day after day).

Man hours for planning? June-Aug 3.5+1 allocated for this entire time. (A professional development team).