The AU Learning Conference took place on Friday April 28 and Saturday April 29. A number of CUPE 3911 tutors and academic experts participated. As part of the conference, CUPE Executives Mark Dimirsky and Glynnis Lieb presented on The Wellness Project that CUPE 3911 is now developing. In a later session, CUPE 3911 executive members Glynnis Lieb, Dougal MacDonald, and Natalie Sharpe each made short (and very fast!) presentations in their 20-minute session which was called “Learning Like You’ll Live Forever”. Short summaries of the presentations follow. You can likely obtain the full presentations by emailing the presenters.
Glynnis on Wellness: Glynnis provided a very brief introduction to CUPE 3911’s ongoing Wellness Project. Mark made the main presentation.
Mark on Wellness: Speaking on behalf of the seven-member wellness committee, Mark first clarified the current focus of the recent work of the committee: Develop and send a survey to obtain information from CUPE members about their health and relationships with AU, organize to ensure data is collected regularly, use the data for health promotion and intervention. He then summarized the findings, with a major one being a pervasive feeling of social isolation. He also suggested some remedial actions, for example, ensuring members have access to wellness resources including AU’s Occupational Health and Safety Committee.
Glynnis on Learning: Glynnis discussed the value addedness of tutors, academic experts and faculty who interact consistently with students. AU students get to work with professionals who teach but have also have worked or are working in their related field. Glynnis has connected students to volunteer and job opportunities, guided them to further education, referred them to various supports, supported them through crises, hashed out career choices, and just talked about life. Her students often keep in touch and seek her out long after they've completed her course(s).
Dougal on Learning: The main premise of Dougal’s presentation was that for online teaching to actually be teaching it must be based on providing reasons and evidence to back up claims. This is because there are other ways of changing people’s ideas and beliefs that would not be called teaching, e.g., indoctrination. Teaching students rather than indoctrinating them means that they will develop an evidential style of belief whereby they can inquire into the validity of their beliefs, consider contradictory evidence, and change their beliefs when the evidence warrants.
Natalie on Learning: Natalie’s presentation concerned defining ourselves as holistic teachers and what that involves. This includes getting to know and appreciate our students, meeting students’ needs and aspirations, and ensuring we treat students respectfully, fairly and equitably. In addition, we should constantly question our own assumptions, bias, and areas of privilege. “Who is my student” is a key question. We must avoid stereotypes, celebrate diversity and difference rather than focusing on sameness, encourage questioning, and mentor mutual respect.