Edubytes: Emerging trends in higher education
Welcome to the July 2019 edition of the Edubytes newsletter. Edubytes features articles that focus on emerging trends and innovations in teaching and learning in higher education. This month, our guest editor, Roselynn Verwoord, will be exploring students as partners.

Roselynn is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Educational Studies at UBC and a Fellow of the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. She works as a Curriculum Consultant at the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology and as an instructor in teacher and adult education. She has engaged in several students as partners projects and can often be found writing about the role that power can play in partnerships.

If you have any suggestions on higher education trends you would like to read more about in future editions of Edubytes, feel free to contact us at We would love to hear your thoughts.

Students as Partners: An OverviewGuest editor: Roselynn Verwoord

At its core, the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) involves enhancing the student learning experience. As such, students are the heart of SoTL. It should come as no surprise then, that partnerships with students are considered one of the principles of good SoTL practice. But what constitutes partnership with students? What might partnerships look like in practice? How might individuals know if they are engaged in a partnership or not? These are questions that many scholars and practitioners who explore students as partners think about.

Although there are varying definitions and understandings of what constitutes partnership, Healey, Flint, and Harrington provide a useful definition for understanding partnership. Specifically, they define partnership as a “specific form of student engagement, partnership is a way of doing things, rather than an outcome in itself.” They also provide a useful conceptual model for understanding the various spheres within which partnership may occur, including curriculum design and pedagogic consultancy; the scholarship of teaching and learning; subject-based research and inquiry; and learning, teaching, and assessment.

Students as partners is a popular and growing field, both within and beyond Canada. Since 2013, McMaster University has offered the Student Partners Program. This program sees undergraduate and graduate students contribute to enhancing teaching and learning through various pedagogical activities, including the design and development of new courses, resource creation, and collaboration on teaching and learning research projects. Internationally, institutions have partnered to develop and host the annual International Students as Partners Institute, a multi-day institute designed to build the capacity of faculty, staff, and students to develop, design, and implement initiatives to promote the practice of students as partners in learning and teaching in higher education. There is also the International Journal for Students as Partners, which aims to publish partnership focused articles written collaboratively by students and staff. These are just a few of the many recent initiatives that have emerged as a result of increasing interest in the field of students as partners.

Principles of Good Practice in SoTL

Peter Felten’s journal article identifies five principles of good practice in SoTL, including 1) inquiry into student learning; 2) grounded in context; 3) methodologically sound; 4) conducted in partnership with students; 5) appropriately public. The article describes each principle and draws attention to the inclusion of students as a key principle for engaging in SoTL. Despite his call for partnership with students, he acknowledges that “while full partnership may not be practical or appropriate in all SoTL projects, good practice requires engaging students in the inquiry process.”

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Engagement Through Partnership: Students as Partners in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education

This 2014 report, by Mick Healey, Abbi Flint, and Kathy Harrington, is the result of extensive research conducted by Healey and colleagues in the UK and internationally. The report presents a conceptual model (see page 24) for exploring the ways students can be partners in learning and teaching, including through active learning; subject-based research and inquiry; the scholarship of teaching and learning; and curriculum design and pedagogic consultancy. It also proposes ways in which the development of partnership learning communities may help to guide and sustain partnership practice.

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Scaling Up Student-Staff Partnership in Higher Education

Lucy Mercer-Mapstone and Jenny Marie’s guide is the result of the authors’ personal partnership experiences as well as extensive research which examined institutional-level project-based partnership schemes at higher education institutions in the UK. The guide is designed to offer support and guidance to “individuals, teams, or institutions in scaling up student-staff partnership” through a project-based model, a “common way that institutions have approached scaling up and embedding partnership within higher education.” The guide presents multiple stages of scaling up a project-based model of partnership, including gaining support and designing initiatives, through to implementation and evaluation. At each stage, the guide outlines suggestions for best practice and poses questions to help readers think through project logistics, as well as engaging in partnership authentically. 

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Reimagining the Place of Students in Academic Development

This article was written by Peter Felten and a team of graduate student educational and academic developers from international contexts, including the UK, USA, Australia, and Canada. Given their unique positionality as students and educational developers, the authors advocate for a re-examination of the purpose and practices involved in academic development with a particular focus on academic development’s relationship to students. This article includes four vignettes that illustrate what is possible when students have the opportunity to embrace their essential roles as students. Through the vignettes, the authors propose “re-articulating the purpose of academic development toward the creation of conditions that liberate everyone involved in teaching and learning in higher education.” 

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July 2019 Edubytes Roundup

The following articles chosen by our editorial committee are wide ranging, discussing topics from ethical considerations in learning analytics to the rise of liberal arts post-secondary education. Learn about how to engage in experiential learning through the open access toolkit created by Niagara College, in collaboration with colleagues from Brock University and Georgian College, detailed below.

‘Categorical Suspicion’: Should UBC Continue Using Turnitin? 

Academic integrity is an important part of post-secondary education: students are aware of plagiarism and its consequences. Instructors have been using Turnitin, a plagiarism detection software that compares an assignment to a database of journals, articles, and indicates if there are similarities between student work and the database. As this software is hosted in the United States, UBC students must remove any personally identifiable information when submitting an assignment on Turnitin as per the FIPPA requirements. This Ubyssey article questions the lack of information regarding how Turnitin uses and stores student submissions. According to Dr. Simon Bates, UBC Associate Provost of Teaching and Learning, “Instructors whose students are required to use Turnitin as part of their course activities are also clearly informed of student options when they sign up for the service.” However; instructors seem to not be aware of the precautions to take regarding student privacy when using Turnitin, which may create confusion and anxiety among students. 

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Domains 2019: Back to the Future

Recordings of the sessions from the 2019 Domains Conference, which took place this year from June 10-11, are available on YouTube. The conference explores an alternative approach to technology in education focused on student ownership and agency.  Participants share and explore approaches centred around the idea that students and instructors should be given online spaces that they have control over, where they can create and construct their own learning tools and environments. The theme of “Back to the Future” for this year’s conference is described as a “dreamvision of technoir and utopianism wherein the neon possibilities of EdTechs past merge with the shadowy data that reflects the uncertain futures of data ownership, privacy, access, targeted teaching tools, cloud infrastructures, as well as the home video market!” 

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What's In a Microcredential?

There are nearly 750,000 "unique credentials" on offer in the U.S. today, reports Education Dive. According to Kathleen deLaski, founder and president of the nonprofit Education Design Lab, microcredentials are increasingly being created by colleges and universities to address projections of enrollment declines in tandem with employers' desire for more qualified workers. While a transcript is itself a collection of credentials, breaking it down into smaller pieces can more clearly signal a person's skills to the market. Additionally, microcredentials can show how a seasoned professional has kept their knowledge current. According to deLaski, "In the next decade, colleges will compete for students at a competency level, not a degree level."

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Global Guidelines: Ethics in Learning Analytics

In March of 2019, the International Council for Open and Distance Education published a 16-page report on global guidelines regarding ethically-informed practice in learning analytics. Learning analytics is defined as “the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of data about learners and their contexts, for purposes of understanding and optimizing learning and the environments in which it occurs.” The report includes a number of issues that are important ethical considerations regarding the use and development of Learning Analytics, including transparency, data ownership and control, institutional responsibility, inclusion, consent, student agency and responsibility.

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Experiential Learning Toolkit 

Niagara College, in collaboration with colleagues from Brock University and Georgian College, has just released its open access Experiential Learning Toolkit. The toolkit serves as a self-paced instructional guide for educators and community partners interested in engaging in experiential learning. It consists of 16 modules which guide learners through the process of designing, delivering, facilitating and evaluating experiential learning activities. The toolkit includes a downloadable planning and development worksheet to help guide participants through the process.

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Associate Degrees in Liberal Arts Are on the Rise, Study Finds 

According to a recent report by the Community College Research Center, associate degrees in humanities and liberal arts education in America’s colleges are on the rise, unlike the pervasive perception that they are in decline, reports Education Dive. An Associate of Arts (a two-year undergraduate degree program that is typically offered by a junior, technical, or community college) provides students with a foundational education in liberal arts. These trends could bode well for employers as “(students) can gain more communications and more of the soft skills that industry says they don’t see.”

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