#34: Learning Literacies

Welcome to Wired Ivy Footnotes!  Clippings from a previous episode, mulched with commentary from Dan and Kieran, to help your online course design and delivery skills grow. 

In Episode 30 – Ocean Onliners, our guest Elizabeth Sanli offered perspectives from both sides of the virtual podium – she teaches online courses for Memorial University – Newfoundland and Labrador’s University and she’s currently an online student, pursuing a Bachelor of Education to go along with her PhD in Kinesiology. Returning to class as a student has raised Elizabeth’s awareness of the ways in which instructor expectations may not align with learner preparedness, and she offered an idea for how to address this.

DAN:  I’m kind of interested in hearing more about your lessons from your education studies and reflecting on online learning.

LIZ:  I guess my example this term is academic literacies. The groups I’ve had, I didn’t specifically take time out to think about what literacies they have in terms of looking up research. This year I took time to do a little video that’s titled, “Here’s a chat about supporting your ideas with literature.”  And some people may need it, some may not, but that’s not something I would have thought of unless I had taken these courses. My research is looking at how you can optimize the training time you have for learning over a period of time, which is essentially what we’re trying to do with our teaching all the time.

KIERAN: Liz is talking about information that is not the content of the course but that is supportive of what the students need to be doing in the course. The idea was that she’s going to ask them to do a paper. The paper is going to be on the content of the course in some way, but some of the students will already know how to find peer reviewed papers, how to cite those peer reviewed papers. Others will not.

The course is not about how to write a paper with literature citations in it. And so by recording a little tutorial on that supportive information, the students who need it can access that and the students who’ve already done it don’t have to. So it’s a very effective way for each of those types of students to be able to do better in the class. ,

DAN: Elizabeth really gets to a bigger point about creating and curating resources that enrich the learning environment as a domain. I confess I work course by course. I think about the resources that a specific course needs and I embed that in the course.

This point of Elizabeth’s has me thinking – and you and I have had some conversations about it, across my own courses, but then I think you’ve been thinking about it with respect to the whole program – wait a second! There could be resources that are really a little bit more universal or that set up the context of learning that don’t have to be part of the course can be part of a library, I think for lack of better word, a resource library.

I think Elizabeth refers to beautifully here. It’s like, oh yeah, I don’t have to be so ad hoc about it. I can invest a little bit more intentionally how I want to put time and energy into creating resources that the learners are going to be able to access whenever they want.

KIERAN: And there are other ways that we could implement that. Let’s say there’s some fundamental content on which this course builds but we’re not so sure what students who’ve come from a variety of different backgrounds – they come from different high schools, there’s different approaches to the subject matter – we don’t necessarily know what they’ve already been exposed to.

Well, if there’s something that we need them to understand, we need to know that they understand it before we can move forward to the next thing, rather than making that assumption and leaving some students behind then part of this issue of academic literacies is to say, “Okay, what am I assuming my students already know? What if they don’t? Can I put some information out there that will make it easy for everybody in the class to be starting from the same point?

DAN: Yeah. We often talk in the online world that we need to meet students where they are, both literally and figuratively. And this, I think, is a way of doing that.

Reiterating, basically, what you just said, this type of resource is a way of either leveling the knowledge base, but really kind of filling in the gap. So we don’t know where the gaps are for any individual student, but we’re facilitating their ability to fill those gaps in and get on with the rest of the program and the rest of the course. Yeah, absolutely.

KIERAN: And one thing that having the LMS would really facilitate, would be the faculty within a program could, if they chose, to have some conversations among themselves about, well, where do they see their students often are not prepared? And could they then decide to build out a shared library? You could create a site on your learning management system that has all those kinds of resources, and then you could point to the specific ones that are relevant to your class and your students.

DAN:  Yeah, this reminds me of our conversation with Carey Borkoski and Brianne Roos. They talk about it when it comes to orientation, for example, and it’s a program wide need to make sure that everyone has a certain baseline orientation, and a baseline understanding of what the procedures are going to be.

I love the idea of using the LMS and building out resources that are generally accessible, that are going to be able to satisfy all these other needs, that aren’t necessarily part of my learning objectives in a course.

KIERAN: This has certainly given me ideas, how we might be able to, to create some of these resources that would be really useful.


KIERAN:  Let’s hear what you have to say!  Send us your questions, comments, and suggestions. You can leave a voice message at speakpipe.com/wiredivy, or send us an email to kieran@wiredivy.org —  Kieran is spelled K-I-E-R-A-N, or Dan@wiredivy.org  —  Dan is spelled D-A-N.

And help Wired Ivy grow by sharing, subscribing, rating, and reviewing us on your favorite podcast app.


Dr. Elizabeth Sanli holds a PhD in Kinesiology from McMaster University (2013) as well as a MSc in Applied Health Science, Kinesiology (2009), and a BKin (2007) from Brock University. Her postdoctoral work (2015-2017) was completed at the Offshore Safety and Survival Centre, examining skill performance, learning, and relearning.  An Instructor (Research) in Ocean Safety, Dr. Sanli’s current research focuses on the understanding of how complex skills are performed, learned, and retained over time. Recent and current projects examine concurrent training of multiple skills in a maritime context, effects of task and anxiety on emergency skill sequence learning, challenges and solutions related to rural, cold-climate firefighting, and development of behavior change initiatives in relation to marine litter.

We welcome your questions, feedback, and suggestions for future episodes. Join our Wired Ivy LinkedIn Group, tweet us @wiredivy,  or look for the bright blue Talk to Wired Ivy tab on the right side of this screen to leave us a voice message!

Wired Ivy is wholly owned by Kieran Lindsey and Daniel Marcucci, and we are solely responsible for its content.   Views expressed in this podcast and affiliated media are those of Kieran, Dan, and our guests, and do not represent Virginia Tech or any other institution.  Our audio engineer is Star Path Images, and a license for our theme music, Breakfast with You, was purchased from SmartSound.

Want to be notified when whenever new podcasts and other content are published? Join our mailing list!

Success! You're on the list.

Leave a Reply