Teaching and Learning Forum

Trip Start May 04, 2007
Trip End May 21, 2007

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Friday, May 11, 2007

Today we attended a Teaching & Learning Forum at the North Road campus.

We each checked out of the hotel early this morning. We are moving to another hotel, the Riviera Hotel in Poole, because our hotel had previously booked out our rooms to a large group for a wedding. We knew that we'd have to change rooms this weekend; we didn't realize that that actually involved changing hotels. We left our baggage at the Anglo Swiss until we can collect them and travel to the Riveria this afternoon.

After a minor breakfast (we've been eating so much in the evening that hunger is not a issue in the morning) we left with Val Holmes for North Road. Val is an upbeat person and the drive was scenic. Arriving at North Road, we headed for the conference room upstairs. It was full of 60-70 administrators. These meetings are for administrators, although both Lawrence and Roy (my curriculum partner) relayed that they thought opening these "teaching" forums to lecturers would make sense.

There were several presentations before Julie was to present on WebCT. I didn't understand all the nuances, but the presentations were about recruitment and tracking student success and retention; and about different assessment initiatives using digital technologies, including an online practice exam software and use of the college's VLE (Virtual Learning Environment).

Julie then delivered her presentation about WebCT, covering the history of WebCT training and use at Cy-Fair College and walking the group through the WebCT interface. She did a great job.

After a nice lunch of sandwiches, chips (fries) and crisps (potato chips), sausage in bread, and pastries, we walked around campus until our 2pm meeting with Chris Frost, ILT (Information Learning Technology) Director. She showed us around campus-the highlight was a view from one of the upstairs offices were we could see the Poole coastline.

We met with Chris and several other administrators from IT. There titles are actually IT Champions, meaning that they champions for the use of IT in the college. We talked about the IT issues they face, our experiences, and their VLE. Their faculty appear a bit more reluctant to use IT, particularly in certain areas but the colleges is looking to expand their use of IT.

We had just gotten into our conversation when our next meeting was to start. We were meeting with the mentoring administrators. We said goodbye to Chris and started to talk with the mentoring administrators. We were particularly interested in finding out more about their mentoring program. We found out that mentoring is a primary funding initiative from the government; the funding for mentoring and other social services is comparable to the funding for education. Mentoring, in one form or another, as part of the "value added" assessment of educational services, is provided for all government funded institutions.

BPC's mentoring, though, seems to be unique among area colleges. They were in fact a model for other colleges. We've been told by several people that it was the extensive mentoring and social services program that were key to BPC's high Olfstead Report assessment. The Olfstead appears to be similar to our SACS accreditation-its been a primary focus here. (There are posters around campus celebrating their Olfstead Report.)

Of the nearly 500 faculty on campus, at least half are involved in the tutoring program. Personal tutors go through 24 hours of training (they gave us each a copy of their personal tutor handbook.) The recognize that not everyone has the skills or personality to be a tutor, they work to make sure everyone has the system they need to reach to other more trained professionals if needed.

The tutoring system is an elaborate safety net that deals with mental health, emotional health, family relationships, and even sexual health. They also have a multifaith chaplaincy on site. They are understandably proud of their tutoring program.

After talking  with the tutoring administrators, we met up with Val who drove us back to the Anglo Swiss hotel. They arranged a taxi to take us to our new hotel, the Riviera. Its in Westbourne, a community between Bournemouth and Poole. Like the Houston metro area, the Bournemouth and Poole area is populated by a series of smaller villages. The Riviera is a fair hotel. The staff was nice and the rooms clean. However, our rooms (particularly Julie and Tory's rooms) are right next to a dance floor, with the music going  well up to midnight.

We asked the very friendly desk clerk for a recommendation for dinner. She suggested the Café Rouge in a local village, so out we went. After a bit of wandering about and getting wet in the rain, we finally found the restaurant. We didn't have a reservation, but they did have a space available as long as we were done by 8:15pm (it was 6:30). I ordered an appetizer of fougasse, an Italian bread I've made at home, and a main course of fruit des mer dieppo, a dish with a square pastry "bowl" filled with seafood. Both were excellent. We shared a round of a strawberry Belgium beer on special for the night. As the evening progressed and the time approached 8:15, we expected to receive our check, as we knew the table was reserved for another group. But the wait staff were very busy and there was no rush to have us leave.

Finally, we paid and headed out. The rain had stopped. We wandered into a grocery story, Marks & Spencer, which was clearly a high end store, with lots of organic, fair trade, and fresh foods. Grocery stores are a great place to get a sense of local culture. We picked up a few odds and ends (or at they say here, "bits and bobs") such as cookies and candy, then continued back to the hotel.

As we were walking, we suddenly heard the screech of tires. A fast moving car, with its breaks on, was heading towards a parked car. The moving car hit the curb and came to a stop mere inches from the parked car. As the occupants got out, obviously quite shaken up by their near accident, Tory recognized the driver as young man from a class she observed. After finding out that they were alright and were being helped by the owner of the parked car (annoyed that their car was nearly hit), we kept walking.

Back at the hotel, we headed off to our rooms, ready to call it a long, eventful day.
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