Technical tools to improve student involvement 

By Karen Herland

John Bentley is enthusiastic about his new role at the Centre for Teaching and Learning Services (CTLS).

Bentley joined the team officially after spending the better part of this year participating in the program on a temporary basis. He brings a degree earned here in educational technology almost a decade ago, plus several years experience in the BBC’s educational division and the Open University in the U.K., in distance education. His motivating interest is how to better use technology in the classroom.

Bentley said that traditional “transmission” models, in which information is poured from professors into willing student vessels, is no longer a viable explanation for the process of learning. The challenge is “how to engage ‘generation net’ students who are constantly building their learning on previous knowledge.” Bentley sees the key to effective teaching to be transforming students into active learners, instead of passive recipients of knowledge.

On a practical level, he can offer one-on-one time with professors who want to better understand and exploit the tools available through moodle — like wiki models and quizzes. He has been asked how to embed film examples into moodle sites, and is exploring that possibility.

He can also record professors in the classroom, and go back through their footage with them, pointing out strong and weak responses.

“The thing I think about most in terms of teaching is “What do you want your students to remember about your course five years from now?’” Bentley said that posing that question to professors is a useful way to help them better design their courses, and better deliver their material.

He thinks Concordia is a pioneer in innovative teaching methods, with early adoption of open and distance education and a growing number of online courses available for students.

Initially designed as a way for students who are in mid-career to expand their knowledge or upgrade their skill set, distance courses are becoming increasingly relevant for all students.

“Many students in their twenties have more responsibility, full-time work and other commitments. They need to be able to learn when it suits them.”

Another misconception is that students will skip classes and just surf through online material, missing out on the interaction of the classroom.

“In fact, we see that students who are engaged by the lectures are more likely to go online and look up the other resources their teachers have made available.”

The CTLS web site,, outlines the tools currently available for professors who want to improve their teaching skills or expand their resources. New tools will be available before the end of the winter term and Bentley intends to continue adding resources.


Concordia University