Online Ingredients Increase Critical Thinking and Skills Development for VCC Baking Students

By Robin Popow (Instructional Associate, Centre for Instructional Development)

In 2011 VCC’s Baking and Pastry Arts Department embarked on a curriculum redevelopment project for their Artisan Baking Certificate and Pastry Certificate programs.

It was decided early that the new curriculum would utilize affordances offered by the online environment to help increase retention, student engagement and reflective practice.

While the project was clearly a collaborative effort with department and college members, instructor and project lead, Fionna Chong sat down and shared the details of this exciting project. While the curriculum was redeveloped for these programs, the focus of our discussion was on the instructional strategies and use of educational technology. Two primary strategies were described including the use of videos and reflective journaling.

Instructional Videos

Videos illustrating critical concepts were created to offer students the ability to revisit lessons outside the classroom to better accommodate their own pace of learning. Referred to as ‘Concepts’ these videos have proven to be very useful to students and provide an excellent example of how a conservative approach can be taken to create videos that are targeted towards achieving outcomes while being practical and easy to produce.

Another series of demonstration videos target those laboratory demonstrations that either take too long to set up or are not necessarily easy for all students to see. The primary aim of these videos is to reduce the amount of time instructors spend on theory so they can increase the amount of time instructors can give supporting students in their hands-on work. This is found by many applied programs to be most beneficial for helping students hone their skills as well as constructing and connecting their knowledge.

Screen Capturing Presentations

Fionna has developed a system for creating her videos that allows her to use applications she already knows without having to become expert or spend loads of time video editing. Typically, she creates a slide show of pertinent points using Microsoft PowerPoint, then runs the slideshow and adds narration while filming using the screencast application Active Presenter.

This enables her to break out of her slideshow and run videos or draw on a blackboard application just as she would normally do in a face-to-face classroom. At the time of this interview, the Baking Departments YouTube channel boasted a series of concept and lab-demo videos with more than 5000 views. Fionna has received very positive feedback from students stating “…this is [particularly] wonderful for learners who are ESL”.

TED-Ed

TED Ed lesson

Click the image to see a sample of a lesson used by Baking students

The program is also beginning to use a new web application created by Ted.com which allows you to use engaging videos to create customized lessons. As stated on the TED-Ed beta site,You can use, tweak, or completely redo any lesson featured on TED-Ed, or create lessons from scratch based on any video from YouTube.

Reflective Journaling

Historically, the Baking Department has considered reflective practice as a core instructional strategy but found that students often provided shallow statements such as “I will need to try harder next time”, or “I burned the bread again”. Fionna suggested that students “…just weren’t thinking critically enough to reflect in a meaningful way” and needed to learn how to reflect. As a result, the new curriculum requires students to contribute on a regular basis to an online journal or what they call a “Folio Hub” using the WordPress blogging platform.

Click here to visit the sample page – use “dessertwine” as the password

In addition to samples of good posts of reflective practice the hub serves as a place for teaching students how to think critically to provide meaningful contributions.  RubricBefore starting, students are required to assess a sample student journal using a Reflective Journaling Rubric.

Instructors provide feedback on students journal contributions in effort to make crucial connections that students may miss.  Fionna noted that “…it’s all about connecting the theory to their practice in the lab” and added that even though a constant struggle may always exist to get those who wish not to write to contribute regularly, students are now talking and even helping each other with the project – reaching a whole new level of engagement. Instructors have found that, “they really enjoy reading the posts!”

When asked what the department plans next, Fionna suggested that potential exists for using interactive animations and other learning objects that may already be available. Additionally, the department would like to provide some of these new strategies to their apprentice classes but for now are concentrating on getting all instructors familiar with the new curriculum.

Anyone interested in finding out more about any of the information provided in this post is encouraged to contact the Centre for Instructional Development (CID) at dlsupport@vcc.ca.

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