“As I sit on the Ontario Northland bus to Sudbury with a fun bunch of academics, we are reminded of the Laurentian Center for Academic Excellence’s metaphor for allowing students to choose their own path to meeting course outcomes. If the end goal is to get to Sudbury, there are multiple ways to get to the destination. As long as we get there we have met the outcome of the said trip. This metaphor can be applied in course contexts including the Ontario Extend modules that are coming up. The inspiration for this blog post is twofold: 1) Simon Bates and I had a conversation about some innovative ideas for improving Ontario Extend and 2) Hanging out with this crew.

Ontario Extend

Ontario Extend, for those of you who are unfamiliar with it, is a series of modules that are founded on Simon Bates’ Engaged Educator Framework. Educators like me work through the modules completing a series of tasks in order to earn badges. The criteria for earning the badges are currently set forth by eCampusOntario. The goal is to empower educators through skill building. Recently, educators like me have been working backwards to prove what we already know – that we are in fact empowered educators.

As I listened to the presentation from David Porter and Valerie Lopes on Ontario Extend I had so many questions running through my head. Myself and other faculty in the Hub have been talking over the past few months about how some of the elements of the modules are not relevant to our practice, but we do them anyway to get the badges. Since I happened to be sitting beside Simon Bates I turned to him after the presentation to ask his thoughts on improving the badging system for people like me who quite honestly do not look at the modules. I usually skip to the checklist, but part of that is because I was part of the intense in-person pilot group so I feel I have already done them all and continue to exemplify the aspects of an empowered educator in my daily practice.


Simon and I had a brief conversation about improving faculty buy-in for the modules. Two main ideas came from this conversation:

1) What if educators were not told what they needed to do to earn the badges? Instead, they could set their own learning goals. (Simon’s brilliant idea)

2) How can we build in more elements that can be added to the academic dossier for University Professors?

Coincidentally, Simon and I both had separate conversions with David Porter about these ideas. He liked both ideas. The first idea is explored in this post. David challenged me to address the second one as well, but that will need to be explored in a subsequent post.

Pexels / Pixabay

Applied Adventures in Agency

David and Valerie talked about the value of experiential learning. As educators, there has been a surge of discussion about the value of both experiential learning and student agency.

Well, we lived Sarah and Kelly’s metaphor that they mentioned several times earlier in the trip. They say that you imagine Ontario as the course outcomes. Each module is a city. In our adventure, our objective was to get from Toronto to Sudbury thereby completing the Sudbury module.


Some educators from the conference decided to drive to and from the conference. These brave souls left the conference, travelled through a snowstorm, but arrived. I am sure they have tales to tell. In the end, they completed the Sudbury module.


The group who chose flight (including me) was looking forward to a stress-free journey home. Unfortunately, several flights were cancelled so we set off on a different adventure. We could have waited for the next flight, but there was no guarantee that the deicers in Sudbuy would be working anytime soon. Some of the abandoned passengers of this flight ended up renting a van and driving behind a snowplow on their way home. It may have taken until 2 am, but they also completed the Sudbury module.

A $450 rental fee was too high for some of us so we chose another route.


Aaron jokingly inquired how much a taxi would be. While we did not all want to pool our money to taxi home, it would have helped us get there, but at what cost? Toronto to Kingston is about $800 so we didn’t want to know. The cost was too high for us to complete the Sudbury module in this way.


A bus ride is not the most ideal way to get to Sudbury, but it is the most reliable. We have found a dependable way to complete the Sudbury module (I hope). Although we are all completing this module using the same means we are actually all doing different things on the bus. Everyone is dealing with the stress of life in their own way but we will get to Sudbury together.

The point?

The point here is that when life is messy for students they may need to take different paths to the end goal. As long as we all make it to Sudbury we have all met the final outcome so we should all get the badge or course credit. There should be multiple ways to complete the Extend modules that align with our current circumstances and learning goals. For example, to get the technologist badge I could easily look back and show proof that I am a technologist or scholar. However, it may be more meaningful for me to st myself a new goal that would be quite different than my peers. Does eCampusOntario have the capacity to manage the diverse needs of learners with varying levels of technologist skills? I think so.



We completed the Sudbury module. Kelly says it best below “it’s not always about the most direct path, but about who’s by your side as you progress!” Sometimes an alternate route to completion means deeper connection and learning for the student. 

We even left our friend Peg with something to remember us by.



Laura Killam is an experienced nursing educator from Northern Ontario with a keen interest in improving student learning through innovation. For more information please visit http://nursekillam.com/.


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