All posts by Marcy Slapcoff

McGill and the Quebec Charter of Values

By Marcy Slapcoff, Teaching and Learning Services

Congratulations to Principal Suzanne Fortier and the McGill administration for taking a  stand in favour of pluralism  and against the Quebec Charter of values.  The statement published on the McGill website is a critical first step in supporting all members of our community and their right to dress in accordance to their convictions.  This statement demonstrates that we care about our students and are committed to ensuring them equal access to the opportunities that await them upon graduation.  It also communicates to society that we are engaged members of Quebec society – that we care about this province and are willing to take a stand when we feel things are not going well.

This statement is the first step but what comes next? How can faculty, students and staff continue to voice their opinions and make a difference in this province? Service to society is a central tenet of our mission and now is the time to take our efforts beyond the gates and demonstrate that our critical thinking, our scholarship, and our engagement can contribute to this debate and make a difference for society.  

MOOCs and pistol shrimp in the Sea of Cortez

By Marcy Slapcoff, Teaching and Learning Services.

I think this opinion piece from the New York Times  presents an interesting and original take on online courses. Are MOOCs so highly organized (curated, is the term the author uses) that they eliminate the possibility of learning anything that is not on the syllabus, anything that cannot be easily assessed?

Great face-to-face courses create situations where everyone, including the instructor, can tackle problems together and discover something new in the process. The author describes a field course where two of his students discover what makes the the popping sound in the Sea of Cortez (spoiler alert – it’s the pistol shrimp!) The course becomes a triangle between the instructor, the student, and the world and the learning outcomes are surprising and likely to be remembered forever.

I think there is the potential for MOOCs to be designed as inquiry-based instruction, but most of what is currently out there focuses on the delivery of content  above all else. Imagine MOOCS as arenas for global citizen science – a place where instructors could help their students not just figure out the mating calls of shrimp underwater but also  grapple with the uncertainty around them and deal with unanswered questions. Thousands of students could be mobilized worldwide to address  pressing issues while learning something at the same time. Wouldn’t that be exciting??

Photo Credit: Standing Watch by, on Flickr

Welcome to McGill’s Teaching for Learning Blog

This blog is designed for faculty, staff and students to exchange ideas about teaching and learning at McGill University. It will feature posts on topics such as: the links between teaching and research; teaching and learning spaces; course design and program planning.

This blog is hosted by Teaching and Learning Services (TLS) and features posts by many of the instructors and students we are lucky to collaborate with.  At TLS, we work to promote the importance of teaching and learning, and we do this through university-wide initiatives, program specific projects, and a lot of face-to-face meetings. Now the time has come to try something different: we want to start a larger conversation about teaching and learning within the blogosphere.

Would you like to share an experience, a resource or an opinion about teaching and learning? If the answer is yes, we are currently looking for contributors so please write to