An Open Letter to the University of Saskatchewan re: TransformUS Recommendations


For those who don’t know the University of Saskatchewan embarked on a program prioritizing mission named, TransformUS, nearly one year ago. Task forces were assembled, and templates were distributed and filled and filed and just this past Monday the committee recommendations were made public. Much to the shock of many, the Centre for Continuing & Distance Education (CCDE) did not fair well in the recommendations. Instead the committee placed much of our unit in the dreaded 5th Quintile: Candidate  for  phase  out,  subject  to  further  review. My own specific team received only moderately better news under Quintile 4: Reconfigure  for  efficiency/effectiveness, but without a hook to hang our hats, it’s unclear as to what this might look like. Other teaching and learning service units under the portfolio of Patti McDougall, vice-provost teaching and learning, received equally shabby recommendations including her own position, Educational  Media Access and Production (eMAP) and the Gwenna Moss Centre for Teaching Effectiveness (GMCTE). All this to say, it’s been a bit glum this week around here. Below is an open letter I’ve drafted which outlines a misalignment in strategies, reports and recommendations regarding these learning service units. I welcome and dialogue or discussion around the topic openly.

An Open Letter to the University of Saskatchewan re: TransformUS Recommendations

I’m unclear as to how these results align with other strategic initiatives that have been undertaken in the last year. For example the report from the vice-provost teaching and learning – The Distributed Learning Strategy Development Project – was delivered in January of this year. Dan Pennock who penned the report said,

“We have a lot of activity that’s not guided by strategy and the goal is to expand our distributed learning in a guided, thoughtful way.”

This report has already been moved into action by the new vice-provost teaching and learning, Patti McDougall who said,

“The heart of the distributed learning strategy is to co-ordinate what we do so that we can do more”.

But now, under TransformUS, a less informed committee has made recommendations that are in direct opposition to the recommendations in this in-depth comprehensive strategy report supported by the office of the vice-provost. Although the report suggested that a new budget model would be explored it saw CCDE as a major contributor to the success of a distributed learning strategy at the U of S.

“That (budget) model would see administrative processes for direct-entry colleges flow through the Centre for Continuing & Distance Education, and all distributed learning initiatives would be financially sustainable for both academic and administrative units.” Dan Pennock via James Pepler, 2013 (

So I ask you, having spent the time and energy of the previous vice-provost teaching and learning, the current vice-provost teaching and learning, the director of CCDE, the director of the GMCTE, the director of eMAP and many others who strategized over how to best serve the future distributed needs of colleges and programs across campus and beyond, will PCIP now ignore these insights and instead act on the recommendations of a committee who were given unarguably far less information about the needs and abilities of colleges and units? Which report will trump the other?

Obviously there is a misalignment of recommendations between these two reports. I’m not saying there isn’t room for improved efficiencies at CCDE, eMAP, or GMCTE. In fact, The Distributed Learning Strategy Development Project outlines numerous opportunities for us all to think about how we operate. All we are asking is for the opportunity to see a plan through to the end for the benefit of the University and the students it serves.

Thank you,
Jordan Epp, M.Ed
Instructional Designer
Distance, Off-Campus, and Certificate Programs
Centre for Continuing & Distance Education

Panasonic 3D Technology Demo

I had the opportunity to attend a demo of Panasonics newest 3D technologies including the AG-3DA1 3D Camera and a Massive 3D display. Learned a few things about the technology and the use of 3D video. Although the $21,000 price tag on the camera will scare most educators out of the market, Panasonic has done an amazing job bringing The 3D Rig to the masses. I for one was impressed. The 3d images that were produced from this camera were amazing. The display was incredible. And the 3D effects were stoopid cool. I can see a million and one uses for this technology in medicine, geography, fine arts, you name it. If eMAP, the media specialist group at the University of Saskatchewan and host’s of the 3D demo event, want to buy one of these camera’s I will find some courses to make use of them.

The only major hurdle is the delivery of 3D content. As with HD when it was new, delivering 3D content to students, who will not be affording the $4000 plasmas capable of this content, will be a challenge. YouTube has developed code to deliver 3D content in various formats, but ultimately we are taking what is an incredible 3D image and making it acceptable. Using the “space age” glasses (yes the rep from Panasonic actually said, space age. Sooo the 1960’s or newer.) with the plasma screen worked amazingly well. But if you compress the video to YouTube and display it using the old cyan and red glasses or the cross-eyed method instead of the polarized glasses or better yet the Frame Sequential Method, you’ve basically gone back to the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Real Space Age Technology. Something to consider anyway. Maybe we’ll all have 3D televisions next year, maybe not. Either way the technology is there and as always with enough capital budget, educators could find some amazing ways to bring content pop.