By Brandon Gillet
From August 11 to 13, 2015, the Teaching and Learning Support Service (TLSS) held its annual Orientation Program for New Professors. The program aims to help new professors prepare for the upcoming school year by covering topics such as campus services, new technology, tips for teaching at uOttawa and the student experience on campus. Some of the newcomers will be professors who began teaching after the start of the previous academic year and missed the event last August. “But most of them arrived in July, so this is the first official activity they’ve been invited to,” says Nancy Vézina, TLSS Educational Programs Manager.
The program “covers a lot of different things,” says Vézina, who also commented on the chance for new professors to meet other participants. “It’s really to give them as much information, tools, and resources as possible.” The program will also feature presentations by current professors about their experiences.
The first day will be jam-packed with information about all the campus services available to students and new professors. This will provide the participants with information on where to go and who to see if either they or their students need help.
“It’s important for new profs to know the services available to students if they want to be able to refer them to SASS, for example,” says Vézina. “Each service we have relates—in one way or another—to the students.”
Primed for student and professor success
Because student demographics and technology are constantly changing, the orientation program is updated annually. The TLSS staff are experts in teaching, so they offer a full day on course design and how to teach large classes. The focus placed on teaching large classes is somewhat unique to uOttawa. “We know it’s one of the challenges. We have a lot of large classes compared to other universities,” says Vézina.
After the TLSS training, new professors will know how to design their courses for uOttawa’s large and diverse student population and how to incorporate various technologies into these courses. Keeping the program up-to-date ensures that both professors and students gain as much as possible from their classroom experiences.
“Some new profs have no formal training to teach in their discipline. They have done research and a PhD, so they are well-prepared to start research, but teaching may be very new for them,” says Vézina. “We give them the tools and let them know there is a complete service there for them.”
Finally, the orientation program is rounded out with activities such as a guided tour of campus led by Chief Archivist Michel Prévost, whose presentations open a window into the university’s past.
The annual orientation gives new teaching staff “an overview of what their career could look like,” says Vézina.