Announcement: Schulich Education Enhancement Division names inaugural Director

Sarah McLean, PhD, Assistant Professor, Physiology & Pharmacology and Interdisciplinary Medical Sciences, has been appointed as the inaugural Director of the Schulich Education Enhancement Division (SEED).

SEED is a newly established, centralized instructional design hub that will support innovative curriculum approaches to create engaging and meaningful learning environments across the School. 

In her previous role as an e-learning coordinator for the Basic Medical Sciences program, McLean found that there were discrepancies in the tools, skills and resources that faculty were familiar with and applying to their teaching. 

“I found that we were all very much working in these little silos. Some people would have these pockets of innovation in e-learning, experiential learning, or case-based learning, and there wasn't really much coordination between the units,” she said.

“They’ll do it on their own, for example, teach themselves how to use a particular program, and this might be helpful in the short term, but it doesn't make it sustainable because others don't necessarily know of the innovations and the strategies that they've created.”

As Director, her goal is to advocate for support for faculty in these areas and assess the different innovations that have been employed across departments through education research.

Within Dentistry, McLean is leading a pilot project to test a ‘students as partners’ approach to learning. With this approach, students are encouraged to provide feedback and report on issues related to e-learning and content delivery to class representatives who work directly with SEED to resolve issues in a timely manner.

“Students can be really engaged in the whole learning journey, and see changes to their curriculum in real time in response to their feedback,” McLean said. 

As part of its mandate, SEED also manages the School’s digital media interns, who offer their skills in graphic design, coding, video production and more, to help faculty achieve their curriculum enhancement objectives. 

Through Western’s digital media intern program, which began as an initiative to aid the transition to online learning at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, 15 students were assigned to programs across the School. Interns were matched with programs based on their own background within the specialty.

With the help of the digital media interns, McLean was also able to conduct a survey of 500 undergraduate students, which examined issues related to accessibility, online learning tools, and explored students’ preferred methods of learning and course delivery. The results indicated that students recognized the benefit of a hybrid approach to learning, both online and in-person, emphasizing the need for SEED’s services.

“We are seeing where the needs are, seeing what the gaps are, and advocating for that change. We have incredibly talented, world-leading researchers, that also have great ideas for different ways that we could evolve our education,” she said.