Project Inspiration

  • This project was conceptualized by Dr. Nicole Campbell, who is an Associate Professor at Western University in Canada. Dr. Campbell became invested in mental health in post-secondary education in 2017 and has since tried to find proactive and creative solutions to support students. Over the years, she completed training programs such as Mental Health First Aid and the ASIST Suicide Prevention. These programs were informative and beneficial, but they left Dr. Campbell wondering what more could be done, especially within her courses. She eventually landed on this idea that explicitly teaching skill development could support students on their academic journeys—although she can’t recall exactly when or why she arrived at this decision. To read more about this, check out Educated Solutions Volume 14: Updating our Teaching Practices to Support Student Mental Health and Skill Development. Once Dr. Campbell identified this valuable link for her practice, she consulted and collaborated with various colleagues on campus and at other institutions and she experimented with different innovations and curriculum changes. She started to identify topics that she thought students would benefit from learning about that were not directly related to the course content and she incorporated them into her curriculum. Dr. Campbell noticed that this approach was resonating with many students—they were becoming more competent and confident in their academics. She also noted that these changes made a positive impact on her as an educator because she was connecting more meaningfully with students. These approaches got Dr. Campbell recognized at her institution and beyond (she was invited to speak at several institutions about student mental health), but she still wondered how she could make a bigger splash!

Call for Proposals

  • Fast forward to December 2020 when eCampus Ontario put out a call for the Virtual Learning Strategy proposals. Dr. Campbell attended information sessions at Western and pitched her idea about creating a comprehensive repository of skills that educators could embed in their courses. The feedback from the Centre for Teaching and Learning was to consider the Wrap Around Support category, which offered significant funds, but required numerous collaborators across sectors and institutions. Dr. Campbell immediately turned to her community and started pitching her idea—she even put a call out on Twitter and people were enthusiastic because they believed in the work.
  • Dr. Campbell took the lead to write up a proposal and she consulted with her collaborators. Many offered insights about the project and they provided valuable feedback. The team crossed their fingers and submitted the grant for review. On March 22, 2021 we got the incredible news that the project was funded!

Project Development

  • The development of Uncovering the Hidden Curriculum took place from May 2021 to March 2022. As soon as the funding news came in, Dr. Campbell started thinking about who could be hired to support this large project and also assist her with her teaching responsibilities. She was so fortunate to be able to hire Dr. Sullivan as of May who worked as the project coordinator. Dr. Campbell was also placed in contact with Rick Ezekiel who received similar funding at another institution—the two of them met throughout the duration of the funding to discuss ideas and support their projects and one another.
  • One of the first tasks the team wanted to accomplish was a thorough search of what online resources are currently available for skill development across Ontario colleges and universities to identify the gaps that our project could fill. Dr. Clarke, one of the collaborators, assisted the team with the research design and scanning process. Numerous students were hired to complete this work and the team gathered valuable information with this process. At the same time, the team started to explore companies that could support development of the work. They reached out to several contacts and interviewed them to find someone who shared the team’s vision for the project. After going through the appropriate processes, the team ended up working with Artha Learning Inc (highly recommend!!). Artha conceptualized the website and the content modules that would populate the site.
  • By September, Dr. Haddad was hired as a content editor and data analyst. The team started to develop templates and map out the resources. The content creators were identified and commissioned based on their areas of expertise. Dr. McCarron was hired to support the team as the lead content designer and reviewer. She assisted the team to find a company to translate all the materials to French. After much searching, the team hired Across Languages (highly recommend!!). As content was developed, the team realized they would benefit from an educational developer to curate the activities and resources—Samira Chams was hired to fill this role. Once all the roles were filled, the team worked as a well-oiled machine to review content, send it for EDI-D consultations, and format it appropriately for the web.
  • As the project was nearing the end, the team recognized the need for some branding of the project. We purchased a domain and hosting site, but wanted to elevate the design. We were put in contact with Christina Hotz (highly recommend!!) who was able to get started with some graphics for the web and customize the project. We were also put into contact with Imprint Marketing Group (highly recommend!!) to create a promotional video.
  • It is worth noting that this project was conducted entirely remotely—we worked effectively synchronously and asynchronously. Because we were not restricted by physical proximity we were able to work with people all across Ontario, which was a strength to the project. We also provided flexibility where possible so that our team could accommodate the project with other competing priorities.

Lessons Learned

  • There were many lessons learned along the way, but for the most part things went smoothly because an incredible team was put in place and we established clear expectations and organization from the start. For any project to be successful, it needs to be backed by a supportive team and this project would not have been possible without all of our contributors. Although we were on a tight timeline, we are so proud of what we were able to achieve and we hope that it will have an impact with both educators and students.  Below are some highlights of what we learned along the way in case others find themselves in a similar situation one day.
  • With any size project, but especially a large one, a project coordinator is key. This person needs to be immersed in the project to ensure the success and they need to get started right away.
  • Organization is key for projects like this. We set up a OneDrive folder and created necessary subfolders. Our team had access to all the files so that we were not sending versions back and forth. We also had Excel sheets to track progress and assign tasks to our team members. Overall, a system was established to flow content through our members.
  • Finances are tricky at institutions and you need to ask the right questions in advance so that you don’t get any budgetary surprises along the way. When in doubt, build in some wiggle room with your budget if possible. You should also think about if there will be any ongoing costs to the project when the funding is over and who will support it.
  • There are so many incredible companies and individuals out there to work with, you just need to find them. Lean into your network for referrals.
  • Things always take more time than anticipated, especially when it comes to creating content. Start early and give yourself room at the end for edits and then add more time.
  • Get feedback early and frequently so that you can make appropriate changes and have the best possible product in the end.
  • Find people who believe in your project and the vision.