As the Founding Director of the Faculty of Information’s new Learning Hub, Assistant Professor (Teaching Stream) Malayna Bernstein will build on innovative past initiatives, introduce new programs and strategies, and work with colleagues to formulate a comprehensive vision for the Faculty’s extracurricular and para-curricular learning activities.
“There are already great programs here at the Faculty, but there’s also room to imagine new ways to support teaching and learning. I look forward to growing the Hub based on our existing strengths, and to introducing new ways to support students and faculty,” says Bernstein, who comes to UofT from West Virginia University, where she was a Service Associate Professor in the Department of Learning Sciences & Human Development as well as Director of Learning Sciences Programs.
The Learning Hub, as it’s known for now, will be located on the fourth and fifth floors of the Bissell Building in the Inforum, which is also home to the Faculty’s Maker Space, the iRelax mindfulness resource area, and several curricular and extracurricular programs. “I like the idea of a ‘hub’ where people make meaningful connections,” says Bernstein, who hopes to strengthen the connections and create more cohesion across those programs.
One current learning success story is iSkills, which offers professional, academic and technical workshops that range from LinkedIn & Portfolios to Genres of Academic Writing to Programming with R. While the popular workshops’ limited spaces used to fill up quickly, moving online during the pandemic allowed instructors to admit more participants. Both students and alumni were able to take advantage of this expanded enrolment and the convenience of participating online.
Bernstein, who began work in July, has been planning iSkills workshops for the fall as well as reflecting on how to refine iSkills so there are clear themes and threads that make it easier for students to integrate into the rest of the Faculty’s offerings.
Also on the agenda is the creation of a Writing Centre to offer support to students through a range of methods including one-on-one tutoring, workshops that address specific academic writing needs, and boot camps that bolster writing communities and provide peer support. “It’s often assumed that academic writing is learned through osmosis, but students arrive at the Faculty with different levels of proficiency when it comes to scholarly writing in their disciplines, and the osmosis approach privileges some students over others” says Bernstein, who aims to be more “purposeful, explicit, and responsive” about the process.
As well as helping students with learning, Bernstein has a background in supporting faculty members’ pedagogy, which will be put to use as the Faculty of Information embarks on a hybrid fall term with both online and in-person courses and activities. Together with learning technologist Joanna Lau and Dan Ryan, Bernstein will contribute to the work done during the first year of the pandemic by the Faculty’s e-pedagogy team. While she won’t be teaching during the fall term, depending on the COVID situation, you may be able to find her in the Learning Hub, where her office will be located.
“I’m thrilled to join the Faculty of Information. I’ve already been inspired by how thoughtful and creative my colleagues are, and by how energized and curious our students are. I look forward to helping to build a space that supports all of their good work.”