CAFE Monthly

A Monthly Newsletter from the Centre for Academic and Faculty Enrichment


Laura Benninger This month’s Faculty Spotlight is Laura Benninger whose love of science and technology developed into a passion for teaching.

Benninger earned an undergraduate degree as well as a master's degree at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (Ontario Tech). She then went on to work as a teaching assistant and a research lab technician.

“When I was working on finishing my undergraduate degree, I started [working as a] TA and then during my master's, I was also doing TA work. That led me to really enjoy teaching and education,” Benninger explains. “After that, I worked as a technician while contract teaching as well.”

Benninger now works as a professor and program coordinator in the School of Science and Engineering Technology at Durham College (DC).

Benninger sat on a panel of judges at Ontario Tech’s Science Magic camp, which took place in July 2014. The camp is targeted at girls ages 8-13 to inspire more female interest in STEM programs.

“I sat on as a panelist, just as a judge basically, to give them feedback on their creations,” says Benninger. “It was really neat to see what they came up with and their enthusiasm and how they presented their work.”

More recently, Benninger worked with the CAFE to develop an interactive module used to teach students different lab techniques. This module is used to allow students to practice before doing live labs in class.

“It's an e-lab where the students are able to go in and actually see techniques being done. It's interactive; they have to kind of ‘choose your adventure,’” says Benninger. “Students have to pick the correct thing in order to proceed through the steps.”

Benninger says by providing students with an online learning opportunity, they learn the skills first before using them. She also says the e-lab was developed for the fast-track program and is intended to be used as a complement to other live lab courses.

“The course online has a lot of techniques, but students needed to be able to actually see them before they could apply them in their other labs,” she says. Benninger adds that professors reported seeing less of a learning curve after students used the e-lab, highlighting the importance of practice.

Benninger worked with the CAFE's own Erin Banit and Tanya Wakelin to develop the e-lab, which uses guided visuals as well as audio to lead students through the steps of the lab. Students must complete the lab in the correct sequence: starting with washing their hands, choosing the correct weighing vessel, and so on.

She says she also likes to take students through the e-lab in her lectures.

“So, in the lecture, we go through it so that when they've gone into the lab virtually - they have already seen it once. It's easier for them to replicate it and understand and ask questions when they can visually see what's happening,” she says. “We utilize this technology in particular, as well as other videos, just to ensure that they all have the same technique - proper live technique - going in and to refresh.”

For the future, Benninger hopes to continue to see her students grow and is looking forward to continuing to facilitate their learning.

“I love teaching. I love seeing that the ‘aha’ moments where they take something that they've never seen before and they have that moment of seeing how it works or understanding how it goes together,” she says. “I'm just looking forward to continuing to do so.”

Written By: Jacklynne Graves, Third Year , Journalism - Mass Media Student

Interactive Chemical Lab Module

Below is a preview of the interactive module used to teach students different lab techniques. Try out the Chemical Lab Module for yourself.
Chem Lab Interactive Module Preview


Attendees at the 2020 Winter Faculty PD Day
Attendees Taking Part in the Welcome Opening Address at the
2020 Winter Faculty PD Day
While the weather outside may have kept some people at home, our faculty here at Durham College came out to this semester’s Faculty PD Day.  

February’s PD Day included faculty-led breakout sessions and a featured session where attendees had the opportunity to learn new techniques and material to apply in their classes.

Howard Umrah: 

“I think this is a great event that the CAFE offers every semester and I think everyone should take advantage of the opportunity.”
Click here to continue reading...
Click here to host your own session at April’s upcoming Faculty PD Day.


Kerri KnudsenUsing Durham College’s Respondus Lockdown Browser revolutionized testing and marking for me while still preserving the integrity of a closed-book test. So, let me tell you why you should consider using it! 
When the Lockdown Browser is used, students using their own laptops are not permitted to access anything other than the test. The Lockdown Browser takes over their laptop and prevents them from accessing their notes, messaging apps, Google or any other aid. It is exactly like a closed book test, just online and without the wasted paper. 
Why do I love the Lockdown Browser? Many of my courses have both a mid-term and a final test with multiple choice and short answer questions. Typically, marking one test takes 3-4 hours.  By using the Lockdown Browser, the marking for the multiple choice is automatic and once I mark the short answer, all the grades are transferred to the grade book automatically.  In the end, instead of 3-4 hours, one test takes 30-40 minutes! 
In addition, the Lockdown Browser is easy to set-up. You set the test up just as you normally would using the Quizzes function in DC Connect (so you can still use your Question Library).  Once completed, you click that you want the Lockdown Browser for the test and choose a password – it really is that simple! 
There is a little bit of work that must be done in advance of test day, but it typically only takes 10-15 minutes of class time.  In advance of test day, you have your students download the Lockdown Browser onto their laptops. Once downloaded, I get my students to complete a one question quiz (worth no marks) to ensure that the Lockdown Browser works on their laptops.  If a student has an issue launching the Lockdown Browser that I cannot easily troubleshoot, I tell them to go to IT and get it resolved. I tell my students that on test day, they will not be given any additional time should they have any technical difficulties. However, not once has there been an issue on test day that was not easily solved within a minute or two (usually by asking the student to restart their computer). 
And as always, the CAFE is there to help you with any questions along the way!  
Kerri Knudsen B.A.(Hons.), LL.B. 
Click here for more information for Respondus Lockdown Browser at Durham College


-Janine Knight-Grofe, Manager, International Education, Lindsay Tait, International Student advisor, Joanne Spicer, Global Learning Facilitator, CAFE 

Join our 9 Tips for Engaging International Students at DC webinar March 11th, from 12:10 - 1:00, where the CAFE and the International Education Office will provide pragmatic pointers to help you support international students inside and outside the classroom. This webinar is intended for all DC staff who work with, teach and engage international students at Durham College. So, dress comfy, grab some lunch and join us on March 11th! 


Do you need help finding course material that is free to use? Do you need a little refresher on how copyright works? Here are some resources you can use! 

Resources such as The Fair Dealing Decision Tool enable faculty to determine whether Fair Dealing allows them to use certain materials for their classes, such as print, artistic work and audiovisual works.

The Fair Dealing Decision Tool is there to make sure you can safely present your curriculum when using any material.

If you need material for your classes that is openly licensed, Creative Commons is the place to go! Creative Commons is a not-for-profit which offers globally accessible public commons for knowledge and culture. The site makes it easier for people to share creative and academic works that are accessible to others.

Creative Commons provides licenses and public domain tools to every person and organization around the world. This makes it easier to grant copyright permissions, ensure work is properly attributed, while allowing others to copy, distribute and use those works freely.

Another resource is The Learning Portal. If you need to either refresh or learn about copyright and how it applies to you as an Ontario college employee, The Learning Portal offers learning modules on the subject.

The modules provide faculty with a self-directed learning resource for Ontario college employees to engage in using material under copyright. The modules reinforce as well as enhance training, services, as well as resources provided by the college library.

If you’re interested in learning more, see The Learning Portal for more.



While “learning by doing” is often an independent experience, experiential learning can bring people to work together. In an article written by Dan LeClair, he explores experiential education and how it can not only bring fellow learners together, but others too.  

Click here to read an article on experiential education was why it’s so important manage development and business education. 
Interested in an experiential learning tool at Durham College? Check out Riipen.

Resource Spotlight

The Learning Portal: How to Cite module 

The Learning Portal

As we move into the second half of the semester, your students may be working hard on their research papers. Provide your students with a module on how to cite, with a 10-question quiz, directly imported into DC Connect.

Access this and other LMS integration cartridges on the Faculty Toolkit section of The Learning Portal.


9 Tips for Engaging International Students

March 11th @ 12:10 pm - 1:00 pm EDT

Joanne Spicer - Global Learning Facilitator, Centre for Academic and Faculty Enrichment- CAFÉ

Join our ‘9 Tips for Engaging International Students at DC’ webinar March 11th, from 12:10-1:00, where CAFE and the International Education Office will provide pragmatic pointers to help you support international students inside and outside the classroom. This webinar, facilitated by Janine Knight-Grofe (manager, International Education), Lindsay Tait (international student advisor) and Joanne Spicer (global learning facilitator) is intended for all DC staff who work with, teach and engage international students at Durham College. So, dress comfy, grab some lunch and join us on March 11th!
Click Here to Register

PowerPoint as a Design Tool for Learning

March 11th @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm EDT

Building on the Designing Presentations and Online Lessons with the Brain in Mind webinar delivered in Fall, 2019, this session will provide practical tips for using PowerPoint to create more impactful information design. Whether you use PowerPoint to deliver presentations or as a basis for creating digital learning content for your courses, this session will share visual layout techniques for optimizing learning.
Click Here to Register

Extend Your Teaching Superpowers with Video Tools

March 20th @ 11:00 am - 12:00 pm EDT

Seifert (2019) suggests that recorded lectures provide flexibility that enhances student learning that leads to academic success. Utilizing videos, students are empowered to complete activities, review material, and address gaps in their learning. 

In this discussion, you will interact using tools that empower you to extend beyond a traditional classroom delivery. Online, face-to-face or a combination, we have a little something for everyone. Learn how educators are using screen casting tools for online office hours, snow-day classes, feedback and to extend learning beyond classroom instruction. Hear from a student their perspective of participating in a video enhanced learning environment. 
Click Here to Register

Strategies to Boost Learner Engagement in the Synchronous Online Learning Environment 

March 24th @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm EDT

Synchronous online classes require instructor and students to be present online at a specific day and time. One of the advantages of this modality is the increased students’ connection to their instructor and peers (Watts, 2016). However, often instructors integrate less effective strategies (e.g., lecturing, lack of structure) into their synchronous sessions, which decreases engagement with the course. To boost student engagement requires finding the approach of translating the best online and face-to-face strategies into the synchronous online environment. Strategies presented at this workshop offer the potential for creating supportive spaces that increase students’ cognitive engagement in the synchronous online settings. 
Click Here to Register

Accessible Word Documents Made Simple

April 3rd @ 11:00 am - 12:00 pm EDT

Ontario is the first province in Canada to legislate a timeframe for the implementation and subsequent enforcement for accessibility compliance by 2025. Adhering to AODA means that college staff and faculty are responsible for keeping accessibility requirements at the forefront while creating and disseminating electronic information. Approximately 75% of the documents created by Ontario colleges are either created in MS Word or in MS PowerPoint. Fortunately, several applications in Microsoft suite have similar commands and options, thus if you know how to work with one of the applications within the Microsoft suite you can transfer that knowledge over to other applications as well. Learn how to create accessible word document in simple way.
Click Here to Register


View all upcoming PD Sessions on the Training Registration website.
March Training Registration Calendar

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