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Blog 219

Blog 219

Faculty of Science launches new teaching & learning website

By Ashley Nahornick

The Faculty of Science at York recently launched a new teaching and learning website designed to provide support for instructors, students, and staff related teaching & learning topics. We have been working on creating this website for over six months behind the scenes. Along the way we’ve learned some lessons and for those interested in creating a website for teaching related topics for their department/Faculty, I thought it might be helpful to share:

  • what made us decide to undertake the project
  • how we decided on what to include, and
  • what I would encourage you to check out on our new site

You can check out the webpage here:

What made us decide to create a teaching & learning website for Faculty of Science?

As the Faculty of Science Educational Developer, I would constantly get questions from instructors about where they can find information for science related to teaching & learning. To help people find information more easily, I initially set-up a SharePoint as a means to share information, however, people did not find SharePoint intuitive to use, and readership was low. After some discussions with our new Faculty of Science (FSc) Pedagogical Innovation Chair-Science Education, Dr. Tamara Kelly (Biology), about how we can better share information we decided to create a website, as a one-stop-shop for all teaching and learning information, as well as an opportunity to showcase what was happening in the Faculty. This dovetailed with work that Tamara and I had started to promote the transformation of several courses within the Faculty of Science, as well as aiming to connect people knowledgeable in pedagogical strategies across the faculty. Based on these early discussions, the website planning began.

I brought the website idea to our FSc Committee of Teaching & Learning (CoTL) to learn about people’s thoughts on this as a possible initiative. Members were excited about the idea of a webpage highlighting how our faculty is recognizing educational excellence in Science, and a place for new instructors to get resources for their science teaching.

How did we decide on what to include on the website?

The decision on what was included was through a numerous discussions among myself, Tamara, and our Chair of CoTL, Dr. Robin Marushia, as well as consultations with FSc instructors and students, and general questions about teaching and learning. As we made decisions we brought these to CoTL for further feedback.

After these initial discussions, Tamara and I met with our communications manager, Margaret Mroziewicz, and website and multimedia coordinator, Anna Burtin, to share with them our ideas for the website. Anna and Margaret provided information about the technical side of things and suggested we create a shareable Word document that would essentially serve as a “Pinterest” board for each topic and would help with organization.  We created a table identifying topics/information we wanted to include, who was working on this part of the project, and links to websites that have a layout that we like to serve as inspiration for designing the webpage. We found this was a great way to corral our thoughts and ideas, while also communicating more clearly to Anna and Margaret our vision for each topic and page.

Our goal was to keep each page of the website thematic on one topic for ease of use. We also wanted the website to be easy to use and visually appealing.

Following the development of our organizational table, we asked the nearly 20 members of CoTL to review all identified topics and provide feedback, affording us a range of perspectives. From here we determined that we should include the following:

  1. Current Faculty of Science teaching initiatives
  2. Our teaching team
  3. Instructor resources (such as academic integrity, curriculum modifications, and university policies)
  4. Student resources (such as learning supports, resources to assist with university administrative tasks, and social and networking opportunities)
  5. Scholarship of teaching & learning resources and opportunities
Four graphics on teaching & learning. Panel 1 (top left): Spotlight on teaching. Panel 2 (top right): Instructor Resources. Panel 3 (bottom left): Student Resources. Panel 4 (bottom right): Scholarship of teaching and learning.

Prior to launching the website to the public, we invited all CoTL members to review a draft version of the website and complete a survey to identify any missing topics and share their feedback. While collecting information via surveys makes analyzing the information easy, survey responses rates can be low, open construct responses tend to be short in nature and are often lacking context that would support their interpretation. If I was to do this part again, I would have something similar to a “focus group” meeting to review the final product in detail, rather than a survey. I think we get richer information from synchronous conversations, and it would be easier to spot errors.

A huge thank-you to Anna and Margaret for their technical expertise in creating the website!

Four graphics highlighting university teaching. Panel 1 (far left): Excellence in Teaching Awards. Panel 2 (mid left): Award Recipients. Panel 3 (mid right): Transformation Stories. Panel 4 (far right): Meet the Team.

Things to check out on the website!

  • Transformational Stories from York Science Courses:
    • A lot of our instructors have pedagogically transformed their courses, and our goal here was to provide an avenue for instructors to learn from each other and for students to know about how we are continually improving our courses.  
    • We invited Science instructors to share stories of their transformative approaches via a template. This helped provided instructors with prompts that would help someone else understand their course changes, while also providing some consistency in how transformations were reported. You can access the stories here:
A collage of York University Science instructors who have submitted transformational stories in their teaching
  • Faculty of Science Teaching Network:
    We often hear from instructors in FSc that they have questions about certain areas of teaching and learning, but they do not know who to turn to for more information. This page lists teaching and learning topics, and knowledgeable Faculty of Science colleagues interested in chatting about these over coffee, virtually or in-person. Under the topic descriptions, we have also provided links to resources offered through the Teaching Commons, other York University offices, and other academic sources for each of the areas.
A picture of table with four columns. Column 1: Teaching Topic
Column 2: Description of topic
Column 3: Resources
Column 4: Individuals in York Science who are willing to share their knowledge on this topic

If you have any questions about the development of our new website, or want to discuss teaching and learning, please contact me at

Yours in Teaching,
Dr. Ashley Nahornick
FSc. Educational Developer

About the author

Ashley Nahornick, an individual with long, brown hair, wearing a blue blouse, smiling into the camera

Ashley Nahornick is the educational development specialist for the Faculty of Science at York University, where she provided leadership for curriculum changes, innovations to pedagogy, and support for teaching and learning for instructors.

She holds a Doctorate in Mathematics Education from Columbia University with a focus on adult learning, curriculum development and mathematics.