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Political science website exemplifies effective student-educator relationship

A student at The Commons in the QEII library.

By Heidi Wicks

If Memorial's Teaching and Learning Community lens encourages students and educators to be engaged, responsive and outcomes-oriented, then Dr. Alex Marland, Faculty of Arts, and his students are model citizens.

A new website, Political Science eTips, was developed as a response to complaints from students and instructors, according to Dr. Marland.

Designed by political science students, for political science students at Memorial, visitors can browse through categories titled Research and Writing, In the Classroom, Undergraduate Planning and more to discover what other students have to say about how to succeed in various courses and ways to get involved in student life at Memorial, as well as other beneficial courses, initiatives, programs and services.

As an undergraduate adviser, Dr. Marland has heard from students that they didn't understand instructors' expectations and needed customized supports that the university doesn't offer.

"Senior students would often lament that if only they had known in first year what they know now about studying and navigating Memorial, their experience would have been improved," he said. "Comments were often made about how was a useful resource, which is a bit alarming yet understandable."

Stephanie Roy is now a graduate student at the University of Manitoba and was involved in the creation of Political Science eTips.

From the learner perspective, Ms. Roy felt that the project enhanced her learning experience, as she was able to lead a group of students as they developed content for the site.

"I met a lot of challenges considering we were the first group, it was one of my supervisory experiences and there was little in terms of other examples or other similar projects to view for inspiration," she said. "What was most enriching was the feedback that Dr. Marland requested about my experience as project lead. I had to identify what worked and what didn't, and offer possible solutions to the problems I encountered. I was forced to look at and acknowledge my shortcomings but also to actively consider how I would do it in the future."

Ms. Roy added that her work on the project inspired her to actively seek out all sorts of resources in terms of improving her learning experience, and that the project has increased her expectation in the resources she feels universities and individual departments ought to offer.

From the educator perspective, Dr. Marland feels he grew more aware that even the most enthusiastic undergraduate students need to be guided by someone with more experience.

"It was interesting to see how easy it was for political science students to identify tips such as how to use the library or write a research paper, but they often struggled with the creative and technological side of expressing themselves," he said.

He added that the website has been a fabulous resource and support tool when students seek help.

"An instructor can simply say, 'Go check out this website and then let me know if you still have questions.'"

Political Science eTips can be viewed at