Comparing Ontario University Strategic Mandate Agreements

Wed Jan 8 23:14:10 2020 EDT (-0400 GMT)

As part of my Masters of Education, I completed an independent study, the subject of which was reviewing all of the current Ontario Universities Strategic Mandate Agreements (SMAs).

The most interesting part: The SMA2 Metrics Power BI dashboard.

Why? It seemed to me like I might be the first person to read all the SMA2s and compare them (apples to the Ontario mean of apples in 2017). So I read them all, interpreted them, submitted to my supervisor, got a good mark, and now I want to share the data collected because it seemed silly to me that Ontario had system-wide metrics a no system-wide report.

Questions like “What are the top three planned areas of growth for Ontario Universities?” should be a simple web search with an insightful result, not a one-hour web safari.

It’s all posted at

I’m a PMP

Mon Sep 23 22:37:16 2019 EDT (-0400 GMT)

I’m a Project Management Professional!

My PMI websiteToday in an exam centre in Mississauga Ontario I completed and passed my 4-hour exam to become a PMP.

It’s been a long road, but mostly because I took my time. I first want to give my thanks to the people and employers that supported me through the process: Thanks University of Toronto and Brock University!

Here’s the story, working backwards

Today I wrote the exam at a Pearson VUE exam centre.

The wait time between submission and confirmation was less than 3 seconds, but felt like 10 seconds or more because I really had to pee! That was one of a few things that didn’t quite go to plan (though, that was an identified risk, I just could only come up with a mitigation contingency plan, not avoidance). I also found myself pressed for time throughout, which was not the case when I practiced. I had hoped to review questions I had flagged, but ultimately did not have time, though I did more on from those questions thinking I gave my best answer.

It was the culmination of a lot work (see below) but rather anti-climatic as I got the news in the exam room, while responsibly being quite for other exam writers… then I got my print out…signed out and unlocked my stuff… peed… and headed to my car and texted the good news and my thanks.

My hand covered in the blue ink that rubbed off from my notesInteresting, I was expecting to be given paper to make notes with, but that’s not how it worked at this location. Instead, they gave me a laminated notepad and a blue fine-tip Sharpie to make notes with. My hands are now marked in blue as if with indelible ink after I voted in a developing-world election.

Qualifying to Write

I have my 4-year degree: Honours in Communications Policy.

I’ve got my experience hours – actually, that was subject to an audit when I applied. They say it’s random, but I think when Ieft a pre-populated zero in a few of the forms for hours spent I triggered the audit because all the proportions were way off. I noticed it in the confirmation, was allowed to re-submit, but still subject to an audit. Thanks to those that helped with that.

There’s also the requirement for 35 hours of instruction. I got mine through an online course at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies, it also happened to be good follow-up quality control on the Toolbox Renewal/Quercus project. I did well in the course and on the progress and final exams, but they were open-book and I attribute my success to my open-book exam strategy more than my internalization of the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBoK) etc.

My Study Plan

I appreciated many of the “I Passed” descriptions on reddit, but many of those descriptions are of 2~3 month experience, it’s a proven model.

As I’m currently a part-time Masters of Education grad student, in this last year I’ve transitioned jobs, and my wife and I have a pair of active kids; my study plan needed to fit around all of those activities.

Here’s My slow-burn Study Plan

  1. Practice questions
    I bought the Pocket Prep’s 800 question PMP exam prep. Doing at least 10 questions a day helped me learn AND helped me understand, I needed to commit more to memory, so…
  2. More instruction
    I completed Linked Learning’s Cert Prep: Project Management Professional (PMP).
    I did this over some evenings, lunch hours and flights. The handouts, quizzes and practice exam were great. I’d recommend the course, especially because many employers, local library systems, and all Ontario publicly-funded post-secondary institutions currently offer free access to LinkedIn Learning (Credit to Learning’s salespeople!).
  3. Squeezing in more studying
    Audiobook.  I bought the audiobook Phil Martin’s Simple PMP Exam Guide
    It’s dry! But, I listened to it when I’d go for a run, and occasionally when I’d drive (but I realized it took a little too much of my cognition while driving). Also, Tarek Yehia PowerBI dashboard on all the ITTOs.
  4. Iterate
    I kept doing Pocket Prep quizzes. Grew my own notes, and adapted some of Edward Chung’s notes (thanks!). I practiced writing out formula’s and the 49 PMBoK Processes, and I also built a 446 question quiz in Sakai matching all of the PMBoK’s terms to their definitions and practiced that.

And that’s how I passed and became a PMP

I recommend project management as a discipline to anyone else who might have graduated with a not-so business-ie degree. Project management is a transferable framework for management itself and is also contained within a temporary endeavour. If you’re interested in becoming a PMP, go for it! There’s also the CAPM credential, or other project management courses and certificates offer this.

Pictures from the family trip to Florida

Tue Oct 16 15:16:55 2018 EDT (-0400 GMT)

We had a great 5 full days at Disney World Florida and then a full day (two nights) at Cape Canaveral/Kennedy Space Center.

Disney World Florida 2018

Kennedy Space Center

First Blog Post of 2018

Mon Jan 8 8:56:15 2018 EDT (-0400 GMT)

The new year effectively starts in September for anyone working in Education (in Europe and NA), for me that’s never been more true then this year as I transition from Brock University to University of Toronto.

I started working on the University of Toronto’s project to transition from a Blackboard 9.1 based system, The Portal, at the end of October. When I took the one year job and secured leave from Brock University I didn’t know what platform the University of Toronto had selected, but I had hoped it was Canvas and was relieved when it was finally confirmed. Now titled Quercus, the University of Toronto’s new Canvas-based teaching and learning environment, has been introduced to all U of T instructors and 3000+ students.

Canvas Cloud Comes To Canada

First UBC then a few months later, U of T adopted Canvas hosted by Instructure on Amazon’s cloud infrastructure in Montreal. I feel that this will be the start of conquests for Canvas in Canada similar to what’s occurred over the last five years in the United States. SFU an OCADu and others in Canada had self-hosted the community version of Canvas for a while, but this is the start of a cloud-based option hosted in Canada.

As many Canadian insituations make big cloud transitions across all of their IT services I welcome another LMS option that can be selected based on pedagogical and feature-based decisions, not otherwise important legal concerns.

If you’re wondering, I still feel that there’s a lot of value in the equivalent budget spent on Sakai and strong pedagogical support. In any case, the ability for the LMS to integrate other relevant platforms and the sum of all those parts is how everyone now measures the component of the LMS: the toolbox approach.

Real New Year, Real Challenges

As the early adopters of Quercus start using it to teach and learn this winter the work on the remaining implementation details begins and the massive content conversion project starts. I’m looking forward to seeing the existing U of T integrations come to Quercus and new integration to existing key platforms like O365.

I don’t want to start defining the NGDLE, but whatever it is, U of T is takings big step towards it. I’m happy to be a small part of it.


Looking at Robarts reflected in Rotman

Trip to NYC 2016

Tue Jun 7 22:28:29 2016 EDT (-0400 GMT)

NYC 2016

A great trip with the family to New York City in the spring. One highlight was renting a rowboat in Central Park. The kids were great travellers, and we all enjoyed our trains, plains and busses trip via Toronto city centre airport on Porter.

Some of my picture of New York City are posted on flckr.

More pictures with the kids at (ask and you’re in).