What is our vision for the future of e-learning at OCAD U?
The expansion of e-learning opportunities for our undergraduate and graduate students figures prominently in the recently completed Academic Plan and the forthcoming Strategic Plan of OCAD University. OCAD University is committed to enriching the student experience in face-to-face courses by extending the classroom and studio into well-equipped virtual space for students. We want to help them to collaborate and connect with their instructors, peers and the vast selection of high-quality open source and e- resources that our Library has available to support curriculum. We are also committed to building the resources and services necessary to support our faculty in the creation of new, highly-interactive, academically challenging and inspiring hybrid and distance education courses. The growth and development of on-line courses will permit us to:
- respond to student and faculty demand for flexible teaching and learning opportunities by enriching campus-based courses and developing a selection of carefully chosen courses in hybrid and fully on-line distance education formats;
- contribute to efforts to find innovative and pedagogically sound methods to ameliorate pressures on limited teaching, learning, practice and research space on campus;
- begin the process of creating Open@OCAD U courses and programs that will expand access to the unique research, practice and teaching strengths of our faculty for non-OCAD U students seeking credit courses outside their home institutions;
- and will aid us in realizing our goal of graduating technologically savvy students who are cognizant of and competent in the use of collaborative, production and knowledge management technologies.
How are we going to achieve our vision?
In the fall of 2010, OCAD U embarked upon a rigorous and highly consultative two year e-learning technologies review, selection and testing process. During this process, a multi-unit e-Learning team, lead by the Director of OCAD U’s new teaching and learning centre and comprised of staff from IT Services and the Library, worked with faculty and students to understand the e-learning technology needs of our campus. The team also consulted with colleagues from institutions around the country to learn from their experiences and generate a list of selection criteria for reviewing possible solutions that would suit OCAD U’s requirements. After conducting faculty and student focus group testing with three short-listed Learning Management Systems and running a small scale pilot of their choice of the Canvas Learning Management system over the fall 2011 and winter 2012 semesters, OCAD University has selected Canvas by Instructure as a new on-line teaching and learning tool at OCAD U. Beginning with the fall 2012 semester, active OCAD University courses previously hosted in our proprietary, custom My Courses on-line course management system will be hosted in Canvas. Courses in the MDES in Inclusive Design program currently hosted in the ATutor Learning Management System will remain in ATutor which is supported by OCAD U’s Inclusive Design Research Centre and uniquely suited to the learning objectives of this degree program.
The decision to adopt the Canvas Learning Management System by Instructure was heavily influenced by a broad base of participating members of our faculty and student body who made Canvas the clear favorite during the review, selection and pilot testing process. Canvas was selected because of its:
- clean and user-friendly interface
- rich collaboration and discussion tools
- ability to embed multi-media and web-based resources
- integration with Google Apps for Education and compatibility with other existing teaching technologies at OCAD U
- great course management and organization tools including a calendar that integrates and displays due dates and academic activities for students
- well-designed rubrics and grading tools
- recognition by The National Federation for the Blind for accessibility compliance and conformity to the W3C’s WAI WCAG guidelines
Right now, the faculties are beginning the process of refining selection criteria and identifying courses for development as hybrid and distance education offerings. The Centre for Innovation in Art & Design Education, IT Services and the Library are putting the finishing touches on our plans for supporting faculty and students through the transition process with a broad range of training opportunities, information resources and lots of opportunities for one-on-one or small group appointment or drop-in help.
Over the next several months, the e-Learning team will assist our course instructors as they rebuild pre-existing on-line aspects of their face-to-face courses in Canvas. More intensive levels of on-line course design, delivery and review support are planned for faculty members working on the creation of new hybrid and distance education courses. These courses will complement OCAD University’s excellent studio-based courses and will allow us to create richly interactive and engaging virtual teaching and learning spaces and new opportunities for more flexible and open courses to be conducted in classrooms without walls.