Five-year plans, institutional strategic documents, and plans for technology-enhanced learning at public colleges and universities in Ontario highlight online and/or blended learning as central to their mission and future. The adoption of these new approaches to education is framed around ideas of student-centered learning, with access, flexibility, engagement, and success as common themes across institutions. The goals and strategies also recognize the institutional changes required to facilitate and support successful integration of online, blended and technology-enhanced learning.
This summary highlights the goals for online and blended learning and the expectations for institutional change and support described in the plans included in the Pockets of Innovation Series:
At some public colleges and universities, separate Pockets of Innovation outline early and more advanced stages of plan development and integration.
Goals of Online and Blended Learning
Increase Access: Increasing student access is a key objective for online and blended learning, especially in first-year, large enrolment courses and those that are compulsory for several programs. Students in remote, rural, and Aboriginal communities, from other institutions, international students, as well as those with family, job, and community responsibilities, and those living far from institutions or working shifts are cited as target groups for enhanced access offered through online learning. Online learning is also positioned in institutional plans as offering mobility – access to learning anywhere, anytime, and though a multitude of devices.
Enhance Flexibility: In many cases, public colleges and universities are responding to student demand for increased use of technology for greater flexibility in course offerings and student services. Plans encourage and support the integration of online and blended learning that expands the range of learning methods, content sources, class participation possibilities, and strategies for assignments and assessments.
Increase Student Engagement: The use of technology to offer students more engaging and participatory alternatives to lecture-based classes is highlighted in many institutional strategic documents. The plans also acknowledge that extensive support for students and faculty is essential, as well as an information technology infrastructure that facilitates online interaction and knowledge sharing between students and instructors and among students. Physical spaces on campus are to be adapted to support active learning, offering space for class discussion, projects, and problem-solving as part of blended learning models.
Foster Student Success: Institutional plans consider online and blended learning as essential to the goal of graduating students who are digitally capable and experienced, and able to use technological skills, as well as communication and cooperative skills fostered through online learning, in the workplace and for community and leisure activities.
Institution-Wide Change and Support
Quality Standards: Standards for online and blended course development and delivery, as well as the process for quality assurance, are clearly articulated in plans. The implications for curriculum planning, resource allocation, staffing, autonomy, course ownership, and academic freedom are addressed.
Student Support Services: Students need extensive training and resources on how to access and use technology, software and apps, as well as how to apply them for effective learning. Student services, along with registration, financial aid, counselling, and library services, need to be available online.
Faculty Support Services: Faculty need training and support on how to use technology for teaching and learning, software choices, instructional design, and the pedagogical approaches and changes inherent in using online and blended learning. Funding for development and research is also part of many plans.
New Resources: The development and/or integration of resources, such as e-textbooks, mobile learning, open educational resources, simulations, and virtual reality, is encouraged, implicating the library, IT, faculty, and other areas of the institution.
Effectiveness and Efficiency: The educational effectiveness and institutional implications of online and blended learning are often researched and analyzed, on a course-by-course and organizational basis. Targets and timelines, such as every student taking one online course before graduation or 20% of time in every program spent online, are established and measured.
Infrastructure and Physical Plant: The technological infrastructure often has to be re-configured and greatly enhanced to support teaching, learning, and administration. Printing services, charging stations, requirements for equipment, technology-friendly class and study space, classrooms that support group learning, and numerous other facility and services are all cited in plans.
In planning for increased online and blended learning, each college and university considers its specific student population, strengths and capabilities, and goals for the future. Arising from this diversity is an organization-wide approach to online and blended learning grounded in student-centered learning, striving to better meet needs and aspirations.
Ontario Public Colleges and Universities Featured in This Theme
- Algonquin College - Digital College: Organizational change for enhanced student learning and engagement
- Algonquin College - Moving Ahead with the Digital College: Mobile learning, open educational resources, and online and hybrid learning at Algonquin College
- George Brown College - Preparing Students for the Future: A Strategic plan for e-learning
- George Brown College - Consolidation and Alignment: George Brown College moves ahead with its Academic Computing Strategy
- Lambton College - Supporting Institutional Change: The Learning Innovation Centre at Lambton College
- Mohawk College - [email protected]: Moving to blended learning for student success
- Ontario College of Art and Design University - Adopting a new learning management system
- Ontario College of Art and Design University - Maximizing Student Learning at the Ontario College of Art and Design University: Getting the most out of the Learning Management System
- Queen’s University - Engaging First-Year Students: A Blended Learning Model for Active Learning
- Queen’s University - Strategic Advancement: Moving Ahead with Blended Learning at Queen’s University
- Trent University - Supporting Flexibility and Program Completion: Trent University implements a new approach to online learning
- University of Ottawa - Expanding the Online Course Inventory at the University of Ottawa
- University of Toronto - Online Learning Opportunities for Undergraduate Students at the University of Toronto
- University of Windsor - Testing New Tools to Support Enhanced Online and Blended Learning at the University of Windsor
- York University - Accessibility, Engagement, and Learning: Moving Ahead with Blended Learning at York University