Provincial funding boosts eLearning at Western

Western’s eLearning Associate Director Gavan Watson said the more than $1.4 million from eCampusOntario will help promote access, collaboration and innovation in online and technology-enabled learning at the university.

Adela Talbot File Photo // Western NwwsWestern’s eLearning Associate Director Gavan Watson said the more than $1.4 million from eCampusOntario will help promote access, collaboration and innovation in online and technology-enabled learning at the university.

Western has received more than $1.4 million from eCampusOntario to help promote access, collaboration and innovation in online and technology-enabled learning, boosting learning and development opportunities in this ever-growing field, said Western’s eLearning Associate Director Gavan Watson.

eCampusOntario is a non-profit organization, funded by the province, representing the 45 Ontario colleges and universities. Last summer, education professionals were asked to submit research and development proposals that would encourage cross-institution collaboration, while focusing on areas of high labour market demand.

More than $21 million is available over two fiscal years (2016-17 and 2017-18) to fund research, innovation and strategic projects for open content and new program design. Eight Western projects will receive funding from this eCampusOntario initiative.

“We’ve had success (with funding requests) in the past, but this time was the most projects funded and the largest funding we’ve received,” said Watson. “What this shows is, we have faculty members, and programs, demonstrating they are leaders within Ontario, and that bodes well for the state of eLearning on our campus.”

This funding will go towards creating greater flexibility for learners in an online environment and, rather than just funding individual courses, it will boost development of fully online programs, he added.

“There are projects related to online learning that are pushing the boundaries of what is normally done, or what is usually done, at an institution,” said Watson. “There is an obvious interest in expanding the role of eLearning on campus from a student and research basis. It’s not just about putting courses online, but ensuring the sort of online learning experiences are equivalent to, or better than, a face-to-face learning experience. It acknowledges students are changing.”

From ensuring online resources will meet the needs of incoming students, to creating foundations for international mobility and engagement, Watson said faculties and departments are playing an increasingly important role in the creation, and success, of such online learning environments.

“It’s not about adding bells and whistles to a classroom, or putting people in an online classroom for the sake of an online classroom, it’s about thinking thoughtfully around how we can use technology to engage learners so they are able to do things they weren’t able to do before. This is part of the larger work being done here. eLearning is not just about online learning.”

As a centre for excellence in online learning, eCampusOntario has a mandate to support leading-edge research in this rapidly growing field.

The following Western initiatives have been funded:

Research and Innovation Projects

  • Evaluation of a Technology-Enabled, Gamified Electronic Medication Administration Record (eMAR) System for use in Simulated Clinical Education

Richard Booth and Barbara Sinclair (Arthur Labatt Family School of Nursing), with Texas Tech University Health Sciences – $99,995

To evaluate a gamified eMAR system simulator as a mechanism to improve students’ learning of medication administration in simulated clinical education.

  • Global MINDS: Using Videos to Teach and Ignite Student Social Innovators Tackling Complex Global Mental Health Challenges

Arlene MacDougall (Departments of Psychiatry and Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry), with the University of Toronto; MaRS Solutions Lab; Africa Mental Health Foundation; and Africa Population Health Research Centre –  $19,584

The Global Mental Health Incubator for Disruptive Solutions is a collaboration between multiple faculties across Western, and African partners, using transdisciplinary and cross-sectoral approaches, based upon social innovation and social entrepreneurism models, to develop disruptive solutions for reducing the burden of mental disorders in low-resource settings and under-served communities.

  • LMS-Integrated Digital Badging Platform for Competency-Based Micro-Credentialing in STEMM Education

Aaron Price (Mechanical and Materials Engineering) – $19,992

The funding will establish an open badging platform compatible with the Sakai learning management system at Western, well-suited for recognizing skill-based competencies in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine.

  • Presenting ‘Foundations in Planetary Health’: Preparing Graduates to Navigate Decision-Making in a Complex Earth

Irena Creed (Biology, Earth Sciences and Geography), with MMASc-GHSA; Global Health Systems in Africa; Centre of Environment & Sustainability, Africa Institute; Western International – $20,000

To turn an existing face-to-face ‘Foundations in Global Health Systems’ course into an online delivery format, creating competency-based criteria for success and emphasizing complex problem solving skills consistent with the needs of the next generations – with a proper and needed emphasis on ‘Planetary Health.’

Open Content and Online Program Development fund

  • Graduate Diploma in Health and Rehabilitation Sciences

Ruth Martin (Graduate and Postdoctoral Programs, Health Sciences), with the University of Ottawa and the University of Windsor – $802,120

This collaboration will involve both the design of the new program and the development of thirteen courses focusing initially on professional learners who are employed in the health sector and graduates of health-sciences post-secondary education programs.

  • Professional Masters in Space Studies

Gordon Osinski (Earth Sciences) – $309,429

Centre for Planetary Science and Exploration at Western will develop a new, online professional masters in space studies, building upon the rapid expansion of the commercial space sector. This would be the first professional degree in Canada to bring an interdisciplinary approach to space studies and provide an avenue for continued study for those seeking a career in the growing space industry, rather than academia.

  • Gaining a LegUP: University Readiness Resources for Students Entering Post-Secondary Education

Daniel Belliveau (School of Health Studies) – $99,544

Transition from high school to post-secondary education is fraught with issues of a personal and academic nature that can diminish the positive experience students anticipate when attending university. The LegUP program was introduced to students in the School of Health Studies and the current proposal looks to expand the pre-university transition program to three other high-demand programs: Biology, Psychology and Engineering.

  • Foundations for International Mobility and Engagement

Lise Laporte (Western International) – $86,609

Foundations for International Mobility and Engagement (FIME) is a series of modules designed to respond to colleges’ and universities’ race to internationalize their institutions and curriculum and to prepare students for international experiences including exchange, research, internship, service learning, or study abroad opportunities.