Ontario Online Updates

Exciting news! The MTCU has approved ten nullUniversity of Toronto collaborative project proposals for the 2015 round of their province-wide Shared Online Course fund. Each of the following will receive ~$75,000, with a deadline of Sept 2015 for completion of development:


  • Introductory Chemistry from a Materials Perspective  (Scott Ramsay – FASE)
  • Introduction to Neuroscience (Bill Ju – FAS)

Learning Modules:

  • Statistics for Research  (Alison Gibbs – FAS)
  • Instruction in Neuroscience (William Ju – FAS)
  • Cognitive Psychology & Cognitive Neuroscience for Designers & Engineers (Mark Chignell – FASE)
  • Electromagnetic Physics and Electric Circuits (Belinda Wang – FASE)
  • Ethics in Engineering (Brenda McCabe – FASE)
  • Introduction to Programming Language Structures in C (Andrew Petersen – UTM)
  • Mathematics Skill Development (Zohreh Shahbazi – UTSC)
  • Digital Labcoat: Virtual Lab (Steve Joordens – UTSC)

Photos of design day activities

In this context, a “Module” is a set of shared curriculum resources that can be re-used in multiple courses or across different institutions. Given the tight timelines, in order to get these projects up and running quickly, we held a Module Design Workshop Day for lead instructors and their teams on Wed. Feb 18. All teams were in attendance to discuss design plans, production strategies, media integration, accessibility, packaging and hosting, and more! We are following up with additional webinars on key topics.

UofT’s success in securing funding for 10 new projects will allow us to continue to participate in the shaping of the broader provincial Online Learning landscape.

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Access to Course Materials – Keeping Costs in Check

Whether on-campus or online, the cost of university courses keeps going up. One of the hidden expenses for students is the cost of course materials, which can run up to $200 dollars per class. Some students have noticed even higher costs this year, partially as a result of U of T’s inability to secure a license with Access Copyright after the expiration of our previous license in 2013. For example, The Varsity recently reported in an article on student fees in the post-access copyright environment that some students had even seen the cost of coursepacks double this semester. Even with the efficiencies gained through digitization of course materials, the price tag is steep.

This got the Scholarly Communications and Copyright Office concerned, because keeping student costs reasonable is an important part of our role here at U of T. So a pilot project, called “Zero to Low Cost Courses,” was established to help.

Through faculty engagement, the Scholarly Communications and Copyright Office is working to help faculty in the creation of zero to low cost courses for students; that is, courses where instructors assign only open access content, public domain content, content used as fair dealing, or content for which the library holds a license. This isn’t a totally new idea, the UCLA Library, under the direction of Dr. Sharon Farb, Associate University Librarian for Collection Management and Scholarly Communication has been running a project in this area for a short time, to great success.

This effort dovetails with other Scholarly Communications and Copyright Office initiatives, such as the Syllabus Service, which works directly with course reserves staff to ensure course reading materials, including digital resources are compliant with Canadian copyright provisions or U of T licensing agreements, and through securing additional licenses as necessary. These efforts are all part of a commitment to serving the research and teaching mission of this institution, and to helping provide the highest quality educational experience to our students at the fairest price.

Data collected through this pilot project will be analyzed for Spring 2015, and will include a feasibility study measuring whether the service could be expanded and implemented as a campus-wide program. The feasibility study will focus on the pilot project’s workflow, and the results of both a before-and -after cost analysis and a faculty questionnaire on resource selection practices.

160x160xcopyright-utl-logo160_0.jpg.pagespeed.ic.Zu4UzauKHVFor questions about these services, or for general inquiries about the Scholarly Communications and Copyright Office, please don’t hesitate to contact us at copyright@library.utoronto.ca.

Contributing Author: University of Toronto Scholarly Communications and Copyright Office.


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Lecturing Live From Kuwait at UofT

For years in his Exercise and Mental Health course (HMB473H1), Dr. Franco Taverna would reserve one class for an esteemed guest lecturer. His colleague, Dr. Mohammad Alsuwaidan, assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto and an expert in medical education and public health would present a lesson on mood & anxiety disorders. Two years ago when Dr. Alsuwaidan moved to Kuwait to serve as Head of Mood & Anxiety Disorders and Inaugural Director of Education at the Kuwait Center for Mental Health, his absence would threaten to leave a noticeable gap to be filled in the course.

Or, it would have if it wasn’t for some unique technology integration to keep this engaging opportunity as a continuing option for the course. Dr. Taverna, a leader in the use of academic and collaborative technologies in his teaching decided to continue to invite this expert lecturer and have him present through UofT’s Collaborate webinar tool. In real time Dr. Alsuwaidan is able to speak on a topic and interact with the class from his office in Kuwait (in fact, in 2013 Dr. Alsuwaidan lectured live to his students in Kuwait while simultaneously lecturing to Dr. Taverna’s class in Toronto – to great success).

Kuwait Lecture 2

Projecting the Collaborate session, with streaming video and PowerPoint style lecture slides, onto the screen in front of the class and incorporating the audio to the classroom sound system offers the distance instructor presence in the room. The webinar offers the opportunity for Dr. Alsuwaidan to actively engage with the students and remain sensitive to their needs with pauses for questions and answers facilitated by Dr. Taverna to ensure they are following the lecture. The students are engaged from start to finish, listening to an expert speak passionately about the subject. This collaboration between Dr. Taverna and Dr. Alsuwaidan is another unique way that technology is being adapted and used to enhance teaching and learning through an online presence.

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Active Learning: Online Redesign Lights Up Learning

Have you heard instructors at University of Toronto discussing the idea of active learning in their classrooms? While difficult to define, this approach is generally understood as engagement of students in clarifying, questioning, applying, and consolidating new knowledge. It has been compared to a lamp being lit rather than a vessel being filled.  Over the past year, a group of faculty leaders from across the university participated in development of active learning using digital strategies as part of the provincially funded Active Learning: Online Redesign (ALOR) project.

Active Learning Online Redesign

This network of remarkable instructors set their sights on the goal of enhancing the quality of student learning through design of active learning experiences using web-based resources and tools.

The project, spanning five divisions as well as the Centre for Teaching Support and Innovation (CTSI) and the Online Learning Strategies (OLS) portfolio, has lead to introduction of innovative strategies to support both classroom and online learning.

ALOR project faculty leaders focused their efforts on elements of curriculum design that would be of interest to other instructors in their academic program area. Steve Joordens (UTSC – Psychology Department) continued enhancing Digital Labcoat, an online environment that challenges students to test their own hypothesis, theorize about findings, and use statistics to answer theoretical questions. In Human Biology (FAS), Franco Taverna mapped neuroscience concepts learners find most challenging and developed digital resources to address those difficult concepts, primarily for use in webinar environments.  With a focus on reuse, Scott Ramsay (Materials Science, FASE) evaluated learning objects such as innovative tabletop lab videos and a range of screencast formats in terms of impact on student experience.

ALOR Quotes

Other divisions designed specific curriculum components for active learning through the incorporation of wiki tools and the promotion of online debates. Student response was very positive. As one UTM student noted:
“I loved the experience because I was able to share my ideas with my classmates… we could all learn from one another.”

An important benefit of this extended network of colleagues is the opportunity for collaboration on project activities beyond course boundaries. Each of these faculty leaders has worked with instructors and educational technology professionals across their academic program areas regarding the design, development and integration of active learning strategies and digital resources. Prof. Steve Joordens observed that “Educational research has highlighted many great educational approaches (e.g., assessment for learning, peer assessment, active learning) …if we use technology creatively, we can find ways of providing these experiences in any course.” The result is enhanced learning opportunities for our students – both inside the classroom, and online!

Full reports by division can be found on the ALOR project overview website.  Instructors interested in learning more about active learning in online environments may consider joining UOfT’s Online Teaching & Learning Community of Practice.

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Online Proctoring – Early Explorations at UofT

As adoption of online learning strategies grows there is an increased demand for effective assessment that meets expectations for academic integrity. One option that is garnering interest is the possibility of online proctoring by third party service providers. In this model, live proctors observe students who are completing an online assignment through use of web cam and screen sharing technology. The assessment process remains the responsibility of the university. However, the process of verifying student identity, ensuring that students are not accessing unauthorized material and that making sure that students are working independently becomes the responsibility of the online proctor.

There are a number of companies providing this service, including ProctorU. Recently the Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing undertook a series of online exam pilots using ProctorU’s service to explore the effectiveness of online proctoring, and to better understand the student perspective on the experience. Fareed Teja, Academic Information and Communication Technologist for the LSB Faculty of Nursing coordinated the project operations, and also oversaw the service evaluation process. He recently summarized their findings in a video and screencast presentation which was shared at the Ontario University Council on eLearning summer institute. For full details on the project please visit the following link:

Fareed Teja – Online Proctoring Project – Lawrence S. Bloomberg School of Nursing

Online Proctoring Pilot PPT Screen ShotWhile there were a few operational “kinks” to work out, for the most part the student response was positive. One area of concern was student comfort with the online proctoring process and technology. While very convenient since the online exam can be written in the comfort of one’s home or office, at the same time unfamiliar environment may cause  anxiety for some. Student orientation and support throughout the proctoring process may be the key. Our thanks to the LSB Faculty of Nursing for pioneering in this area and sharing their findings.

While we are on the topic of academic integrity, it seems timely to mention a new digital resource, just launched this week. The Academic Integrity at the University of Toronto web site provides a comprehensive overview for students and instructors, including strategies to promote and maintain academic integrity.


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MOOC Design Round Table 2014

On June 11th, the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering hosted our second annual MOOC Design Round Table, which was attended by several teams that have new project funding or are considering proposal development in the coming year. New initiatives are percolating across several divisions, including Engineering, Pharmacy, OISE and the iSchool. In addition to a process overview and practical design activities, we also had presentations from Bobby Glushko, from UTL’s Scholarly Communications Office, and Stian Haklev, coordinator of institutional research support for MOOCs under the Open UToronto umbrella.

Our design round table explored a range of topics including a platform comparison between Coursera and EdX, online learning design theory and process basics, activity scaffolding and assessment design, marketing, copyright issues and research opportunities.

Photos of MOOC Design Day 2014

A central focus of the discussion was the work of Dr. Jim Wallace’s team from Mechanical Engineering. This group will be exploring online learning at scale with through development of a new Coursera MOOC on the topic of alternative energy systems to be launched in fall 2014.

Another unique feature of this session was the participation of a colleague from UBC via Skype. Barry Magrill, who leads out their Coursera MOOC development for their Flexible Learning office, joined in the design activities and discussion throughout the day. UBC is similarly including us in their MOOC community activities so that we may share learn from one another’s experiences through virtual collaboration.

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Course Re/Design 2014 – Online Cohort

On May 21 and 22 another successful Course Re/Design Institute took place, hosted by the Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation, with participation from across the university community.  Our cohort of online instructors who are launching new courses or enhancing existing courses joined with the larger group of approximately 40 faculty members, but also explored considerations unique to online course design in a separate breakout stream.

Photo of CDI participants

Instructors who are designing fully online courses within the graduate programs or as part of the undergraduate OUCI initiative included:

Nursing Margaret Blastorah
Martine Puts
Lynn Nagle
Computer Science Paul Gries
Jennifer Campbell
French Marie Visoi
Statistics Alison Gibbs
Molecular Genetics William Navarre
Engineering Michael Seica
Jeffrey Packer
Historical Studies Kyle Smith
Public Health Ann Fox
Paul Bozek

Another group of instructors focused on hybrid designs, in which total class-time is reduced as selected course components and activities are moved online. (For more information on this format see the recent Modes and Meaning blog post). This group included:

Public Health Abdallah Daar
Andrea Cortinois
Physical Therapy Sylvia Langlois
Sharon Switzer-MacIntyre
Sociology Christian Caron
Study of Religion Jennifer Harris
Human Biology Maria Papconstaninou

For our online cohort the process also involved a pre-institute orientation webinar one week in advance of the event.Screenshot of Webinar Another unique feature for our online instructors is the participation of their own course builders or educational technology experts as part of a design team process on Day 2 of the institute. The conversations, explorations and considerations of effective course design were very engaging and inspiring, as faculty from across a full range of disciplines shared their ideas and insights. If you are interested in participating in upcoming discussions or considering applying for OUCI funding, please contact Laurie Harrison.

















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President’s Teaching Award Winners

Online Learning Strategies would like to congratulate Don Boyes and Shafique Virani, the winners of the President’s Teaching Award. They are the two recipients of this prestigious award which recognizes sustained excellence in teaching, research on teaching and the integration of teaching and research.

Their recognition as leaders in teaching is well deserved and we are privileged to have worked with both of them on online learning initiatives. Both have been pioneers in online teaching and integrating technology for active learning in their physical classrooms.

Read the full details about the accomplished teaching of Don Boyes and Shafique Virani.

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Active Learning for Faculty

Over the past few weeks several of the Active Learning: Online Redesign (ALOR) project faculty leads have been working on outreach and capacity development within their own divisions or departments.  Many instructors are taking the time to recharge and refresh by attending local faculty events. Here is a “sampler” of ALOR initiatives that target discussion and dialogue among peers with shared interests and goals. 

Annual Showcase and Celebration of Teaching
April 9, 2014

Steve Joordens and his team were sharing the latest on improvements and development of support strategies for three online tools that support active learning at the UTSC teaching showcase. The Advanced Learning Technology Lab team has been focused on enhancement to the mTuner assessment tool and Digital Labcoat scientific simulation tool as part of the ALOR project. In addition, new resources to support users of PeerScholar are now available. There is growing interest and uptake of these research-informed tools by instructors of other courses in conjunction with broader strategies for UTSC Psychology program and beyond. Great work!

UTSC ALOR Team Photo

Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing (LSBoN)
Online Learning Design Workshop

April 15, 2014

Earlier this month I had the pleasure of co-facilitating a Nursing faculty workshop with Margaret Blastorah (Assistant Professor, Director of Graduate Program), Michael Morrow (OISE) and Fareed Teja (Academic Technologist at the LSBoN), Also under the umbrella of the ALOR initiative, the half day session centered around a course design process framework with emphasis on assessment and learning activity design for online and hybrid courses. A range of tools and strategies for engaging students were showcased, with a focus on various uses within the context of nursing. This was a “hands-on” workshop and faculty teams were able to prepare the design for development of a new component for their course. Great instructors with great ideas!

Nursing Workshop Collage Photo

Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering (FASE)
Reusable Learning Objects
April 24, 2014

Dr. Scott Ramsay has developed a range of creative in-lecture demonstrations, video content and other course materials for courses he teaches at FASE. The focus of this first set of resources is the mechanical behavior of solids. These Reusable Learning Objects (RLO’s) are related to material science and chemistry topics relevant to other Engineering courses and have been designed for potential re-use by other instructors teaching the same concepts.  Dr. Ramsay recently provided colleagues, teaching assistants and educational technology professionals with a showcase of his work and invited feedback on ideas for future development and for practical use across courses. One example of Ramsay’s exploration is the production of the same instructional video content in three different modes, providing an opportunity to gather data on student preferences and learning styles.

Examples of Three Video Formats

Congratulations to our ALOR faculty leads on their community-oriented outreach and capacity development!

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UofT Participating in new Ontario Online Portal

You may have heard about a recent RFP for online course development for a new Ontario Online portal. The University of Toronto has been very successful, with seven proposals having been selected for MTCU funding! Contributing these foundational courses to the Ontario Online initiative reflects very well on these instructors, and on our institution. Please join me in congratulating the following instructors:

  • Paul Gries & Jennifer Campbell (Arts & Science) - CSC108 Introduction to Computer Programming:
  • Don Boyes (Arts & Science) - GGR272 Geographic Information and Mapping I
  • Michelle Troberg (UTM) - LIN204 English Grammar:
  • Melody Neumann & Ken Yip (Arts & Science) - CSB201 Molecular Biology, Biotechnology and You
  • Michael Seica & Jeffery Packer (Engineering) - APS160 Mechanics
  • Shai Cohen & Micah Stickel (Engineering) - APS162 Calculus for Engineers I & APS163 Calculus for Engineers II

UofT’s seven courses were among the 68 course proposals funded for $75,000 each. Each proposal was reviewed by two members of an expert panel using a set of criteria set by the Council of Ontario Universities. While two courses will go fully online for the first time in Fall 2014, five others are already online, hence the funds will be used for further enhancement.  Development processes for all of these online courses are supported through the Online Undergraduate Course Initiative.

If you work with departments or instructors who have an interest in the Ontario Online initiative, and its implications for development of online courses at UofT, please do get in touch:

Laurie Harrison – Director, Online Learning Strategies

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