VLS Showcase

Are you interested in learning more about using open educational resources to increase engagement and interaction in your courses?

In the Spring of 2021 we shared news of a Virtual Learning Strategy (VLS) funding program by the Ontario Ministry of Colleges and Universities, to expand and enrich learning through the development of open online course content, modules and textbooks.

The initiative has concluded, and these innovative projects are now available to view, adopt and adapt. Visit our Open UToronto site for a selection of these as well as previous open educational resources. We are also pleased to highlight several examples of the exceptional results in a VLS showcase event.

Join us as VLS teams from across divisions discuss highlights and showcase their content creation. Project leads will provide a brief overview of the open resource(s) they developed and participate in a Q&A period.

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When: Tuesday, June 14, 2022 at 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM
Where: Online (Teams)

Register now!

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IP Matters – New Resources for Students and Faculty

We are excited to share a set of open modules introducing critical elements of intellectual property (IP), developed by University of Toronto Entrepreneurship (UTE) with support from Digital Learning Innovation and the Office of the Vice-Provost, Innovations in Undergraduate Education. The goal of these modules is to provide education and practical resources, relevant to targeted students and faculty engaged in course and co-curricular activities that have IP implications. To date two modules are available: 

  • Module 1 – Introduction to Intellectual Property and Intellectual Property Rights
    This module covers the basics of Intellectual Property and IP rights in relation to students and faculty at the University of Toronto. 
  • Module 2 – Understanding the Value of Intellectual Property
    This module explores frameworks that explain the value of IP in a range of contexts at the University of Toronto. 

A third module with a focus on student-created intellectual property arising from curricular activities will be available soon.  

IP Logo

Speaking to the resources, Jon French, Director, UTE notes: 

“These modules provide relevant insight to guide students and faculty as they navigate course and co-curricular activities with IP implications. Rich with real world scenarios, document templates and FAQs, these are tools that will educate, and also serve as a central hub of related resources to increase our collective IP literacy – a valuable skill in today’s knowledge economy.” 

Materials are available under a creative commons licence and content may be viewed online or downloaded and used in a specific course content. Resources include slides, videos, case studies, and pdfs and faculty and instructors can supplement the material as needed.  

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VLS Success Story – Demystifying Dossiers

In the Spring of 2021 we shared news of a Virtual Learning Strategy (VLS) funding program by the Ontario Ministry of Colleges and Universities, to expand and enrich learning through development of online course content, modules and open textbooks.

As these projects come to a close we wished to highlight a few examples of the work to come out of this initiative. Our colleagues in the Teaching Assistants’ Training Program created the Developing Your Teaching Dossier series; a four-module series for graduate students and post-doctoral fellows exploring strategies to reflect on their teaching and develop their teaching dossier. The series is comprised of four 60-minute self-paced modules:

  • Module 1: Reflecting on Your Teaching Experience: An Introduction to Teaching Dossiers
  • Module 2: Articulating Your Teaching Values and Practices: Developing Your Statement of Teaching Philosophy
  • Module 3: Connecting Narratives and Evidence: Developing Components of Your Teaching Dossier
  • Module 4: Looking Ahead: Telling New Stories About Our Teaching Experiences

Developing Your Teaching Dossier Logo

The resource was co-developed with four other institutional partners—Ryerson (X) University, University of Waterloo, University of Windsor, and Western University. Of importance in this highly collaborative approach was the inclusion of graduate student and postdoctoral fellow perspectives–they became the protagonists, guides, storytellers, and mentors on this journey of reflective practice.

The team leveraged H5P, a relatively new elearning technology, in developing the interactive learning objects. Speaking with one of the project leads, Mike Kasprzak notes:

“”eCampusOntario’s H5P Studio offered the technological framing for our story about teaching dossiers. By providing a range of content types, it allowed us to design and develop an engaging, accessible and interactive learning experience for diverse users. Most importantly, it afforded a high degree of customization to anyone trying to adapt the series to their institutional programing.”

Visit the Developing Your Teaching Dossier series website to learn more. This open-access resource is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) License.

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Data Driven Design Quercus Analytics 2021-22

We are pleased to announce a new call for applications to the 2021-22 Data Driven Design: Quercus Analytics (D3:QA) cohort.

The D3:QA initiative examines opportunities provided by the Quercus Analytics module and related services aimed at enhancing instruction and learning experience. This mandate will be supported through activities and consultations enabling instructors to effectively use Quercus student data to make course redesign decisions.  The initiative is part of a broader program of learning analytics being coordinated by the office of the Vice-Provost, Innovations in Undergraduate Education.

Analytics Interface

Successful applicants will participate in a peer network that facilitates capacity development by extracting and making meaning of Quercus analytics. Informed by the available data, the network will also support instructors to modify an existing course, implement its redesign and reflect upon those redesign decisions and outcomes.

Read full details and apply to the Data Driven Design: Quercus Analytics program.

The deadline for applications is November 8, 2021 at 11:59 pm.

You can view the showcase and read the report from the previous D3:QA cohort on the Open UToronto website.

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EdTech Sandbox Platforms from eCampusOntario

Ontario Postsecondary Institutions connected to EdTech through space to experimentAs part of their new Virtual Learning Strategy, eCampusOntario is facilitating access to new platforms and tools for use in post-secondary courses through a “Sandbox” program. The University of Toronto successfully applied for licences for three tools that have been identified by instructors as having potential to enhance student learning. The licences are available to learners until April 2022. Instructors and learners will be invited to participate in evaluation activities to support informed planning for introduction of new educational technologies both at the University of Toronto, and in future eCampusOntario initiatives.

The tools being piloted include:

Hypothes.is (1000 licences)

This online social annotation tool allows users to annotate openly on websites, blogs, online journals, and news articles. Hypothes.is allows users in groups to share online text, resources, links, and annotations. It can be used as a private note-taking and critiquing tool or a collaborative annotation tool. Instructors from a range of disciplines and program areas have asked to pilot Hypothes.is over the next two terms.

Pivot Interactives (1000 licences)

As an alternative for virtual labs, this platform is based on interactive videos and recorded lab experiments than animations or simulations. Each activity shows actual footage of experiments taking place, giving learners opportunities to make real observations and collect real data rather than just watching a simulation. The labs cover biology, chemistry, physics, and earth science topics and can be fully customized to suit a teacher’s needs. In addition to use in the Human Biology program, Pivot Interactive labs are also being used in teacher education courses at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.

Miro (1000 licences)

Instructors and students are using this is online collaborative whiteboard platform to enable teams to work effectively together, from brainstorming with digital sticky notes to planning course project activities and presentations. In addition to visual documentation and annotation tools, the platform features interactive communication tools for learners, as well as a meta-view for the instructor that allows observation of activity across all teams or a zoom in on a specific team activity. Miro is being used for design-oriented courses in architecture and engineering.

For more information contact: digital.learning@utoronto.ca.

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Experiential Project-Based learning: Riipen for Fall 2021

The Riipen platform is an on-ramp to facilitating work integrated learning experiences. Riipen helps UofT  instructors set up experiential project-based learning with community organizations and businesses by finding matches and streamlining ongoing coordination and communication between the faculty, students and partners. This initiative is unique in its focus on integrating small projects into course contexts in alignment with learning outcomes. Students receive feedback from partner organizations on their projects.

What is experiential project-based learning?

Experiential project-based learning is a teaching method that involves students designing, developing, and constructing hands-on solutions to a problem with a company or non-profit partner. Using project-based learning, students can build upon their creative capacity by working through real-world problems. The students typically work on these projects in small teams.

What is Riipen?

Riipen is a  project-based learning platform that enables students, educators, and organizations to connect through real-world industry experiences. Students acquire skills valuable in the workplace and get to build their employer network, organizations get to improve their talent pipelines and increase authentic engagement towards their brand, while instructors provide enhanced learning experiences for their students and tap new industry and community organization connections.

Access to Riipen gives UofT faculty the flexibility to embed experiential learning into courses and provides the tools for students to work as a team on real-world problems. The platform available to faculty, in all disciplines, working with all levels of students, in-class, online experiences, and remote internships. Riipen offers end-to-end support, including course project ideation and design, technical support and student onboarding, and matchmaking with industry partners globally.

Steps for Instructors to Get Started using Riipen:

  • Join the School Portal as an educator.
  • Book a call with your dedicated Account Manager to discuss if Riipen is right for you.
  • Riipen will set you up with a technical onboarding so you are comfortable with the platform and ready to connect your course.
  • Once published to our marketplace, Riipen will get to work on matching your course with the best industry partners in our network of over 10K employers.
  • You will approve the company projects that you want to pair with students.
  • The students start working on the projects on a timeline you determine.

For questions and support please contact Riipen at academicsupport@riipen.com.

For information about use of Riipen at University of Toronto please contact digital.learning@utoronto.ca.

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Innovation in Digital Learning at University of Toronto

Image of hand pointing at word "learning"The University of Toronto has received approximately $1.8M through a new Virtual Learning Strategy (VLS) funding program, targeting improved access and innovation to digital resources for Ontario students. The initiative represents a $50 million investment by the Ontario Ministry of Colleges and Universities intended to expand and enrich learning through development of online course content, modules and open textbooks.

As we have learned during the past year, U of T has the capacity to respond to emergent needs for digital resources to address curricular activities across the disciplines. Through the VLS program additional rich learning content will be available to our own students, as well as those at other institutions across the province and beyond. The content created through his program will be shared via the eCampusOntario Library platform in February 2022, allowing others to benefit through re-use and adaptation of the resources created by our lead instructors and their collaborators.

Projects funded by the VLS program are as follows:

Project Lead Project Title Department
Frances Garrett Teaching for Student Flourishing Study of Religion, FAS
Jessica Slomka Matter in Motion: A transdisciplinary course exploring physical processes Chemical and Physical Sciences, UTM


John Hannah Supporting Academic Resilience for International Students Division of Student Life


Jessica Slomka Virtual Earth: Technology-based Earth Sciences Lab Series Chemical and Physical Sciences, UTM


Greg Evans Customizable Lab Simulations for Chemistry, Environment, and Engineering Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry, FASE


Cindy Woodland, Derek Ng, Stavroula Andreopoulos A Multimedia Approach to Understanding Drug Interactions Faculty of Medicine, Pharmacology and Toxicology and Biochemistry; Dept. of Biology, UTM


Kim Mackinnon Designing for Meaningful Synchronous and Asynchronous Discussion in Online Courses Ontario Institute for Studies in Education
Kathy Trip, Jean Wilson Simulation of Gynecological Examinations Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing


Michal Kasprzak,Cristina D’Amico Developing Your Teaching Dossier: A Series of Four OER Asynchronous Online Modules Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation
Bill Ju, Franco Taverna Building a common undergraduate Neuroscience OER for broad use across the Ontario curriculum Human Biology, FAS
Erin Styles, Johanna Carroll Introductory Coding for Genomics – An Asynchronous Online Course for Life Science Student Molecular Genetics, Faculty of Medicine
Yuchong Li, Andreas Hilfinger Developing Stay-at-Home Experiment Modules for Introductory Physics Courses Department of Chemical and Physical Sciences, UTM
David Kwasny, Krystle Phirangee Digital Learning Producers Online Training UTSC Library; Centre for Teaching & Learning, UTSC
Jim Hewitt, Clare Brett An Introduction to Effective Online Teaching for Elementary and Secondary Instructors Ontario Institute for Studies in Education
Nick Eyles A country on the move: Canada’s changing landscapes Department of Physical and Environmental Science, UTSC
Erika Loney; Nadia Rosemond; Edward Al Hearn Bilingual Student Preparation Modules for Experiential Learning (French and English) Office of Student Experience & Wellbeing, UTSC; Centre for Teaching & Learning, UTSC
Shafique Virani Islam and Muslim Civilizations Online Historical Studies, UTM
Aleksandra Bjelajac Mejia Virtual Immersive Simulations to Promote Practice Readiness to Full Scope for Pharmacy and Pharmacy Technician Students: A Collaborative Approach Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy
Tom Coyle Modules to support online delivery of advanced ceramic course Department of Materials Science and Engineering, FASE
Judi Laprade Creating a digital library of 3D scanned human-anatomical prosections for allied health science education Division of Anatomy, Department of Surgery
Alexandra Motut, Essyn Emurla Teamwork Skills for Undergraduates by Rotman Commerce Centre for Professional Skills (RC-CPS) Rotman School of Management/Rotman Commerce
Laura Dempster Preparing Tomorrow’s Clinician’s with TeleOralHealth Faculty of Dentistry
Fiona Rawle Arrival Activities for Student Engagement – an Open Educational Resource Dept of Biology, UTM
Vivienne Luk The Language of Forensics Forensic Science Program, UTM


Fiona Rawle Humanizing Online Teaching and Learning: An Instructor Guide and Training Module Dept of Biology, UTM
Karen Smith, Oya Mercan Engineering in a Changing Climate – A Transdisciplinary Workshop Series for Engineering and Climate Science Students Department of Physical & Environmental Sciences UTSC
Stella Ng, Nicole Woods Advancing the CACE Homecare Curriculum Speech-Language Pathology; Dept of Family and Community Medicine
Essyn Emurla, Alexandra Motut Effective Virtual Communication and Presentations by Rotman Commerce Centre for Professional Skills Rotman School of Management/Rotman Commerce
Jon French IP Education Program Level 1 – Patenting Strategies UofT Entrepreneurship, VPRI
Jon French IP Education Program – Level 2 – Patenting Strategies UofT Entrepreneurship, VPRI
Helen Tran STEM Education <> Design Thinking Chemistry, FAS

For more information on support for VLS projects contact digital.learning@utoronto.ca.

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Visual and Interactive Media for Undergraduate Life Sciences

A new open resource was recently launched, providing links to visual and interactive media, associated publications and background information related to a range of online learning materials for undergraduate Life Sciences. Congratulations to the project team behind this collection of Visual and Interactive Media for Undergraduate Life Sciences recently added to the OpenUtoronto site.

Life Science Interactive Media Banner

Work by these Project Leaders was supported by funding from Faculty of Arts and Science:

  • Stavroula Andreopoulos, Professor, Teaching Stream, Department of Biochemistry, Temerty Faculty Medicine
  • Derek Ng, Assistant Professor, Department of Biology, University of Toronto Mississauga; Master of Science in Biomedical Communications Program, Institute of Medical Science, Temerty Faculty of Medicine
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Coursera for Campus: More options for student learning

The Coursera for University of Toronto initiative continues to offer the UofT learners full access to a large catalogue of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). First introduced in support of partner institutions impacted by COVID-19, the program has been extended until April 2021.

These non-degree, short courses provide opportunities for professional and academic skill development in a range of areas, including research, writing, computer programming, statistical analysis, project management and many other topics. Browse offerings or create an account using a utoronto.ca email address by following this link:

Coursera for University of Toronto – Main Catalogue

To help University of Toronto students discover valuable content related to career and professional skills development, we have curated two new course playlists with the help of Career Centre staff in Student Life:

Make Suggestions or Learn More

Instructors and staff are invited to curate a recommended Coursera course list for students in their program area from the full Coursera Catalogue. Use the “Explore” or “Search” tools on the catalogue display page to locate courses of value and relevance to your students.

Contact digital.learning@utoronto.ca for information on providing customized Coursera content for your learners.

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Virtual Labs – Reviews and Previews

While we’ve all been rapidly propelled into online learning in recent months, the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines have had the additional challenge of bringing what are normally hands-on labs to the virtual realm.

Many different solutions have been implemented by U of T’s resourceful instructors, who deserve our thanks and admiration for coming up with effective solutions that are in line with target learning outcomes, yet still successfully engage students in authentic activities.

As described on the Virtual Labs for Remote/Online Courses resource page, there are many innovative examples including the following:

  • Using open source materials that have been shared at no cost and creating interactive labs within Quercus modules.
  • Creating custom labs or activity guides using video clips of course lab demonstrations and accompanying data sets for analysis.
  • Licensing rich content that includes real-time virtual lab simulations and formative assessment available from publishers and other discipline–specific providers.
  • Using common objects found at home or easily purchased for DIY activities or sending physical kits for experiments directly to students.

Lab Simulations

Many of the learning objectives of laboratory courses can be achieved with lab simulations and DIY solutions, and there are additional affordances unique to the online environment.

Some of the benefits of incorporating lab simulations into courses include:

  • Allowing laboratory courses to move online and increasing student engagement — Many of the virtual lab options incorporate elements of gaming and storytelling.
  • Enabling students to go at their own pace — Online labs help close the knowledge gap by allowing students to finish labs when they want and at the pace they need.
  • Improving understanding of the concepts by students — Many of the interactive labs incorporate pedagogical techniques proven to facilitate better understanding of the theoretical information presented.
  • Offering options to replace, prepare for, or supplement in-person labs — Virtual labs can familiarize students with the techniques, skills, processes, protocols and underlying theory in lieu of or in preparation for in-person labs.
  • Broadening access to science education — May give students virtual access to experiences that would not normally be part of their undergraduate course due to size of class/lab space limitations.

Virtual Lab Pilots at UofT

Beyond Labz

Beyond Labz offers virtual labs in General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Physics and Biology.

Developed at Brigham Young University through 20 years of research, Beyond Labz offers research-based, open-ended virtual lab experiences that provide students with opportunities to experiment, practice, fail, discover and learn without the limitations, expense and safety constraints of an in-person lab experience. The simulation platform is built upon actual experimental data and the most advanced models available. The aim is to teach students how to be scientists by allowing them to experience real outcomes and learn from their failures by not having such simulation constraints.

The virtual lab settings are designed around different lab benches that are specific to experiment types (i.e., for the Organic Chemistry virtual labs, the Synthesis and Qualitative Analysis lab benches are different).

Throughout each virtual lab experience, students can record/report data in a virtual lab book, copy their data, and even take snapshots so that they can then analyze their results in a Google sheet or Excel (for submission). For more information:

Online Learning Strategies has recently shared eCampusOntario’s call for Expression of Interest submissions and has since coordinated a submission on behalf of U of T faculty interested in using Beyond Labz simulations in STEM courses for the 2021 Winter and 2021 Summer terms. View Online Learning Strategies website page detailing this initiative.


Labster offers virtual lab simulations that give students access to a realistic lab experience that lets them perform simulated experiments and practice their skills in a fun and risk-free learning environment. Labster, a Danish company founded in 2011, offers virtual lab simulations that include quiz questions and background theory to engage students in an immersive, game-like multimedia experience. The simulations are based on mathematical algorithms that support open-ended investigations, combined with gamification elements, storytelling and a scoring system that highlights the connection between science and the real world. For more information:

Labster lab simulations are being used by several courses at the three University of Toronto campuses. Labster is fully integrated into Quercus as of September 2020.

Labster at U of T Timeline:

Future opportunities

Ladderane, which provides a customizable platform allowing instructors to create virtual chemistry experiments to meet their own needs and learning outcomes, has recently contacted Online Learning Strategies with an offer to start a Pilot with interested instructors. Instructors have the option to create experiments from scratch or use template experiments in the Gallery section of their dashboard. A wide variety of different elements can be customized for each experiment including, but not limited to, chemical names, glassware, colors and states of matter. This flexibility provides an opportunity to create a unique experiment for both individual students and groups of students. Follow this link to view a Ladderane demo. Please contact digital.learning@utoronto.ca if interested.

Digital Learning Innovation is keeping tabs on any upcoming pilot opportunities involving virtual lab simulations. For a consultation please email digital.learning@utoronto.ca.

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