Active Learning: Online Redesign

Laurie Harrison and Will Heikoop

Hot off the press!  The University of Toronto as just kicked off a new initiative on “Active Learning: Online Redesign” (ALOR) supported by new funding from the MTCU.  The Active Learning: Online Redesign project spans five divisions as well as the Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation (CTSI) and the Online Learning Strategies (OLS) portfolio. This interesting new interdisciplinary project aims to improve the quality of student learning through design of active learning experiences, while maximizing efficiencies through the use of web-based tools.

The primary focus of the project involves the strategic use of technology to support active learning in hybrid course models. You may have noticed an explanation of this increasingly popular model in a recent blog post that discussed “modes and meaning” in our changing online learning landscape.  In the hybrid format, face-to-face teaching time is reduced, but not eliminated, to allow students more time for online activities. As a term, it is one of the least familiar. But as a practice, it potentially has the most flexibility to tap into the best of both worlds – leveraging opportunities for innovation and productivity for the ALOR project. The major team activities include:

  • Supporting curriculum redesign through development of effective and scalable active learning strategies in online environments.
  • Building faculty and teaching assistant team capacity at the local level (e.g., Divisions/Departments) to expand future active online learning.
  • Providing the university community with innovative instructional tools for (a) re-use in a range of discipline areas, and (b) integration with the Blackboard learning system.

ALOR Projects

Faculty leads from five participating divisions/departments will work individually and collectively to construct a network of expertise and share their work with others.  The participating divisions/departments are as follows:

  • University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC) – Department of Psychology
    – Prof. Steve Joordens: Enhancements to mTuner and Digital LabCoat tools; new course pilots
  • University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM) – Language Studies
    – Prof. Rosa Hong: Active learning and media integration activities to contextualize language learning
  • Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering (FASE) – Materials Science
    – Prof. Scott Ramsay: Digital resources to support table-top lab activities
  • Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing – MN – Health Systems Leadership and Administration Program
    – Prof. Margaret Blastorah: Develop pilot hybrid/online component strategies for the MN/MHSc program
  • Faculty of Arts and Science (FAS) – Human Biology Program
    – Prof. Franco Taverna: Mapping of neuroscience learning concepts to improve curriculum design

Each divisional team will focus on designing engaging online course components that address local programming needs and challenges.

The ALOR project is centrally supported and is a collaborative effort between the staff and support services at CTSI, under the guidance of director Carol Rolheiser and through OLS, with the work of director Laurie Harrison. The lead project coordinator is Mike Morrow of OISE’s Education Commons.

Other projects that will employ online strategies to improve quality and reduce resources include the incorporation of online course evaluation and data collection to inform future programming and planning. You can read more about a new course evaluation framework at the University of Toronto.

Watch out for more project updates as we work with all of our teams in the ALOR project to design and develop quality online learning strategies.

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For program funding details see: MTCU Productivity and Innovation

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