Aligning Experiential Learning within Course Design: Try Riipen

You may have heard the buzz around Integrated Learning Experiences (ILEs) in the last several months at the University of Toronto. Interest and engagement has been growing with news of institutional priorities related to the Integrated Learning Experience framework developed by the Provost’s Task force on Experiential and Work Integrated Learning and a range of initiatives aimed at increasing capacity in these areas.

One new project to come out of this exploration is a pilot that supports the experiential learning across a range of discipline and course contexts, targeting opportunities for undergraduate students. Within a course context, they will work on mini-projects, or “micro-experiential learning” assignments that are aligned with course goals, as well as an external partner needs. The project leverages a third party platform, Riipen, to facilitate partnerships with community organizations and businesses by helping with the matching process, project set up, and ongoing coordination. Instructors who are experimenting with the Riipen platform are aiming to provide a wider range of experiential learning opportunities for undergraduate students, while at the same time streamlining the administrative workflow and coordination tasks. Another feature is the opportunity for students to get feedback directly from community partners and create a portfolio featuring their demonstrated skills.

Riipen Logo

The initiative, lead by Prof. Phanikiran Radhakrishnan of UTSC, has been funded by the Learning and Education Advancement Fund (LEAF) as a two-year pilot. The aim is to evaluate Riipen’s potential to advance the goals described by of the Task Force on Experiential Learning. Across the institution we are seeking to provide students with the “ability to bridge theoretical and practical learning and to observe how the material they have learned in class takes shape in the world… and include(s) examples of experiential, work-integrated, and community-engaged learning that integrate disciplinary outcomes with community engagement and competency development.

We are currently looking for more instructors who would like to get involved. For more information, or if you are interested in joining the pilot, contact

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Glimpsing the Future of VR-Enhanced Patient Care and Medical Education

Members of the U of T AR/VR Network had an engaging visit to the Collaborative Human Immersive and Interactive Lab (CHISIL) at SickKids Hospital on Thursday November 30th, 2017. We were hosted by Clyde Matava and Fahad Alam, Professors of Anesthesia and founders of the CHISIL Lab (with sites at both SickKids and Sunnybrook Hospitals).

It was an inspiring presentation during which they shared some highlights from their current research into the effectiveness of immersive VR for patient care and education (exposure therapy and VR for pain distraction.) They talked about some research topics for future inquiry such as the effectiveness of having a parent or caregiver present virtually in the operation room and the development of immersive VR modules that use actual medical tools rather than gaming controllers.  

Also, our hosts allowed us to experience some of their VR modules first hand. We were shown a suite of immersive 360 videos (available as the “ChildLife VR” iOS app) intended to educate and assuage patient anxiety. They also had us try an immersive VR module that required a head-mounted-display and controls which put us into the role of a physician in a trauma scenario with an injured virtual patient. One of the procedures we had to perform as virtual physicians was a laryngoscopy (camera inserted via the patient’s mouth) featuring live video feedback on a monitor within the virtual scene which was dynamically tracking the user’s movements and positioning of the virtual endoscopic camera.  We could certainly all see how such an experience would help build a future physician’s skills and confidence before attempting any actual procedures for the first time. 

We look forward to future visits and potential opportunities for collaboration with the CHISIL team.

Photo of U of T AR VR Network members wearing an HTC Vive headset as they experienced an immersive medical training module.First/left panel: Clyde Matava, Professor of Anesthesia and co-founder of CHISIL Lab at SickKids Hospital, Laurie Harrison, Director, Online Learning Strategies – photo by Mike Spears. Middle panel: Clyde Matava, Alexander Sullivan, student and VR developer, Diane Michaud, Academic & Collaborative Technology Support – photo by  Alexandra Bolintineanu Right/last panel: Ron Wilson, Associate Professor and Acting Director, Human Biology Programs –  photo by Mike Spears.  

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MOOC Activity Infographic

The latest MOOC Activity Report is now available on the Open UToronto web site!

Now in its fifth year of support to MOOC initiatives, OLS has decided to condense our annual Activity Report into a visually engaging, one page, sharable infographic.

Thumbnail image of infographic

Click to see full infographic

This infographic is organized into four main sections, each of which focuses on an important dimension of our work in this domain:

  • Design and Pedagogy
  • Community Engagement
  • Demographic Reach
  • MOOC Research and Outreach

Course information, such as discipline representation and student numbers, are taken from live courses in the self-paced modes in both Coursera and edX. Outreach data represents our institutional reach from the last five years of activity.

Feel free to view and share.

For more information about our Open Course Initiatives visit

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Open Your Textbooks…

eCampusOntario recently announced the newest recipients of funding for the adoption/adaptation of existing open textbooks and open educational resources.* We are excited to have two new projects and extend our congratulations to Bill Ju for his proposed text Neuroscience – Canadian 1st Edition Open Textbook and Sanja Hinić-Frlog for her project An Introductory Open Textbook for Animal Physiology.

In addition to the cost savings for students, one of the biggest advantages of choosing to adapt an existing open textbook or other open educational resources is it gives faculty the legal right to add to, modify, or delete the content of the textbook to fit their specific course needs . As the copyright holder has already granted permission by releasing their work using an open — or Creative Commons — license, instructors may use and reuse, share, copy, retain and modify the textbook without any hindrance. **

The word OPEN written on books

© via Flickr CC-BY-SA

The Neuroscience – Canadian 1st Edition Open Textbook will provide over 1200 undergraduate students with online access to recent research advances in neuroscience at no cost. It will be the first modifiable open textbook within the discipline that provides the flexibility to address instructional content needs related to the rapidly changing technologies, theories and concepts in neurosciences.

An Introductory Open Textbook for Animal Physiology will also integrate several resources in a single comprehensive presentation in order to enhance the quality of learning within the UTM Introductory Animal Physiology course and serve as a model for other instructors in biology and other related discipline areas. Where currently there is no individual textbook that meets the instructional needs of the learners, some 500 students will benefit with this new, adaptable, single resource.

Professors appreciate the ability to customize and reuse content to improve the learning experience, while students benefit from cost savings as the resources are delivered digitally, with no fees to access or download. Both instructors and their teams have already begun work on their projects and we look forward to seeing the results in March 2018.

* Projects funded by The Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development

** Benefits of adapting open texts modified from B.C. Open Textbook Adaptation Guide by Lauri Aesoph is used under a CC-BY 4.0 International license.

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Online Undergraduate Course Initiative (OUCI) 2017-18

New Re-Design Projects in Development for Coming Year

Instructors working on designEach year a number of pioneering instructors receive OUCI funding for redesign of their undergraduate courses to leverage the opportunities online instruction offer their learners. To date, more than 30 fully online courses have been launched. This year, the support available from the Vice-Provost Innovations in Undergraduate Education has been extended to include hybrid course formats as well. Wondering about the meaning of the term “hybrid?” The CTSI web site notes:

A hybrid course is one in which face-to-face teaching time is reduced, but not eliminated. At the University of Toronto, a course is considered to be hybrid if at least 30% of scheduled class time is replaced by online activities. Instruction may be offered via synchronous or asynchronous web‐based learning technologies, including video, discussion, collaborative tools or self-directed learning modules.

We are excited to have a mix of both online and hybrid courses in development this summer. As part of our support strategy for the group exploring the hybrid format we offered new specialized programming via webinar, followed by participation in the May 2017 Course Design Institute offered by CTSI. The hybrid option is popular in professional masters programs, and a faculty team from OISE also joined the institute with course redesign for this flexible format in mind.

The course redesign projects currently in development are as follows:

Instructor Dept / Division Course Offering
Hybrid Courses    
Gerhard Trippen Rotman Commerce Operations Mangement
Alex Koo Philosophy, FAS Modern Symbolic Logic
Don Boyes Geography & Planning, FAS Geographic Information and Mapping I

Geographic Information and Mapping II

Rosa Hong, Safieh Moghaddam, Ivan Chow, Caroline LeBrec Language Studies, UTM English Grammar II

English Words through Space and Time

Andrea Olive Environment/Poli-Sci, UTM Environmental Justice
Sherida Ryan, Carly Manion, Kiran Mirchandani, Coleen Scully-Stewart Adult Education, OISE Leadership, Higher and Adult Education have received an ITIF Grant to convert several courses to a hybrid model by first developing a standard framework and then building out the necessary resources.
Fully Online Courses    
Jennifer Harris Study of Religion, FAS The Study of Religion
Marie Visoi French, FAS Reading and Writing Fiction and Non-fiction in French
Barb Murck Environment, UTM Natural Hazards: Risk and Vulnerability

The fully online course instructors also met for a design planning and sharing session in June, which featured sharing of course concept maps, and collective “barrier-busting” to brainstorm solutions to sticky problems. Our congratulations to all recipients of the OUCI funding! Stay tuned to hear about the results.

Image of Instructor and planning notes

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New Call for eCampus Ontario Projects – 2017

The University of Toronto internal deadline for Expressions of Interest is Monday, June 5, 2017 (Note: Previous deadline of June 2 has been extended). Please email a short general description of your project idea (maximum 200 words) to Vice Provost Innovations in Undergraduate Education  at with copy to

Proposal consultation and development support is available for both the Open Textbooks call and the Digital Inclusion Research RFPs. If you are interested in pursuing this funding, please contact Laurie Harrison, Director of Online Learning Strategies at or 416-978-1703. As this is the fifth round of provincial funding in this domain, we have a well-developed, strategic approach to provision of institutional supports and processes for curriculum initiatives and special projects which has proved successful in past years.

Full proposals are will be submitted by the Provost’s office on June 19, 2017. Award announcements will occur in August, with projects to be completed by March 2018 for this round.

Detailed Funding Program Information

Open Textbooks Initiative:

The Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development has provided funding to increase the use of open textbooks through both creation and adoption in several priority areas. eCampus Ontario is accepting two types of proposals:

  1. Funding up to $15,000 per project is available to incentivize adoption/adaptation of existing eTexts and open educational resources in the following categories:
  • Textbooks for high-enrolment first and second-year courses
  • Original French-language content
  • Indigenous studies content
  • Trades and technical skills content
  • Content supporting the settlement of immigrants and refugees

2. Funding up to $40,000 per project is available for creation of new eTexts in the following categories:

  • Original French-language content
  • Indigenous studies content

See RFP site for more information on the Open Textbook Initiative Call

Digital Inclusion Research

As a centre for excellence in online learning, eCampusOntario has a mandate to support leading edge Ontario research in the field. In this Call for Proposals, the Ontario Digital Service has provided funding to support researchers who wish to explore digital inclusion and related areas of focus, such as inequities in access to the Internet and digital skills, practices of design which exclude groups or individuals, and explorations of the concrete ways in which people can benefit from the application of digital skills and access across sectors (e.g., healthcare, education, civic participation) as well as ways in which people may be put at risk as a result of lack of knowledge, or skills in digital technologies.

See RFP site for more information on the Digital Inclusion Research Call

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Kudos to Online/Hybrid Program Coordinator – OISE

Coleen Scully-Stewart Recognized for “Contribution to Teaching”

Congratulations to Coleen Scully-Stewart, the Program Coordinator for OISE’S new Online/Hybrid Master of Education on receiving OISE’s 2017 award for Distinguished Contribution to Teaching.  As part of the Educational Leadership & Policy Program expansion, Coleen spearheaded planning for this new cohort-based initiative which has now launched a second cohort, reflecting the demand from students throughout the province of Ontario and beyond.

The program is exceptional in the overall design of the learner experience, specifically developed to meet the unique needs of an online learning community of working professionals.  These graduate students are provided with an opportunity to engage in exploring questions of leadership, policy, change and social diversity in schools, while linking theory to practice in their own work environments. Coleen led the process of establishing a well-integrated cohort, collaborating with the instructor team and with OISE’s Education Commons to create a virtual community space that extends beyond required coursework. The team attended the CTSI Course Design Institute as a group to join efforts on the course planning process. Also, Coleen and her team worked with the OISE Registrar to develop an UTORid access process that would not require students to physically come to campus to the T-Card office – a first at UofT.

According to Coleen, the most challenging aspect of establishing the program was “designing an online space that would foster a strong sense of community for cohort members.”  However, this hard work has had its rewards. Our award-winning faculty member notes, “it is gratifying to know that we are able to provide an OISE  MEd program in Educational Leadership and Policy for students who, until now, would not have had access.  The learning for all is enriched by having perspectives from widely varying contexts across the province and the globe.”

Congratulations to Coleen on her leadership in the development of an Online/Hybrid Master of Education Program that exemplifies a comprehensive and fully integrated approach to ensuring a positive graduate student experience.

Photo of Coleen Scully-Stewart and Dean Glen Jones


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Online Learning: Flexible Pace and Place

Have you seen Re:THINK? Check out this new online publication edited and produced by the Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation at the University of Toronto and a great place to read the latest teaching and learning stories from our instructors and students. The most recent article features the experiences of three undergraduates who recently completed online courses. Find out more about the student perspective, and how they describe the benefits of the flexible approach to online learning.

For questions, comments and story suggestions for Re:THINK please contact

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Catching the Open eText Wave

The latest round of projects funded by the Ontario government has been announced and we are excited to have six new projects approved in total. This latest call included a funding stream not available in previous years – a call for the development of open eTextbooks (eTexts) – and the University of Toronto has two projects that will focus on this new resource format.

2010 mavericks competition

An open eText is a textbook that is licensed under an open copyright license, and made available online to be accessed for free by students (as well as other instructors and the public). These books can be viewed online or downloaded for no cost and they can also be printed on demand for a much lower cost than a typical physical textbook. As the price of textbooks continues to rise, an increasing number of educators are looking at open textbooks to cut costs for students. We are very excited to begin offering our own eTexts to meet goals of openness and provide savings.

The two funded eText projects are:

Instructor Division eText/Project Title
Hakob Barseghyan FAS Intro History and Philosophy of Science
Ryan Hurl FAS Understanding American Politics

Both projects are due to be published by March 2018. Stay tuned for more information about the University of Toronto’s plans for hosting and sharing open eTexts.For more information about open textbooks see 7 Things You Should Know About Open Textbook Publishing.

We are also happy to announce the funding of four new Modules projects, another format for Open Educational Resources. These include:

Instructor Division Project Title
Brenda McCabe and

Arash Shahi

FASE Introduction to Heavy Civil Engineering Operations and
Equipment Management
Nick Eyles UTSC Planet Earth Online
Bethany White FAS Scientific Data Analysis with R
Marianne Touchie and Kim Pressnail FASE Building Science Fundamentals Open Course Modules

UofT’s success in securing funding for 6 new projects – including open eTexts – will allow us to continue to play a leading role in shaping the open education landscape in Ontario.

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Learning to Learn Online

As this term comes to an end we look forward to a new year, a new semester and new offerings of online courses.

Online Learning Strategies has developed a new resource page that is open to use and share with students to help prepare them for learning online.

Is Taking an Online Course Right for Me?

Keyboard and Desk

This resource, developed with the input of various instructors of fully online courses, offers potential students an opportunity to consider if they have the technical capacity as well as the motivation and self-management skills to benefit fully from the online classroom experience.

It also offers students who pursue online learning some tips and strategies to start off right in a new course and continue the momentum as the course progresses.

A slidedeck summary is also available to share as a link or embed in a course Blackboard site.

Any instructor leading a fully online course, or an online component in a course, is welcome to use and share the resource. Having a reference available to help clarify common misconceptions will help students transition into this new mode of teaching and learning. As enrollment in online courses grows our goal is to ensure every student new to it will have a better understanding of what online learning is and how to be successful in these offerings.

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