OTTAWA – Ottawa’s two universities will lead counterparts across the country to take part in an initiative to hasten e-learning in post-secondary classrooms, thanks to a $1.2 million grant from CANARIE’s e-business and e-learning programs.
Called the University Collaborative Communities
for E-Learning Adoption (UCCELA), the venture will see 14 post-secondary institutions taking part, and will consist of two components: the availability of e-kits to both students and faculty and a Web site called facultydevelopment.ca, that will be available exclusively to faculty. The University of Ottawa’s Teaching and Learning Support Services is responsible for the development of the e-Kit, while Carleton University is developing facultydevelopment.ca, which is currently in a pilot phase.
Facultydevelopment.ca will highlight the best practices in teaching from 3M teaching fellows, teachers from across Canada who have been given an award of distinction for their skills, said Tim Pychyl, associate professor of psychology at Carleton University and head of the Centre for Initiatives in Education at Carleton.
“”This is an idea whose time has come because the technology is now available,”” Pychyl said. “”We all face challenges as teachers, and this is to show we can meet those challenges. We can use streaming video to showcase the teaching practices. We are using broadband technology to create a common resource for all of us. We could not do this five years ago.””
Similarly, the e-Kit will act like a database and will contain tools to help students in the online learning environment. The motto will be peruse, choose, and download, according to one of its designers. Copyrights have been cleared, so participants can download materials at no charge. Both the e-Kit and facultydevelopment.ca will provide all materially bilingually in the longer term.
The universities, which will initially participate in the e-learning pilot project, include Queen’s University, Trent University, Laurentian University, the University of Alberta, Université de Moncton, and College St. Boniface in Manitoba, as well as the University of Ottawa and Carleton University, amongst others. UCCELA will have an official launch in February of 2004 after its beta testing.
“”Students are very effective users of things like e-mail and doing research on the Internet,”” said Dr. Christian Blanchette, Director of Teaching and Learning Support Service at the University of Ottawa. “”We really want them to harness the technology. There could be a tutorial on how to effectively participate in a forum discussion. We want to nurture students to learn on their own because that’s what they will have to do in the workplace.””
The project leaders say both the e-Kits and facultydevelopment.ca will complement face-to-face learning in the classroom, and be of particular assistance to both professors of large classes and students in those classes. If students will be asked to go online for their course work, it will increase the rate and number of users, and accelerate e-learning.
The project leaders plan on creating a business model whereby educational institutions will pay a membership fee to a non-profit corporation to procure the e-Kits and access the faculty development Web site, to ensure that the program is sustained beyond the life of its start-up funding, Pychyl said.