Faculty launches new Digital Strategy

York’s Faculty of Education recently launched a Digital Strategy to make all of its websites fully accessible and mobile friendly, and to offer a variety of high quality e-learning options to students and teachers that range from Moodle enhanced to fully online courses.

The Faculty’s digital strategy is being implemented in 3 stages, all of which are being carried out concurrently.

Phase 1 focuses on creating accessible and mobile friendly web sites.  The intent of this phase is to make all of our websites fully compliant with The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) and to make them easily readable on a variety of mobile devices.  Currently, the Faculty is in the process of redesigning its website based on current best practices and on input from faculty, staff, and students who participated in a unique card sorting activity.

Phase 2 of the strategy is to encourage all faculty members to create a Moodle site for their courses to support student learning whether in face-to-face or online courses.  Workshops have been held to introduce faculty to the academic and pedagogical aspects of using Moodle. To date Moodle has been used in 259 undergraduate courses and 42 graduate courses.

Professor Heather Lotherington

Professor Heather Lotherington

I use Moodle in all my courses,” commented professor Heather Lotherington. “It forms the repository of topics, notes, news, and contributors, but what I especially appreciate is making learning public by using the forum feature for empirical assignments that ask students to apply or investigate a theory or policy in the context of their convenience and creative choice. In this way students begin to engage with and learn from each other, enhancing class coherence and learning momentum, and I get an indication of who is actively participating.”

The third and final phase of the Faculty’s digital strategy is to provide blended and fully online learning options for students giving them flexibility and different learning possibilities.  It will also help to maintain and increase the Faculty’s market share with as universities and professional development course providers begin to offer online options. Currently, one large enrolment undergraduate preservice BEd course is being offered in the blended mode (supported by the Academic Innovation Fund). The expectation is that this project will offer a model upon which to build future undergraduate courses in the BEd program.  Also, as the Faculty redesigns the BEd program to meet the new Ministry of Education requirements for a four- semester program, it will provide an opportunity to look holistically at ways in which blended and online instructional approaches might be used to offer various program components.

Other programs within the Faculty, such as the Deaf Education program can be taken online by part-time candidates. One fully online and one blended course are available at the graduate level and a significant number of Additional Qualification professional courses for teachers are currently offered online. In the last calendar year the Faculty’s Office of Research and Professional Development offered 209 online courses versus 501 face-to-face courses.

In an effort to increase our offerings of online academic courses, the Online Learning Fund (OLF) was established in September 2013. This fund provides individual faculty or small teams of faculty with the opportunity to apply for financial support to develop online versions of their undergraduate and graduate courses where there is consistently solid enrolment.

Dean Ron Owston

Dean Ron Owston

“Today’s students expect flexible learning options and for all courses to have online information and resources,” said Ron Owston, dean of the Faculty of Education. “Our strategy will respond to student expectations and put the Faculty of Education in the forefront as a leader in technology enhanced learning in the province.”