Contributed by Natasha Boskic, UBC.
I am a Senior Manager, Learning Design of the Educational Technology Support (ETS) unit in the Faculty of Education. Our primary role is to support our faculty members, sessionals and staff in their use of technology for teaching and learning. This includes building capacity of our members to feel comfortable with using LT, but also introducing and disseminating new practices through innovative projects.
Faculty of Education was ranked #1 Faculty in Canada in 2016 with about 600 students in the Teacher Education program and 600 graduate students. FoE consists of four Departments and one School together with a number of Centres and Institutes. FoE offers Teacher Education programs on Vancouver Point Grey campus, in West Kootenay (Nelson) and Native Indian Education Program NITEP in centres across Lower Mainland. The Graduate programs are also offered on campus, and on various locations across BC. In addition, BEd on Okanagan campus provides different opportunities for those who wants to pursue a teaching career.
Learning off campus has always played a crucial role in the FoE, as most of its students are teaching professionals who need further education and cannot necessarily commit to coming to campus and having in-person classes. With the introduction of learning technologies as enablers of education, eLearning, therefore has become the pillar of what FoE does. It is not surprising then that, although one of the smaller Faculties at UBC, it has the largest number of fully online course (about 120) and a growing number of fully online Diploma, Certificate, and Master Degree programs. Faculty of Education has becoming a leader in providing various models of online and blended learning. The highlights of this academic year are: 1) the fourth offering of the MOOC on Reconciliation Thorough Indigenous Education (which has now in total educated over 20000 students, with 80% certified students in Oct 2017 offering), 2) the launching of Sky, Water Earth project for engaging youth in informal learning about sciences, developed with Vancouver Aquarium and McMillan Space Centre, and 3) the open education on mental health for in-service teachers, Bringing Mental Health to Teachers, started on October 31 in Collaboration with Dalhousie University. The migration to the new LMS, Canvas is in progress and according to the plan. FoE used Collaborate Ultra as credit course web-conferencing tool and Bluejeans for meetings and research.
The three aforementioned projects are our latest and most innovative. We are proud to explore different platforms, design for different audience and develop different ways of learning and teaching. The challenges with all these projects are numerous:
- They are usually done in addition to our regular ETS work, so there is always struggle for resources and support
- The audience, although defined in the planning stage, is never guaranteed as these are not credit courses, nor required. As educators we feel that our role is to find the gaps in the market and fill those gaps. Both mental health and Indigenous education, for example, had not been sufficiently present in the Teacher Education in the past and it is evident that the in–service teachers need more guidance for dealing with the issues or teaching about these issues. Providing free online resources (or providing Certificate for a minimal fee) is one of the ways to reach wide audience and educate them. The production is costly and needs support from the University as the benefits are evident.
We find partners in different ways, some of them are across the Faculty, others are by professional affiliation. There is definitely space for improvements. We would like to partner with other Faculties across campus more, although multidisciplinary projects are complex and more difficult to coordinate. We believe that those efforts are worthwhile as we see the education of an individual as a holistic endeavour, so studying collaboratively with others and across disciplines.