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[Institutional Update] Vancouver Island University

Contributed by Liesel Knaack, VIU

Introduction

My name is Liesel Knaack and I am the director of the teaching and learning centre (Centre for Innovation and Excellence in Learning). I arrived in July 2010 when the educational technology staff, online learning team and teaching and learning supports came together into one central support unit with the new director position.

About VIU

As a teaching-focused institution, VIU offers over 120 programs including university preparation, English language learning, vocational programs, trades, undergraduate and graduate degrees, while providing access to education for all. VIU operates a main campus in Nanaimo and two campuses in Powell River and Duncan and two experiential learning hubs: Deep Bay Marine Field Station and Parksville-Qualicum Centre.

VIU has 15,000 full-time and part-time students, including almost 2,000 international students from over 90 countries (14%), 1,800 Indigenous students (12%), and employing over 2000 faculty and staff. The student to faculty ratio is 16:1. VIU has small class sizes and personalized learning opportunities for students. VIU was one of 17 finalists in the 2018 Global Teaching Excellence Award from the Higher Education Academy.

VIU’s Centre for Innovation and Excellence in Learning

The Centre supports teaching faculty in designing high impact learning opportunities so students can become self-regulated learners who are responsible, engaged and challenged in their learning. The Centre also supports students in their use of learning technologies. The Centre aligns itself closely with institutional initiatives and activities such as the Academic Plan, the Program Review process, VIU’s Graduate Attributes, along with learning outcomes and program design processes.

Our team: We have 12 staff members including 1 director, 1 associate director, 1 admin assistant, 5 learning technology specialists and 4 curriculum, teaching and learning specialists. We work collaboratively on projects in a team-based model with technology and pedagogy intersecting in our support model and offerings.

Learning Technologies at VIU

Here is the suite of learning technologies we have for faculty and students branded for VIU. We are happy to provide our campus community with this diverse collection of tools for enabling active learning experiences.

  • VIULearn (LMS) – powered by Brightspace by D2L (hosted by D2L through AWS in Montreal)
  • VIUBlogs (Blogging/Websites) – 2 instances, one for faculty/staff and one for students powered by WordPress (hosted at VIU)
  • VIUOnline Rooms (Web Conferencing) – powered by Zoom (recordings saved locally to desktop)
  • VIUTube (Video Streaming) – powered by Kaltura (hosted at UBC)
  • VIU Lightboard (Video Capture System) – built by VIU Trades Welding Department (located in video/audio enabled room)
  • VIU Learnsupport Support Portal (Ticket System) – powered by Web Help Desk by Solar Winds (hosted at VIU)
  • iPeer (Peer Assessment) – powered by iPeer product (created and hosted by UBC)

 Role of Educational Technology at VIU

Since 2012, we’ve seen a 12X increase in engagement with our learning technologies. The increase in use of the LMS, blogs and web-conferencing tools has been by faculty using technology in their classes, but also the creation of fully-online programs (like Bachelor of Social Work, Online Learning and Teaching Diploma, ADGIS (Advanced Diploma in Geographic Information Systems Applications) among other learning opportunities at VIU. More faculty are exploring with blended learning and looking for ways to provide open access to education.

We created this diagram (inspired by McGill University) to show faculty what tools are available by category and by support level (within the LMS, outside of the LMS but still supported by Centre and outside of VIU support) to inform faculty about what is possible. It helps define what is within the “walled garden” of a LMS and what is available outside for developing rich learning experiences for students.

Noteworthy and Newsy

We spend a lot of effort on ensuring our LMS is robust and ready for all kinds of use. This past year, VIU was an early launcher of the new Brightspace “Daylight” interface that offers a responsively designed environment. We shared our experiences at the annual D2L Fusion conference and in many virtual meetings with universities from the US and Canada. To ensure a successful transition we did 18 public awareness sessions, communicated frequently with the campus community, reshot all our 80 custom videos and updated our web content. The new interface significantly improved mobile access for students and was positively received by faculty.

We are starting an annual purge (permanent deletion) of LMS courses this year. VIU will only retain 2 years of courses at any one time. This is creating wonderful opportunities to talk about best practices for retention of student and faculty data and how to empower faculty to export courses they wish to keep for future use. VIU also leads a D2L Admins group comprised of all D2L post-secondary institutions in Alberta and BC along with some K-12 school districts. We like this community to share and learn from each other.

This year we picked up Zoom as our web conferencing tool and have had only a handful of technical questions come in in the first six months! We’d routinely have issues with audio and video quality, connectivity and access with our previous platform. Zoom was chosen because it has a compression scheme that works very well on lower bandwidths. It also has breakout rooms for student learning groups and a video/room-based video conferencing connector. Zoom has enhanced our room-based campus to campus classes in that is allows students to join classes from home via the cloud connector. We are excited to have moved to Zoom.

Lastly, we are excited to bring our staffing complement up to 5 positions for supporting learning technologies across the institution and all campuses. We will continue to support our suite of tools, engage in consultations with faculty around course design, provide orientations to students and work to keep our suite of technologies robust, reliable and relevant.