Driving Ontario’s growth in virtual learning
University of Waterloo receives provincial funding to advance digital education
University of Waterloo receives provincial funding to advance digital educationBy Janice Cooke Centre for Extended Learning
The University of Waterloo has been awarded almost $1.5 million from the Ontario Ministry of Colleges and Universities (MCU) as part of their $50 million investment in virtual learning. Ontario’s Virtual Learning Strategy will expand the possibilities of traditional and life-long learning through the accelerated use of both online and hybrid learning.
As Ontario’s postsecondary education sector rapidly transitioned to remote delivery in 2020, the need for virtual learning supports to enable access to high-quality learning quickly became apparent. Recognizing online learning within the University’s 2020-2025 strategic plan, Waterloo had 52,600+ online course enrolments in 2019/20 and more than 500 online courses available in its regular course catalogue. With this funding, more can be done; not only for Waterloo students but for instructors and students across the province.
"Universities are being called to improve society and drive prosperity in a responsible way by challenging traditional models of education," says Feridun Hamdullahpur, University of Waterloo president and vice-chancellor. "As we’ve seen from the past year, online and virtual learning are key components in the future of education. Waterloo is committed to transforming how we teach and learn, and to educating global citizens who are able to thrive in an age of rapid change."
Through these awards, Waterloo can further share its extensive experience in online learning, explore new avenues for providing engaging learning opportunities and aid other institutions and community members. Come March 2022, 19 project proposals from 28 authors will be freely accessible through the University of Waterloo to any post-secondary institution in Ontario.
Some of Waterloo’s funded projects include:
Creation of a graduate-level module on Indigenous health and social justice
Developing a Mental Health Literacy Course for Ontario Colleges and Universities
Developing a 360º virtual reality tour and simulations of a chemical processing plant
Helping the not-for-profit sector improve their volunteer management practices, standards and strategies
Reconceptualizing our Instructional Skills Workshop — an internationally recognized, peer-based, learner-centred teaching development program
"Waterloo has been a leader in online learning in Canada for many decades, providing high quality, engaging learning opportunities for our students," says Aldo Caputo, director, Centre for Extended Learning. "Now, thanks to this funding, we’ll be able to further enhance learning experiences for our students and share the outcomes of these projects with the entire Ontario higher education community."
For a full list of the 19 funded programs, visit the Centre for Extended Learning website.
These projects are truly a great demonstration of collaboration, both across Waterloo faculties and Academic Support Units, and externally with more than 15 Ontario college and university partners. Waterloo will also be able to take advantage of the other funded projects to enhance our existing Waterloo resources.
The number of online courses offered and registrations have been growing rapidly across Canada for many years, and many post-secondary institutions view online learning as strategically important.
In 2017, well before the pandemic, it was estimated that in any semester, Canada had over 1.3 million online course registrations. Online learning offers students more flexibility in scheduling, greater access to a wide range of courses, and in some cases a better learning experience. There are benefits for students with accessibility needs as well as for working professionals who want to improve their circumstances. Based on the growing number of enrolments, the ability to learn online is now an expectation of students and it is here to stay.
Ontario’s Virtual Learning Strategy will enable Waterloo, and other universities and colleges to offer improved online experiences and help prepare students for a complex and rapidly changing world.
The University of Waterloo acknowledges that much of our work takes place on the traditional territory of the Neutral, Anishinaabeg and Haudenosaunee peoples. Our main campus is situated on the Haldimand Tract, the land granted to the Six Nations that includes six miles on each side of the Grand River. Our active work toward reconciliation takes place across our campuses through research, learning, teaching, and community building, and is centralized within our Indigenous Initiatives Office.