Brock University is getting nearly $430,000 from the Ontario government to help develop content for new online courses.
A $330,000 eCampus Ontario grant will let the University create an online four-year bachelor’s degree program in Adult Education, while a separate grant of nearly $100,000 supports development of open course modules associated with the University’s Environmental Sustainability in Practice course in the Environment Sustainability Research Centre.
The Adult Education expansion builds on the success of Brock’s existing three-year bachelor’s degree program — the first fully online degree program introduced by the Faculty of Education in 1999.
“It makes a direct contribution to the University’s strategic goals when it comes to online learning,” said Associate Professor Camille Rutherford in the Department of Teacher Education.
New courses will be developed over the coming year in partnership with Niagara College as a supporting institution.
The program’s fourth-year option is expected to launch in September 2018.
Work will be done in conjunction with Brock’s Centre for Pedagogical Innovation to look at best practices for online learning and how to incorporate them into the program’s technical design.
“Most highly engaging online courses aren’t just text,” Rutherford said, adding there’s an opportunity to include the effective use of audio, video and various digital activities.
With the grant money, Brock can work with videographers, digital editors and multimedia specialists to develop a stimulating online experience.
“The Ministry (Advanced Education and Skills Development) has given us the resources to be able to do this and to do it in a high-impact way,” Rutherford said.
The intent is to develop strategies and templates for online courses that can be used across the University.
Rutherford said online learning is crucial for people who require a flexible approach to post-secondary education. For instance, most students in the Adult Education program have day jobs, and need a work-around as they endeavour to improve their teaching skills.
“We have a large number of learners that teach within the college system, people in social services, health care, in instructional roles in the military and a large cohort at the Bruce Nuclear Plant,” Rutherford said, adding those students enrol from across the province.
“This gives them an opportunity to engage in those learning experiences regardless of their location. It fits into their work life.”
The expansion, she said, will allow Brock to “continue to distinguish ourselves as a desired place to be, a leader in e-learning and supporter of future-ready skills.
“This will be an exemplary program, not just here at Brock, but across the province.”
The Environmental Sustainability Research Centre (ESRC), one of Brock’s five transdisciplinary hubs, also has plans to share its grant-funded work once its new Environmental Sustainability in Practice course is created.
The course, set to launch in September, will be available to students in various undergraduate programs looking to take a minor in Environmental Sustainability.
Once the modules are completed, they will be made available to institutions across the province for incorporation into various undergraduate programs.
“This is a chance to create something that is special to Brock,” said ESRC Director and Professor Ryan Plummer.
“The fact that our proposal was successful is a real nod to what we have in terms of talent and expertise here at Brock. We’re creating materials that can be used throughout Ontario.”
The project shows the University is “making it a priority to respond to learners of the 21st century and rethinking how we do some things in terms of our innovative pedagogy,” Plummer said.
“This is allowing us to realize some of the dreams that we have of how we ideally want to engage learners. It allows us to push the boundaries of what we can actually do online.”
The funding will allow for content development using multimedia professionals, advanced audio and video techniques.
“The University is absolutely delighted to see these successful eCampus Ontario grant proposals in online course module, program development and research and innovation categories,” said Vice-Provost Anna Lathrop.
These projects, she said, will add to Brock University’s reputation as an institution that prioritizes 21st century learning in forums that integrate technological fluencies and personalized learning.
Brock University offers 72 online courses across all Faculties, including 27 within Adult Education.
While Adult Education was once the University’s only fully online undergraduate program, that recently changed with the introduction of the Masters of Public Health program.
Brock has previously succeeded in obtaining eCampus Ontario funding for development of online courses in human geography, diversities in actor training and history.
The non-profit collaborative centre of excellence in technology-enabled learning acts as administrator for a web portal that houses more than 13,000 online courses from post-secondary institutions across the province.