Grant funding to support virtual learning opportunities

Brock’s ongoing commitment to virtual learning opportunities has resulted in the University receiving more than $500,000 in grant funding.

The one-time Virtual Learning Strategy funding, which comes from the Ontario Ministry of Colleges and Universities via eCampusOntario, is being distributed to eight projects at Brock that explore collaborative and learner-driven online content and digital supports.

With projects including an initiative that explores virtual reality for business ethics and another that delivers accessible virtual English language lessons, Brock’s Associate Vice-Provost, Teaching and Learning Madelyn Law said the funds will drive new ideas.

“These grants are really important in supporting faculty and students as they continue to explore innovative pedagogy and open access resources for teaching and learning,” she said. “Brock is committed to putting our students first, and virtual options that make classes more accessible and affordable do just that.”

Assistant Professor of Child and Youth Studies Chelsea Jones is leading one of the projects that will receive Virtual Learning Strategy funding.

In accordance with the strategy’s goal to expand the possibilities of traditional and lifelong learning through the accelerated use of both online and blended learning, one of the initiatives to receive funding was Digital World-making in Troubled Times, led by Assistant Professor of Child and Youth Studies Chelsea Jones.

The project aims to support, disabled, Indigenous, and trans and gender non-conforming storytellers in developing online learning modules for post-secondary institutions across the province that challenge traditional ideas of inclusion.

Jones said the funding will allow her to work collaboratively with partners at Humber College, York University, the University of Guelph and Brock’s Social Justice Research Institute to develop the new resources.

“These groups we are supporting have been involved in online learning and activism for a long time, but have traditionally been excluded from academic spaces,” she said. “The grant funding aims to enhance recognition of their non-normative, decolonial online teaching and learning.”

With the long-standing online presence of the groups Jones is working with, the funds for her project will be used to ensure equity within the project.

“The funding will allow the project to be as accessible as possible,” she said. “Because we are a disability-led critical digital pedagogy project, accessibility can’t be an afterthought. Every part of the modules must be accessible to anyone who participates from the beginning.”

Another project that received funding was the development of an online program that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to expand students’ writing skills in simulated workplace environments.

The project, which is led by Assistant Professor of Communication, Popular Culture and Film Duncan Koerber in partnership with education technology company Ametros Learning, allows students to gain experience completing written materials in a simulated workplace that relates to their studies and evaluates their writing. With AI completing the evaluation, an unlimited number of students can complete the training without putting additional strain on course instructors.

Assistant Professor of Communication, Popular Culture and Film Duncan Koerber is leading one of the projects that will receive Virtual Learning Strategy funding.

Koerber said the program will allow students in all programs from anywhere in the world to gain the experience they need to move forward with their careers.

“It gives a chance for any student that has access to the internet to get a taste of the working world,” said Koerber. “There are limited internships available and less time in some courses to learn professional writing, but the AI injects writing training into any course and gives everyone an equal opportunity to gain the skills they need.”

Law said projects like the one Jones and Koerber are leading will further strengthen the University’s partnerships and reputation, both locally and around the world.

“To be a world leader, we also need to be a virtual leader,” she said. “When we commit to developing resources that are accessible and collaborative, we open ourselves and our partners up to teaching and learning in ways we might never have imagined before.”

In addition to the funded projects led by Brock faculty and staff, the University is also collaborating on external projects led by other post-secondary institutions that have received nearly $2 million in funding.

Lynn Wells, Brock’s Provost and Vice-President, Academic, said the funding for all projects is a welcome boost that supports instructors and their pedagogy.

“As a legacy of the pandemic, it has become clear there is a need for high-quality open access resources to support online courses at the post-secondary level,” she said. “As a result, I am thankful to eCampusOntario and to the provincial government for making available these funds, which will drive innovation in teaching and learning, and to our outstanding faculty members for their willingness to think outside the box in these challenging times.”

Niagara West Member of Provincial Parliament Sam Oosterhoff was also pleased to hear Brock had received the funds.

“The Government of Ontario recognizes how important it is for students to be able to access quality e-learning,” he said. “The funding for these kinds of innovative projects will help students access the education they are pursuing in an easy and beneficial manner.”

Brock’s Virtual Learning Strategy projects include:

  • Professional Writing AI Peer-Editing Online Virtual Learning Module — Duncan Koerber, Assistant Professor, Communication, Popular Culture and Film
  • Building Sustainable Communities: Stakeholder Engagement in the 21st Century — Ryan Plummer, Director, Environmental Sustainability Research Centre
  • VR for Business Ethics — Robert Steinbauer, Associate Professor, Business Ethics
  • Safe Sport: Current Issues and Practices — Julie Stevens, Associate Professor, Sport Management
  • Using Data and Evidence to Drive Change in the Health Sector — Madelyn Law, Associate Professor, Health Sciences
  • Stretching our Stories: Digital World-Making in Troubled Times — Chelsea Jones, Assistant Professor, Child and Youth Studies
  • Summer English Language Program: HyFlex — Geoffrey Eden, Associate Director, ESL Services
  • Implicit Bias Training for the Applied Health Sciences: The Development of a Short-Duration Learning Opportunity — Joe Norris, Professor, Drama in Education and Applied Theatre, and Valerie Michaelson, Assistant Professor, Health Sciences

Brock is also collaborating on the following projects led by other post-secondary institutions:

  • AODA/UDL — Led by University of Windsor/Mohawk College
  • Humanizing Learning — Led by Ontario College of Art and Design University
  • Extend for Learners: Creating Liberated Learners — Led by Trent University
  • Alternative Online Assessment — Led by McMaster University
  • Public Domain Texts — Led by Ryerson University
  • Global EdD in Remote Pedagogy and Stewardship, Led by University of Windsor
  • Islam and Muslim Civilizations Online, Led by University of Toronto
  • Knowledge Management and Communication: An Ontario research collaboration, Led by Trent University
  • Customizable Simulation Template, Led by Ryerson University
  • CanadARThistories, Led by Queen’s University
  • TEd-ViV (Teacher Education Video Vignettes), Led by Ontario Tech University
  • Supporting End of Life Care, Led by Conestoga College

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