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26.06.2020 - 3 min. Read

Boosting digital teaching skills, one cohort at a time

Looking for strategies to boost remote teaching before the Fall semester starts? One of eCampusOntario’s signature programs could be coming to an institution near you.

Ontario Extend is a free, open-source professional learning program that helps education professionals build a foundation in online and technology-enabled learning. Six badges are available for completion, and participants build skills such as collaboration, design thinking, digital literacy, curation of open educational resources (OER) and more.

Following a content refresh in April of this year, eCampusOntario is making the program available as a cohort model to Ontario higher education professionals. This will allow it to be deployed more widely, at a time when digital teaching skills are in high demand. Starting in June, four Ontario institutions (Conestoga College, Fanshawe College, Durham College and Nipissing University) will deliver the program’s Technologist module to interested educators at these campuses. Participants will complete the content individually before gathering digitally in a series of sessions to discuss, reflect and connect with colleagues. Each institution will have a designated facilitator to guide these discussions.

The Technologist module uses a design-thinking framework to help educators solve specific learning challenges with technology, making it especially helpful as staff and faculty look towards a Fall semester delivered remotely.

Alissa Bigelow, an Instructional Design Technologist at Georgian College facilitated an Extend cohort of her own, soon after the college moved its operations online due to COVID-19.

“After the transition to remote teaching, we were hearing from faculty that when they were off-campus they missed their colleagues, they missed the ‘water cooler’ aspect,” says Alissa. “I was looking for something for them to engage with and thought this was a great opportunity to have people engage with the module content and then gather together to reflect and build a community of practice.”

Over 17 participants took part in the Georgian College cohort, completing the module content individually and gathering virtually to reflect on the learning material. Participants shared their challenges and successes, and even volunteered to mentor each other outside the group to experiment with certain tools or concepts.

For Alissa, the Technologist module was a natural choice. “I thought it was a great and timely option for our faculty, given the move to online,” she says. By the end, participants were exploring teaching tools such as virtual whiteboards, video editing software, new communication channels and more. 

“It works out nicely because it gives people the space to do the work on their own and think about their own specific situations, but when they come into the group, they can learn from each other and really build that camaraderie.”

Interested in facilitating or participating in an Ontario Extend cohort at your institution? Contact Lindsay Woodside, Digital Learning Associate.