03.09.2020 - 4 min. Read

Message from our Interim Co-Executive Directors

By Lena Patterson and Jamee Robinson
Interim Co-Executive Directors,

Welcome, all, to the Fall 2020 semester. It promises to be a term like no other, one that will live deep in our memories for years to come. COVID-19 has disrupted the routine operations of our entire economy. The challenges are not only vast but wickedly unpredictable.

Throughout these past six months, Ontario colleges and universities have responded with compassion and presence of mind during challenging times. The massive early effort undertaken by the sector to transition to remote delivery is a testament to the individual ingenuity and collective intelligence that live in our system. There are many challenges to come, but we move forward with confidence in our ability to adapt and create rich learning experiences for our students, whatever the circumstances.

During this time, eCampusOntario has focused on supporting teaching and learning centres, faculty and students across the Ontario postsecondary community as they transform from the spring pivot through preparations for fall 2020.

We look forward to welcoming Robert Luke, Ph.D., our new CEO, on September 14, 2020. When he takes the helm, we will kick off a new strategic planning process for eCampusOntario, which we hope you will help us shape. Read more about Robert’s exciting announcement here.

In the meantime, as your Interim Co-Executive Directors, we want to take this opportunity to tell you about our approach to supporting the sector for the coming academic term and throughout the leadership transition at eCampusOntario.

Supporting the spring pivot to virtual learning
On March 18, the day after Premier Doug Ford declared a state of emergency in response to the pandemic, eCampusOntario launched a dedicated webpage to support remote teaching and learning. This page, which has been visited over 10,000 times since its launch, was the beginning of a series of rapid response initiatives to support Ontario colleges and universities in the transition to virtual learning. This rapid response is core to our mission of providing the Ontario higher education sector with both agile support for continuity of operations, and space to continue to innovate and grow.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to shift postsecondary education business models, it is imperative that every Ontario college and university be well-positioned to deliver high-quality online learning relevant to learner needs.

Our continued efforts will focus on five pillars:

Student experience
eCampusOntario leads a learner-first agenda to guide decision making for high-quality online learning, including Ontario-wide campus supports to promote the social aspects of learning so essential to student success. To do this, we engage student designers to shape the future of wraparound campus supports for online students. See: Student Experience Design Lab.

Shared digital content
eCampusOntario provides critical infrastructure to enable the collaborative design and development of high-quality digital content. We continue to grow our collaborative network and capacity for high-quality digital content that is shared between institutions to help faculty and institutions manage the pivot. The eCampusOntario Open Library has seen a 467% increase in page views between April 1 and June 30 2020 compared with the same period in 2019. See: Open Library.

Innovation in pedagogy and the use of educational technology
eCampusOntario supports experimentation with and adoption of proven tools and instructional methods for quality online learning. We are focused on increasing experimentation and adoption of leading educational technology and instructional methods for high quality online learning experiences through innovation testbeds and bulk purchasing. See: Educational Technology Sandbox, Shared Services and Pressbooks Growth Plan.

Micro-certification: Digital recognition of skills and competencies
eCampusOntario increases the receptor capacity of Ontario PSE to collaborate across education and workforce stakeholders and build networks to retrain workers displaced by COVID-19. We are expanding the reach of micro-certification pilots and our province-wide platform to enable labour market readiness, supporting an end-to-end educational journey for learners. See: Micro-certification.

Digital fluency
eCampusOntario delivers scalable training to deepen digital skills and provide educators with the tools they need to succeed in a digital workforce. We continue to provide digital fluency training for educators to ensure Ontarians have the skills and competencies they need to thrive. In 2020, the Ontario Extend program has seen a 300% increase in participation between April 1 and June 30 compared with the same period in 2019. See: Ontario Extend educator training program.

In fall 2020, eCampusOntario will engage stakeholders in a series of sprints that will inform future strategic direction as we work collectively to build on our strengths and address the adaptive challenges of COVID-19. We hope you will join us in that process.

Until then, stay safe and take care of each other.