Thanks to a historic $50 million investment by the Ontario Ministry of Colleges and Universities to drive growth and advancement in virtual learning across Ontario’s post-secondary institutions, George Brown College has received funding from eCampusOntario’s Virtual Learning Strategy for various projects including the development of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) faculty training modules.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light the need for enhanced virtual learning supports that help foster high-quality learning. At George Brown, work is already underway in alignment with this area of need and our Strategy 2022 commitment to new ways of teaching, learning and service delivery.
UDL is a curriculum design framework that reduces barriers to access and engagement, and greatly improves students’ online learning experience. George Brown is partnering with Fleming College, Northern College, Centennial College and OCAD University to develop these modules for use by faculty across Ontario. These training modules will be adapted from George Brown’s UDL Certificate, a semester-long training program for educators and employees from across departments. Work began in April and will continue through to February 2022.
UDL LEADERSHIP AT GEORGE BROWN
“George Brown, with a history of prioritizing access, has led innovative initiatives in UDL for many years to widen access and inclusion in service of our learners,” says Ravinder Brar, UDL Integration Lead. “The college is increasingly being recognized as a leader in UDL, both provincially and nationally. This funded opportunity will further enhance that reputation and visibility.”
The college’s UDL Certificate is a collaborative design by the Teaching and Learning Exchange (TLX), Office of Academic Excellence, Student Success, Centre for Preparatory Liberal Studies and eLearning and Teaching Innovation. To date, over 250 participants at George Brown have completed the UDL certificate. Once completed, participants (“UDL Champions”) engage in an ongoing community of UDL practice, continued reflections, sharing learning and developing new resources.
BENEFITS FOR PARTICIPANTS
Ontario e-Learning staff, accessibility consultants, instructional designers, counsellors, librarians and professors who participate in the adapted version of this training will deepen their understanding of accessible, inclusive content, as well as meaningful learner engagement and effective assessments. They’ll get comprehensive guidelines for all aspects of high-quality virtual course design, from content presentation and navigation to accessibility. Post-secondary partners will provide input on the course development, ensuring wide applicability.
“This training will be the perfect vehicle to advance quality in online post-secondary teaching across the province,” Brar says. “We want to create a provincial UDL network with George Brown leading it.”
The college’s UDL Certificate and efforts to increase access and inclusion were highlighted by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario. Brar commented:
“In a large institution, working collaboratively across departments to address barriers to access and inclusion is critical. Our virtual learning spaces have afforded us new opportunities to raise the bar on knowledge and expertise, advancing our skills in designing new ways of teaching and learning. The goal is to support the development of expert learners’, enabling all George Brown students to reach their full potential.”