COVID-19 as catalyst for increased collaboration and innovation in Canadian universities

Given the projected pace of recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, it now seems almost certain that university programs in Canada will be offered almost entirely by remote means of instruction during the fall semester of the coming academic year, at minimum.

With start-up financial support from the McConnell Foundation, several leading Canadian universities have formed a consortium to collaborate in the rapid curation, development and deployment of digital resource materials to support common high-priority first-year university courses. 

Chad Lubelsky, Program Director at the McConnell Foundation, welcomed the opportunity “The consortium project is an excellent fit for us,” he said. “ It is learning-centred, highly collaborative, innovative, and offers the prospect of long-term benefits for Canada’s universities.”

The urgent switch to remote teaching and learning that occurred during the recent winter and spring terms has demonstrated a pressing need for improved digital materials within these high-priority first-year courses. The areas of study identified by the consortium for this project have a high degree of common content, are offered to a large number of students, and serve as entry points for a variety of programs and areas of study. Working with their faculty experts and educational developers, participating institutions plan to create the widest possible selection of discrete, shareable, open resources to be made available to faculty members. 

“When I heard about the consortium, I was already thinking of contacting other faculties of engineering across Canada to work on creating new resources to support our students, and I immediately realized that a national consortium would provide a great opportunity to build on that work,” said Professor Jason Carey, associate dean for programs in the engineering faculty of the University of Alberta. 

By pooling their intellectual and technical strengths, the consortium universities plan to avoid the duplication of efforts and reduce the workload normally associated with the development of new digital materials, in order to make the maximum number of materials available for student use by September.

Universities currently associated with the project include the University of Windsor, York University, the University of Ottawa, Carleton University, Concordia University of Edmonton, the University of Alberta, the University of Manitoba, the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University, and Cape Breton University. Discussions are in progress with other interested institutions in several provinces, and with individuals who have volunteered to lend their expertise to the project. The four Maple League universities (Acadia University, Bishop’s University, Mount Allison University and St. Francis Xavier University), have also agreed to support the project by sharing curated high-quality digital materials designed for students in smaller universities with a liberal arts focus.

To find out more or get involved, please contact the project coordinator, David Graham at