Ontario Supports Innovation in Virtual Learning

Published on May 17, 2021

Province provides postsecondary students with more flexibility and access to high-quality education and retraining opportunities


News Release

TORONTO – The Ontario government is transforming virtual learning by supporting nearly 400 innovative projects at colleges, universities and Indigenous Institutes. These projects are part of the province’s Virtual Learning Strategy and will provide students with more flexibility and access to high-quality postsecondary education and retraining opportunities.

“Ensuring that Ontario’s postsecondary institutions offer responsive and flexible digital courses and programs will help students build the skills and competencies they need to be competitive in today’s economy,” said Ross Romano, Minister of Colleges and Universities. “Our Virtual Learning Strategy is aimed at creating a platform that will allow all postsecondary institutions to compete in the new and necessary environment of learning from home. These projects will help ensure institutions and their faculty have the tools they need to create great curriculum online and that students can access education where and when they need it.”

Projects will support partnerships between colleges, universities and Indigenous Institutes in key priority areas that include creating or adapting digital content, equipping faculty and students with skills and resources to teach and learn online, identifying educational technologies to support online courses and programs, and targeting supports to address virtual programming at Indigenous Institutes.

Projects include:

  • A partnership between OCAD University and the University of Windsor’s Law Faculty to create a new online course in intellectual property (IP) literacy. The certificate will help students learn about IP strategy, copyright law, trademarks, industrial and graphic design law.
  • University of Waterloo, in partnership with the University of Ottawa and Western University, will create simulated reality experiments in their organic chemistry labs to introduce students to standard equipment, procedures and experiments.
  • Durham College, in collaboration with Georgian College, Humber College and Sault College, will create a four-course, competency-based micro-credential to help small business entrepreneurs and their employees learn how to manage sales activities, position products, support customer needs-based solutions, develop virtual relationships and network across the business community.

The province is investing more than $70 million to implement Ontario’s Virtual Learning Strategy, including $21.4 million announced in the 2021 Ontario Budget, Ontario’s Action Plan: Protecting People’s Health and Our Economy.

“These investments build on our Government’s plan to make Ontario’s postsecondary education system not only sustainable but competitive,” said Minister Romano. “These projects will help small and rural schools who previously had limited virtual learning infrastructure, compete on the world stage. In addition, the projects build on other investments made by our government to support the competitiveness of our postsecondary sector, such as the creation of virtual micro-credentials programs that will give students access to these programs when and where they want. The advantages of building ‘digital-by-design’ programming extends far beyond resolving the challenges of training that have been dictated by these current unprecedented times, but even more importantly, these projects will transform the future of learning at our institutions and further cement Ontario’s position as a global leader in postsecondary education.”

In December of last year, the province launched a Virtual Learning Strategy through Ontario Onwards: Ontario’s COVID-19 Action Plan for a People-Focused Government to improve access to high-quality postsecondary education and retraining opportunities that are market-responsive and globally competitive.

"As part of our Ontario Onwards Action Plan to deliver simpler and easier services for the people of Ontario, our government is building the postsecondary education system of the future,” said Peter Bethlenfalvy, President of the Treasury Board, Minister of Finance, and Minister Responsible for Digital and Data Transformation. “Through the innovative projects in our Virtual Learning Strategy, we are expanding access and choice to high-quality, responsive and dynamic education at colleges, universities and Indigenous Institutes in Ontario. We will continue to invest in our students as we prepare them for the competitive global economy of today, and the jobs of tomorrow.”


Quick Facts

  • Seventy per cent of all projects are a collaboration between two or more institutions.
  • Projects are expected to create 383 new resources, simulations, courses, and programs.
  • Up to 12% of the government’s funding will facilitate the creation of resources designed to support digital fluency for learners and educators.
  • $1 million will support institutional partnerships with Ontario educational technology companies to enable and accelerate the development and application of made-in-Ontario educational technologies and build Ontario’s global competitiveness in virtual learning.
  • eCampusOntario is a centre of excellence in online and technology-enabled learning whose membership includes 48 of Ontario’s publicly assisted postsecondary institutions.
  • Earlier this year, eCampusOntario issued a call for Expressions of Interest (EOIs) to develop virtual learning projects in support of the government’s Virtual Learning Strategy. eCampusOntario will oversee the projects on behalf of the Ontario government.
  • To help their member institutions develop high-quality virtual learning content, eCampusOntario has created the Central Virtual Learning Platform to connect skilled Ontario professionals, such as instructional designers, graphics professionals and game developers, with institutions that require support.
  • Through the Indigenous Institutes Virtual Learning Grant, Ontario has also allocated $2.5 million in dedicated funding to support the unique needs and virtual learning priorities at Indigenous Institutes in Ontario. Funding will help Indigenous Institutes hire virtual learning specialists and instructional designers, increase their web presence, conduct training sessions on virtual programming, and more.
  • Ontario’s Virtual Learning Strategy is supporting the creation of more micro-credentials – short duration learning opportunities that can help people retrain and upgrade their skills to find new employment and can often be completed online.
  • Ontario is also providing one‐time funding of $2 million in 2021–22 for the development of a virtual skills passport that tracks learners’ credentials to set the foundation for lifelong learning, and allows them to share credentials digitally with prospective employers.

Quotes

"The investment in the Virtual Learning Strategy is boosting opportunities for Ontario’s learners and educators to benefit from ways of learning that are digital by design: purposefully designed for today’s learner. Together we are working to prepare all learners at any stage of their careers to meet the needs of our rapidly evolving labour market. The Virtual Learning Strategy is also providing a tremendous boost to our growing education technology sector here in Ontario, furthering our reputation globally as a leader and testbed for virtual innovation in teaching and learning."

- Dr. Robert Luke
CEO, eCampusOntario

"With the development of two new micro-credentials focused in ‘Indigenous e-learning assessment strategies’ and ‘Hyflex design in Indigenous teaching and learning’, the Indigenous Institutes will be positioned as leaders in Ontario for virtual learning and new Indigenous-focused micro-credentials."

- Rebecca Jamieson
Interim Chair, Indigenous Institutes Consortium and President/CEO, Six Nations Polytechnic

"Ontario’s college programs are at the forefront of innovation. The expansion of virtual learning in our colleges strengthens our ability to equip students with the expertise to find rewarding careers in a new age of rapidly advancing technology and artificial intelligence (AI). This will be pivotal to Ontario’s efforts to promote economic recovery."

- Linda Franklin
President and CEO, Colleges Ontario

"Ontario’s universities recognize the important role virtual learning plays in developing and supporting a highly skilled, adaptable, resilient workforce of life-long learners. The projects and partnerships announced today will help traditional and non-traditional learners, acquire the skills needed to thrive in the new economy, while enhancing our sector’s capacity to deliver quality, accessible online learning. Ontario’s universities remain committed to delivering the virtual learning programs that will continue to meet the needs of a rapidly changing labour market and help drive Ontario’s economic recovery."

- Steve Orsini
President and CEO, Council of Ontario Universities


Additional Resources