eLearning at Brock

Learners are increasingly identifying with a networked, connected society that privileges interactivity as a learning strategy and acknowledges new media literacies as indigenous modes of expression.  Traditional pedagogical principles are still valued, but this new context offers unique opportunities to consider new approaches.

A large segment of Brock University's growing student population can undoubtedly be identified as digital sophisticates, for whom self-expression, communication, and socializing in a wired, connected environment is unexceptional. It follows that they come to post-secondary education with the assumption that they will be able to frame their experiences, educational and otherwise, in digital contexts and through new media literacies that reflect the reality of their world. 

About this guide

This guide is designed to help you plan, design, develop, and teach technology-enhanced courses and programs. We have compiled recommendations and suggestions from our staff of educators and technology professionals as well as from faculty who have experienced the process. We have included guides that illustrate pedagogical design issues; tips on planning, developing, and writing course content; as well as planning and facilitating online interaction. We have also included a description of various technologies to assist you in the process.

We have designed this guide to provide an overview of the entire process, from planning to implementation. If you have any questions or concerns, or would like to discuss your unique course dynamics, feel free to call or email us at any time, at edtech@brocku.ca or (905) 688-5550 ext 4734.

Material in this guide has been adapted with permission from Faculty Guide to Teaching and Learning with Technology. ET@MO, University of Missouri. Additionally, a number of videos and learning objects originally created for Carleton University's cuOpen initiative have been included.

Supplementary and/or Brock University focused content has been added by Kyle Mackie Consulting Ltd and the Centre for Pedagogical Innovation. Links to the source files for any Creative Commons material are included at the end of this guide.

Related websites

Brock University's eLearning Initiative

The Centre for Pedagogical Innovation

Isaak: Brock University's Learning Management System


Benefits and Challenges of eLearning

Technology offers solutions to a diverse set of instructional challenges, and instructors choose to augment courses with instructional technologies for a number of reasons. Some examples include: large lecture courses managing hundreds of students or dozens of sections, introductory courses providing access to significant amounts of basic materials throughout the semester, courses that shift in-class quizzes to an online format allowing for more class discussion time, or courses and programs using the Internet to reach a nonresident, national, or international audience. The following videos discuss how teaching online positively impacts both the teaching and learning experience and what challenges to expect.

Benefits and Challenges of Online Teaching

This video discusses the potential benefits of online teaching and presents strategies to address common challenges.

Featuring: Laurie Harrison (University of Toronto), Peter Thompson (Carleton University), Richard Nimijean (Carleton University), Denise Mohan (University of Guelph), Dan Boyes (University of Toronto), Karen Fricker (Brock University), Zopito A. Marini (Brock University), Franco Taverna (University of Toronto), Alison Gibbs (University of Toronto), James M. Skidmore (University of Waterloo).

cuOpen cc licensed (BY NC SA)

Benefits and Challenges of Online Learning

This video discusses the benefits experienced by students in online learning environments and some common challenges they may face.

Featuring: Maureen Connolly (Brock University), MJ D'Elia (University of Guelph), Kevin Cheung (Carleton University), Laurie Harrison (University of Toronto), Patrick Lyons (Carleton University), Boris Vukovic (Carleton University), Bob Burk (Carleton University), Franco Taverna (University of Toronto), Denise Mohan (University of Guelph), Richard Nimijean (Carleton University).

cuOpen cc licensed (BY NC SA)

Instructors want to better manage time and resources, provide engaging learning opportunities to students outside of class, and/or want to offer a course to a nontraditional or off-campus audience. Although there are many themes and recommendations in common, you will find specific strategies through this guide to prepare for a variety of challenges that each unique set of circumstances may present.

Logistics and management

Instructors use technology to better manage non-content related factors. Learning Management Systems (LMS) such as Isaak/Sakai offer an online grade book, which frees up class time to focus on content and discussion rather than test results. Multi-section courses can use a LMS to easily distribute a common set of practice exercises, study guides, and practice quizzes allowing for consistency in curriculum and student outcomes, in addition to better allocation of limited resource.

Practice, practice, practice

Introductory courses are full of basic facts and concepts that serve as a foundation for subsequent courses in that discipline. Instructors from a variety of disciplines have shifted some of that material online through traditional lecture notes, handouts, practice quizzes, etc. Students learn the basics online through these guided exercises, simulations, or tutorials, allowing for in-class time to focus on discussion and processing of concepts.

From Brock University to the world

As Internet access has become common in homes and businesses across the world, the reach of institutions of higher learning has increased far beyond what bricks and mortar have afforded. Many departments at Brock University provide course offerings that are substantially or partially conducted in the online environment, allowing for broader student access and engagement through the use of online lessons, interactive and collaborative assignments, and online discussions among communities of learners.

Overcoming the Challenges of Online Teaching and Learning

This video discusses common challenges in online teaching and learning and strategies for overcoming these challenges.

Featuring: Franco Taverna (University of Toronto), Laurie Harrison (University of Toronto), Andrew Barrett (Carleton University), Maureen Connolly (Brock University), James M. Skidmore (University of Waterloo), Richard Nimijean (Carleton University), MJ D'Elia (University of Guelph), Don Boyes (University of Toronto).

cuOpen cc licensed (BY NC SA) 

A Spectrum of Teaching and Learning with Technology

At a basic level, the spectrum of skills utilized in teaching and learning with technology can be illustrated by comparing instructional technologies used in a face-to-face classroom with those in an online environment. Historically, classroom courses have used technology to make classroom management easier and not necessarily to enhance teaching and learning (e.g., overhead transparencies are easier to use than a chalkboard but do not necessarily enhance the quality or effectiveness of the content being presented). As one might expect, the tips and tricks at this end of the technology spectrum are fairly basic. In comparison, Internet-based courses use technology instead of a classroom to reach students and subsequently, this other end of the spectrum has many tips, tricks, advantages, and possible pitfalls to be planned around (e.g., plan ahead, identify target audience attributes, facilitate online interaction and create an online learning community, use small group assignments effectively).

Over time, this simple differentiation has become less distinct. We have seen a blurring of the boundaries between time and distance, credit and noncredit, on-campus and off-campus course needs. As students and faculty come to campus with more sophisticated technology skills and expectations, courses have become increasingly technology-enhanced, allowing faculty to redefine the use of in-class time and re-calibrate student expectations of homework and assignments that take place outside of class time.

Traditional face-to-face courses are adopting innovative approaches and redefining the lecture hall course entirely. For example, a chemistry course might use multimedia 3D rendering technology to visually demonstrate chemical reactions by allowing students to manipulate atomic particles. Alternatively, a journalism course may employ a real-time chat while the instructor lectures. Both examples integrate highly innovative uses of technology into a familiar lecture hall format.

What does an eLearning course look like?

The following 15-minute presentation by Giulia Forsythe & Matt Clare from the Centre for Pedagogical Innovation (CPI) features some of the concepts, tools, and techniques Brock University instructors have worked with the CPI to integrate into their teaching.

More information and resources about eLearning at Brock University can be found on the Centre for Pedagogical Innovation's website.


Why does any of this matter?

The short answer is that sophisticated uses of instructional technology require planning, adopting new teaching strategies, rethinking and reevaluating assignments and interaction, and redefining what's done in and out of the classroom. Ideally, there would be a discrete set of rules, a sort of checklist, for teaching with technology, but unfortunately there are too many variables. The tools, tips, and recommendations in this guide should provide you with the necessary background to ask the right questions, formulate complete answers, and plan accordingly.