A&S launches Online Learning Academy

April 6, 2020 by A&S News

The Faculty of Arts & Science has several faculty members acclaimed for their use of technology in their teaching. In response to our rapidly changing environment, the Faculty is launching the A&S Online Learning Academy to bring those professors and instructors together to share their expertise in providing outstanding online learning opportunities for our students.

“We want to ensure students have access to high-calibre courses, regardless of the sustained impact of COVID-19,” says Melanie Woodin, dean of the Faculty of Arts & Science. “Arts & Science students, wherever they are in the world, can continue their education remotely this summer by registering for a wide-variety of online courses. Our Academy will support the professors and instructors of those courses in using cutting-edge teaching tools to support both student learning and the student experience.”  

The Academy is led by Don Boyes, an award-winning professor from the University of Toronto’s Department of Geography & Planning who is passionate about the role of technology in teaching and how it can be leveraged to transform the learning experience for students.

“We’re so fortunate to have Professor Boyes — a well-respected, early adopter of online teaching — lead this Academy. His enthusiasm, leadership and expertise are exactly what is needed to drive this vision forward,” says Woodin.

Boyes already teaches a number of courses using face-to-face, online and hybrid modes. He also teaches four online courses to thousands of students on Coursera, which collaborates with more than 190 world-class universities and companies to offer online courses, certificates and degrees. 

In addition, he reaches students province-wide through eCampusOntario, a not-for-profit corporation funded by the Government of Ontario to make online and technology-enabled learning available to publicly funded colleges and universities.

Headshot of Don Boyes
The A&S Online Learning Academy is led by the Department of Geography & Planning's Don Boyes, an award-winning professor passionate about the role of technology in teaching.

“I’m excited to lead the Academy,” says Boyes. “Even without the changes made necessary by the pandemic, this is a chance to explore innovative teaching tools and methods that can create better learning opportunities for students.”

Boyes is building a team of professors and instructors from across the Faculty who have deep experience in online teaching to advise their peers on how best to develop and deliver high-quality, online education. Through one-on-one and group webinar sessions, the Academy team will provide peer-to-peer coaching and mentoring and demonstrate online teaching methods. They’ll share technical advice, best practices and resources toward creating a seamless online learning experience for all Arts & Science students. The Academy will be a sounding board for everyone who teaches to discuss real-life scenarios on the use of various tools and resources.

“When I started teaching online eight years ago, I quickly realized online learning is not just about software or quiz tools; it’s about course design and taking advantage of the things that online does well,” he says. “It’s not just about convenience, but also about improving equity and accessibility.”

Under his leadership, the Academy will leverage existing resources within the Faculty and across the University, such as the Centre for Teaching Support and Innovation, and create new resources altogether where needed. Students themselves will be important stakeholders in the Academy’s success.

“I want to have a robust regular flow of communication in all directions so we can share what we know and help instructors improve their courses, but also get feedback from students about what’s working and what needs to be improved,” says Boyes. 

Woodin says there are already several successful examples of A&S courses with online components and she is confident the Academy will reach its goal of enhancing both student learning and the student experience. 

“The Faculty is committed to providing a balanced education with online offerings that complement their in-class experience. Under Professor Boyes’ leadership, the Academy will be supported by an exceptional team of professors who have won teaching awards, demonstrated excellence in online teaching, and can help coach, mentor and advise all who engage with students as we implement our new strategy for developing online excellence.”