Published on: 1/24/2014 10:38:51 AM Print | Font Sizes:  Normal Text Large Text

Teaching to be tailored to student learning

Northern College
Northern College

Classroom time at Northern College will become more tailored to individual student learning with the advent of Universal Instructional Design (UID).

Northern College got $500,000 from the provincial government to enhance programming at the school. Part of that money will be used to train faculty in UID.

The funding comes from the Productivity and Innovation Fund (PIF), which was established to support innovation, enable inter-institutional collaboration and differentiation, and improve the quality of learning outcomes while increasing the affordability of post-secondary education in Ontario.

Traditionally, explained Northern College president Fred Gibbons, teachers have used a universal teaching methodology in the classroom, irrespective of the program being taught. But UID trains teachers to adapt to students’ different learning styles.

“UID teaches teachers to understand how you learn, how I learn and to embed in some of their teaching things that will reach you and will reach me differently,” Gibbons said. “So it’s more work on the teacher’s part, but the outcome, if it’s measured in terms of students’ success—and to me there’s no other measurable—it’s more effective.”

The methodology wasn’t created by Northern College, and it’s been available for more than a decade.

The school has “dabbled” in the concept in the past, Gibbons said, but with funding available, Northern wanted to ensure all faculty had access to the training. Over the next year, full- and part-time teachers at all campuses will be trained in the concept.

Part of the requirements of the PIF funding is that proponents share project results with other schools in the Ontario college system, Gibbons said. So, once Northern is familiar with the UID concept, it can be shared with other schools.

“One of the government’s quid pro quo in funding any of the PIFs with colleges and universities, is we’re to develop a model that has applicability and transferability anywhere and you make it available to those who ask for it,” he said.

The rest of the funding will go towards four online pre-health science courses, which are currently unavailable online. Once the courses are available, students in remote and rural areas throughout Ontario will be able to obtain a pre-health science certificate entirely online.

Another funding application has been submitted on behalf of the six northern colleges in a collaborative effort to find ways to cut costs while increasing accessibility to programming.

Students taking business administration, for example, can study for two years and go into the workforce, or they can take a third year of programming. Because most students opt to go right into the workforce, there often aren’t enough to host a third year of the program. If each of the colleges shoulder some of the teaching responsibility, there would be more opportunities to run the third year.

“If we can find a way to collaborate amongst the six colleges where we’re sharing a third-year cohort, and we’re doing a bit of teaching and some of the other colleges are doing a bit of teaching, averaging costs amongst ourselves, then you have more viable set of economics for those programs to run at all of our colleges and not deprive the students who want to take that third year,” Gibbons said.

The programs could be delivered using technology like videoconferencing and online courses, he added.

“We share this unique problem, so how do we fix this problem with other colleges in Ontario,” he said.

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