Ontario Expanding High-Quality, Accessible Virtual LearningPublished on October 28, 2021
TORONTO — The Ontario government is investing $10.7 million to provide more flexible postsecondary education options for learners. This funding will help expand the suite of high-quality, market-responsive virtual learning programs and resources across the province through the launch of a second call for proposals in early November with support from eCampusOntario.
“Ontario’s Virtual Learning Strategy has furthered Ontario’s position as a global leader in postsecondary education,” said Jill Dunlop, Minister of Colleges and Universities. “By continuing to promote innovation in the development of educational technology and virtual learning offerings, we are giving learners the flexible access to training they need to enter the workforce and obtain good jobs, regardless of their location.”
This initiative builds on the nearly 400 projects Ontario funded earlier this year that are already in development, including:
- A collaboration of 17 postsecondary education institutions to build mental health literacy for Ontario colleges and universities.
- Virtual Reality Asynchronous Learning Experience led by Six Nations Polytechnic, a project to develop and deliver a Virtual Reality resource facilitating intergenerational transfer of Indigenous knowledge and languages, while strengthening Indigenous technological capacity and parity of Indigenous educational outcomes in technology fields.
- Canadore College Digital Capacity Initiative that focuses on designing, developing, and delivering high-quality learning material, tools and support to achieve excellence in virtual teaching and learning.
- A project by the University of Ottawa to develop a suite of online open education resources that will serve to enhance equity, diversity, and inclusion within course content, providing clear guidance to instructors on best practices to ensure inclusive teaching.
“eCampusOntario is pleased to support Ontario’s Virtual Learning Strategy and to work with our partners at Contact North and Indigenous institutes, colleges and universities to advance opportunities for learners across the province,” said Dr. Robert Luke, CEO, eCampusOntario. “This investment in people, institutional capacity, content and technologies supports enhanced learner experiences and career preparation while ensuring that Ontario postsecondary education can embrace the virtual learning future and maintain global leadership.”
Further, Ontario is helping support learners in underserved communities by:
- Creating laptop and internet loaner programs through Contact North | Contact Nord to support students who do not have access to these resources at home.
- Enhancing infrastructure at Contact North | Contact Nord online learning centres to make it easier for students and postsecondary institutions to access their services.
“The Virtual Learning Strategy is delivering critical investments that position Ontario as global leader in providing local access to post-secondary education and training to residents in rural and remote parts of the province,” said Maxim Jean-Lois, President-Chief Executive Officer, Contact North I Contact Nord. “Today’s announcement by Minister Dunlop of a laptop/Internet loaner program and enhancements to our online learning centres across Ontario helps learners get the skills they need to get a job without leaving their community.”
Virtual learning can improve access to education and training opportunities through flexible learning, giving all learners a fair chance to acquire the skills they need to compete in the labour market. This investment will support the expansion of educational resources created by Ontario’s postsecondary sector and provide tools and technologies for learners in Ontario’s small, rural, remote, Indigenous and Francophone communities to access virtual learning.
COVID-19 has moved virtual learning from an emerging mode of instruction that enables access and flexibility to an essential service. In December 2020, 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. 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.
- eCampusOntario is a centre of excellence in online and technology-enabled learning that is governed by Ontario’s publicly-assisted postsecondary institutions.
- Contact North | Nord is a community-based bilingual distance education and training network that expands access to distance education courses, programs and training for Ontarians in underserved, small, rural, remote, Indigenous and Francophone communities.
- On May, 17, 2021, Ontario announced that it is investing in nearly 400 virtual learning projects.