Edubytes: Emerging trends in higher education
Welcome to the June 2019 edition of the Edubytes newsletter. Edubytes features articles that focus on emerging trends and innovations in teaching and learning in higher education. This month, our guest editors, Chris Crowley and Afsaneh Sharif, will be exploring online learning.

Afsaneh is a Faculty Liaison and Senior Project Manager at the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology (CTLT) and has twenty years of experience in open, online and technology-enhanced course and program development. She has been listed as one of the top 90 Canadian researchers in online, blended and distance education and has taught an online course called “Designing and Teaching Online Courses” internationally for many years.

As Manager, Learning Design at the CTLT, Chris has enjoyed working in various aspects of distance education and online learning, including instructional design and media production. He has produced several award-winning collaborative multimedia projects that involve the creation of open online learning resources for universities and colleges across BC.

The following articles cover a variety of topics, including insights into how to develop digital literacy and the drawbacks of digital-only learning materials. Learn about the impact that online learning has had on post-secondary students through the Online College Students 2018 report and research conducted by the Canadian Digital Learning Research Association, detailed below.

If you have any suggestions on higher education trends you would like to read more about in future editions of Edubytes, feel free to contact us at We would love to hear your thoughts.

Online and Blended Learning: A Catalyst in Higher Education ReformsGuest editors: Chris Crowley and Afsaneh Sharif

Why come to campus? It’s a provocative question that Tony Bates asked in his keynote at the 2019 CNIE Conference at UBC Vancouver. Of course there are many reasons to come to campus, but in terms of teaching and learning, Bates suggests that they should be done digitally unless there are obvious benefits to having face-to-face sessions.

Fully online, blended, flipped and hybrid learning are modes of delivery that involve using digital platforms to support content delivery, assessment, collaboration, and interactivity, in addition to offering flexibility and accessibility to learners. Although there are some differences in how it is defined, for the purposes of this newsletter the term blended learning includes hybrid and flipped to describe a delivery mode that uses both online and face-to-face to try and optimize the affordances of each delivery mode. Online learning or online distance education is where all the content and interaction is online, i.e., there are no face-to-face classes and all communications are electronic.

The rise of online learning in Canadian universities and colleges is inevitable and UBC is not an exception. According to a 2018 national survey tracking the development of online and digital learning in Canadian post-secondary public education, an 80 per cent response rate found that more than two-thirds of all Canadian post-secondary institutions offer online courses for credit and one in five Canadian post-secondary students take at least one online course. In addition, most institutional administrations believe hybrid learning will be a significant teaching development in future years.  

Given the accelerating changes within the landscape of higher education, as well as the advancement and evolution of emerging communication/education technologies over recent years, online and blended learning can act as a catalyst in higher education reforms. Education is understood to be a central enabler of societal advancements, including addressing broad socioeconomic challenges, such as poverty, as well as students’ mental health and wellbeing. The unique affordances of online learning support more self-paced personalized programming, more inclusivity, and openness learning. In addition, it supports remote collaborations, just-in-time/real-world scenarios, community engagement, continuous assessment, blended and accessible lifelong learning. These affordances develop the skills which our learners need for the 21st century, connects them to their communities/future employers, and helps them to understand and respond to real-world challenges.

At the 2019 CNIE Conference, there was a unanimous call among the keynote speakers for a radical change in our online development approaches to meet the diverse needs of lifelong learners (read: everyone) in the 21st century. In the keynote and session presentations, several approaches to support lifelong learners were highlighted, including redesigning programs to focus more on skill development, i.e., recognizing skills and competencies rather than content knowledge and also creating an alternative, as well as just-in-time qualifications and credentials e.g. Stanford Online Credential. Other approaches strongly recommended for faculty teaching fully online courses included professional development and training that encourages them to look at new ideas in course delivery such as Containers, e.g., gRSShopper in a Box, explore new ways of content creation (e.g. Twitch and Open Broadcaster) and use of Content Addressable Resources for Education (CARE), such as Git and IPFS. Lastly, it is important to offer better career advancement for quality teaching within institutions, e.g., UBC Educational Leadership Stream Faculty.

Teaching in a Digital Age 

Tony Bates’ book examines the underlying principles that guide effective teaching in an age when all of us, particularly the students we are teaching, are using technology. The book enables teachers and instructors to help students develop the knowledge and skills they will need in a digital age: not so much the technical skills, but the thinking and attitudes to learning that will bring them success.

Read more

Digital Literacy: A Conceptual Framework for Survival Skills in the Digital Era

Digital literacy involves more than the mere ability to use software or operate a digital device; it includes a large variety of complex cognitive, motor, sociological, and emotional skills, which users need in order to function effectively in digital environments. Yoram Eshet’s journal article proposes a holistic, refined conceptual framework for digital literacy, which includes photo-visual, reproduction, branching, information, and socio-emotional literacy.

Read more

Online College Students 2018: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences

Online learning is providing a positive return on students’ investment, reports Online College Students 2018. Eighty-six per cent of online students believe the value of their degree equals or exceeds the cost they paid for it. For students who have experienced both in-person and virtual classrooms, 85 per cent feel that learning online is as good or better than attending courses on campus.

Read more

Canadian Digital Learning Research Association Report 2019: Canadian Universities and Colleges: Enthusiastic About Online Learning

The second annual survey of online learning was conducted in summer 2018 by the Canadian Digital Learning Research Association. Key findings include:

  • 82% of Canadian universities, colleges and CEGEPs now offer online courses and/or programs;

  • 78% of respondents view online learning outcomes as equivalent to face-to-face learning outcomes;

  • The reach of the 2018 survey represents 96% of the higher education student population in Canada.

Read more

June 2019 Edubytes Roundup

CNIE Keynotes

The 2019 CNIE Conference took place at UBC Vancouver from May 21 to 24. Recordings of the four keynote presentations are now available online. The keynote sessions focused on the conference theme of educational disruption and transformation, with each of the keynote presenters exploring this theme from alternative perspectives.

  • The Third Wave: the Next Generation of Distributed Learning Technology

    • In the opening keynote, Steven Downes discusses how what he describes as a “third wave” of distributed web technologies might challenge us to rethink how we design, assess and connect around educational resources and experiences.

  • Disrupting with Compassion and Empathy

    • Mary Burgess engages participants in an unconventional keynote format to encourage educational practitioners to adopt compassion and empathy as core values when engaging in educational transformation while also stressing the importance of creating space for individual wellbeing and diverse perspectives.

  • Combatting Partiality: Bridging Social, Cultural and Economic Divides Through Higher Learning

    • Neil Fassina, President of Athabasca University, presents a vision for universities to respond to educational disruption by providing flexible, community connected, lifelong learning experiences that serve the needs of all learners.

  • Change or Die: the Coming Crisis in Canadian Post-Secondary Education

    • In his closing keynote, Tony Bates argues that the world is changing faster than higher education, despite the efforts of isolated innovators. Bates presents a list of structural barriers to more holistic institutional change along with a series of strategies that might help institutions prepare for a coming crisis. He has also published a three-part series of blog posts which go deeper into the topics discussed in the keynote: Part 1 - External Developments, Part 2 - The Canadian Context, Part 3 - Some Strategies for Survival.

Read more

When Bringing Your Own Device Isn't Enough: Identifying What Digital Literacy Initiatives Really Need

Just because nearly all students own digital devices and are adept at using them in their personal and social lives doesn’t mean that they have the skills to use digital technologies academically and professionally. This EDUCAUSE review article challenges educators to expand digital literacy efforts to focus on digital fluency, making sure students develop the digital skills for problem-solving, analysis, communication, collaborative work, and ultimately, lifelong learning.

Read more

UBC Vancouver Senate Endorses Principles for Digital Learning Materials Used for Assessment

At their May 2019 meeting, the UBC Vancouver Senate endorsed principles related fees for access to digital learning materials used for assessment purposes, states Open UBC. When the use of digital materials can only be accessed uniquely by each specific student and are required for course marks, any associated fees become compulsory, and agency for how to access the course materials is removed. The new principles address the affordability and use for course marks of such compulsory materials, the need for student agency and increased financial support to make sure access to assessment materials are not a barrier, as well as supporting the use of open educational resources (OER) and open platforms. 

Read more

Colleges are Striking Bulk Deals with Textbook Publishers

Publishing companies like Pearson and Cengage are starting to broker campus-wide deals with universities that give students unlimited access to a publisher’s digital textbooks at cut-rate prices, reports EdSurge. Publishers argue the new model, often called “inclusive access” or “IA” will reduce the cost of course materials by having students pay a per-course fee that provides access to their digital texts and homework systems. Student advocacy groups, such as SPARC, have highlighted that control of student data and what can be learned from it is an important issue that colleges should be paying attention to as they negotiate these arrangements.

Read more

With Flip of a Giant Ceremonial Switch, CMU Starts Effort to Energize 'Learning Engineering'

Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) has announced the release of software tools that took more than $100 million in grant funding to develop, reports EdSurge. The provost of CMU hosted an event providing an overview of the tools and their uses. The project’s ambition was to help professors improve their teaching and to bring the data-driven and experimental approach to teaching practices at colleges around the country. During the event, many presenters outlined a way to bring the scientific method to the act of teaching instead of spending time highlighting software features. This article challenges educators to change “the culture of the academic profession to make teaching an area professors are excited to make discoveries around.”

Read more

Spring Institute Recap

From May 21 to 24, the CTLT hosted the 2019 Spring Institute, offering educators within the UBC teaching and learning community opportunities to share innovative teaching practices and research, engage in dialogue around enhancing student learning experiences and to network with like-minded colleagues.

Spring Institute coordinator, Deb Chen, PhD, reflected on the programming’s connection to UBC’s strategic plan, Shaping UBC’s Next Century, and its value to the teaching community. Learn more about the sessions, access curated workshop materials and resources, and view photos from the Spring Institute.

Read more

Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology
Irving K. Barber Learning Centre
214 – 1961 East Mall
Vancouver, BC Canada V6T 1Z1