A provincially-funded project aimed at helping post-secondary students work smarter and be more independent while learning online has put Trent at the forefront of a collaborative effort involving seven institutions.
“The Ontario Extend for Students: Creating Liberated Learners project is modelled after the Ontario Extend Empowered Educator micro-credential, which aims to help educators feel confident in teaching in the digital age,” explains Mr. Terry Greene, Trent Online senior eLearning designer. “We are aiming to provide a like experience, only this time for learners directly.”
The Liberated Learners project recently received $199,500 in funding as part of the Ontario Ministry of Colleges and Universities’ Virtual Learning Strategy and will be implemented in collaboration with Seneca College, Cambrian College, University of Windsor, McMaster University, Brock University, and Nipissing University, with student co-creation prioritized during every phase.
Opportunity for students to co-create their digital learning environment
“We are inviting students themselves in to co-design with us at every level of the project, we believe this will give it significant authenticity,” says Mr. Greene, explaining that Trent Online’s core mission of people-centred design makes it the ideal project lead.
As part of the first project phase, the team conducted a Design Sprint, which gathered what was termed post-secondary students’ “wicked problems” – barriers they have encountered that have posed roadblocks to their success – in an effort to learn how they have overcome those obstacles with the goal of benefitting other students who are similarly struggling.
During the week of June 21 to 25, close to 100 participating students, many from Trent, shared their experiences. That process was facilitated by four students, including Trent’s Dana Jamaleddine and Asa Reynolds, who were brought on as student co-designers of what will be presented as part of a digital multi-module student success roadmap.
“As soon as I read the job description I was extremely interested,” reflects Dana, who will enter the final year of her Bachelor of Education program this fall. “Much of the proposal contained a lot of what I’d been reading about in my Masters program. So I wanted to be involved in this and see how it works. I believed in its purpose and still do.”
Asa, who just graduated with a Bachelor of Education from Trent, says the opportunity to take on a facilitator role and “give students a platform to tell their stories” was simply too good to pass up.
“Telling your stories and sharing your ideas and, even more so, your hesitations and anxieties is very therapeutic,” he explains. “As much as you think what’s happening to you is only happening to you, without sharing it and connecting to a network of people you’ll never realize that we all have so many shared experiences.”
Both students say their involvement will prove a benefit to them moving forward.
Student experiences informing design
The Design Sprint has contribute about 115 stories relating to the “wicked problems” that learners face as they pursue their learning. Mr. Greene explains the job now is to “comb through” the shared experiences.
“Asa and Dana have been working through these stories to highlight key themes,” he adds. “Each of the separate module teams are now using the stories that align with their area, and are allowing these stories to inform the content, skills, and activities that they include in the micro-credential.”
These open education resources will be made publicly available.