National award lauds SFU online learning technologies

June 29, 2006, volume 36, no. 5
By Brandy Delves



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Staff in co-operative education (co-op) and the learning and instructional development centre (LIDC) are sitting atop a national pedestal. The two groups jointly received the national technology innovation award (NTIA) in the college/university education category from The Learning Partnership, a national not-for-profit organization seeking to unite business, education, government and the community to strengthen public education in Canada.

The NTIA recognizes and celebrates educators who, through their enthusiasm and inventiveness, excite and inspire their students and colleagues in Canada's publicly funded educational institutions. Nancy Johnston, senior managing director for learning and retention, spearheaded the award-winning projects, including bridging online (BOL), co-op's web-based pre-employment course, and the co-op online learning community.

Bridging online is a unique skills transfer course that helps students identify and use their skills and knowledge in new ways.

 While many employment-oriented programs focus on the skills and tools necessary for employment success (resumes, cover letters, and interviews), BOL helps students critically focus on how the content of those tools is learned, applied and adapted from one situation to another.

A well-respected course in the education community, several post-secondary schools have inquired about modifying it for their own use.

The co-op online learning community is an interactive, web-based environment that encourages dialogue and learning among students, staff, alumni and industry experts. Discussion forums, on-demand learning modules and community profiles are just a few of the most popular features, frequented by more than 3500 regular members.

The NTIA adjudication committee, which included national industry experts and educators, were self-admittedly “blown away” by the entry. It highlighted the unique collaboration and expertise from both co-op and LIDC.

Andrea Sator, BOL coordinator says, “Both projects placed emphasis on encouraging student feedback during both development and implementation to ensure their needs were met.”

Says Stephanie Chu, program director with LIDC, “We'd like to continue working with groups like co-operative education to foster a vibrant and sustainable community in the cycle of lifelong learning—where the roles of learners, mentors and practitioners in the workplace intersect and blur."

Co-op's online learning community is available at: http://coopcommunity.sfu.ca.

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