Assessing the Potential of Open Online Learning Resources to Enhance SFU Teaching and Learning

Grant recipient: Mark Roseland, Centre for Sustainable Community Development

Project team: Maria Spiliotopoulou and George Poulakidas, research assistants

Timeframe: May to December 2015

Support provided: $10,000 for RAs, plus assistance with proposal development

Course addressed: At least two courses within the sustainable community development undergraduate certificate program


Interim report: View Mark Roseland's interim project report (PDF)
Final report:
View Mark Roseland's final project report (PDF)


Description: The SFU Centre for Sustainable Community Development (CSCD) is a leader in developing the theory and practice of Sustainable Community Development (SCD) in Canada and around the world. The Centre offers an undergraduate certificate and a post-baccalaureate diploma in sustainable community development in classroom or online formats, graduate support, and non-credit professional development programs.

In the evolving discourse over “bricks vs. clicks,” it is clear that postsecondary institutions must quickly come to grips with the presence of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) and related changes in higher education. In the area of SCD, there are several MOOCs coming online from reputable institutions, including some MOOCs with “rock-star” level instructors. Must this be a source of discouragement and competition for SFU? Or can we take advantage of some of this typically free material by incorporating it into our existing courses and programming?

This project will be organised in two phases.

  • In the 1st phase, we want to assess the potential of open online learning resources, such as MOOCs, to enhance current SFU classroom and online learning. We will focus on the Faculty of Environment as our testing grounds, specifically with the Sustainable Community Development undergraduate certificate program. For these purposes, we will develop an inventory of SCD online learning resources keyed or matched to the learning goals of each course in the undergraduate certificate program.
  • In the 2nd phase, we want to integrate some of the identified learning resources into at least two courses in the SCD undergraduate certificate program as a pilot project and collect data about the effectiveness of these resources from both the perspective of students and faculty.

Questions addressed:

  • How many and what kind of open online learning resources are there that can be used in the SCD undergraduate certificate program?
  • How do SFU students in the pilot courses perceive the benefits/drawbacks of enhancing their program with a specific open online learning resource?
  • Do the learning resources support the learning of course content?
  • Do faculty perceive that these resources improve student understanding of course content compared to prior courses taught without these resources? Do they think it is worth using these resources?
  • What revisions can be made to the design of the pilot courses based on feedback collected from students and faculty?

Dissemination: Dissemination will be conducted to colleagues in the Faculty of Environment through the Sustainable Community Development Steering Committee, the REM Executive, and the Faculty Dean’s Advisory Committee (DAC).  The first phase of the project is planned to benefit mainly the Faculty of Environment, whereas the 2nd phase is expected to be useful for Faculties across the university.

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