U of G Teaching, Learning Reforms Receive Government Support

December 16, 2013 - News Release

Two University of Guelph initiatives to improve student learning and assessment received $6 million today from the Ontario government.

The new funding will reinforce U of G’s reputation as a leader in education innovation and reform, said Maureen Mancuso, provost and vice-president (academic).

The funding comes from a new Productivity and Innovation Fund (PIF) within the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities. Part of the province’s post-secondary education transformation agenda, the fund supports ideas and practices that improve quality and finances.

The money is earmarked for two U of G-led projects, including one initiative involving three other universities and a college.

The announcement was made on campus today by Liz Sandals, minister of education and MPP for Guelph. In total, the government will invest $47.5 million through the PIF to support 89 institutional and 31 multi-institutional proposals; U of G was among the top recipients.

“These investments through the Productivity and Innovation Fund will help put the University of Guelph on more sustainable financial footing while improving the learning experience for our students,” said Sandals.

Nearly $5.4 million will support an initiative headed by U of G along with the University of Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier University, McMaster University and Mohawk College. This project will enhance Guelph’s existing learning outcomes assessment and tracking strategy, and extend the strategy to U of G's collaborators.

There is a great need to demonstrate and co-ordinate information about student knowledge and achievement beyond traditional grades, said Mancuso, whose office led the PIF application process.

“Our efforts to track and assess learning outcomes provide an excellent starting point for the development of a scalable, system-wide approach.”

Completing this complex project will require multiple stages over several years, Mancuso said. “The first step is to expand our current institutional approach to our selected partners.”

The goal is for schools to be able to track and report on learning outcomes over time and across programs. Students may monitor learning outcomes in each course and in their study program, and compare those results to university-level and system-wide learning outcomes.

Mancuso said U of G was the natural choice to head the initiative. “We’ve long been a leader in outcome-based pedagogy.” Guelph was the first Canadian university to establish across-the-board learning outcomes for all degree programs and specializations in 2012, and was among the first to establish formal learning objectives in 1987.

Also involved in the project will be Desire2Learn, an Ontario-based global leader in learning management systems used by many Ontario post-secondary institutions.

The second initiative, which received $500,000, is Guelph-specific and will improve the first-year learning experience. U of G plans to increase the number of first-year course redesigns.

The goal is to improve productivity and learning effectiveness in large gateway courses in math, chemistry, business and English. Plans call for more interactive, on-demand technology, video lectures and online learning modules, adaptive testing and peer-assisted learning through forums and other collaborative technology.

“Collectively, these changes ‘flip’ the classroom from traditional, passive large lectures to putting the emphasis on student-centred, problem-directed active learning,” Mancuso said.

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338, or lhunt@uoguelph.ca; or Kevin Gonsalves, Ext. 56982, or kgonsalves@uoguelph.ca.

University of Guelph
50 Stone Road East
Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1