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Preparing for Disruption

Technology is known to be a disrupting force.  It has to date had significant impacts on fields like manufacturing.  We can see that changes will be coming in areas like transportation. And we must begin to prepare ourselves for the changes ahead for Academia as well.  However, disruption in an industry is notoriously hard to predict and to plan. By nature, disruption has to be something that solves a problem or delivers a service in a novel or unexpected way. 

It is unsurprising to those working with students that the needs and demands of today are changing significantly from students who attended our institution a generation ago. We are now seeing the influx of digital natives. These are students who never knew a world without a digital connection or a world without a computer, and they require changes in how we teach and how we evaluate mastery of the material. Digital natives have a different learning style. They are accustomed to sourcing small “bites” of information as they require it, customizing the content, accessing content from multiple locations, however they want. Students prefer to have choice over the formats and modes of the content they are using. They prefer to co-create, present and share content using technology.

In Ontario, research shows that 80% of students are introduced to a computer as a tool in the classroom as early as Kindergarten.  Increasingly teachers are utilizing resources in their classroom. A survey of Ontario principals indicated that in 80% of schools, some or all of the teachers used digital resources like Youtube, external websites (72%), a teacher’s own website (69%), social networking platforms(59%), Podcasts (45%), texting (34%) or computer games (37%). 

Increasingly, institutions are investigating how technology is impacting education and how to prepare for the changes ahead.  Multiple institutions have undergone through review of both the literature and an inward assessment of what needs to be changed to meet the needs of the changing demographic of students coming.  Many institutions have come to the same or similar conclusions. 

Digital Learning Strategy

The Learning Innovation unit is leading several initiatives to align with Ontario Tech University’s priority of Learning Re-Imagined. One of these initiatives is the creation of a digital learning strategy which includes creation of badges to be awarded for specific competencies; the development of microcredentials and stackable credentials offered through innovative formats; supporting the increase in online and hybrid programming, the development and cataloguing of open education resources and continuing to provide funding for innovative university priorities through the Teaching Innovation Fund.