Opinions & Features Workshop (Oct 26th)

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$1 million grant to UCalgary TITL boosts online learning capability and research

By Nikayla Goddard, October 7 2020—

To further enhance online and blended learning spaces and kickstart research into the new online teaching and learning advances, the Flanagan Foundation has provided the University of Calgary’s Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning (TITL) with a $1 million grant. 

The Flanagan Foundation is a philanthropy foundation that tends to focus on educational opportunities, and their grant to TITL was received by Natasha Kenny, TITL senior director, and team, with great thanks.

 “We are so grateful for it,” she said. “It’s been provided for us to help leverage our learning in online and blended contexts at the university during and post-COVID. So really to learn what we have learned because of the dramatic shifts that we’ve experienced in teaching and learning during COVID and how we can apply this learning to further create high-quality meaningful online and blended learning experiences.” 

Kenny leads a team of about 45 academic staff, grad students, postdoc scholars that works to advance “teaching and learning cultures, communities and practices here at the University of Calgary,” she said. The money will be used predominantly to “catalyze online and blended learning” by helping faculty expand their capabilities and interactions with online learning across disciplines. This will be done through developing 15-20 high-quality courses each year and using the funding to advance online and blended learning research, specifically within the context of UCalgary. 

The funding will also be used to enhance networking, mentorship and leadership opportunities, workshops, programs and to build a more “sustainable institutional strategy for online and blended learning” due to the expected increase in online learning opportunities post-COVID. Kenny noted that while she believes the TITL transition into online learning wasn’t the smoothest, it has been a learning experience for everyone, and this investment will continue to enhance that transition and provide new opportunities. 

Kenny explained that one new perspective that is arising out of COVID is how it broke down the physical barriers of a classroom and helped to amplify accessibility.

“We’re starting to realize some of the many opportunities that COVID has provided us in teaching and learning, and we really want to learn from those in order to continue to strengthen support for faculty to develop high-impact and meaningful learning experiences. One of the things we also want to emphasize is that we’ve had incredible engagement in the Taylor Institute programs and courses that we offer here to help support faculty and in our consultations.”

“We really want to continue to demonstrate our national leadership in this area to ensure we strengthen these types of resources to ensure that faculty are able to create these high-quality and meaningful online and blended learning experiences for students into the future,” she continued.

TITL is currently in the process of securing people to get a program in place for the research and enhancement beyond what supplements have been made to existing programs, with an official launch for the overall project to start in January and continue for the next three years.


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