Jeremy Auger is chief strategy officer at D2L virtual learning environments (Canada)
Q. What does your country’s edtech strategy look like currently? Is the adoption of edtech where you would like it to be, or is more progress needed?
In Canada, we don’t have a federal agency responsible for education or edtech. Instead, jurisdiction for education falls to the provinces, with each province taking a different approach.
For higher education, decisions around edtech are largely made at the institutional level and would depend on the specific institution’s needs and strategy. So, unlike in some other countries, there are no larger ‘systems’ making decisions collectively.
For schools, meanwhile, technology adoption tends to be very piecemeal. Often, teachers are using toolsets chosen at the classroom level, with limited consistency across schools or school boards. This creates big challenges around data, training and networking, and ultimately limits the potential for a consistent experience for students across classes.
Q. What one initiative or development really helped things move fast where you are?
An initiative that stands out in Canada is the model implemented in Ontario: Technology Enabled Learning Ontario (TELO). Involving 76 school boards, this model supports and enables the use of technology throughout the province. By using the same technology, these schools are able to collaborate more effectively, as well as sharing licensing, training, and content aligned to the provincial curriculum.
This economy of scale is helping to drive the adoption and success of blended and virtual learning in these institutions – and removes the very real cost barrier faced by so many small schools. The opportunity for school boards to opt into a provincially funded innovation model has gone a long way towards removing major barriers to technology access, both inside and outside the classroom.
Q. Which innovations have proved most popular in schools and universities in your country?
Learning Management Systems (LMS) are proving to be very popular and extremely successful in Canadian schools and universities. This isn’t surprising, given that this online platform enables the use of digital content, improves teacher-parent communication, and provides access to e-portfolios that allows for more ongoing assessment and increased collaboration in the learning environment. Furthermore, these LMS’ advanced analytics and early warning systems provide teachers with valuable insight into student performance and engagement. This, in turn, helps teachers to make better use of their time and improves overall communication and outcomes.