Kitchener education tech firm Desire2Learn will be coordinating with a consortium of post-secondary institutions, including the University of Guelph, University of Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier University, McMaster University and Mohawk College, to conduct a $6 million research project that promises to transform the nature of higher education.
Since Desire2Learn launched its Integrated Learning Platform (ILP), which integrates properties of digital technology, including mobile and data analytics to improve student outcomes and engagement, the platform is in use now across North America, serving Desire2Learn’s more than 1,100 institutional clients, who in turn provide for more than 13 million learners.
The consortium involved in this research project, led by the University of Guelph, will leverage the ILP to enhance tracking, measurement and reporting on outcomes for students for the purpose of improving student experience. The result of the study could, according to Desire2Learn CEO and President John Baker, fundamentally change the delivery of post-secondary education.
“This research is important because it has the potential to shift the very fundamentals of modern pedagogy,” said Baker. “Using our integrated learning platform, researchers will be able to evaluate a wide range of teaching techniques and tools to determine how to best engage students on critical concepts and lessons.”
The collaboration with the University of Guelph makes sense for Desire2Learn, which began more than a decade ago when Desire2Learn’s platform was initially tested by the university’s MBA program. Since then, Desire2Learn has emerged as one of the world’s largest ed tech companies.
The University of Guelph and Desire2Learn have already conducted a one-year pilot version of the research project before bringing other institutions in.
The research initiative is a means to curriculum mapping, to encourage a sense of agency for students in which they more clearly define their objectives and take more responsibility for what they hope to achieve in the course of their education.
Taking an approach that places an emphasis on outcome measurement for students instead of internal department performance will make for a more symbiotic relationship for both the student and the institution, according to Guelph’s associate VP academic Serge Desmarais.
“Learning outcomes is a way to determine beyond content whether a student actually learns a certain set of skills that are actually transferable to the workplace, no matter what kind of work they do — things like critical thinking, research, and numeracy,” he told the Guelph Mercury. “Now the big question is, now that we have these learning outcomes how do we measure these things? This is where we’re at.”
The research is being funded by a $6 million grant from Ontario’s Productivity and Innovation Fund, through the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities.