The University of Toronto’s enterprise educational technology environment (our ‘Academic Technology Toolbox’) has grown organically over the past several years. At times services and solutions have been added in an ad hoc way. At other points, the University has gone through a formal acquisition process. This time around, we are taking a holistic approach to the ‘Academic Technology Toolbox’ in its entirety. As result, under the executive sponsorship of the Vice-Provost, Innovations in Undergraduate Education, and the Vice-President, University Operations, we launched The University of Toronto Academic Toolbox Renewal Initiative.
Our current Learning Portal hasn’t changed much in the last decade. Feedback from the University community is that the web interface for the Portal is clunky and out of date, and it doesn’t flow the way people would like. It’s also hard for instructors to incorporate new tools into their teaching. Instead of an all-inclusive single website with built-in tools, our future replacement for the Learning Portal will be a web interface that feels much more like a smart phone. Like a smart phone, the new environment should have an “operating system” with some core functionality (the ‘Learning Management Engine’). And like a smart phone, the new environment should have an ‘app store’ with integrated teaching and learning apps, and a way for instructors and students to suggest or build new apps. And of course, the new environment needs a cleaner, more contemporary user interface.
The scope of the exercise is to refresh enterprise-level educational technologies, recognizing that divisions and departments may continue to deploy local resources. However, in order to improve the possibility of integrating both enterprise and local applications into a common student experience, and to leverage the purchasing power of the University, we’ve set out to implement a standards-based environment that allows for the flexibility of integrating many tools and resources (so long as they too are standards-based).
The ultimate goal of the University’s Academic Toolbox Renewal Initiative is to create a strong foundation upon which instructors, departments and divisions can make flexible, sound choices about educational technologies, while ensuring basic enterprise needs are met (like protecting private data and intellectual property, among others).
To achieve that goal, we have undertaken a three-pronged approach:
We identified and adopted a set of common standards that are now the foundation for our new Academic Toolbox, and that departments and instructors can use to help guide their selection of educational technologies and service.
We gathered the functional requirements for a core Learning Management Engine, which will form the ‘operating system’ of the Academic Toolbox (an announcement is pending).
We have devised a more robust “tool ideas” intake process, through which instructors, departments and/or divisions can make suggestions regarding new additions to the Academic Toolbox on a continuous basis (our future ‘app store’). Read more about how new tools get added, or check our current list of available tools.
Over the coming year, we will be sharing regular updates and support materials for transitioning to the new environment. Feel free to bookmark this site and check back here regularly.