Course delivery at Humber College and other colleges in Ontario is transforming by necessity since COVID-19 moved in and social distancing measures continue to be in place.
For Humber that meant a unique learning project - that would otherwise have taken few years to finish.
In March 2019, an e-campus Ontario webinar was held for faculty to discuss open educational resources. Open education resources include open source textbooks and assessments systems online. They also allow professors to create and share learning materials with other educators.
Mona Nouroozifar, associate dean, Mathematics, Research Skills & Analysis, recognized the potential in upgrading the department’s online delivery through discussions with her faculty. The team spent reviewing publisher resources and tools in Spring/summer 2019.
Professors Anthony VanHoy and his colleague Sandeep Bhargava begun researching open education platforms and software. VanHoy’s interest in the systems began years ago, when he was teaching in the United States.
Decades later, it’s still hard to find student-friendly, intuitive teaching products.
Traditional systems are only available to download and run on your computer, which isn't ideal since some students don’t have access to their own technology.
VanHoy found a new platform, MyOpenMath (MOM) which is a continuous service that can be accessed anytime, from anywhere, online. Previous tools were also cost prohibitive.
“Mathematics textbooks can cost up to $100. Previously students had to pay for textbooks and assessment platforms, which can be just as expensive,” said VanHoy.
MOM is free to students.
“For some courses, textbooks aren’t even required since moving to MOM,” he said.
Meeting faculty needs
MOM is a big improvement for professors, too, surpassing the capabilities of most popular systems
Most testing and assessment services had previously been limited to multiple choice questions.
Since each question is coded, instructors have complete control over the questions that can be offered to their students.
Videos can also be embedded with the questions.
Once created, each question can be shared to a library where professors across the world can access them.
“There’s this great sharing of resources,” said Bhargava.
“And it’s across so many subjects – chemistry, accounting, physics.”
The team soon found that even business mathematics courses could benefit from using MOM.
By September 2019, Bhargava and VanHoy were piloting MOM and had transferred entire courses onto the platform, imputing data and testing questions.
There were plans to expand, eventually, but when the COVID-19 pandemic made remote learning necessary, the group sprang into action.
Team members on vacation came in to assist with the heavy lifting of course transfers.
The goal was to roll the service out across the majority of curriculum and courses across the faculty as efficiently as possible.
COVID-19 afforded faculty some flexibility and in how to manage their schedules, according to Nouroozifar.
“The last 12 weeks we’ve been building 85 per cent of our math curriculum into MOM. That’s 12, 15 hours a day non-stop,” she said.
The work continues.
The project extends well beyond the Math and Research Skills & Analysis department. The tool has the potential to be used by many more Humber programs and courses.