York University deepens its commitment to teaching, learning and the student experience

Teacher in a classroom

York University is advancing its leading expertise in delivering eLearning, experiential education and enhancing the student experience through a second phase of its highly successfully Academic Innovation Fund (AIF).

Some 49 project proposals championed by the University’s faculty and staff are part of the $1.5 million allocated for the second phase announced April 21. Category I projects have a maximum grant allocation of $100,000 and applicants can apply for up to three years, but funding will only be granted for one year, with agreement in principal for years two and three. Category II projects will receive up to $10,000 in funding. Click here to view the full project list.

Sue Vail
Susan Vail

This phase of the Academic Innovation Fund is different from the first phase in that we have two categories,” says Sue Vail, associate vice-president, teaching and learning. (Vail’s office oversees the AIF.) “Category I focuses on large, innovative projects that will have an impact across the degree program, while Category II offers grants to full-time and contract faculty members who wish to redesign their courses using technology enhanced learning or experiential education strategies.

“We are very excited about the projects that have been funded this year and know that each has the potential to contribute in a significant way to enhancing the learning experience of our students,” she says.

The expansive scope of the projects funded speaks to the heart of the AIF, which fosters innovation from within by tapping into the expertise possessed by York University’s faculty and staff. The second phase of the AIF deepens the University’s commitment to continuous improvement in teaching and learning and builds on key themes of eLearning, experiential education and the student experience that were established in the previous cycle.

Projects span a wide array of influences. To learn more, visit the AIF website. Here’s a summary of just a few of the many projects that are part of the Phase Two.

The Critical Making with Partners AIF Project focuses on building a network of community partners who will collaborate with graduate and undergraduate students to create an unprecedented number of experiential education opportunities in the emerging field of digital media.

Another digital media project funded by AIF will focus on developing techniques and strategies for the documentation and dissemination of work in the digital age. Students will learn about how new digital tools and platforms are changing the publication and circulation of new material.

The Globally Networked Learning Project will explore the power and potential of technology to internationalize York University’s classrooms. The project seeks to create a collaborative global eLearning experience. Project teams involving students from York University will interact with those from universities in other countries by way of social media and eLearning tools.

A cluster of projects is focused on building the University’s successful and enduring focus on enhancing the first-year experience.

A first-year transition course supported by experiential education and eLearning will provide first-year students with the critical skills needed to succeed in their university studies and beyond. The project is focused on developing fundamental, academic, and personal/interpersonal and teamwork skills that will advance students’ success in their studies and life.

Boost is the name of an intriguing first-year boot camp arising out of the Lassonde School of Engineering. Boost will offer flexible, academic support to incoming students to give them the academic muscles needed to excel in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs.

Establishing a research mindset early in the university experience is the focus of another AIF project dedicated to introducing first-year students to the excitement of leading edge research. The project  exposes students to respected researchers talking about their own careers as well as the myriad of research career opportunities available to qualified students.

On a similar theme, the Innovating Workplace Learning Experiences AIF Project focuses on expanding the experiences gained through placements, internships and co-operatives in professional programs such as Human Resources Management, Public Policy and Administration and Administrative Studies. The project will deepen and enhance students’ awareness of the many career opportunities available to them by exposing them to professional work experience acquired as part of their studies.

York University’s Las Nubes AIF Project will see a similar deepening of experiential education as part of a semester abroad studying and working in the University’s rainforest in Costa Rica. Students will live and study in small holder farming communities that are part of the Alexander Skutch Biological Corridor in Southern Costa Rica.

All project submissions were vetted by the AIF Steering Committee and recommendations were sent to Provost Rhonda Lenton for final approval. Project champions are gathering later this month for Welcome Orientation sessions April 27 and May 4. Professional development support will be provided to all project champions. Faculty eLearning and experiential education leads will play both coordination and support roles for their Faculties as well as identify ways to profile grant recipients and ensure that information about projects is shared locally.

More about the Academic Innovation Fund

Created in 2010 and implemented from 2011 to 2014, the fund encouraged and supported innovation in teaching, learning and the student experience through the provision of seed grants, which were made available to faculty, staff and students.

The projects funded addressed three institutional priorities that are articulated in the University Strategic Mandate Agreement and the University Academic Plan (2010-15): eLearning, experiential education and the first-year experience. The success of these projects provided pan-University strategies and systems that have supported further growth and innovation in curriculum. Information about these projects and the systems created can be found on the AIF website, or by entering the search term ‘AIF’ in YFile.