a boon to York University community

There’s a new teaching tool in town and York University staff are excited by its potential to benefit students, faculty and staff alike.

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York University community members have embraced and the power of self-directed learning, a LinkedIn product, is an online learning library of more than 10,000 non-credit skills development courses. It is now available 24-7, free of charge to all students, faculty and staff with a Passport York account, thanks to a provincial licence negotiated by eCampus Ontario on behalf of all of the province’s publicly funded universities and colleges. The licence, valid until mid-September 2020, provides the York community with access to a catalogue of high-quality, video-based courses on a wide range of topics.

The software had a soft launch in February and a formal launch event on Oct. 31. York has begun promoting ( more actively, including adding links on the student and employee portals. The launch event was attended by faculty, staff and students who contributed ideas that the committee partners will use to develop support services and resources.

A steering committee at York is promoting and encouraging creative, effective ways of using the resource library at all levels. The committee is a collaborative effort among areas of the University that support student, faculty and staff development. It currently includes representatives from the Office of the Associate Vice-President Teaching and Learning, the Teaching Commons, the Office of the Vice-Provost Students, York University Libraries, Talent Acquisition and Development (Human Resources), University Information Technology and Strategic Communications.

Multipurpose tool

In Study 2, York students were asked about anxiety, painful experiences and depressive symptoms
Students, faculty and staff are embracing the myriad of courses that are available for free on

Given the myriad of courses available on the site, the steering committee is hoping faculty, staff and students will take the time to explore

“There are so many different tutorials available for various fields relevant to what is being taught at York,” said Geneviève Maheux-Pelletier, an educational developer at the Teaching Commons and a steering committee member. “Instructors may want to leverage them, similar to the way they would use a YouTube video from an expert, either in class or as part of an assignment.

“It’s a tool to explore content in a different way. It may help students integrate course content or access information to support their own learning. We encourage faculty to think about how these resources relate to course learning outcomes or build on the strength of a lesson plan for a particular topic. We treat it like any learning tool, and we’d like to see instructors engage with the Teaching Commons if they need help integrating into their courses.”

Additionally, it can support the development of transferable skills such as critical thinking, or be used for supplementing one’s “how-to” skills such as statistical analysis with specialized software or creating infographics with PowerPoint.

Cheryl Dickie, a technical learning specialist with York University’s Centre for Staff Development and Technical Learning, Talent Acquisition and Development, is excited about the platform’s implications for employee development. (Offerings include Having Difficult Conversations and Project Management Foundations.)

“There are a lot of possibilities for staff to develop skills in areas where we don’t have the resources to offer class-based training,” she said. “It will also help people to see learning as an on-the-job activity. They can review skills online just in time while they’re working on a task, and they don’t always have to take an entire course. People can also use the course videos as followup materials to review, practise and build on skills they may have learned in a class.”

Professor Will Gage, York’s associate vice-president of teaching and learning, sees as an “incredible” tool.

“It can enhance experiential education and enhance in-class experiences,” he said. “It’s a great initiative that can be used to learn new skills and explore new ideas.”

According to Dickie, the platform can also benefit students on their own initiative or through York’s student services by helping them to develop skills they may be expected to have in their academic courses or for a future job. (Think: Innovative Customer Service Skills and Excel Essential Training.)

“The Career Centre gets feedback from employers about the skills that students they’re looking to hire need, and offers an opportunity to fill in some gaps in their technical or business skills if they don’t have formal training,” she said. “We were especially pleased to hear from members of a student club in the Lassonde School of Engineering who are studying together to develop expertise in the specialized engineering software they use for transportation management.”

Both women believe that will allow them to extend their own training and support resources.

“It’s already helping us to optimize our own time,” Dickie said. “We have created playlists for some of our technical courses and can use in-class time to focus more on especially challenging skills and concepts. It’s also been a helpful alternative for people who can’t attend an in-class session.”

Evaluation and considerations

Provincewide, the Higher Education Quality Council will be conducting research into the effectiveness of, a three-stage study that will include analysis of how and to what extent post-secondary education students are using the content and whether it is a good tool for student skills development outside the classroom. At York, the steering committee will monitor campus use, determining measures such as the courses that are most popular among the various user groups and the amount of time that users spend on the platform.

As excited as the steering committee members are about this new resource, they note that it does have limitations.

“ doesn’t replace instructors or employee development and training,” said Maheux-Pelletier. “It can be a supplementary resource that supports learning, especially in areas that are relevant but not directly connected to a course. The key is to integrate it in an intentional manner. It’s a component, but not a replacement.”

“As with any kind of course resource,” added Dickie, “it’s up to the instructor to judge, vet and integrate courses and videos meaningfully.” membership and user statistics

The chart shows membership at York University

As of Nov. 20, the following statistics reflect York University employees’ use of

  • 5,231 total users, with 540 individuals (more than 10 per cent) joining in the past 30 days;
  • 853 certificates of completion, with 120 certificates (or 14 per cent) issued within the past 30 days;
  • 80,147 videos viewed by users;
  • 18 minutes average viewing time per login.

By Elaine Smith, special contributing writer to Innovatus