Friday, September 17, 2021

Enabling Innovation from Idea to Impact

Here is an excellent article on innovation by Dan Breznitz and Daniel Trefler (paywall alert). In it, they correctly state the clear difference between invention and innovation. Canada is good at the former but lags at the latter. Where Canada lags is in what I've earlier called the transit of Intellectual Property (IP) - how to we manage the process to go from idea to invoice. This is about enabling innovation through public+private R&D partnerships. It is about being intentional about supporting the development of ideas through applied research and experimental development, two key areas of research, the latter of which is very often is overlooked.

The Ontario IP Action Plan is putting place needed resources to help disambiguate the distinction between invention and innovation, and to ensure that we have an economy of IP and innovation literate population skilled in all aspects of the continuum of R&D. This is a core plank in the system.

I have elsewhere outlined some work on Capacity and Contribution for Intentional Innovation, where we articulate the connections and the continuum from idea to invoice. A logic model depicting how we might start to think about how partners can enable intentional innovation is below. This is one way to start thinking about how we can scaffold research performers in the public and private sectors to play to their strengths and support inventions to achieve impact.

Here is an example of this in action, using the eCampuOntario platform mission model to put in place engagement models, and support partnerships for transformative effect:

Last year we piloted a model with the City of Toronto that connected City research needs with Toronto area colleges and universities. We worked with our research funding partners at Mitacs, OCI, NRC-IRAP, Magnet and SOSCIP to fast track the process. This successful model for municipal innovation is now a permanent feature of the City, as announced by Mayor Tory last November. The success of this was entirely because of the joint effort of a dedicated group of professionals who came together to make this happen.

And we're not done yet. Watch this space for more to come on platforms that enable innovation, from idea to impact

Research-Innovation: Capacity & Contribution Logic Model

Monday, August 9, 2021

Platform Mission Model

The eCampusOntario strategic framework is an integrated approach to providing the sector with the tools, resources and engagement needed for excellence in virtual learning and support for sector transformation. We are supporting the Ontario postsecondary education sector with a platform mission model that will lead to sustained and significant change in Ontario PSE. Our platform mission model is comprised of three components:

  • Transmission: Access to systems and shared services 
  • Transaction: Opportunity for engagement, collaboration and partnerships
  • Transformation: Vision and driving sector transformation to realize global leadership 

The eCampusOntario Platform Model is comprised of three interrelated components: 1.Transmission - Access to systems and shared services; 2. Transaction: Opportunity for engagement, collaboration and partnerships; 3. Transformation: Vision and driving sector transformation to realize global leadership

The eCampusOntario platform mission model accounts for the sudden and enormous shift in post-secondary education due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but also considers the longer-term evolution of virtual learning. 

Fundamentally, we are creating, in collaboration with our member institutions, the necessary learner and educator supports to foster rich, humanized, inclusive and successful educational experiences within the realm of virtual learning. In practice this means developing new programs, frameworks, services and support systems – our platforms – that address sector-wide challenges and provide creative opportunities for addressing these challenges. 

eCampusOntario’s central role and ‘honest broker’ status means we are extremely well positioned to lead and coordinate the development of these platforms for the benefit of all Ontarians.

Monday, May 17, 2021

The Virtual Learning Strategy Funds PSE Innovation

eCampusOntario is excited to be part of today's announcement about the Virtual Learning Strategy (VLS). The VLS is helping to chart a new path in postsecondary education at a time when online education has become so critically important.

Through our work together, our sector is preparing Ontario postsecondary institutions not just to succeed now, but also for the future. This investment is accelerating the transition from Emergency Remote Teaching that we saw at the beginning of the pandemic, to a future of high quality, purposeful digital learning that will ensure learners have access to education anytime, from anywhere. 

This important transition requires innovation and curriculum that is digital by design. This means designing for the 21st century learner and ensuring that content and community are accessible to all Ontarians, wherever they are, and whenever they want to learn. 

The future of learning is about supporting options for learners. Whether this be fully online or hybrid, and we want each semester to be the best one yet. 

The Virtual Learning Strategy enables lifelong learning so that learners can meet the needs of our rapidly evolving labour market at any stage of their careers. This means building digital fluency and the ability to navigate a digital learning and teaching environment. 

For the future of learning is the future of work. And that future is now.

We are collectively poised to help prepare Ontario for the next phase of virtual learning where what was born out of necessity now becomes an advantage.

eCampusOntario looks forward to working with Ontario’s Indigenous institutes, colleges, and universities and our partners over the coming months to create what will become an unprecedented wealth of virtual learning content. 

Check out and have a look at the almost 400 projects that have been funded to date under the Virtual Learning Strategy. You will find:

  • Innovative approaches to support our faculty and our learners and their success in digital learning;
  • Investments in the Digital Capacity of our Indigenous institutes, colleges and universities to create meaningful online learning;
  • Support for partnerships with Ontario educational technology companies to help them achieve the pedagogical proof points for their solutions to realize global markets; 
  • Digital Content that is using virtual reality and simulation for teaching complex skills in critical areas of the economy like healthcare and engineering; 
  • Wrap around supports for supporting Digital Fluency for diversity and inclusion, and student and faculty mental health; 
  • Content to teach Ontario students about Entrepreneurship, including Indigenous and Black Youth Entrepreneurship, and an Entrepreneurship for Creatives Micro-credential Program. These are great links to the provincial Intellectual Property Action Plan
  • Courses on Indigenous knowledge and language, and support for Francophone learners across Ontario; 
  • and Collaborative efforts to market Ontario postsecondary education as a destination, to the world. 

And there is more to come: Digital Delivery supports for system software licenses leveraging a collaborative common license; and ongoing Digital Capacity supports through the eCampusOntario Central Virtual Learning Platform to help our institutions continue to build best in class digital learning.

As we strengthen Ontario’s reputation as a global leader and testbed for innovation in teaching and learning, we also expand access for Ontario’s institutions to the global marketplace. In supporting our growing education technology sector here at home, we are sending the message: Buy Local. Think Global. 

When we support Ontario educational technology, whether this is emerging from our innovative faculty or our colleagues in industry, we are supporting excellence in teaching and learning. We are supporting the future of learning for Ontario. 

This generous funding from the Ministry could not come at a more opportune moment to provide new and innovative ways for Ontarians to access the education and training they need for jobs in the pandemic and post-pandemic economies.

The Virtual Learning Strategy has brought our sector together, to collaborate on the future of learning, for all learners.

We at eCampusOntario look forward to the considerable benefit that Ontario’s learners will gain from this important work.

Image of the Virtual Learning Strategy Project Results Lookbook

Monday, March 1, 2021

Micro-credentials: Education with no wrong door, no dead end

Friday saw over 530 people gather for the fourth annual eCampusOntario Micro-Credential Forum

This year’s Forum theme, Opening Doors for all Learners, featured a series of cross-sector conversations and perspectives focused on the voice of the learner. Our goal was to explore how we can support a flexible and accessible micro-credential ecosystem that ensures education access and opportunity for those in any stage of learning.

Micro-credentials offer “bite-sized” learning – stackable, short-duration, lower-cost, and adaptable learning that breaks down obstacles and improves access to education for all. A more detailed description is as follows:

A flexible and granular form of postsecondary education training of specific skills and competencies that are developed and offered in a partnership between one or more postsecondary institutions and one or more employers, that may be tailored towards a specific need or may be stackable together, tracking towards a larger recognized credential or certificate.

The day was kicked off with a welcome message from eCampusOntario Board Co-Chairs, Dr. Ann Marie Vaughan, President and CEO of Loyalist College and Dr. Steven Murphy, President & Vice-Chancellor of Ontario Tech University, and the Honourable Ross Romano, Minister of Colleges and Universities. 

Minister Romano emphasized that micro-credentials are evolving but here to stay, and they must be stackable and trackable: focusing on recognizable skill & knowledge development that tracks and building toward other credentials. They must meet the needs of Ontario learners and industry. Minister Romano outlined how micro-credentials offer lifelong learning opportunities for Ontarians who need to retrain and upskill, and allow lifelong learning to be delivered in ways that are realistic for those who need it, such as mid-career workers: where and when they need it, outside of the traditional 2 & 4 year fulltime enrolment model.

Some highlights of the day:

  • A panel of learners started the day and articulated how micro-credentials offer important ways to demonstrate their job-ready skills and versatile access to education. 
  • This was followed by an industry perspective panel in which discussion focused on the importance of education that is responsive to the labour market and how micro-credentials create value for lifelong learning and labour mobility. In creating micro-credentials and educational pathways we need to be intentional about not creating any ‘dead ends’ – this is the stackable component that enables learners to continually build on their skills and competencies. 
  • Representatives from Indigenous institutes, colleges and universities outlined the need for transparent connection points across the ecosystem. In this new realm of education, learners are curators of their experience; educators are stewards of that experience. 
  • The faculty perspective emphasized the role of contextual knowledge and the need to provide education that is both transactional and transformational. 
  • An overview of research that eCampusOntario is conducting with the Diversity Institute unpacked what unbundling might look like vis-à-vis our traditional structure of diplomas and degrees. In looking at this we need to dislocate ourselves from the past in order to allow ourselves to visualize what education could be in the future.
  • An overview of connected systems and the policy landscape featured panelists outlining the competency approach to education and reinforcing how micro-credentials enable access: there can be different entry points to learning.
  • The final panel on Equity, Access and Lifelong Learning emphasized the disruptive nature of the moment that micro-credentials are ushering in, and the importance of Open credentials, open frameworks, and open recognition.

Over the past four years, eCampusOntario has funded 36 pilots and developed a Micro-credential Framework – a nimble skills recognition model that supports the development of verifiable, labour market relevant micro-credentials that support lifelong learning.

Micro-credentials will be essential in the post-pandemic effort to retrain and support displaced workers, and to sustain the dramatically changing needs of Ontario industry.

What has struck me most about the multiple perspectives that were shared is the sense of shared interests, and our capacity to work together to build educational options. Whether micro-credentials are delivered online or in person, the future needs to be about access and options.  Learners need access to education that leads to meaningful lives and full social and economic participation in society. Learners need the option to pursue learning when and where they need or want to. To have access to learning that recognizes and builds on what they know. To be able to choose learning opportunities that will help prepare them for what will come next.

The necessity of today is the potential of tomorrow: Education for access, equity, and opportunity.

Head on over to for more information on our framework, the pilots, and our ongoing research. And check out our video: Micro-credentials: Opening Doors for all learners.