Digital Learning at UAlberta


Formed in spring 2012 at the request of President Samarasekera, a Visioning Committee comprising faculty and staff from several faculties and units and the Students’ Union VP Academic, with co-chairs Jonathan Schaeffer (as Vice Provost & AVP IT) and Jennifer Chesney (as AVP of Digital Strategy), conducted a wide, cross-campus consultation and discovery process on Digital Learning, and created a Visioning Report with nine recommendations. 

Recommendation one: "Aspire to offer the highest quality digital learning environment to enhance in-class experience and create a strong online learning presence.”

This resulted in the creation of DLP:R&D project/committee and other pilot projects. The goal of these is to gather data and create exemplar delivery models. 

What UAlberta is offering now: We are currently developing pilot courses in two different faculties and a concurrent research project to support and enhance online student evaluation. 

The faculties of Science and Education will deliver the pilots. 

  • Science will focus on several MOOCs, the most prominent being Dino 101
  • Education will focus on the development of the blended-learning courses. 
  • In May of 2013, a sister committee, the Provost’s Digital Learning Committee (PDLC) was established by the Provost to support the implementation of digital learning activities more broadly across the University of Alberta with the direct intention of drawing on the lessons learned from DLP:R&D pilot projects. 

    For more information about the PDLC, please read the message from co-chair, Mike Carbonaro.

    Evaluation Research & Development for DLP

    The research focus is investigating new models for evaluating students using online interactions. This research is a collaborative effort between the Faculty of Education’s Centre for Research in Applied Measurement and Evaluation (CRAME) and the Alberta Innovates Centre for Machine Learning (AICML)

    The goal of this work is to support and enhance evaluation practice for both MOOCs and blended-course deliveries. This part of the DLP:R&D project is in its initial stages but it is our plan at this point to deploy a pilot version of the evaluation system for Dino101 in the Fall 2013 term.

    Blended Delivery

    Blended-delivery courses are intended to combine both Face-to-Face (F2F) and online components. When the F2F component is not available for logistical reasons, online synchronous delivery will be used in its place. This will enable the course to be delivered to remote locations and allow students to participate in "live" classes delivered online, as well as interact with content accessed asynchronously. 

    All University of Alberta registered students from anywhere can enroll in courses that are offered remotely. 

    Five courses between now and 2013. All courses targeted for Blended delivery conversion are offered to between 600 to 1100 students during a normal calendar year. 

    Massive Open Online Course (MOOC)

    There is one exemplar pilot MOOC currently being developed, Dino 101. Other courses are being investigated for potential development.

    Using Dino 101 as an example, anyone anywhere can register for the free version. Alternately, they can pay a fee to obtain a “letter of completion” which will not grant any post-secondary credit, but can be used to show employers or others. University of Alberta students will have another option. 

  • They can register in and complete online Paleontology 200, pay tuition and get University of Alberta credit (if they pass). 
  • Alternately they can register in and complete online Paleontology 201, pay tuition, attend live demonstrations and participate in field events and get University of Alberta credit (if they pass). 
  • There is also an initiative to determine if other universities would like to grant course credit from their own institutions if the student pays a fee and passes the course. We do not have any agreements with other institutions at this point. Other digital pilots being developed in the Faculty of Science include Physics, which is following a similar model as PALEO 200, and Linear Algebra, which will be delivered synchronously on-line. 

     In addition, Science is collaborating with Arts to develop STS 350, History of Video Games, which will be delivered in a similar manner as PALEO 200. 


    One of the Digital Learning Pilots has centered around the selection of a new synchronous learning tool to support instructors in all faculties and provide fully mobile synchronous learning experiences to all students.

    Adobe Connect has been selected as the University of Alberta's centrally-supported tool for delivering synchronous courses for eLearning.

    Over the spring and summer terms of 2013, we have piloted Adobe Connect in a number of courses and will be offering a campuswide production environment for the Fall 2013 term.

    Digital Learning Initiatives

    University of Alberta has been creating digital learning initiatives since the 1990s. Below are just some of the many exciting initiatives that our students can experience.

    If you don't see your UAlberta  Digital Learning initiative listed here, please let us know: 


    Program Faculty Delivery
    BSc(EnvSci) jointly offered with Yukon College ALES, Native Studies  Online delivery and video conferencin
    MA in Canadian Studies Campus Saint-Jean Classroom or distance delivery
    MEd in Teacher-Librarianship and Curriculum Studies Education Online Delivery
    MA in Communication and Technology Extension Blended Delivery
    Online MLIS School of Library and Information Studies Online Delivery
    Applied Land Use Planning Certificate (non-credit and professional development) Extension Blended Delivery
    Information Access and Protection of Privacy Certificate (non-credit) Extension Online Delivery 
    Occupational Health and Safety Certificate (non-credit) Extension Online Delivery 
    MPH in Health Promotion Studies Public Health  Online Delivery 
    Certificate in Pain Management Rehabilitation Medicine  Online Delivery 
    Certificate in Stroke Rehabilitation Rehabilitation Medicine Online Delivery


    Other Current Initiatives

    What's being done Faculty
    Development of an iTunesU site for media, podcasts, video segments, public performances of Arts-related teaching and research projects. Arts
    Multimedia group provides support for the conversion of old media formats to digital formats, and supports the creation of podcasts, video production and lecture capture.
    "Apple Learning Tour" session on iBooks Author and iTunesU
    New version of the Language Lab, which includes a video component useful for learning sign language. Campus Saint-Jean
    Speech-Coach, a linguistic diagnostic tool involving complex algorithms.
     Text-to-speech tool that now allows for "on-the-fly" rendering.
    SMART User Certifications. During the past 18 months approximately 950 students have attended training sessions so that they can better integrate digital technologies in their classroom. Education
    The “Inclusive Education: Adapting Instruction for Students with Special Needs” course has been reformatted for blended delivery.
    Continue to develop eLearning materials to support some large, first-year and second-year undergraduate courses. Engineering 
    Online Medical English Course which allows offshore delivery of course contents overseas Extension, Medicine and Dentistry
    NS200: Aboriginal Canada - Looking Forward, Looking Back course will be offered via videoconferencing in Fall 2013. Native Studies, Augustana
    Increased inventory of laboratory skills videos online. Nursing
    Initiated online preceptorship programming for preceptors of undergraduate students (certificate awarded upon completion of 13-week program).
    Lectures can now be viewed in Flash format as well as on mobile devices.
    Courses offered to practicing pharmacists utilize distance learning technologies  Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences 
    Pharmacy student practice skills (courses, practice laboratories, and Pharmaceutical Sciences experiential education) supported by eLearning technologies
    A special topics course, Introduction to the Space Environment and Space Weather, is being offered by videoconferencing in collaboration with the University of Calgary. Science
    Developed an e-clinic using standardized patients so that students are able to work with clients over the course of an academic year.  Rehabilitation Medicine
    Highly focused webinar sessions are delivered by experts in a web-based synchronous learning environment. 
    Satellite campuses have been established in Calgary and Camrose using real-time web/video cast technology.