LME Chosen

I hope by now everyone has seen the announcement by now that the University has chosen a software package to drive its new Academic Toolbox, but in case you haven’t, here’s the link to the announcement: http://toolboxrenewal.utoronto.ca/2017/10/19/838/


Great news that Lynda.com resources are now available to members of the University community. Check out the announcement here: https://www.ecampusontario.ca/partnering-lynda-com/

According to the Ontario Minister for Advanced Education and Skills Development, Deb Matthews, “The partnership between eCampusOntario and Lynda.com will allow students from across the province to access new, innovative learning tools beyond the classroom. Opening up free, high-quality, technology-enabled learning opportunities for students is part of our Career Kick-Start Strategy to prepare them for the jobs of tomorrow and grow our economy for years to come.” 

Update April 2018: And you can read more about it in the UofT context here: https://onesearch.library.utoronto.ca/news/lyndacom-online-courses-now-available-u-t-students-faculty-and-staff


ITIF Deadline Approaching – Apply Now!

UofT Instructors –
do you have an interesting and innovative idea for incorporating technology
into your teaching but just need a little help getting it off the ground?

For more than 15 years, the Provost’s Instructional Technology Innovation Fund
has been providing seed funding and support for innovative teaching ideas.

The fund features three streams – up to $2000 without a matching requirement,
up to $5000 with a matching requirement, or a support stream, where you can
get dedicated access to a professional staff member to help you bring your project to life.

For all the details, including access to the online application form, please visit


This year’s deadline to apply is November 10

And please share with colleagues who may be interested.

New Engine for Academic Toolbox Selected

The University of Toronto is committed to continuing its leadership in digital learning and providing resources to our faculty, librarians, staff, and students that assist them in pursuing excellence in their teaching and learning. An effective suite of educational technology software – a digital academic toolbox – is essential to that work. The University has selected new software to serve as the core engine of its academic toolbox environment. Read more here: http://toolboxrenewal.utoronto.ca/2017/10/19/838/


Email Woes

The last few days have seen some challenges with campus email. The main symptom was delayed delivery of inbound email caused by a massive increase in the volume of email we were receiving, including “pharmaceutical” spam.

First, I want to thank the community for their patience as ITS staff worked to identify and mitigate the problems. Second, I want to thank all the ITS staff who have been pulling out all the stops to resolve the issues.

But I also wanted to take this opportunity to delve a bit deeper, especially for those who experienced an increase in the number of spam messages they received over the last day or two.

Email might seem like a basic, simple tool, but behind the scenes is an extremely complex infrastructure, only partially managed by the University. This infrastructure includes routing technology, load balancing, and spam detection, among other things.

Spam detection is especially interesting; if you set detection as being too sensitive, you risk false positives and miss real email. Set it to be less sensitive, and we all receive way more spam than we would ever want. Staff are constantly working with anti-spam vendors and tweaking settings to find the right balance.

Unfortunately, however, the whole thing is not simply agnostic. The world is filled with “bad apples” who are constantly trying to circumvent our safeguards (not just us, of course – the whole world). They are working just as hard to get their spam / scams / viruses / phishing messages through.

Email is a pretty steady service overall. But once in a blue moon, we hit a glitch. In the case of the past few days, the big increase of inbound messages was one such glitch. But hopefully we are on the way back to stability. And again, thank you for your collective patience.

PS – here’s the link to some best practices in dealing with some of the junk we get:

Portal Scheduled Maintenance – May 5-7

Portal (Blackboard) Maintenance is Scheduled for May 5, 22:00 EDT  –  May 7, 22:00 EDT
The Portal will undergo scheduled maintenance from Friday May 5, 2017 at 10:00 PM until Sunday, May 7, 2017 at 10:00 PM in order to install an updated version of the product. Details of the new version will be made available in due course at http://www.portalinfo.utoronto.ca .

The Portal will be unavailable for the duration of the maintenance window. Service will be restored earlier if the work is completed ahead of schedule.

Audience Response Systems (aka clickers) RFSQ

After many years studying and analyzing the various issues surrounding the use of Audience Response Systems at UofT (including ancillary fees policies, information security and privacy concerns, wifi stability, and of course, required functionality, etc.), the University issued a Request for Supplier Qualifications earlier this year. Unlike an “RFP”, the “RFSQ” gives the University more flexibility to select more than one supplier, thereby offering instructors and departments some choice around this type of technology.

Attached to this post is the actual RFSQ document for those who may wish to read it, but in summary, here is the introduction to the initiative excerpted for your convenience:

The University requires a streamlined approach to the deployment of Audience Response Systems and Devices (“ARS”), which may include physical devices and/or mobile apps.  The ARS will primarily be used in classes ranging from smaller than 30 to large lectures with more than 1500 students.  The University anticipates the selected solution(s) to be mainly used in not only a single location, but in several situations, simultaneous operation in multiple locations might be necessary for courses taught on multiple campuses. It is not the intent of the University to purchase devices and/or software licenses for each student; the cost for those items will continue to be borne by individual students, or purchased at a departmental level, as per the current practice. Nor is it the intent of the University to purchase base stations (where a solution requires those), either by the University as a whole or by individual instructors. However, the purpose of this call for proposals is to identify one or more Successful Respondents for a multi-year contract, and subject to a successful agreement between the Respondent and the University of Toronto Bookstore as the sales agent for the proposed solution. The ARS and related services from the Successful Respondents will be promoted to members of our teaching staff as viable options, with a primary goal being that students who invest in the technology will be able to use them in more than one class, rather than having to buy competing technologies for different courses. In addition to promoting the selected solution(s), the University will also commit to installing the Respondent’s necessary integration solution on our Learning Management System.

The opportunity, which was posted on MERX, is now closed and a University evaluation committee is currently working with Procurement Services to short-list potential suppliers, hopefully by the end of May. Please stay tuned for updates. Thank you.

UOT201715202 Audience Response System RFSQ Final

Reading Week Reading

Using the Micro-Meso-Macro-Mega (4M) framework for annual reporting and strategic planning
by Janice Miller-Young  July 25, 2016

Coming to You Soon: Uber U
In higher education, we are increasingly facing the distinct possibility of a faceless future, teacherless courses, online everything, argues David Theo Goldberg.
By David Theo Goldberg August 12, 2016

15 Technologies That Were Supposed to Change Education Forever
Matt Novak 1/15/14

Distant and discontent: the downsides of digital learning
Despite many advances, online programmes suffer from technical faults and a dispiriting lack of interaction, as two scholars found
By Matthew Reisz August 18, 2016

The Unpredictability of Predictive Analytics 2.0
by John O’Brien August 22, 2016

Imagine Discovering That Your Teaching Assistant Really Is a Robot
Students mostly couldn’t tell ‘Jill Watson’ wasn’t human; ‘Yep!’
By Melissa Korn May 6, 2016

Uber-U is Already Here Powered by Blockchain Technology
Contact North 2016-05-06

Online tutoring by students raises access fears
By David Matthews  May 11, 2016

Hiring Experts Still Mostly Boggled by Digital Credentials
By Dian Schaffhauser 05/10/16

Five ways the lecture halls of 2030 will be different
By Petra Hauptfeld-Göllner September 13, 2016

Open Books and Resources

UofT BrowZine

BC Campus OpenEd

Rice U OpenStax

Holiday Reading (and watching)

Jeremy Howard:
The wonderful and terrifying implications of computers that can learn


Badging: Not Quite the Next Big Thing
By Michael Hart 07/20/16

I Love Community Colleges (and Tech Should Too)
By Alejandra Cervantes Aug 7, 2016

Learning Management System Market Expected to Grow $10.5 Billion in Next 5 Years
By Richard Chang 07/28/16

6 Implications of the Next-Generation Digital Learning Environments (NGDLE) Framework
by Malcolm Brown June 27, 2016

App Assists Teachers With Integrating Digital Content Into Lessons
By Sri Ravipati 08/01/16