Executive Director’s Report – November 30, 2020

Updated: Mar 24

The Maple League universities are increasingly visible as leaders in conversations around quality undergraduate education in Canada and around the world. The global pandemic has demonstrated that the goal of influencing undergraduate education is even more important than it was when the consortium was first created, first as the U4 in 2012 and then as the Maple League in 2016.

COVID-19 has generated conditions for a social experiment that has turned our classrooms into live laboratories: we are able to pilot new and innovative uses of educational technology to enhance critical thinking, mentorship, and civic engagement – values that are at the core of our four university missions. COVID has taught us that in-person learning matters, perhaps more now than ever. Humans thrive through direct personal contact – and the central role that relationship-rich experiences (cf. Felten and Lambert, 2020) contribute to quality undergraduate education has never been more apparent. Technology will never replace these face-to-face, transformative learning journeys. However, as we start to see the glimmers of hope for vaccines and a light at the end of this very dark tunnel, there are opportunities for us to reflect on what we’ve learned and start to articulate what works – and frankly, what does not work – as we imagine a post-COVID world.

Perhaps surprising to many of us is that technology – deployed in particular contexts – can improve some of the ways that we teach and learn: in fact, technology has helped many of our faculty deliver content in new modalities that provide professors with more time for individualized support and mentorship. Virtual platforms enable instructors to share foundational concepts and principles that students can access “on-demand”, which has the potential to enhance the quality of engagement during face-to-face interactions. While there are many challenges with remote, online, and hybrid learning, there are emerging testimonials from faculty who report that these new modalities free up their time to help students develop their capacities for critical thinking, focus on problem-based learning, and increase creative engagement with the material.

The Maple League is now more important than ever as a key leader and influencer of high-quality undergraduate education in Canada and internationally as we respond to the growing demands on teaching and learning support, research, EDI – so that together we can tackle a multitude of “wicked problems” that the global pandemic has exposed. We truly are better together.

— Dr. Jessica Riddell, Executive Director, Maple League of Universities

ML November Report 2020
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