Digital Learning Strategy
The Digital Learning Strategy outlines strategic priorities, recommended actions, guidance and resources to support the post-secondary system with digital learning in B.C. The strategy was developed by the Digital Learning Advisory Committee, a collaborative effort between the Ministry of Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills and subject-matter experts from across B.C.’s post-secondary system.
The Digital Learning Strategy is made available through an Open License. Review the Digital Learning Strategy Open License.
Introduction to B.C.’s Post-Secondary Digital Learning Strategy
In spring 2020, British Columbia’s post-secondary system pivoted towards online services in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, initiating a transition that has impacted post-secondary operations across the entire system.
This initial shift to emergency online learning was anticipated to be short-lived, however the nearly universal use of online learning throughout repeated pandemic waves reinforced the use of digital models for learning and services. This shift to emergency online teaching and learning impacted all areas of the post-secondary system, from learners to educators, staff, administration, and other areas of post-secondary communities. This strategy is intended for the post-secondary system, including the Ministry of Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills (PSFS), with the goal of enhancing the ongoing digital aspects of post-secondary studies across B.C.
This document is intended to provide a provincial synthesis of priorities and recommended actions for the post-secondary system, including the Ministry of Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills (PSFS), based on best practices, lessons learned, and forward-thinking approaches to enhance the ongoing digital aspects of post-secondary studies across B.C. The strategy is not intended to introduce new requirements for the post-secondary system or conflict with collective agreement rights, and implementation is voluntary.
Students and people working in the post-secondary system overcame challenges throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, showcasing the system’s resilience, adaptability, and strength. Beyond the pandemic, it is anticipated that a growing portion of the post-secondary experience will occur online in the form of digitally accessed learning and services offered in parallel with on-campus options. This means that learners, educators, staff, and communities’ reliance on digital services will continue to grow.
More broadly, digital learning models can provide opportunities for prospective learners to engage with post-secondary studies when they otherwise may have encountered geographic, social, cultural, and financial barriers. This has the potential to narrow socioeconomic gaps and ultimately build stronger relationships between post-secondary studies and career pathways.
The Digital Learning Strategy is intended to enhance how digital technology is used in post-secondary education. This includes the digital components of in-person, hybrid, and remote programs. Technology-enhanced learning is not intended to replace in-person learning models, rather it is a complement to it that has the potential to increase access to post-secondary education across B.C.
The goal of the strategy is to support outcomes that are relevant and responsive to all members of post-secondary communities, including First Nations-mandated institutes, such as the Indigenous Adult and Higher Learning Association (IAHLA)1 institutes, as well as other Indigenous institutes. In the terms of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act Action Plan 2022-2027, the Province of British Columbia recognizes First Nations, Métis, and Inuit as the Indigenous Peoples of Canada with rights recognized and affirmed in section 35 (1) of the Constitution Act, 1982. The Province also recognizes that First Nations, Métis, and Inuit are distinct, rights-bearing communities, and is committed to a distinctions-based approach to its relationship with each. The intention of this strategy, working through the strategic priorities and recommended actions, is to reflect this distinction-based approach that acknowledges the specific rights, interests, priorities, and concerns of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Peoples when applicable and appropriate. Within this document, the terms Indigenous and Indigenous Peoples are used at times to describe people who identify as First Nations, Urban Indigenous, Métis, and Inuit.
System-wide conversations frequently highlighted the importance of internet access for rural and remote communities across B.C., including Indigenous communities. Internet connectivity is a critical enabler for accessing digital learning opportunities in B.C.’s post-secondary system. This strategy recognizes that access to internet connectivity varies across B.C., and considerations about bridging the digital divide were at the forefront of the development of this work.
Announced in March 2022, the governments of Canada and British Columbia committed up to $830 million to connect British Columbians to high-speed internet services, with a goal of connecting 98% of Canadians by 2026 and 100% by 2030.2 B.C. has a plan to accelerate this work with a provincial target of connecting 100% of B.C. communities to high-speed internet by 2027.3
The progress of this work is expected to benefit learners in accessing the full potential of digital learning opportunities. However, the installation of new network capacity across the province is outside of the scope of the DLS.
In 2021, the Ministry engaged with people in the post-secondary system to better understand and support digital learning models in post-secondary education in British Columbia in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Digital Learning Advisory Committee was initiated to lead a collaborative process to enhance digital post-secondary experiences across the province by:
- Identifying the lessons learned from the widespread adoption of digital learning models in post-secondary education throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,
- Incorporating these into existing knowledge and best practices regarding the application of digital learning models in post-secondary education, and
- Envisioning how human-centred digital learning environments can complement and enhance British Columbia’s post-secondary system over the next 5-10 years.
The Associate Vice President of Teaching and Learning at the University of Fraser Valley, Dr. Maureen Wideman, and the Assistant Deputy Minister in the Post-Secondary Policy and Programs Division in the Ministry of Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills, Nicola Lemmer, served as Co-Chairs, exemplifying the collaboration between the post-secondary system and government.
The committee consisted of three Working Groups: Quality Enhancement, Digital Literacy, and Technology, Finance, and Administration. Members of these Working Groups included a cross-section of experts from colleges, institutes, teaching- and research-intensive universities, and sector experts from the British Columbia Council on Admissions and Transfer (BCCAT), the First Nations Technology Council (FNTC), BCcampus, and BCNET. DLAC and the Working Groups collaborated to develop the Digital Learning Strategy. The committee and Working Group membership is available in the Digital Learning Strategy (PDF).
The Digital Learning Strategy is intended to advance the post-secondary system's ability to navigate the rapidly growing and ever-changing digital landscape of post-secondary education in B.C. To accomplish this while respecting the diversity of B.C.’s post-secondary system and communities, the recommendations provide flexible tools and approaches to support local adoption and implementation.
The collaborative efforts of DLAC and the Working Groups resulted in:
- The Strategic Priorities and Recommended Actions,
- The Guidelines for Technology-Enhanced Learning,
- The B.C. Post-Secondary Digital Literacy Framework, and
- A Capabilities Summary, which is available in the Digital Learning Strategy (PDF). The additional outputs of the Technology, Finance, and Administration Working Group are reflected throughout the Strategic Priorities and Recommended Actions in the Digital Learning Strategy.
These are the products of extensive engagement and consultation with a broad range of individuals and organizations from across B.C.’s public post-secondary system, along with experts from other jurisdictions within Canada and internationally.
Consultations on this document took place with adult higher learning entities, organizations, and post-secondary institutions across B.C. between April and September 2022, and included discussions with:
- Vice Presidents Academic, Finance, Students, Human Resources, equivalents, and delegates,
- Chief Information Officers,
- First Nations Education Steering Committee staff (FNESC),
- Indigenous Adult and Higher Learning Association (IAHLA),
- Métis Nation British Columbia (MNBC),
- BC Registrars Association (BCRA),
- BC Electronic Libraries Network (BC ELN),
- Administrative Services Collaborative,
- Collective Agreement Specialists,
- Post-secondary and learning specialists across Canada, and
- Subject matter experts from across the Provincial Government
In addition to reflecting post-secondary system expertise through the development and consultation process, this strategy was also informed by learners’ voices, reports, and other sources of information generated throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic regarding learners’ perspectives and experiences with digital learning. It is anticipated that learners’ perspectives will also inform the next stages of this work, particularly in the implementation phase.
As a result of the consultations, the strategy was refined to reflect feedback and to inform implementation plans for the recommended actions. The goal of these consultations was to create a digital post-secondary strategy for B.C. that reflects the needs of post-secondary populations.
Implementation will begin in fall 2022. This will consist of initiatives and pilot programs in partnership with post-secondary institutions and organizations stemming from the recommended actions.
These initiatives aim to provide provincial coordination to build capacity within the post-secondary system in areas of strategic importance in the use of digital learning technologies, specifically where collaboration across multiple post-secondary institutions is a critical factor for success.
Post-secondary institutions and higher-learning entities, including First Nations-mandated institutions and Indigenous institutes, may have varying approaches to integrating digital learning. The strategy is intended to support these institutions with enhancing their digital capacity and leveraging existing expertise, with the goal of being responsive to the diverse contexts of B.C.’s institutions.
A key element of implementation will also involve continuing to engage with Indigenous organizations, such as First Nations-mandated and other Indigenous institutes, to ensure our work reflects lasting and meaningful reconciliation.
Institutions are encouraged to develop their own digital learning strategies, reflective of their unique local context and digital needs. This is expected to take place incrementally, and at the pace that works for institutions.
Throughout consultations, the Ministry received interest in participating in upcoming working groups, initiatives, and pilot projects. The actions and initiatives are in their formative stages. Interested parties will have the opportunity to participate in next steps.
Strategic Priorities and Action Plan
The committee developed strategic priorities and recommended actions to enhance the digital components of post-secondary studies in B.C.
Strategic Priority 1: Policies and Processes
The B.C. post-secondary system's successful adaptation to the rapidly growing and evolving role of technology in post-secondary education will benefit from institutions leveraging existing expertise, developing new or updating existing policies to address the impact of digital technology on all facets of post-secondary operations and to foster innovation and excellence.
1(a) Guidelines for Technology-Enhanced Learning
Institutions are encouraged to implement the Guidelines for Technology-Enhanced Learning (Appendix 1), including by:
- Establishing a localized cross-functional digital learning advisory body,
- Incorporating the Guidelines into institutional strategic planning and reporting, and
- Considering the Guidelines when developing new programs and proposals for targeted Ministry funding.
1(b) The B.C. Post-Secondary Digital Literacy Framework
Institutions are encouraged to use the B.C. Post-Secondary Digital Literacy Framework (Appendix 2) to enhance and promote equitable digital literacy across post-secondary populations by:
- Developing localized digital literacy policies, in collaboration with other institutions when appropriate,
- Integrating digital literacy open education resources, such as those curated by BCcampus, into courses and programs for learners when appropriate, and
- Connecting institutions, educators, and staff with available resources for training and professional development.
1(c) Ethical Educational Technology
The Ministry supports the post-secondary system in ensuring that digital spaces and technologies recognize and account for the needs of diverse communities of all backgrounds and identities by:
- Developing a set of Ethical Guidelines for Educational Technology,
- Supporting the post-secondary system in implementing accessibility standards and legislation (Accessible B.C. Act and Accessible B.C. Regulation), and aligning with data standards and directives from the Anti-Racism Data Act within digital spaces and technologies, and
- Adopting current and emerging best practices to increase diversity, inclusion, and safety in digital spaces.
1(d) Annual Forum
The Ministry and members of the post-secondary system gather at least once annually for institutions to:
- Report on progress in implementing the Guidelines,
- Participate in a forum to share progress and challenges associated to digital learning and technology-enhanced learning environments,
- Collaborate with the Ministry to refine the Guidelines for Technology-Enhanced Learning, and
- Inform system strategies within post-secondary institutions and more broadly to learners, educators, staff, and communities.
Strategic Priority 2: System Collaboration
In response to increasing demands for digital infrastructure, including hardware, software, and human resources, system-level coordination and collaboration leveraging organizations such as First Nations Technology Council, BCcampus, and BCNET is recommended to reduce costs related to digital technologies across B.C.’s post-secondary system including First Nations-mandated institutions, such as IAHLA and other Indigenous institutes.
2(a) Five-Year Technology Investment Strategy
The Ministry, the post-secondary system, and BCNET collaborate on the establishment of an evergreen five-year technology investment strategy, in conjunction with the existing five-year capital investment planning process.
2(b) Platform and Application Repository
The Ministry, the post-secondary system, and BCNET collaborate to develop and maintain a repository of software applications, platforms, and relevant privacy and security assessments used across the post-secondary system.
2(c) Joint Procurement
The Post-secondary system is encouraged to use BCNET’s joint procurement processes as default to reduce costs for vendor management, access expertise, specialized learning technologies, and large commodity technology purchases (such as Learning Management Systems, Student Information Systems, Enterprise Resource Planning systems, audio and visual equipment, storage, etc.). Open-source programs and software development is also encouraged.
2(d) Openly Licensed Online Course Materials
The post-secondary system and BCcampus collaborate to explore models for developing openly licensed online course materials, particularly for high-transfer courses commonly offered across multiple post-secondary institutions.
2(e) Open-Source Programs Office
The Ministry and the post-secondary system develop and implement collaborative software and application development models as an integral component of post-secondary research and innovation, including through exploring a pilot related to:
- Establishing an Open-Source Programs Office to provide governance, advice, and support for the development of Open Source (OS) applications, to:
i.1) Enable innovative learning experiences and/or OS tools and methods,
i.2) Enable development, maintenance, and hosting of open licensed software, where appropriate, and
i.3) Support developing, licensing, adopting, and managing intellectual property for open-source technologies when appropriate.
Strategic Priority 3: Enhancing Digital Equity
The post-secondary system can contribute to digital equity by developing B.C.’s digital capabilities within the post-secondary system, including within post-secondary institutions, system organizations, First Nations-mandated institutions, such as IAHLA institutes, and other Indigenous institutes.
3(a) Enhance Access to Suitable Devices
The Ministry, post-secondary system, and BCNET collaborate to reduce the costs of suitable devices (i.e., laptops, mobile devices, cell phones, etc.), and internet plans for learners, educators, and staff, where possible.
3(b) Provincial Advising Supports
The Ministry collaborates with Thompson Rivers University Open Learning4, EducationPlannerBC, and the B.C. Council on Admissions and Transfer to enhance provincial advising supports to promote broader post-secondary access through open learning and flexible pathways.
3(c) Indigenous Intellectual Property Management and Licensing
In conjunction with Indigenous Peoples, the Ministry and post-secondary system support effective approaches for intellectual property management (maintenance, control, protection, and development), labelling and licensing to protect Indigenous knowledge and intellectual property.5
3(d) Pilots to Support Access for Remote Learners
The Ministry, post-secondary system, and BCNET explore several pilots to support remote learners’ access to the programs and software required for their learning, including accessibility supports, such as:
- A pilot for remote access to application and software.
- A technology helpdesk for remote learners, educators, and staff.
Appendix 1: Guidelines for Technology-Enhanced Learning
The purpose of the Guidelines for Technology-Enhanced Learning (‘the Guidelines’) is to assist post-secondary institutions in navigating the expanding use of digital technologies supporting teaching and learning by complementing and guiding post-secondary institutions’ policies and processes.
The Guidelines were developed by the Quality Enhancement Working Group in alignment with Recommended Action 1 (a) from the Digital Learning Strategy.
Appendix 2. The B.C. Post-Secondary Digital Literacy Framework
The B.C. Post-Secondary Digital Literacy Framework was developed to enhance digital literacy knowledge, skills, and abilities across post-secondary communities. In alignment with Recommended Action 1 (b), this framework can be leveraged to inform localized digital literacy policies, professional development programs, and Open Education Resources with the overall goal of supporting educators, administrators, researchers, staff, learners, and other members of post-secondary communities in developing digital literacy.
Learn more about collaboration on B.C.’s Post-Secondary Digital Learning Strategy
The Digital Learning Advisory Committee was initiated through collaboration between the Ministry of Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills and the post-secondary system to better understand and support the use of digital learning models in post-secondary education in British Columbia, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The DLAC was tasked with producing recommendations for post-secondary institutions, the post-secondary system more broadly, and the Provincial Government regarding policies, practices, and initiatives that will enable digital learning models to support increased equity, access, and success in post-secondary education.
As the Digital Learning Advisory Committee members and secretariat, we would like to acknowledge with gratitude and respect all the traditional and unceded territories across all regions of British Columbia where DLAC’s work took place. Particularly, we would like to acknowledge and thank the lək̓ʷəŋən Speaking Peoples on whose traditional territory the Ministry of Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills stands - and from where most DLAC meetings were hosted - and the Songhees, Esquimalt Nations and WSÁNEĆ Peoples whose historical relationships with the land continue to this day. We are honoured to live and work across these territories in British Columbia and are committed to working towards lasting and meaningful reconciliation.
As the Secretariat, we would like to express our sincere appreciation and gratitude to all committee members, Quality Enhancement Working Group members, Digital Literacy Working Group members, and Technology, Finance, and Administration Working Group members for their invaluable inputs, contributions, and thorough feedback. These Working Groups included a cross-section of experts from colleges, institutes, teaching- and research-intensive universities, sector experts from BCCAT, the First Nations Technology Council, BCcampus, and BCNET, whose time, dedication, and invaluable insights made this collaborative work possible.
We want to thank Dr. Maureen Wideman and Nicola Lemmer, who consistently supported and encouraged this work as Co-Chairs for the committee, and Dr. Rajiv Jhangiani, Dr. Chad Thompson, and Dr. Tannis Morgan, who so generously, enthusiastically, and resourcefully acted as Chairs for the Quality Enhancement Working Group, the Digital Literacy Working Group, and the Technology, Finance, and Administration Working Group, respectively.
We also want to thank everyone who was consulted, reviewed this work and provided feedback, such as The Council of Post-Secondary Library Directors (CPSLD), librarians, British Columbia Teaching and Learning Council, instructional designers at BCcampus, and Ministry staff. Additionally, we are grateful for feedback received in the consultation sessions hosted in summer 2022. These engaging sessions enriched the Digital Learning Strategy and will inform its implementation. We offer each one of you our deepest gratitude.
Please see the Digital Learning Strategy (PDF) for a list of contributors.
- The Indigenous Adult and Higher Learning Association (IAHLA) is the representative organization for a wide variety of Aboriginal controlled adult and post-secondary educational institutes across British Columbia. The community-based institutes offer a broad spectrum of courses and programs. See more at: https://iahla.ca/
- Government of British Columbia, Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act Action Plan (2022): https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/government/ministries-organizations/ministries/indigenous-relations-reconciliation/declaration_act_action_plan.pdf at 6.
- Government of Canada, British Columbians to benefit from a historic plan with up to $830 million toward connecting all remaining rural households in the province to high-speed Internet (March 8, 2022.), https://www.canada.ca/en/innovation-science-economic-development/news/2022/03/british-columbians-to-benefit-from-a-historic-plan-with-up-to-830-million-toward-connecting-all-remaining-rural-households-in-the-province-to-high-.html
- In alignment with the Thompson Rivers University Act, which provides a provincial mandate for the university. Sections 3 (1) (d) and 3 (2) posit that the university is to provide an open learning educational credit bank for students, and to promote teaching excellence and the use of open learning methods.
- This strategic priority was drafted in alignment with articles 11 (2) and 31 (1) of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.