Proposed Student Research Project Updates

Open Education in the Ontario post-secondary education system in the areas of institutional leadership perspective of OER and student development of OER

Brandon Carson, EdD Candidate (Program Completion anticipated by 2025)

In recent years, Ontario Tech University has become committed to OER by creating an OER lab, grassroots campaigns for OER adoption such as the #OERThankU and #TextbookBroke campaigns, and encouragement to use OER from Dr. Steven Murphy and Dr. Lori Livingston. I am interested in expanding Ontario Tech’s efforts in OER and Open Educational Practices (OEP) by completing research in the areas of OER and OEP. My Thesis in the MALAT program at Royal Roads University focused on the barriers that Ontario college business faculty face to using OER and approaches to overcome the identified barriers. I want to continue my research of Open Education in the Ontario post-secondary education system in the areas of institutional leadership perspective of OER, and student development of OER in courses that use the Fully Online Learning Community (FOLC) model. I have gained several experiences in the OER community over the past three years. I was the Program Manager of Business OER at eCampusOntario for 15 months, supporting Ontario post-secondary business-related programs in shifting to OER use and presenting on the benefits of OER. From a research perspective, I presented at institutional, provincial and international conferences, and am a committee member of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee for the Open Education Conference. As a doctoral student, I would commit to continuing to present at education conferences, become a member of the Global OER Graduate Network, and to publish a minimum of two journal articles a year throughout my studies.

Queering the FOLC (Interactions of Queer Culture with the Use of Digital Learning Environments)

Jessica Trinier, EdD Candidate (Program Completion anticipated by 2025)

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Enhancing Early Math Professional Learning in Fully Online Learning Communities (FOLC)

Jessie Branch (Proposed M.A. Thesis Project)

Purpose and Background

Early math skills are fundamental to children’s development and are known to have a significant impact on later academic success (Duncan et al., 2007; Litkowski et al., 2021). Despite this, educators have limited opportunities to participate in math-related professional learning opportunities, and, as a result, math skills are often not a priority in early childhood education, or ECE (Cerezci, 2021; Ginsburg et al., 2014; Litkowski et al., 2021; Trawick-Smith et al., 2015; Worthington & van Oers, 2016). In addition, research indicates that educators often report low confidence in their mathematical knowledge and abilities, which contributes to their apprehension about facilitating math-related learning experiences with young children (Litkowski et al., 2021; Sheridan & Wen, 2021; Trawick-Smith et al., 2015; Wu & Goff, 2021).
As of 2007. in response to the Early Childhood Educator’s Act, Early Childhood Educators in Ontario, Canada must be registered members of the College of Early Childhood Educators (CECE), the regulatory professional organization for Registered Early Childhood Educators (RECEs). As of 2016, the CECE mandates that each member regularly maintain a Continuous Professional Learning (CPL) portfolio as a means of increasing professional recognition and public respect for the field (College of Early Childhood Educators, 2022). Although the CPL program holds positive intentions for reflecting on and improving one’s practice, there has been a lack of guidance to indicate what activities are appropriate, which has left many RECEs unsure of how to best plan goals that uphold the ethical standards of the field (Halfon & Dixon, 2015; AECEO, 2014). Subsequently, ECEs report geographical, financial, and scheduling challenges when seeking professional learning opportunities (Sheridan & Wen, 2021). Further, the opportunities that are accessible often offer generic, “one-size-fits-all” content delivery, is not conducive to networking and do not provide long-term support (Sheridan & Wen, 2021; Trawick-Smith et al., 2015). Previous literature indicates that this limited access to quality professional learning contributes to the inconsistencies in mathematical learning opportunities offered in early years settings (Sheridan & Wen, 2021).
High-quality professional learning has a significant effect on the confidence and abilities of educators, which, in turn, increases the quality of their interactions with children (Whittaker et al., 2020). According to the Association of Early Childhood Educators of Ontario (AECEO) (2014), amongst other criteria, meaningful professional learning opportunities should prioritize accessibility, affordability, active learner participation, and collaborative interactions. Prior research indicates that collaborative professional learning can support positive changes in educators’ practices (Cohrssen et al., 2015; Knaus, 2017; Trawick-Smith et al., 2015). Further, transitioning to online learning formats can mitigate barriers and provide increased access to meaningful and relevant professional knowledge (Sheridan & Wen, 2021). The use of collaborative action research allows regular opportunities for educators to interact with colleagues in a community of inquiry (Garrison et al., 2000), where professionals can share insights and feedback with a broader network of early childhood educators (beyond their own co-workers). In this way, collaborative action research involves and encourages educators to interact with and even contribute to the growing body of research in the field (Sagor, 1992). The purpose of the study is to investigate the effectiveness of a fully online learning community (FOLC) environment for facilitating math-focused professional learning opportunities that are collaborative and reflective, and that can support positive changes in educators’ awareness of early mathematical practices. The study will host a series of four fully online sessions structured around online collaborative action research. The study will integrate collaborative action research as a mechanism for facilitating authentic discourse and perspective sharing between early childhood educator participants to elicit feedback on issues that are meaningful to improving their practices (vanOostveen, 2017).


Phase 1
Phase 1 Surveys:
GREx Dashboard (See attachment – Appendix B – SOP#000) The study will use the Global Readiness Explorer (GREx) dashboard (See attachment – Appendix B – SOP#000) to present participants with the survey consent form and four surveys. Participants indicate their consent by clicking the START button to commence the surveys.
Basic Demographic Survey (BDS) (See attachment – Appendix C – SOP#001) The first survey is the Basic Demographic Survey (BDS) (See attachment – Appendix C – SOP#001) which collects participants’ basic demographic data and is used to make comparisons against the other surveys. This survey will take 3 to 4 minutes to complete; upon completion, the other surveys will be made available.
An addendum to BDS (See attachment – Appendix C1 – Addendum to BDS) adds an option to select early childhood educators as their current occupation.
Digital Competency Profiler (DCP) (See attachment – Appendix H – SOP#003) The second survey is the Digital Competency Profiler (DCP) (See attachment – Appendix H – SOP#003), which creates a profile for participants that identifies strengths and weaknesses in their digital competencies. This survey will require 15-20 minutes to complete.
Fully Online Learning Community Survey (FOLCS) (See attachment – Appendix I – SOP#002) The third survey is the Fully Online Learning Community Survey (FOLCS) (See attachment – Appendix I – SOP#002). This survey encourages participants to critically examine their readiness to work or learn within Fully Online Learning Community (FOLC) environments. This survey will take approximately 15 to 20 minutes to complete.
Optional Survey 4 – The fourth survey is optional and should only be completed by individuals willing to participate in Phase II of the project, the online discussion/focus group and interview sessions. This survey will ask for the participant’s email address to initiate contact for scheduling purposes (See attachment – Appendix S).
Phase 2
Online Meeting Sessions are conducted in Google Meet and recorded via OBS Studio. (See attachment – Version_2_Appendix D – Focus Group Consent) Phase 2 of the project will involve participation in a series of four online, synchronous sessions structured around collaborative action research. The first synchronous session will begin with brief introductions of participants to gain familiarity with each other, an initial explanation of the collaborative action research process, and taking participants through the first two steps of collaborative action research, based on experiences pertaining to mathematical learning in the early years (See attachment – Appendix N). Participants will be asked to take their newly formed action plan to implement in their classroom in the following week. In the second session, participants will be guided through the third and fourth steps of the collaborative action research process and adjust their goals for their next classroom session (See attachment – Appendix O). In the third session, participants will discuss and analyze the implementation of the second iteration of their action plan (See attachment – Appendix P). Finally, the fourth session will focus on the final analysis of the implementation and the evaluation and reporting of overall findings to the group. Within these sessions, participants will be asked to share an early math experience from their classroom practice, and each participant will elicit feedback on their experience. In the week after each session, participants will be invited to return to their classroom to implement the feedback they have received and report their results in the next online session.
Individual Reflective Interview After the four online sessions, the researcher will conduct one-on-one online interviews with each participant regarding their thoughts on engaging in the collaborative action research process and how it has or could potentially affect their thinking. These interviews will be semi-structured and will use a few pre-determined questions to guide the discussion, but additional probing questions may be used to enrich the discussion further and explore participant responses at an individual level. (See attachment – Appendix R). This structure was chosen because it is expected that early childhood educator participants have a wealth of unique experiences due to differences in environment, personal values, and even the children with whom they have worked. Interviews with each participant will be recorded to provide a detailed account of their experience in the project.

Supporting Registered Early Childhood Educators (RECEs) through Online Collaborative Professional Practice Discussions

Ashley Hope (Proposed M.A. Thesis Project)

Purpose and Background

For decades, Ontario’s early years sector has campaigned for legislative recognition. After many years of advocating, the Ontario Government finally passed the Early Childhood Educators Act (2007), which helped to establish the sector’s regulatory body, the College of Early Childhood Educators. The college is responsible for upholding public interest by regulating and governing Ontario’s Registered Early Childhood Educators (RECEs) through registration practices, professional codes and standards, complaint and misconduct procedures, and requirements for continuous professional learning (CPL). The College of Early Childhood Educators defines the CPL program as a self-directed, self-reflective process that enables RECEs to plan and record their professional learning in a meaningful way. However, RECEs have reported the process as unclear, leaving them unsure what activities would be considered professional learning (Halfon & Dixon, 2015). Additionally, RECEs work in various settings and do not have regular opportunities to engage in collaborative professional practice discussions. In fact, some RECEs encounter geographical, time and financial constraints that impede their ability to participate in professional learning (Durden et al., 2016; Dwyer et al., 2019; Elliott, 2017; Kyzar et al., 2014; Pölzl-Stefanec, 2021; Sheridan et al., 2019; Sheridan & Wen, 2021; Stone-MacDonald & Douglass, 2015; Wagner, 2020; Wynants & Dennis, 2018). For instance, many professional workshops occur in-person during working hours, hindering educators’ ability to schedule and participate in ongoing professional learning (Durden et al., 2015; Sheridan & Wen, 2021). Research suggests that quality teaching is directly related to RECEs’ knowledge, skills, and beliefs (Durden et al., 2016; Dwyer et al., 2019; Elliott, 2017; Kyzar et al., 2014; Pölzl-Stefanec, 2021; Sheridan et al., 2019; Sheridan & Wen, 2021; Stone-MacDonald & Douglass, 2015; Wagner, 2020; Wynants & Dennis, 2018). However, the current design of professional learning workshops has restricted some RECEs’ participation, creating a gap between the practical needs of RECEs and access to quality professional knowledge. These noted professional learning sessions do not support active participation, deliver ongoing feedback, encourage deep learning, or provide opportunities to collaborate with others (Durden et al., 2015; Wynants & Dennis, 2018). In Ontario, RECEs have an ethical and professional responsibility to enhance their teaching and learning practices by upgrading their knowledge and skills to meet the evolving needs of the children and families they serve (Halfon & Dixon, 2015). For this reason, professional learning is integral to maintaining and sustaining a high level of care and support in early learning programs (Association of Early Childhood Ontario, 2016). Research suggests that online learning formats could mitigate the barriers RECEs face and provide sufficient access to relevant and practical opportunities to enhance their classroom practices. These studies demonstrated that online professional learning appears to be an effective way to optimize access, reduce costs, limit overcrowding and increase flexibility (Elliott, 2017; Pölzl-Stefanec, 2021; Sheridan et al., 2019; Wynants & Dennis, 2018). Many RECEs reported that the flexibility of the online platform provided them with control over scheduling and opportunities to learn at their own pace (Kyzar et al., 2014; Sheridan et al., 2019). The following study investigates RECEs’ technology use and digital competence in an attempt to explore their preparedness for fully online professional learning. The study examines the effects of online collaborative professional practice discussions (CPPDs) on RECEs’ professional learning and growth. The goal is to understand if fully online collaborative discussions support RECEs in gaining access to meaningful professional learning experiences. Specifically, we want to determine if collaborative online discussions support RECEs in completing their continuous professional learning (CPL) requirements, leading to higher-quality pedagogical practice outcomes. Additionally, the project will support RECEs professionalism by demonstrating accountability for increased public trust.


This empirical Mixed Methods study has three phases of data collection. Phase one includes inviting participants to complete four surveys on the Global Readiness Explorer. Participants will complete these surveys before the live focus group sessions. The collected data will help to provide a general understanding of the participants’ digital competence and readiness to learn in a fully online learning environment. The first survey is the Basic Demographic Survey (BDS) which collects basic demographic data. This data will help establish a portfolio of the participants and will take 3 to 4 minutes to complete; the other surveys will be made available upon completing this survey. The second survey is the Digital Competency Profiler (DCP), which creates a profile for participants that identify strengths and weaknesses in their digital competencies. The survey will require 10 minutes to complete. The third survey is the Fully Online Learning Community Survey (FOLCS). This survey encourages participants to critically examine their readiness to work or learn within Fully Online Learning Community (FOLC) environments. The study uses this survey to understand the participants’ digital readiness to work and learn within fully online learning environments. The survey will take approximately 15 to 20 minutes to complete. The fourth survey is optional, and participants can only participate in this survey once the three above surveys are complete. This survey allows participants to voluntarily continue their participation in Phase II, the focus group sessions, and interviews by inputting their email addresses. This survey requires participants to read the consent letter, which invites them to input their email addresses if they are interested in extending their participation in the three online 90-minute Collaborative Professional Practice Discussions and one online 30-minute concluding interview. The survey will require 5 to 8 minutes to complete. The online surveys will take participants approximately 40 minutes to complete. After completing the DCP and FOLCS surveys, participants will receive a visualization, which provides participants with an interpretation of the graphs and suggestions regarding how they might improve their skills for each of the four dimensions displayed in both surveys. Participants can use these ‘aster plots’ as an aid or guide to improve their digital competence and skills.

In phase two, participants will attend three collaborative professional practice discussions (CPPD) that will run for 90 minutes each. The College of Early Childhood Educators (CECE) states that collaborative professional practice discussions (CPPDs) are beneficial for supporting the RECEs continuous professional learning requirements. During the weekly sessions, participants will be presented with a different practice scenario requiring them to examine practice issues and apply the Code and Standards. As a group, participants will work together to answer the reflecting questions connected to each scenario. These sessions will be hosted in Google Meet. Each session will be recorded and coded to understand if there is value in collaborative professional discussions as a means of facilitating professional learning rather than the in-person, traditional lecture-based approach or an autonomous online module approach.

The third phase involves conducting 30-minute semi-structured interviews with each participant after participating in the three online sessions. The goal is to explore participant responses at an individual level. This will support the researcher in providing thick, rich descriptions of each participant. The interviews will be recorded, and this data will be analyzed to provide a detailed account of each participant’s experience in the project (i.e., building individual case studies).

Assessment as part of digital education lifeworlds: A metasynthesis

Graham Lean (Proposed M.Ed. Project)

Framed by Habermas’ (1987) concepts of system and lifeworld, this paper argues the function of assessment in higher education has historically been skewed towards system integration over social integration, and this is now reflected in online learning.

Assessment has often overemphasised reliable, reproducible testing methods. This has a “backwash” effect on curriculum design, lesson planning and teacher conduct, leading to teachers “teaching the test”. However, there has been a notable shift away from these modes of assessment towards “authentic assessment”. Despite this positive shift, the contemporary focus on authentic assessment is often narrow, limiting assessment to replicating the world of work. This leads to a different form of backwash suffered by purportedly less authentic modes of assessment. This backwash is indicative of the limiting of educational goals to those that fit in with prevailing neoliberal ideology or, in Habermasian terms, it demonstrates the colonization of the educational lifeworld by its coexisting system. This often leads to tensions between pedagogy and the systemic organisation of higher education. These problems also emerge in online and distance learning design, with top-down content dissemination often being preferred over collaborative, dialogic learning.

Using metasynthesis template analysis involving a combination of structured and emergent coding, this paper will aim to identify emerging themes in the literature on online assessment and college policy documents on assessment alongside curricula and course outlines. It will then analyze the impact of the systematic organization of assessment on curriculum design and development. Then, through the lens of Habermas’ system and lifeworld concepts, it will propose a potential framework for online assessment in higher education, encompassing a holistic approach to assessment, using dialogic methods, negotiation and engagement in collaboration.

E-learning in nursing education: Factors Affecting Its Use

Marvin Mnaymneh (Proposed M.A. Thesis Project)

Purpose and Background

The effectiveness of e-learning has primarily been studied amongst professionals in a variety of domains and recently in the medical area or in general healthcare (Cook et al., 2008, 2010a; Curran and Fleet, 2005; Cobb, 2004; Wutoh et al., 2004). Even though nurses make up one of the largest groups of healthcare workers, there is very little research on e-learning and its effectiveness among nurses or student nurses (Beckett, 2020). Due to societal demands and the changing nature of the professional environment’s crucial to concentrate on how e-learning affects this professional group because of the demands in society and in the health organization (i.e. EMR). Additionally, as Curran and Fleet (2005) and Curran et al. (2010) have noted, evaluative education studies frequently focus on participant satisfaction when, instead, more effort might be directed toward knowledge creation, skill development, and changes in practice following educational interventions. Kirkpatrick’s model of evaluating learning outcomes for educational training, such as e-learning, also highlights the significance of emphasizing various outcomes (Galloway, 2005). Kirkpatrick’s model includes four stages for assessing educational training: (1) reaction, or student satisfaction, (2) learning, or increased knowledge, (3) behaviour, or change in practice; and (4) results, or final outcomes, a summation of satisfaction, learning and behaviour? (Kirkpatrick, 1998; Galloway, 2005). The effect of e-learning on knowledge, skills, and satisfaction among nurses and nursing students will therefore be the main focus of this research.


The study will be conducted in two phases. Phase 1: Participants will be asked to complete a Basic Demographic Survey (BDS) and a Digital Competency Profiler (DCP) survey provided through the EILAB’s GREx dashboard. These surveys collect demographic data and create a profile of the participant based on the frequency and confidence of their technology usage. This phase will take approximately 20 minutes. See Appendix 0 for the GREx dashboard (SOP #000), Appendix 1 for the Basic Demographic Survey (SOP #001), and Appendix 3 for the DCP survey (SOP #003).
Phase 2: The selected 10-12 participants will engage in a one-hour online e-learning session hosted on Unity Health Toronto’s Learning Management System – “The Learning Centre.” Participants will be asked to “think aloud” their thought processes and decision-making while they work on four pre-chosen learning modules. Audio and video of all performances will be recorded. Video will be captured simultaneously from four perspectives, including the device screen, the participant’s face, the participant’s hand interactions and the participant’s body seated at the table. The facilitator will be on hand to provide answers to procedural questions. (See Appendix 8 – Phase 2 – Letter of Invitation and Consent). Participants will then be asked to complete a post-task semi-formal interview that assesses their satisfaction with and perceived usefulness of the object they created and asks them to identify any skills they feel they learned during the study task. The interview will also ask them to identify any barriers perceived during the study task (See Appendix 15 – Phase 2 – Interview Questions). Field notes will be recorded by the researcher of the participant while they are completing their modules.