Incorporating Topics That Aren’t Distance-Friendly Into an Online Program: One Development Team’s Experience

  • Valentin Schaefer University of Victoria
  • Sue Doner University of Victoria
  • Janet Pivnick University of Victoria


The Native Species and Natural Processes certificate at the University of Victoria is an advanced-level online program of four courses to introduce students to state-of-the-art topics in the field of ecological restoration. The program posed some unique challenges for course developers.The development team needed to find ways to create online courses that support a practical approach for topics that normally require tangible hands-on work. The solutions to these challenges required a creative problem-solving approach to accommodate the unique elements of the development process and the delivery of each course. The solutions employed included(1) creation of a “connection to place” by use of extensive visuals in slide shows,(2) use of problem-based learning to develop critical thinking skills,(3) engagement of students via case studies to bridge the different languages inherent in different ecosystems,(4) conducting of virtual site visits to design real-world resto- ration projects,(5) inclusion of “fireside chat” audio to reinforce the idea of multiple perspec- tives and uncertainty,(6) establishment of a community of practice to engage students in collaborative learning,(7) creation of assign- ments that involve scaffolding projects and peer review,(8) allowance for students to customize projects to accommodate their geog- raphy and different realities, and(9) develop- ment of a design charrette to practice collabora- tive decision making and design.
Reports of Practice