Issue 19: January/February 2016
A Workforce for a New Economy
This publication is made possible, in part, with the support of the Research Support Fund.
The highlight of this issue is the announcement of the new Ontario Centre for Workforce Innovation, a collaborative centre of excellence that will drive evidence-based innovation in employment and training. But there are many other ways in which Ryerson researchers are working to improve teaching and learning for the 21st century, and the stories in this newsletter provide just a taste of the many projects we are engaged in.
Ironically, while universities promote research and evidence-based innovation in other sectors, they are not always practicing what they preach. Universities are recognized to be drivers of research and innovation, yet in some respect they continue to operate as they have for centuries. At Ryerson, our researchers are demonstrating that we can bring rigor and analysis to better understanding how we teach and how our students learn and how we can challenge the status quo with new approaches.
One way is through the use and evaluation of new technologies, which have the potential to transform teaching and learning. Ryerson is a leader in e-learning and new modes of teaching delivery, with more than 400 online courses and a number of blended and hybrid courses using innovative approaches to incorporating technology, in and outside of the classroom. From virtual and augmented reality to online simulations and gamification of courses, our researchers are creating learning environments where comprehension and engagement is enhanced in innovative ways.
A recent study on the mobile-connected workforce — conducted at Ryerson for Rogers Communications — has revealed that although university students are among the most connected generation ever, universities for the most part do not leverage technology as effectively as other sectors. Ryerson researchers are working to reverse this trend by experimenting with new ways of incorporating technology into the classroom. Ben Barry’s research, for example, shows that using Twitter in the classroom connects students to the curriculum and can enhance peer-to-peer interaction. Daria Romaniuk has led the nursing gamified learning project, using virtual simulations that have been shown to enhance students’ ability to make time-sensitive clinical decisions. Vincent Hui has demonstrated that technology can enhance architectural education with students perceiving that they are, as a result, better equipped to innovate in their field upon graduation.
While technology is an important area of focus, researchers at Ryerson are also looking at fundamental questions about learning outcomes and the skills our graduates possess in relation to the skills in demand in the workplace. Internationally recognized for our “zone learning” and entrepreneurship training, researchers at Ryerson are examining the most effective ways to develop entrepreneurs. The evaluation of Summer Company, which provided support for more than 50 young entrepreneurs last year, has been shown not just to help students develop entrepreneurial skills but also confidence and success in other domains. Another study, funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada, explored the very notion of “experiential learning”, finding a lack of agreement on how it is defined, its goals or its impact. These issues are critical if it is to be effective.
Finally, Ryerson researchers are focusing on better understanding employer needs and the ways in which we can enhance the employability of our graduates. A study funded by the Ontario Human Capital Research and Innovation Fund (OHCRIF) revealed that the perceptions of students and graduates regarding their proficiency in both “soft skills” and “technical skills” were not shared by employers. In fact, while recent graduates perceived themselves to be “highly proficient” in oral communication (90.7 per cent) and writing (93.1 per cent), employers view them as considerably less proficient (47.6 per cent and 39.4 per cent, respectively). Subsequent work, funded by SSHRC, suggests that part of this may stem from very different perceptions of how skills are defined, assessed or developed.
Teaching and research are core to universities and critical to economic and social development. By applying our deep research expertise to the core functions of the University, we are not only expanding knowledge but helping to be the best we can be.
Vice-President, Research and Innovation
Friday March 18, 2016
Social Media Lab. 10th Floor, 10 Dundas Street East
As part of the Social Media Lab Speaker series, this research analyzes how people are utilizing Twitter as part of a social movement – using Movember as a case study. The research illustrates how social media can be utilized to trace the conversations of a digitally mediated social movement using conversational data.