New system may improve use for both students and instructors
Bardia Besharat ASSOCIATE NEWS EDITOR
Photo: Quercus / U of T.
In 2015, the University of Toronto (U of T) Administration began working on a new digital learning environment. The environment is named Quercus, a name created by three U of T Students, Saski Gjelsvik, Kenneth Holyoke, and Syed Rafi Tanzim. This new environment is set to replace the current online learning platform, Blackboard, in Fall 2018.
The Mike spoke with Tanzim, a USMC student, who explained the meaning behind the name “Quercus”. “The steering committee in charge of Academic-Toolbox renewal at U of T wanted a name that reflects U of T’s historical culture and traditions. So, the most obvious place to look for inspiration was the University crest and motto — ‘Quercus’ being the Latin name for the oak tree genus, connected the University’s cultural symbol, the oak tree that forms the main part of the University’s crest, to the University’s historic Latin motto, ‘velut arbor aevo — as a tree through the ages,’” Syed Rafi Tanzim stated. The three students succeeded in winning the naming contest for the new learning environment by simply submitting a name through the current Blackboard portal.
The new Quercus system emulates app-based operating systems, allowing for a much more customizable and optimized learning environment. Instructors will be able to integrate apps for specific purposes for their classes as well as add flexibility to teaching methods. The new system is a much-needed upgrade from the current portal system. However, one obstacle stands in the way of the new learning environment, and that is instructor use.
Many professors do not utilize Blackboard, which poses issues for the integration and usefulness of the new learning environment. This issue raises the question of whether instructors will use the new system when they do not use the current online learning environment. Professors would have to learn how to use the new environment, which discourages use. Additionally, regardless of how much better the new environment is, many professors will continue to avoid using an online learning service.
The under-utilization of online services poses massive issues for students, especially when students require additional aids to their specific classes available online by their other professors. While many professors will continue to use online services provided to them, many others will continue to do the opposite and disregard the services almost entirely. This poses the following question to the administration: How effective will the new Quercus system be in instructor ease and use?