Lakehead University awarded $751,000 to reduce barriers to access and equity for students

May 21, 2021 – Thunder Bay and Orillia, Ont.

Lakehead University has been awarded $751,000 by eCampusOntario as part of the Ontario Ministry of Colleges and Universities Virtual Learning Strategy (VLS).

Announced in December, 2020, the VLS is a historic, $50-million investment by the Ontario Ministry of Colleges and Universities (MCU) intended to drive growth and advancement in virtual learning across the province’s post-secondary institutions.

The VLS will expand the possibilities of traditional and life-long learning through the accelerated use of both online and hybrid learning.

Dr. Rhonda Koster photo

“As an institution, we are constantly reaffirming our long-standing commitment to reducing barriers to access and equity to post-secondary education for rural and remote residents through virtual learning opportunities,” said Dr. Rhonda Koster, Lakehead’s Deputy Provost and Vice-Provost, Teaching and Learning.

“These projects supported through the Virtual Learning Strategy will assist diverse learners achieve their potential.”

Dr. Michel S. Beaulieu, Lakehead’s Associate Vice-Provost, Academic, said these projects will help students succeed in university and beyond.  Photo of Dr. Michel Beaulieu

“All of these projects will result in improved student mobility through the creation of expanded and flexible capacity, programming options, and student supports,” Dr. Beaulieu said.

Lakehead’s Teaching Commons has received $330,000 as part of theDigital Capacity stream, which provides institutions that have low current capacity with targeted supports in instructional design, educational media development, and learning technology rovers (paid students).

Lakehead will use these funds to hire two Instructional Designers, a Media Designer/Developer, and Learner Technology Support positions on both campuses to provide training and support to faculty in the design, development, and delivery of quality online programming.

As part of the Digital Fluency stream, two projects have been awarded funding to create and adopt professional development resources and supports for faculty and students to improve virtual teaching and learning.

Using the Seven Grandfather Teachings as a pedagogical framework, Lakehead’s Indigenous Curriculum Specialist, Jerri-Lynn Orr, has been awarded $200,000 to lead members of the Indigenous Curriculum Specialists Network in the development of an online, embodied learning experience exploring diverse Indigenous pedagogical approaches to online education.

This will provide learners with a toolkit for adapting and engaging respectfully with Indigenous Peoples, communities, and knowledge systems while actively learning about digital literacy, fluency, and decolonizing digital spaces. It will also model how Indigenous content can be utilized without appropriation.

Lakehead University also received $171,000 under this stream for the creation of a four-module, 32-hour faculty development course, focused on the design/delivery of quality, digital learner experiences.

Led by Dr. Lisa O'Neill, an instructional designer in Lakehead’s Teaching Commons, and Dr. Angela van Barneveld, Assistant Professor of Education, it is a collaborative project between Lakehead and Nipissing universities. The course will be discipline-independent to support the widest variety of faculty – by embedding experiential learning practices throughout – with feedback specific to each participant.

Two projects have been awarded $25,000 each as part of the Digital Content stream.This stream provides funds for the development and adoption of a portfolio of high-quality online, high-quality virtual simulations and/or lab content to reduce the strain on campus space and infrastructure, and enable more flexible delivery to attract new markets for online learning in Ontario.

Kevin Dempsey, Director of Professional Development in Education at Lakehead University, will lead the development of a Professional Practice Video Series for Educators.

Involving the recording and editing of a series of professional practice videos for teachers, it is intended for use in additional qualification courses. The open educational resource videos from this project will greatly improve instruction in additional qualification courses in Ontario.

First-Year University Seminar Courses are known to increase student persistence and retention, which is why a second project will build onLakehead’s past experience in the design and delivery of in-person University Seminars to build students’ academic skills and confidence for a successful transition to university studies.

A multi-unit Lakehead Project Team, representing both academic and non-academic areas of the institution, will adapt Lakehead's existing University Seminars to be applicable in a remote-learning environment.

Lakehead University is also a partner on an additional $530,360 of successfully funded projects being led by Ryerson University, Sault College, Nipissing University, and Queen’s University.




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Lakehead University is a fully comprehensive university with approximately 9,700 full-time equivalent students and over 2,000 faculty and staff at two campuses in Orillia and Thunder Bay, Ontario. Lakehead has 10 faculties, including Business Administration, Education, Engineering, Graduate Studies, Health & Behavioural Sciences, Law, Natural Resources Management, the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, Science & Environmental Studies, and Social Sciences & Humanities. Lakehead University’s achievements have been recognized nationally and internationally, including being ranked, once again, among Canada’s Top 10 primarily undergraduate universities in Maclean’s 2021 University Rankings; as well as included in the top half of Times Higher Education's 2020 World Universities Rankings for the second consecutive year, and 99th among 1,115 universities from around the world in THE's 2021 Impact Rankings (which assesses institutions against the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals). Visit


eCampusOntario is a provincially-funded non-profit organization that leads a consortium of the province’s 48 publicly-funded colleges, universities and Indigenous institutes to develop and test online learning tools to advance the use of education technology and digital learning environments. For more information, visit