UBC iSchool takes new approach towards technology

This year, the iSchool introduced the iTechFlex Initiative, which aims to establish a new paradigm for technology instruction and learning. In contrast to the traditional top-down, one-size-fits-all, technology-for-its-own-sake model, in which students take courses on technology, the iSchool is moving to a more organic, self-directed, and immersive approach, in which technology is integrated with the curriculum across the professional programs and students are encouraged to be more self-directed in their learning. In addition to this shift in orientation, the iSchool is investing in infrastructure and in new technologies and media collaboration spaces for students.

The development of iTechFlex is a result of feedback received last year from community members, employers, and alumni who responded to a questionnaire on graduate competencies. Respondents provided valuable input, including suggestions on how to strengthen students’ knowledge and skills related to technology.

The iTechFlex initiative has three primary components and will be rolled out over the next two years:

Core Tech Component

In the summer of 2015 the iSchool established Core Technology Competencies for incoming MLIS students and created the Technology Learning Portal (Tech Portal), a novel edX-based online environment that allows incoming student to do a skills self-assessment and work through modules to reach a set competency level. In addition, an ongoing series of extra-curricular face-to-face workshops will be offered. The Tech Portal will be expanded over time to support a wider range of technology skills. Eventually, the hope is to open up the Tech resources to function as a shared academic-public learning space.

Flexible Digital Learning Component

By early spring 2016, the iSchool will establish the server and software infrastructure to build a digital lab that will provide students with access to systems and tools that are used in the workplace, such as Sharepoint, Access to Memory (AtoM), and BitCurator. The iSchool will work with instructors to design exercises, tutorials, and assignments for existing courses that use this technology infrastructure.

Tech Sandbox Component

The technology sandbox is envisioned as a creative, safe, and playful environment in which students can engage in informal collaborations and learn how to use new software and systems through direct interaction, similar to the Makerspace model. Newer technologies, such as eye tracking software, 3-D printers and Raspberry Pi kits will be available for use by students in course projects and for self-directed learning, and to faculty and students for research projects.

The iSchool is collaborating on this initiative with the UBC Library and the Faculty of Arts IT unit and looks forward to input from alumni and the professional community as the components are rolled out. The iSchool is confident that iTechFlex will enable students to increase their skills and engagement with new technologies and our graduates to make positive contributions in a wider range of professional settings.

Learn more about the many initiatives underway at the iSchool.


Dr. Luanne Freund is Acting Director and Associate Professor at SLAIS the iSchool at UBC.