OCULA 2014 Special Achievement Award Winner: York University’s e-learning tool SPARK


The Student Papers and Academic Resource Kit (S)ARK), is a pan-university online learning resource intended for students at York and anywhere else.  Spark is a model of “innovation” and “open access” developed through the collaborative efforts of York University Libraries, Writing Department and Learning Skills Services at York University.

What is it?
The SPARK modules provide an integrated approach to supporting academic literacies and focuses on the three core areas of research, writing and learning skills.  The module’s different presentation formats (video, audio, interactive, written, etc.) cater to students with diverse learning styles. Students may select the module that meets their specific academic need anytime and anywhere.  Faculty can incorporate any or all of the modules into their course web sites and learning systems. It is imperative that SPARK remains relevant therefore the design is such that any part of the resource can be modified, removed or expanded. SPARK is under a Creative Commons license so that others may use the site or re-use the content for non-commercial purposes with appropriate credit. The design of each page can be easily modified to reflect a school’s colours or incorporate a school banner.  It is hoped others will also contribute mini-modules to keep this learning site relevant and of a high quality.

Who were the players? 
SPARK was made possible by the combined efforts of the project leads Sarah Coysh (YUL), Mark Robertson (YUL) and Adam Taves (YUL) along with Ron Sheese (Writing Department York University) Cathy Boyd-Withers (Learning Skills York University) and Kelly Juhasz (Knowledge Transfer Company). Along the way many more people from the university community contributed to the project.

Reference librarians designed library content, experts from Instructional Media Services produced videos, communication officers developed promotional programs and people in the Provost’s office provided financial support and tremendous encouragement.  Recognizing the potential power of SPARK, the Provost’s office provided funds) for a new module on Academic Integrity which is in development.

SPARK is being recognized for its innovation. Even before its launch, Contact North/Contact Nord: Ontario Online Learning Portal for Faculty & Instructors ran an article on the SPARK learning resource in its “Pockets of Innovation” column.  Shortly after its launch SPARK was cited in Academica’s Top Ten.