New Portal Gives Students One-Stop Access to Learning Resources

Gavin Dew, AMS Vice President Academic - photo by Martin Dee
Gavin Dew, AMS Vice President Academic – photo by Martin Dee

UBC Reports | Vol. 52 | No. 2 | Feb. 2, 2006

By Basil Waugh

Students wanting to get a jump on academic success at UBC
have a new study partner at their service.

Launched in September 2005, Learning Enhancement Academic
Partnerships (LEAP) is a student-led web-portal that, for
the first time, gives one-stop access to student learning
resources, including academic coaching, peer-tutoring, study
groups, student blogs and a wide variety of learning skills

By reducing the amount of time and distance between students
and these resources, LEAP addresses a problem that faces university
students and resource-providers around the globe, says Gavin
Dew, Alma Mater Society (AMS) Vice-President Academic.

“Hunting down resources at major universities has historically
been time-consuming and a little overwhelming, particularly
for first- and second-year students,” says Dew, one
of several students who guided LEAP’s development with the
assistance of the Office of Student Development and the Office
of Learning Technology.

“But LEAP makes UBC the exception to this rule. All
our resources are now just one website away.”

In addition to bringing together existing resources, LEAP
is being used as a launching pad for two major new online
resources. January saw the launch of online coaching, which
enables students to connect online with peer coaches for academic
advice, and, in February, students can access online tutoring
for assistance in core subjects.

“Students have busy schedules and many cannot make
the traditional versions of these services,” says Dew.
“By making coaching and tutoring available online, we
are giving these students access to two really valuable services.”

Although LEAP has only been active for six months, the UBC
Teaching and Learning Enhancement Fund-supported site has
already received over 15,000 visitors and been recognized
by the U.S. organization Academic Impressions as a model best
practices for online student services. According to Janet
Teasdale, director of the Office of Student Development, student
leadership and LEAP’s broad focus are responsible for these
early signs of success.

“It’s no mystery why students are finding that
LEAP responds to their needs,” says Teasdale.

“Students took ownership of the project from day one
and worked very hard to guide us to the right mix of resources
and features.”

“Other universities provide online learning resources,
but their focus tends to be on struggling students,”
adds Teasdale.

“What makes LEAP unique, not to mention a richer experience,
is its focus on all students, whether they are at 60 percent
trying to get to 70, or 80 percent trying to get to 90.”

Behind the screen, LEAP is published using Movable Type,
weblog software that allows resource-providers to easily upload
new content, manage student feedback, and expand the site
in the future. Unlike traditional content management systems,
Movable Type empowers providers to publish content to the
web quickly without going through gatekeepers or web administrators.
In addition to facilitating student commentary on LEAP’s
resources, the system’s weblog software sends email
notifications of new feedback directly to the relevant departmental

“We have used technology in a way that really bends
many of the rules of institutional websites,” says Michelle
Lamberson, director of the Office of Learning Technology.
“Weblog software gives us a flexible site that can easily
grow in whatever direction students or resource-providers
want to take it.”

For more information on LEAP, visit