SPARK, the Student Paper and Academic Research Kit, is an e-learning resource designed to help students succeed at written academic assignments.

SPARK focuses on the development of academic literacies, such as research, writing and learning skills. Academic literacies are a set of interrelated skills. As a result we take a holistic approach by organizing the content around the process of completing a written assignment, rather than treating each skill (research, writing, etc.) as a separate domain.

The SPARK modules are presented in three categories: “Getting Started”, “Exploring” and “Pulling It Together”. These categories loosely model the process of preparing a paper, however we encourage students to browse through topics and jump around to different modules as desired. Academic literacies are, after all, not linear and stepwise in nature. SPARK acknowledges the recursive nature of research, writing and learning in both the structure and content of the modules.

Each of the 13 SPARK modules require about 8 - 10 minutes to complete the core content, but we also provide supplemental resources such as checklists, templates, short videos and other multi-media objects to provide students with additional learning options. Links are also provided throughout the site that will lead students to relevant academic supports available through York’s Learning Commons, including one-on-one assistance, workshops and online chat assistance.

SPARK has been extensively tested throughout development with York University students to ensure that the design suits their needs. It is also intended to support teaching. Academic literacies are best learned in the context of courses and disciplines. To this end, we have designed materials for instructors with suggestions on integrating the modules into curriculum and course management environments.

SPARK is a project of York’s Learning Commons. The project was developed collaboratively by York University Libraries, the Writing Department (Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies), and Learning Skills Services (Counselling and Disability Services). SPARK was created from funding provided by York University’s Office of the Vice-President Academic & Provost through the Academic Innovation Fund.

Steering Committee:
Cathy Boyd-Withers (Learning Skills Services); Sarah Coysh (York University Libraries); Ramona Frial-Brown (Learning Skills Services); Polly MacFarlane (Learning Skills Services); Mark Robertson (York University Libraries); Ron Sheese (Writing Department); and Adam Taves (York University Libraries).
Writers: Stephanie Bell; Cathy Boyd-Withers; Sophie Bury; Sarah Coysh; Meghan Ecclestone; Ramona Frial-Brown; Kalina Grewal; June Hill; Ilo-Katryn Maimets; Norda Majekodunmi; Vivienne Monty; Patrick O’Neill; Rosa Orlandini; Phyllis Rozendal; Ron Sheese; Ellen Simms; Anna St. Onge; Adam Taves; Peggy Warren; Ros Woodhouse.
E-Learning Design and Development: Kelly Juhasz, The Knowledge Transfer Company (TKTC) Inc.