Virtual School Meanderings

June 2, 2012

OCUFA Report, May 31, 2012 – OCUFA Faculty Survey: Professors And Academic Librarians Warn Against Rash Reforms Of Ontario’s Universities

Another post-secondary item that is worth taking a look at…  Note the last couple of news items…

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Due to a delay with our translation service, we regret we cannot include a French copy of this report. We will make the French version available on our website once it is complete.

OCUFA Faculty Survey: Professors and academic librarians warn against rash reforms of Ontario’s universities
Professors and academic librarians are warning the Government of Ontario against putting limits on the educational options available to students, based on the results of OCUFA’s 2012 Faculty Survey.

Thank you for participating in the OCUFA Faculty Survey
The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) would like to thank everyone who took the time to fill out our 2012 Faculty Survey.

Reality Check: Online education is expensive when you do it right

It is not cheap to provide a high quality university education online.

OCUFA Faculty Survey: Professors and academic librarians warn against rash reforms of Ontario’s universities
Professors and academic librarians are warning the Government of Ontario against putting limits on the educational options available to students, based on the results of OCUFA’s 2012 Faculty Survey. In a leaked discussion paper and several speeches, the Government of Ontario has floated moving to a three-year degree structure, delivering 60 per cent of a degree online, and introducing year-round university programming.

“In a competitive and knowledge-based economy, our students don’t need less education,” said Constance Adamson, President of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA). “Any policy that potentially reduces the quantity and quality of curriculum taught in universities has to be met with extreme caution and concern.”
Survey highlights:

  • 87 per cent of faculty agreed that moving to a three-year degree will limit the ability of students to pursue graduate or professional education in the rest of Canada and the United States.
  • 86 per cent of faculty surveyed  agreed that moving to a three-year degree will harm the quality of university education in Ontario
  • 82 per cent agreed that delivering 60 per cent of undergraduate courses online will harm the quality of university education
  • Only 24 percent of faculty surveyed strongly agreed that there is sufficient student demand for year-round university

“Online education has an important place in today’s universities, but moving the majority of undergraduate education online will undermine the learning experience our students expect. We shortchange students if we ignore the educational importance of face-to-face student interaction with their peers and faculty inside the classroom and laboratory,” said Adamson
“Faculty members are united in their concern over the online learning and three-year degree proposals. These ideas need to be carefully scrutinized and reviewed to ensure that they support the best possible student experience while meeting Ontario’s educational needs.”

The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) survey was commissioned to assess Ontario university professors’ and academic librarians’ opinions on a variety of issues affecting university education. The online survey received over 2,300 responses between March 21 and April 16, 2012.

READ THE FULL REPORT

Thank you for participating in the OCUFA Faculty Survey             
The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) would like to thank everyone who took the time to fill out our 2012 Faculty Survey. We received over 2,300 responses from across Ontario, from all disciplines.

The Faculty Survey helps OCUFA understand the opinions and concerns of our members, and allows us to be a more effective advocacy voice in Ontario. By participating in the survey, you helped us communicate the faculty perspective to administrators, government, and the people of Ontario. Media coverage of the survey included the Canadian Press, the Toronto Star, and Newstalk 1010.

OCUFA also held a draw for a new Apple iPad for those who participated in the survey.  A faculty member from Western University (formerly the University of Western Ontario) won the prize.

Reality Check: Online education is expensive when you do it right
It is not cheap to provide a high quality university education online. At first glance, the operating expense per student appears lower at the Télé-Université du Québec (TÉLUQ) and Athabasca University than at traditional universities. Accounting for enrolment profile, the same is true for Thompson Rivers University (TRU) in BC, which has a physical campus and hosts BC’s Online Learning Agency.

Drilling deeper, online education is less of a bargain. The weighted average cost per student at TÉLUQ and Athabasca is 11 per cent higher than the on-campus per-student cost in Ontario. It is only by adding TRU without adjusting for enrolment mix that the weighted average falls to 10 per cent lower than Ontario.*

The cost savings are achieved partly by savings on full-time faculty salaries. The combined student-faculty ratio for the three online institutions is 34, well above the combined average of 21 for their counterparts in BC, Quebec, and Alberta. Take faculty salaries and student scholarships out of the mix and the combined operating costs at TÉLUQ and Athabasca are 30 per cent higher than in Ontario. Even with TRU included, Ontario institutions still spend less.

Ontario already has the lowest operating cost per student and the worst student-faculty ratio, which rose to 28 in 2010. If online learning in Ontario is meant to achieve cost savings parallel to those in other provinces, it looks like the only savings will come at the expense of the student-faculty ratio. Whatever its pedagogical merits, it is hard to imagine online education can make up for fewer professors, especially when the vast majority of students  do their learning on campus.

*Note:Approximately one-third of Thompson Rivers University full-time equivalent enrolment is in college and other courses which are not university credit courses. The BC comparator group is composed of the University of Victoria and four institutions recently designated universities.

Sources: Canadian Association of University Business Officers (CAUBO), Financial Information of Universities and Colleges; Québec university financial statements
Statistics Canada, Postsecondary Student Information System (PSIS); University and College Academic Staff System (UCASS)

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August 8, 2011

Virtual High School (Ontario) – Social Media

This is a long-time private K-12 online learning program here in Ontario.  I’ve known about them for a long time now, but only today discovered their social media presence.  Specifically, I discovered them on:

Twitter – VHSOntFacebook – Official Page Virtual High School News Releases – RSS Feed

As a quick note, some of the recent items from the feed include:

September 26, 2010

E-Learning Ontario Recorded Webinars

A couple of week ago, as I was doing some of the last minute checking for the State of the Nation: K-12 Online Learning in Canada report (see the 2008 and 2009 editions), I came across this:

http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/elearning/webinars2010.html

Essentially it is a list of the 2009-10 recorded webinars from E-Learning Ontario that I thought might be of interested to my Ontario readers and the wider audience as well.  While many of the webinars are focused on things specific to the Ontario context, there are several teaching [insert different subject area here] online webinars that I thought might be of interest to anyone.  Take a look and let me know what you think…

September 12, 2010

Another K-12 Online Learning Blog

As has become my habit, over the weekend Ive come across another blog from a virtual school that I wanted to announce and add to my Blogroll.

Ottawa Carleton E-School bloghttp://myeschool.wordpress.com/

This is the blog of the Ottawa Carleton eSchool in Ontario, Canada.  It appears to be relatively new, with a blogging history going back to May 2010.  Their entries during that time have largely been intended for students and parents of the eSchool:

I know the person behind most of these entries has left the school, but I do hope they will continue this feature.

And while not really germane to the topic of this entry, the Ottawa Carleton eSchool website had a link to a review of the online school that was completed by the Financial Post – which is kind of interesting.

August 17, 2010

Ontario Online Learning Portal

This scrolled through my Facebook stream yesterday.


Click on the image or visit http://blog.alphaplus.ca/2010/08/16/ontario-online-learning-portal/

The actual link for the Ontario Online Learning Portal is http://www.click4onlinelearning.ca/ (although I did want to put in a plug for the AlphaPlus Centre – who I have consulted for in the past). I mention the portal here for two reasons.

The first is because if you examine the Ontario Online Learning Portal closely you’ll note that it contains a listing of K-12 (or at least secondary) course offerings.  When you are at the portal site, if you are on the PROGRAM tab you’ll note that the only two options are “College” or “University.”  If you are on the COURSES tab you get the same two options.  But if you are on the INSTITUTION tab and scroll down a bit on the pull down menu you’ll see 28 different district-based and private online learning programs, along with e-Learning Ontario, under the heading “======Secondary======”.

The second reason I mention the Ontario Online Learning Portal is because of a claim made on the right-hand side of the portal:

Ontario is #1 in Online Learning

Ontario’s publicly-funded colleges, universities and other education and training providers offer over 10,000 online courses and over 800 online programs, making Ontario the Canadian and international leader.

While I understand that Ontario likes to see itself as the leader and the best in most things, I do have to question the metric being used to make this judgment.  From a K-12 perspective I can say that Ontario isn’t the leader in K-12 online learning in Canada, that would be British Columbia (followed by Alberta if their current proposed policy regulations go into effect).  Looking at the higher education realm, I can’t speak as confidently but from the statement above it appears to be a simply matter of counting the number of online courses and online programs available.  Given the sheer number of post-secondary institutions in Ontario, that measure would make it a clear leader in Canada – but I wonder how simply putting courses and programs online makes one a “Canadian and international leader”?

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