Online Learning

The recently leaked MTCU 3×3 report was clearly one of those transparent attempts to test the waters on some key ideas. Governments do this all this time.

Many of the supposed recommendations got a cool reception, especially three year degrees and online learning. Apparently there is something magical about 4 years as a undergraduate that could not possibly happen in 3 years. I am doubtful. The University of Guelph is investigating to find out.

However, the item that received the most negative reaction was about online learning. The leaked text says something about enabling half of a student’s program to be taken online. I’m not really sure what that metric means given that some programs should be fully online, other are hybrids, and still others could only be delivered in a face-to-face modality. Some sort of average I suppose.

Much of the reaction was something to like: online is bad, face-to-face is good.

First, many people who would like to attend university simply can’t because there is no university near them or they are working full time and online learning is a way for them to fit higher education into their lives. Online is a tremendous accessibility mechanism. Don’t diss this; not all our students are 18-24 year olds looking for a campus experience.

Second, elearning is a powerful pedagogical approach. If we move beyond the online course as a digital facsimile of the face-to-face course, we begin to see the benefit of online learning. An effectively designed online experience can more than compensate for the challenges of direct interaction that is possible in the classroom.

online = collaboration + experiential + interactive + personalized learning environments + media + global reach + + +

It’s not better or worse, it’s just different. And different can be very important.


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