- Pickering station
Tony Bates reports on an interesting article, available here, carried out by the Ontario government aimed at supporting its intention of developing the Ontario Online Institute and becoming the leader in online learning in Canada and North America. They asked a number of the leading private providers of platforms, services and infrastructures supporting online learning, such as Blackboard, IBM, Pearson, Desire2Learn, CISCO and Research in Motion, a series of questions relating to their views on online and mobile learning:
1. Where does investment in the development of online learning technology “fit” in your company strategy?
2. What are the opportunities for your company to use online learning for professional development, training and re-training?
3. What gets in the way, do you think, of more college and university courses being available online?
4. If Ontario wants to be the lead online learning jurisdiction in North America at the post-secondary level, what would your company be able to do to help Ontario get there?
5. What kind of partnership arrangements would you like to see with:
a) Government of Ontario
d) An Ontario Online Institute
6. When it comes to next generation technologies – e.g. mobile learning – what steps should we embark on as an OOI to fully leverage this opportunity?
7. How can your company help Ontario be the world leader in mobile learning?
8. There are emotional and attitudinal barriers to the use of online learning – e.g. certain professions are opposed to its use – do you think an alliance of public and private sector organizations can “shift” these views? If yes – how / if no, why not?
9. What emerging technologies – whether from your own company, your partner’s or others – do you think might be “game changers” for online learning?
10. What one thing could an Ontario Online Institute do that would have a real impact on online learning in Ontario and, at the same time, be helpful to you?
11. What’s the most important thing an OOI could do to signal that Ontario intends to be a leader in the world in online learning?
Responses were grouped into 5 main themes:
1. Think K Through Grey (i.e. think kindergarden through to retired adults)
2. Teaching Online is a Paradigm Shift
3. Focus on Outcomes and let the Technology Support the Outcomes – Don’t Focus on Technology
4. Think Infrastructure
5. Keep an Eye on Trends.
Some of the more interesting comments include:
“Teaching online is certainly a paradigm shift and for teachers that cannot realize the changes that are required to not only teach online, but to do so successfully, those teachers will significantly prevent adoption. This will be most apparent in the students, because classes offered online that are not designed for an online forum will result in struggling and frustrated students and likely declined enrolment. Issues resulting from poorly delivered online courses may be prevented by proper teacher training. Prior to migrating teachers to an online space we recommend that you train your teachers to ensure that they understand what it “actually” means to teach online and what makes an online class successful and engaging to the students.”
“There are many common misconceptions about online education and most are based on a lack of understanding or inadequate training. Unfortunately, Higher Education in general, continues to struggle philosophically with the stigma that online learning is somehow inferior to established on ground or campus-based programs. The documented and highly publicized financial aid abuses and lack of course instruction quality within many of the for-profit American universities have further perpetuated this mentality. In contrast, a meta-analysis and review of online learning studies conducted by the U.S. Department of Education in 2009 showed substantial evidence that online learning was equal to or even better in some cases to campus based learning, helping to challenge or discredit the traditional dogmas and belief systems within Higher Education circles.”
“It is important to state that online learning is most successful when it is engaging and interactive. Universities have found they have a very low retention rate through course completion if they do not find a way to make the student feel connected and engaged. In order to increase student retention, online programs are blending online tools with HD Video solutions, allowing collaboration with the students.”
These 3 comments highlight the fact that the private sector considers that the education sector lacks an understanding of how to design and deliver online provision, a common problem not only in Canada and North America, but also here in the UK.
Other comments noted the importance of appropriate pedagogy for the online environment, emphasising that it is not just a matter of transferring your face-to-face course into an online space. The importance of focussing on the learning outcomes and not on the technology also came across strongly, with one respondent stating that the emphasis on outcomes should be “agnostic” with respect to the technology.
Also of interest from this study is the realisation by the Ontario government of the need for both education and training providers to work collaboratively with the private sector in order to ensure the development of new approaches and technologies for learning.