Tony Bates made these recommendations to the University of New Brunswick, “to foster further development of knowledge-based industries in the province”:
1. Greater incorporation of ICT and other 21st century skills (e.g. independent learning, problem solving) in a wider range of programs and subject disciplines.
2. A gradual move from almost entirely face-to-face courses in first year programs to hybrid or fully distance programs in the fourth year undergraduate and graduate programs, as well as develop more online non-credit certificate or diploma programs focused on the lifelong learning market.
3. Start gradually to redesign courses in this way on a program by program basis. Make sure the new programs are properly resourced (time for development + learning technology support).
4. Stop treating distance education courses as extra load, but integrate them into regular credit programming as part of a normal teaching load for instructors, perhaps supplemented with revenues from full cost recovery courses aimed at lifelong learners.
5. Look to partnership and consortia to leverage the development of online programs on an international basis.
6. Provide systematic and comprehensive training in pedagogy and educational technology for instructors scheduled to work on online programs.
7. Provide instructional and web designers to work in teams with instructors for the redesign of courses.
After reading this and seeing what advice they got from the west coast, I just had to dust off a (not successful) online learning strategy proposal that Rob Paterson and I submitted to UNB in 2008. Here are some highlights:
We see the objective of building a community of learners as the critical aspect of any future endeavour in online learning.
In two years time, 2010, the web will be the principal place where most business, entertainment, and socializing will take place – learning will follow shortly – so by 2012 you will be a player or dead.
The university can still grant a degree and the degree has a certain amount of societal value. The university can also offer a social space, but most kids don’t need 4 years of this.
UNB wants to be a leader in online learning but there must be several reasons why the university is not a leader already. There is no competition in New Brunswick and little competition in the Atlantic provinces. One of the reasons for declining enrolment is demographics, as cited in the UNB Online Partnership document, and another is the lack of students outside the traditional age range. This age range is what business ventures call “low hanging fruit” and the model worked well when a university education was accessible, affordable and provided a decent return on investment. Given the rising cost of a university education and the declining perception of a bachelor’s degree, the traditional university business model has peaked.
I respect Tony very much, but I do not believe that an incremental approach will work. However, it’s probably what the client wants to hear.