Students are being pushed out of the classroom to go home and learn on their own.
A recent report suggests what some students have been suspecting for a long time: they’re paying more and getting less when it comes to education. At the risk of seeming dogmatic in the debate over in-class verses online learning, Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) says that colleges are ‘watering down’ courses in favour of saving money.
Out of 24 Ontario colleges, Mohawk College has led the way in a move towards what they call “blended learning,” combining traditional in-class learning with online instruction. In fact, all of their lecture-based programs are conducted in this manner.
OPSEU, the union that represents college teachers, says this is resulting in a “crisis of quality” and points the finger at financial difficulties and fiscal restraints.
As students are being pushed out of the classroom to go home and learn on their own, some are starting to speak out. Besides lacking face-to-face interaction, they feel that online work is dull and uninspiring. And then there’s the fact that they’ve paid for the instruction.
“It’s inherently disturbing when you’re paying for your education,” says Michael Van Arragon, a student at Mohawk. “It feels a little silly to be watching YouTube videos or Ted Talks.”
Mohawk College claims that their blended learning system is not the product of cost-cutting measures and says that students with busy personal or work schedules value the flexibility of online learning. Kevin MacKay, the report’s author and a professor at Mohawk College, believes there are no academic excuses for the push towards online learning.
With less government funding now than 20 years ago, and with aging buildings to care for, it seems likely that budget issues will always be a concern for Ontario’s colleges. Trying to agree on the ultimate method of delivering education may also always be a part of the learning curve.