October 30, 2014

A report on e-learning from the University of Ottawa

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At the beginning of May I was in Ottawa, first to present to the University of Ottawa’s Board of Governors about the current state of online learning in Canada, in support of their excellent plan for e-learning that was before the Board of Governors.

A steady move to increased hybrid learning

U of Ottawa already has five programs and 76 courses that are available online, and is planning to have at least 20% of all sections in a hybrid mode (50% face-to-face and 50% online) by 2020. Although the Board felt this target was too timid, a feature of the plan is to ensure all faculty are properly trained and supported before they start developing hybrid courses.

One advantage that the U of Ottawa has is that it has already in place a strong Centre for Mediated Teaching and Learning which includes a Centre for e-Learning, which means it can move more quickly to greater hybrid and online learning.

The impact on classroom spaces

Another feature of the plan is an extremely detailed analysis of the likely impact of this move to hybrid learning on classroom spaces. U of Ottawa is facing increasing pressure for more classroom spaces and their detailed analysis in an appendix to the report suggests that a 20% target of hybrid courses could lead to a 10% reduction in the number of extra classroom spaces needed as it expands its student numbers over the next few years. This is the first time I have seen such a careful estimate of the impact of hybrid learning on campus classroom space.

To MOOC or not?

Another feature of the report is a detailed analysis of the pros and cons of the U of Ottawa developing MOOCs. As part of the analysis, U of Ottawa has estimated the costs of developing and delivering a Coursera MOOC. I was surprise to see their estimated development cost for one MOOC as being $110,000. This is between two to three times the cost of delivering an LMS-based credit course of similar length at most institutions in Canada. Then annual maintenance runs at another $29,000 a year. I’d be interested to hear from other institutions who are already offering MOOCs if these costs are typical. If they are, then the benefits to the institution need to be that much greater, compared with spending the money on credit-based students.

The plan recommends not developing MOOCs in the short term without first doing a detailed market analysis and a feasibility study, but in the mid-term to offer flag-ship MOOCs in French (U of Ottawa is a bilingual university), where the market is more open.

More information

While at the U of Ottawa I also gave a presentation to faculty on designing university teaching to meet the needs of 21st century students.

If you want copies of my slides for presentations either to the Board or faculty, send an e-mail to tony.bates@ubc.ca.

The U of Ottawa e-learning plan is available for downloading from the U of Ottawa web site. If your institution is contemplating a major increase in hybrid and /or online learning, this report is well worth reading in full.

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