Maxim Jean-Louis, the President of Contact North, was one of the participants in the recent HEQCO meeting to discuss possible areas of research that would inform the development of a new Ontario Online Institute.

Following the meeting, he produced a very interesting document for HEQCO entitled: A Research Framework for the Online Learning Institute aka A Process to Take the Ontario Online Learning System to the Next Level. He has agreed to share a condensed version of this paper, a full copy of which can be obtained from Maxim on request. Each recommendation is linked to HEQCO’s mandate.

The Seven “Big” Applied Research Challenges

1.    Significantly improving the level of student engagement in online learning courses. (Program and Course Quality Issue)

2.    Rethinking the practice of instructional design to move away from content/skills mastery into higher level skills and competencies – moving learners to Level 5 literacy. (Program and Course Quality Issue).

3.    Partnering with RIM, Apple, Google and others to develop next generation “apps” to better enable innovation for mobile learning. (Innovation Issue)

4.    Developing the processes map for rapid course development – what does it take to develop better courses in half the time? (Systems Design Issue)

5.    No Ontario post-secondary institution has online learning at the core of its strategic intent. What would it take for an institution to shift its focus to this and see its role as securing one third of its students online by 2015 and more than half by 2020? (Systems Design Issue)

6.    What are the appropriate metrics for the accountability of online courses and programs in terms of quality, cost-effectiveness and value? (Accountability Issue)

7.    What online learning practices are best suited and are effective for Aboriginal learners at the post-secondary level? (Accessibility and Quality  Issue)

The Management of Innovation – the Other Focal Point for Research

A study of an Innovative Management process requires us to understand:

  • The resilience and resistance of established systems
  • The readiness of institutions, organizations and networks for change
  • The barriers to change
  • The re-engineering of expectations, processes and resource allocation
  • The leadership and change management skills of key personnel

Measuring quality

Finally, Maxim had some very interesting things to say about measuring quality, arguing that Ontario needed to measure quality according to the fitness of purpose of an institution. Maxim’s suggestions on quality are so useful that they need a separate posting.


The intent is to stimulate a dialogue – a challenge to see a research agenda as part of the process of creation (hence the focus here on applied research) of the institute. Rather than being independent and to the side, Maxim argues that this agenda should be a critical piece of the jigsaw used to design and build the new institute. If evidence based decision making is to occur, he argues that it is key that the seven big questions be used to guide applied R&D investments to issues that not only matter, but where evidence could make a real difference to practice.



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