Jervis Inlet, British Columbia
Jervis Inlet, British Columbia

I hope you have all had a wonderful summer break in the Northern Hemisphere. This has been the best summer since I moved to Vancouver 23 years ago – the driest and sunniest summer on record. For me, this has meant lots of golf and some flying in my small plane (see Jervis Inlet above) – as well as some minor house renovations.

So perhaps you are like me: wondering what you may have missed during the summer. The following is by no means comprehensive, but here are some of things I found interesting. If I have time, I will write more about each over the next couple of weeks. If not, at least you have the links if you are interested. To make this more manageable, I’ve split this report into two separate posts.

Online learning and productivity

Carey, T. and Trick, D. (2013) How Online Learning Affects Productivity, Cost and Quality in Higher Education: An Environmental Scan and Review of the Literature Toronto ON: Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario

The title tells you everything.This 62 page report ‘is a comprehensive look at the use of online learning in Canadian and international higher education. While acknowledging the relative dearth of data or experimental studies in this burgeoning field, the report explores the cost, quality and productivity implications of a shift to online learning and concludes with a number of suggestions for government on pathways to expanded use of online learning in the Ontario postsecondary system.’

Main conclusion: Fully online education presents opportunities for major economies of scale….but only on a large scale, which demands collaboration that extends beyond institutional boundaries. The government should consider setting a three-year goal to create a specified list of high-demand university and college programs that are primarily or entirely online to be available to Ontario students.

I will definitely be commenting separately on this report. If you can’t wait, check out Terry Anderson’s succinct review of the report.



WCET (the Western Cooperative for Educational Technologies) has published several blogs recently on MOOCs.

Book, P. (2103) ACE as Academic Credit Reviewer–Adjustment, Accommodation, and Acceptance WCET Learn, July 25. This describes in detail how ACE accredited several MOOCs. I reviewed this here on July 26

Hill, P. (2013) MOOCs & Beyond: Update on California Government-Driven Online Initiatives WCET Learn August 1 Phil Hill provides an excellent update on what is happening in the California higher education system regarding MOOCs and online learning more generally. Main conclusion (but read the whole piece):  SB520 changed from a stick to a carrot. The rewritten bill addresses many, but not all, of the issues that faculty and system leaders have had with the bill…The situation in California is still fluid, and there are key issues to watch as they unfold. But …, there is a significant change in priorities occurring in California. The new focus on using online education as a tool to help matriculated students complete their degrees clearly seems to be a result of state government involvement.

Hanz, P. J. (2013) Crafting an Effective MOOC: One Community College’s Experience WCET Learn, August 6 Pat James Hanz of Mt. San Jacinto College provides an overview of their experience in developing and offering their first course.  We also asked her to provide some lessons learned in case your institution is interested in joining the fun.

Schroeder, R. (2013) MOOCs are Maturing WCET Learn, August 8 A brief review of where MOOCs are at the moment – in adolescence, says Ray.

Allan, E. (2013) Confessions of a MOOC reviewer WCET Learn, August 13. Main conclusions: content OK – often better than conventional courses – but lack of interaction and no evidence about student learning.

Questions from members

The blog posts above are open to all, but WCET also has been running some interesting discussions for members of WCET through its members’ e-mail lists, especially its WCET Discuss list managed by Russell Poulin. This list is a quick and easy way to get ideas and input from peers by posting a question about how others address a policy issue or design solutions to certain educational technology challenges. Over the summer questions have been posted on several different topics, with interesting answers provided by other members:

  • Russell Poulin posted the following question: ‘Putting budgets aside, the most important issue confronting distance/online/hybrid education at my institution/organization over the next two or three years is….”   Thirty-three people responded. Main areas of concern: Management and quality; moving faculty beyond buy-in to improving courses; institutional leadership (or lack of); demonstrating value of online learning to students; scalability; and regulation. MOOCs received only three mentions.
  • how to control/stop commercial plagiarism/exploitation of college assessments (answer keys, midterms and final exam questions and answers, student papers) by third parties (ironically, this was posted by staff from a for-profit university!).
  • What is the business model for offering DL courses? Is there a revenue sharing between entities? What are those entities (i.e., distance ed unit, continuing ed unit, department, faculty, provost office, other??)   What is the split? (Question from a Community College).
  • who owns the intellectual property of an online course?
  • what to pay faculty for teaching online and what payment models are used?
  • what is your college definition of “substantive interaction” for online classes? How is this quantified or assessed?
  • Who decides which distance education programs/courses to offer at your institution? How is this done?
  • What, if anything, is your institution doing to make working women (specifically women) and/or women with children feel welcome in your online programs?
  • How do you handle copyright clearance?

Each of these questions generated about half a dozen usually really interesting and helpful responses (at a time when many members would be away on holiday). I was struck by the diversity of practice in American two-year colleges on these issues, especially in the philosophy of teaching.

To sign up to receive wcetdiscuss, email WCET with your name, institutional email address, and title, indicating which lists(s) you want to receive.

Characteristics of (successful?) consortia

So that leaders and stakeholders of consortia could learn from the successes and experiences of others, WCET’s e-Learning Consortia Common Interest Group collected profiles and contact information for 48 consortia in both the USA and Canada (more are likely to be added.). For each consortium that responded, the profile includes their mission, a brief description, services that they offer, initiatives and interests, organizational documents, and contact information, including websites and social media.

Part 2

In the next part, I’ll cover developments over the summer in the Ontario Online University, the Commonwealth of Learning, ICDE, and one or two other.

What is clear is that the world of online learning never stops, not even for holidays, dammit!




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