The Evolution of Online Education at a Small Northern Ontario University: Theory and Practice

By Carter, Lorraine; Graham, Robert Douglas | International Journal of E-Learning & Distance Education, May 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

The Evolution of Online Education at a Small Northern Ontario University: Theory and Practice


Carter, Lorraine, Graham, Robert Douglas, International Journal of E-Learning & Distance Education


Abstract

One of the major influences on university education in Ontario is the growing use of Internet technologies. These new technologies have led faculty and learning experts at universities to talk about online and technology-enhanced learning with a fervour not often found on most campuses. Among other things, these discussions have challenged well-known understandings of what has historically been called distance education.

In this paper, we examine a cross-section of publications on distance and online education and reflect on our professional experiences in relation to the evolution of a teaching and learning centre in our small university in northern Ontario. In addition to supporting the teaching and learning needs of an oncampus community, our Centre oversees the development and delivery of online courses for students at a distance from the physical campus. Within the context of this Centre, we represent the Academic Director and a faculty member completing doctoral studies on technology-enabled learning in the United Kingdom.

As a conclusion, we propose that the geographical distance and possible isolation of northern Ontario can be considerably reduced through online education and that it is no longer appropriate to speak about distance education. As Wenger (2004) suggests, many remote and rural communities as well as individual learners in these communities can access information and even gain inspiration from online educational experiences. To achieve this, faculty continue to require resources including pedagogical supports, mentorship, and also inspiration to capitalize on the potential and opportunity of online models and strategies.

Résumé

Une des influences majeures sur l'enseignement universitaire en Ontario est l'utilisation croissante des technologies en ligne. Ces nouvelles technologies ont amené les enseignants et les experts en apprentissage dans les universités à discuter de l'apprentissage en ligne et de l'apprentissage amélioré par la technologie avec une ferveur rarement rencontrée sur d'autres campus. Ces discussions ont notamment remis en question certains préceptes bien établis sur ce qu'on a, historiquement, défini comme étant de l'apprentissage à distance.

Dans cette étude, nous faisons une analyse transversale de publications portant sur l'éducation à distance et l'apprentissage en ligne et proposons une réflexion sur nos expériences professionnelles en lien avec l'évolution d'un centre d'enseignement et d'apprentissage dans notre petite université située dans le nord de l'Ontario. En plus de soutenir la communauté se trouvant sur le campus au plan de ses besoins relatifs à l'enseignement et l'apprentissage, notre Centre supervise le développement et la dispensation des cours en ligne pour les étudiants qui sont éloignés du campus physique. Dans le contexte de ce Centre, nous représentons le Directeur universitaire (Academic Director) et un membre du personnel enseignant faisant des études doctorales sur l'apprentissage habilité par les technologies au Royaume-Uni.

En terminant, nous proposons que la distance ainsi que le possible isolement géographique du nord de l'Ontario puissent être considérablement réduits par l'éducation en ligne et qu'il ne soit plus approprié de parler d'éducation à distance. Comme le suggère Wenger (2004), de nombreuses communautés éloignées et rurales, de même que des étudiants individuels dans ces communautés peuvent puiser des informations et même de l'inspiration à partir d'expériences d'apprentissage en ligne. Pour ce faire, les corps enseignants ont toujours besoin de ressources, incluant le soutien pédagogique, le mentorat, et même de l'inspiration pour profiter au maximum des opportunités et du potentiel offerts par les modèles et les stratégies d'enseignement en ligne.

Introduction

Information and communication technologies connect people, places, and ideas in ways that have redefined our understandings of time and space. …

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