Volume 94, Issue 80

Wednesday, February 14, 2001


Presidential voting demands answers

Change of fortune for Napster

Online learning focus of new fed committee

Dyer predicts democratic China in 10 years

Students shocked by high hydro bills


Couch potatoes get no respect: study

Students say credit is no good

School dress code could be the norm

His Royal Mintiness

Online learning focus of new fed committee

By Hisham Safieddine
Gazette Staff

Online learning has again surfaced as an imminent challenge for the current form of post-secondary education in Canada.

An advisory committee, created by the Council of Ministers of Education Canada and Industry Canada, have presented a list of recommendations for revision by provincial governments.

Kurt Peacock, media relations officer at CMEC, said the council's primary objective is to increase accessibility of post-secondary education to Canadians and provide state-of-the art technology in achieving this aim.

He also stressed the need for keeping pace with the growing investment of American and other foreign universities in online learning facilities and programs.

Doug Hull, director general of the Information Highway branch of Industry Canada, said the importance of addressing the need for investment in online learning is long overdue.

"Canadian universities have a key role to play in supporting the growth of a knowledge-based economy," he said. "Online learning development also ensures that universities are well positioned to take advantage of technology provided by this growing economy."

Executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, James Turk, expressed his deep disappointment with the committee's report. "[The committee] is a cheerleading squad designed to deliver an already determined conclusion".

Turk summarized some of the major shortcomings of the CMEC initiative. "There is a lack of any representation of faculty and student organizations on the committee. With a panel composed of strictly university presidents and private corporation executives, the vested interests of these groups are given priority over the needs of the academic community," he said.

He added investment in online learning is diverting money from other areas in education, which are in dire need of funding, such as research and educational facilities.

Michael Conlon, national chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students, said he had similar concerns from his constituents. "A basic concern that we had was the make-up of the committee," he said.

"There are no students, or faculty on the committee [and] this is disturbing to us given that faculty and students are the two constituencies who will be most affected by this report."

Conlon added the business sector views education as primarily a commodity. "The private sector sees online learning as a place to make money."

According to Francois Tavenas, rector of Laval University and a member of the committee, investing in online learning is important in achieving an integration of technology in education. "We must invest in the use and integration of technology in education."

Tavenas said this will not mean less jobs for professors but will require more people to run such a system.

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