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E-learning growing at the post-secondary level in Ontario: ‘Digital means makes sense’

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WATCH: Opinions on e-learning continue to change at the post-secondary level. – Mar 5, 2020

E-learning has been a major sticking point for Ontario teachers during negotiations with the province.

While the unions have opposed mandatory online learning for students, opinions continue to change at the post-secondary level.

Marisa Narotam is taking one online course at Ontario Tech University this semester, but the fourth-year legal studies student says she would prefer to take the leadership administration class in a traditional classroom setting.

“I find it harder to stay on task, because with an online class there’s no specific date where you have to sit down and watch the lecture,” said Narotam.

Luxsika Senthilkumaran is a first-year student and is also taking an online course.

She dropped out of one in high school but says transitioning to university can be made smoother using e-learning.

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READ MORE: Scott Thompson — If it’s ‘all about the kids,’ Ontario’s teachers must accept government’s deal

“It kind of helps you with not just time management, but also you’re able to rely on yourself more because you don’t really get that much help from your professors,” said Senthilkumaran.

She said mandatory e-learning classes in high school could help students in the long run.

“I do think if it’s a mandatory thing that it would help kids out for them to be prepared for online classes and hybrid classes.”

Ontario Tech president and vice-chancellor Steven Murphy recently became the eCampusOntario co-chair. The organization, funded by the province, aims to be “a centre of excellence in online and technology-enabled learning” for colleges and universities, according to its website.

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“We have to meet our students where they are, and to think the learning journey isn’t going to become increasingly digitized is really putting our heads in the sand,” said Murphy.

Murphy will be helping pave the way for e-learning at the post-secondary level across the province.

He says the current teaching model is changing.

“I think that any attempts to enhance and augment learning through digital means makes sense at every level, whether it’s K-12, university,” said Murphy.

“So often we go into these things thinking that it’s cost savings but it’s really about the student experience. There’s not really a heck of a lot of cost savings.”

READ MORE: Ontario teachers’ unions move ahead with job action despite new government offer

Earlier this week, Education Minister Stephen Lecce offered to increase average high school class sizes from 22 last year to 23 next year — instead of the government’s original target of 28 — and allow an opt-out for e-learning courses with the parents having to make the decision for the student.

Grade 12 student Sally Meseret, Durham District School Board student trustee and Ontario Student Trustees’ Association president, says the opt-out option should be offered to students and not just parents making the decision.

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“To be able to work on an assignment when you’re not in class is phenomenal, however to mandate it across the province broadly without doing the proper research, without understanding the implications this will have on students, is something we should really think twice about,” said Meseret.

Durham Catholic teachers were back on the picket line Thursday. When it comes to e-learning, they say they don’t want announcements, they want meaningful negotiations.

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