The French-language Education Policy and Programs Branch (FLEPPB) of the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities and the Ontario Ministry of Education invited the bilingual and French-language educational partners of the Politique d’aménagement linguistique (PAL) to develop a collaborative and integrated approach to technology-assisted and online learning for Ontario’s French-language and bilingual postsecondary education institutions. Contact North | Contact Nord, Ontario’s Distance Education & Training Network, was asked to undertake and facilitate a three-phase consultation process with the twelve PAL educational institutions. The consultation process was designed to identify work that had already been undertaken by the institutions, the areas of common interest and how to implement the vision of a collaborative and integrated approach to technology-assisted and online learning in Ontario’s French-language and bilingual postsecondary institutions.
The following PAL institutions participated in the consultation:
- Campus d’Alfred – University of Guelph
- Centre for Research in Franco-Ontarian Education (CREFO), Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto
- Collège Boréal
- La Cité
- Dominican University College
- Glendon College – York University
- French-Language Virtual Learning Consortium of Ontario (CAVLFO)
- Université de Hearst
- University of Sudbury
- University of Ottawa
- Laurentian University
- Saint Paul University
In this first stage, letters were sent to senior management at PAL institutions, inviting them to participate in the consultation process and designate a representative. During the round of phone interviews with each of the twelve institutions, challenges and concerns were identified and defined.
An information-gathering template was then sent to each institution in November 2013, the purpose of which was to:
- Prepare an inventory of current and/or planned initiatives for French-language online learning;
- Estimate the size of current investments;
- Quantify existing technological and educational capacities;
- Identify the pool of specialized human resources;
- Itemize the current program and course offering;
- Develop a profile of users;
- Describe the institution’s initiatives and innovations;
- Identify champions and successful innovators;
- Gather leaders’ views on technology-assisted learning and the development of the competitive environment;
- Understand their positioning and current and anticipated challenges.
In the second stage, face-to-face in situ meetings with each institution in January and February 2014 aimed at creating snapshots of their individual development and innovations in technology-assisted and online learning, and exploring areas where interests converged. A fact sheet was completed after each interview and validated by the institution. These detailed fact sheets are found in a document that accompanies this report.
In this final stage, a working session was held on February 28, 2014, where an overall status summary was presented, and the detailed fact sheets were shared. This dialogue process, which involved the 12 PAL institutions and the FLEPPB representatives, validated the conclusions and identified common areas of interest and the conditions for a successful collaborative and integrated approach to online learning in Ontario’s postsecondary French-language and bilingual educational institutions.
Convergence of interests orbited around joint work on targeted programs, courses and student services. The dialogue among the institutional PAL partners led to the identification of areas of common interest:
- Standardization of the definitions of concepts and methods in order to ensure a common and shared understanding of technology-assisted and online learning;
- Exploration of technology adoption strategies by faculty, recognizing the organic nature of the process of change within all the institutions;
Identification of projects for the shared development of programs and courses and, in particular:
- Identification of entire programs to develop;
- Validation of the inventory of current online courses and identification of courses that can be used as a basis for cooperation;
- Identification of the potential for online cooperation based on agreements for articulating, aligning and recognizing already established courses;
- Identification of low enrolment and general education courses at the first-year level that could be targeted for short-term cooperation;
- Sharing of online tools for teaching and learning;
- Use of technology to meet “special needs” as understood in the Education Act;
- High school, college and university alignment through sharing of online tools, modules and adapted courses; Exploration of international offerings for French-language hybrid and completely online courses;
- Setting up a repository of French-language open educational resources and models of effective practice;
- Preparation of a development strategy for French-language e-books.
The following foundational components of a collaborative and integrated approach are also areas of common interest:
- Primacy of pedagogy and access to postsecondary education affirmed in all technology projects;
- The integration of technology-assisted and online learning as core components of institutional strategic planning;
- Development of a minimum partnership participation capacity for smaller institutions;
- Sustained coordination aimed at building an interdependent relationship between institutions and technology-assisted and online learning stakeholders over a period of several years;
- An incentive funding model that recognizes the dynamics of innovation and the creation of start-ups within institutions, as well as sustained and coordinated participation in ongoing provincial initiatives;
- Sustained exploration of technology-assisted and online learning business models, with particular focus on investments in infrastructure and operations and the consequences of student mobility on funding and provincial funding mechanisms, etc.
The French-Language, Aboriginal Learning and Research Division has stressed the importance of networking among French and bilingual institutions to align with provincial online learning initiatives. Overall budgets for these initiatives have already been announced for the three next years, and the governance mechanisms will be finalized in the near future. A collaborative and integrated approach would make it possible to improve the positioning of the French and bilingual institutions in the context of these initiatives.
The PAL partners expressed their desire to work together on concrete projects, on the condition that resources to support cooperation and ensure information flow can be found. The partners stressed the importance of maintaining and sustaining momentum. Contact North | Contact Nord, which is a model for cooperation among public colleges, universities and literacy and basic skills and other training providers, is available to support the partners’ efforts and can continue to perform the role it played in the successful execution of the initial consultation mandate it received from the Ministry, if appropriate funding can be secured.