In a recent editorial in the Calgary Herald, University of Athabasca President Frits Pannekoek sees a missed opportunity for post-secondary institutions to embrace elearning development in light of the Alberta Provincial Government’s budget.
While this is devastating to a sector that was just beginning to rebuild its capacity and reputation, it could have forced the ministry and the post-secondary sector to reimagine a new future based on e-learning and collaboration. This is not to suggest the end of the “bricks and mortar” institutions – they are critical to the success and vitality of the Alberta system – only that the ministry and institutions must look at differing strategies for learner engagement including e-learning, MOOC’s (Massive Open Online Courses), e-texts and open learning resources. Post secondary institutions need to do their business more frugally and effectively. But that requires a new policy and funding tool kit built on a foundation of imagination and possibility.
He knows the benefits of elearning in the post-secondary field and provides examples of the organizational cost-savings by using his own institution as an example.
My institution, Athabasca University, offers a completely different, effective and engaging learning environment that appears almost infinitely scalable. Currently our total cost per student, excluding ancillary costs is between 10 and 20 per cent of that of that of “bricks and mortar” traditional classroom institutions. We support more than 40,000 students with just 176 tenured faculty, and 1,100 support staff.
The University of Athabasca has been nimble in creating compelling online learning that delivers results. Theyve also created North Americas first open access press and published Albertas first open access textbooks. Its something that larger institutions need to look at implementing.
Further, he shows that even under the constraint of budget cuts to education that his institution is able to thrive by looking forward and innovating. So while the crux of his editorial was critical towards the Alberta government, theres definitely a silver-lining if you frame it differently.
What can the rest of us learn from all of this?
Firstly, in this age of increasing technological and developmental innovation, its imperative to be ahead of the curve. Theres a lot of opportunity within the elearning development world for organizations if you seize it. It helps to be quick and open to new innovations and opportunities.
Secondly, the lessons he learned can easily be adapted by an independent learning professional or training department. Individual learners and company budgetary concerns will both benefit from increased elearning innovation that delivers a better performance improvement at an affordable price.