Faculty Perceptions and the Stigma of Online Education


By Marie Ritchie, Brock University

“A continuing failure of online education has been its inability to convince its most important audience – higher education faculty members – of its worth. The lack of acceptance of online faculty has not shown any significant change in over a decade”(Allen & Seaman, 2015, p. 21).

In 2016, more than half of the enrolled students in higher education institutions were also working and more than one quarter were raising children while studying. The knowledge economy continues to strengthen and the goal for adults obtaining postsecondary degrees or credentials is 60% by 2025 (The Lumina Foundation for Education, as cited in Andrade, 2016). These students are increasingly likely to seek online education in efforts to balance life responsibilities with academic pursuits (Nash, 2015).

Despite support from higher education administrators and its promise of convenience and accessibility for students, online education continues to lack full teacher support in terms of its value and legitimacy (Andrade, 2016). Advancements in technology, online teaching experience, and continued increases in institutional support have done little to change these negative perceptions (Allen, Seaman, 2015). As long as faculty continue to question the validity and legitimacy of online instruction, it seems unlikely that higher education institutions will ever be successful in eliminating the “stigma attached to allowing students to earn credits from a university without ever stepping foot on campus” (Johnson, 2013, para. 11).

Lack of acceptance by faculty is driven by concerns for student experience and conduct, achievement of learning outcomes, and perceptions of online degrees not being equal to traditional ones. Teachers also cite personal concerns such as increased workload, appropriate compensation, effect on tenure opportunities, and technical efficacy as barriers to full acceptance (Wingo, Ivankova, & Moss, 2017). Yet despite reservations, one half of teachers who believe online education to be inferior to face-to-face instruction recommended online courses to their students and among the teachers who teach online much concern exists about the quality of learning outcomes (Allen & Seaman, 2015).

So, why do teachers who question the validity and legitimacy of online education recommend it to their students? Why does the stigma surrounding online education persist despite significant advances in technology and scholarship? Is it possible that this stigma is less about the student experience and achievement of learning outcomes than it is about the teaching experience and its associated pressures and paradigms? Is it also possible that challenges to personal professional identities and institutional power struggles are standing in the way of full acceptance of online education as a trusted and valid educational pedagogy?

In 2017, Glass used a phenomenological study to explore the question “What are the primary features of faculty members’ experiences teaching online that shape their attitudes towards online education?” (p. 240).  He concluded “that faculty attitudes toward online education may be affected, not only by their perceptions of the quality of student learning, but also by the quality of their own experiences expressing subject matter and performing valued social roles in their online courses” (p. 249). Glass suggests that online teaching may create a challenge to personal professional identifies for some tenured and tenure-track professors by highlighting comments from professors that range from positive notions of opportunity in using a new medium and potential increases in professional exposure to negative perceptions including feeling stifled by the new medium, having limited windows for creative expression, and a feeling of isolation from the rest of their colleagues.

From an institutional and organizational perspective, researchers Peach and Bieber (2015) found that “online education enhanced faculty autonomy and visibility but that it was also used to control faculty members, and for some professors, it was used to alter their professional identities” (p. 26). Using a conceptual power model, the researchers were focused on power relationships within institutions of higher education and how the use of technology in educational delivery creates the “opportunity to establish new structures, with different norms and policies, through which to control professors in new and different ways” (p. 26).

The advent and evolution of online education is more about technological availability and advances, money flowing to institutions, and the accessibility of higher education for students than it is about the pedagogy itself or teacher satisfaction. Some teachers who have been convinced or have chosen to teach online do perceive benefits but wide spread acceptance has been difficult to achieve. Exploring in detail faculty perceptions, biases, and experiences is essential if we are to reach the tipping point for full acceptance of the value and legitimacy of online education for all stakeholders.


Allen, E., & Seaman, J. (2015). Grade level: Tracking online education in the United States.  Babson Park, MA: Babson Survey Research Group and Quahog Research Group. Retrieved from http://onlinelearningsurvey.com/reports/gradelevel.pdf

Andrade, M. S. (2016). Curricular elements for learner success – 21st century skills. Journal of Education and Training Studies, 4(8), 143- 149.

Glass, C. R. (2017). Self-expression, social roles, and faculty members’ attitudes towards online teaching. Innovative Higher Education42(3), 239-252.

Johnson, T. (2013). Did I really go to Harvard if I got my degree taking online classes? The Atlantic, retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2013/09/did-i-really-go-to-harvard-if-i-got-my-degree-taking-online-classes/279644/

Nash, J. A. (2015). Future of online education in crisis: A call to action. Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology – TOJET14(2), 80-88.

Peach, H.., & Bieber, J.  (2015). Faculty and online education as a mechanism of power. Distance Education, 36(1), 26-40. doi:10.1080/01587919.2015.1019971.

Wingo, N., Ivankova, N. & Moss, J. (2017). Faculty perceptions about teaching online: Exploring the literature using the technology acceptance model as an organizing framework. Online Learning21(1), 15-35. doi:10.24059/olj.v21i1.761.




Open Source Learning: The Answer to Sexual Violence?


By Lauren Turner, Brock University 

Attending university is one of the most influential times for a young adult.  Individuals strive to achieve independence and intellectual growth while submerging in a new university community (Newman & Newman, 2009). Although this period promotes great opportunity for self-discovery and the opportunity to learn new things, the lack of parental supervision and formation of new friends creates situations where boundaries are tested. As students become part of a new and unfamiliar surroundings, adapting to university life on campus all too often includes navigating an experience of sexual violence or harassment (Government of Ontario, 2015).

The Canadian Federation of Students reminds us that “many on-campus sexual assaults occur during the first eight weeks of classes” (Government of Ontario, 2015, p. 27). With this knowledge in hand, higher educational institutions have a duty to include sexual health and sexual assault prevention education as part of their higher education programs. I don’t mean one-off sexual violence awareness weeks or trade show booths during orientation week, with optional attendance.  There needs to be a mandatory course, utilizing open source learning targeted to all students, at the beginning of their university experience.

Why Should We Care?

“Research indicates that there are 460,000 sexual assaults in Canada each year. For every 1000 sexual assaults, only 33 are ever reported to the police; 12 results in charges laid; only 6 are prosecuted and only 3 leads to a conviction” (Government of Ontario, 2015, p. 7).  Despite this alarming statistic, sexual violence is not a new problem. Anti-rape activists have been drawing attention to the high rates of sexual violence on university campuses since the 1970s, with accounts of sexual violence even stemming back to the book of Genesis in 1720 B.C. (Warshaw, 1988; Hall, 1995).

With limited or no formal sexual violence education after grade 9, many university students are often molded and influenced by their peers, the media, friends, and family, which can be problematic.  Upcoming university students will become future professionals in law, health and other key areas of society and will be responsible for addressing sexual violence and its impact.  One’s knowledge of sexual violence is an important determinant in how they react towards victims of sexual violence, the outlook they have about sexual violence, and the quality of care victims of sexual violence receive.

What are the Challenges?

What exactly does sexual violence look like on campus?  It manifests itself through our campus radio stations with Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines song, telling women, “you know you want it” because of these “blurred lines” (of consent). It is evident in our behaviour, when students who have the courage to report sexual violence are called liars and when no charges are laid against perpetrators. It is evident in our media during Jian Ghomeshi’s case in 2016. It is apparent in our schools’ culture and orientation chants that had been a long-standing tradition or part of frosh week activities for years, yet no one had ever stopped to questioned them (The Canadian Press, 2013).  Harry Weinstein, Mike Tyson, Bill Cosby, and Donald Trump are four examples of how sexual violence and rape culture are all around us. These are not isolated, one-off situations, they are part of a larger societal trend.

What are the Opportunities?

The aftermath of sexual violence is expensive. The best available research tells us that the estimated cost of sexual assault amounts to an estimated 4.8 billion per year (Canadian’s Women Foundation, n.d.).  Yes, we know the cost to develop a mandatory sexual violence education course will be expensive, but with open source learning those costs can be decreased.  It is time to “create a movement through the adoption of open strategies that connected learners with resources in the spaces between institutions, generations, places, and sectors (Preston, 2017, para.1).

Universities are in a unique position to provide adults with the knowledge, understanding, skills, and attitudes they will need regarding sexual violence (Public Health Agency of Canada, 2008).  With approximately 1.7 million students at Canadian universities in 2016 (Universities Canada, 2016), universities provide a suitable, replicable and sustainable vehicle for the delivery of such education.

What Direction Should We Go Next?

The problem of sexual violence on campus is not new. Student have been calling for action for decades, and even as recent as a couple weeks ago with the release of Our Turn: A National, Student-Led Action Plan to End Campus Sexual Violence.   But how do we get there?  Open source learning is the answer. With the emergence of an educational practice that allows students to manage their own learning as well as contributing to that of others, there is no doubt that there will be a reduction of sexual violence incidences on university campus across Ontario.

We need to stop working to solve the same problem of sexual violence in isolation. In Ontario, there are 22 Universities and 22 Sexual Violence Policies and sexual violence ‘programs’.  We need to collaborate beyond a single university.

The defining characteristic of Open Source Learning is that there is no chief; all of us are members of a network that is constantly evolving…What we learn and how well we learn it, how we respond to setbacks, and even some of our favorite inspirations and habits of mind are right out there in public for everyone to see. (Preston, 1970, para. 4)

There are so many wasted resources today with duplication of efforts.  It time for a change.


Canadian’s Women Foundation. (n.d.). The high cost of sexual violence. Retrieved from http://canadianwomen.org/press-consent.

Government of Ontario (2015). It’s never okay: An action plan to stop sexual violence and harassment. Retrieved from https://www.ontario.ca/document/action-plan-stop-sexual-violence-and-harassment

Hall, R. (1995). Rape in America: A reference handbook. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO.

Newman, B., & Newman, P. (2009). Development through life: A psychosocial approach. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Preston, D. (1970). Dr. Preston’s expository composition. Retrieved October 25, 2017, from http://drprestonrhs14exposcomp.blogspot.ca/2013/08/will-this-blog-see-tomorrow.html

Preston, D. (2017). The right tool for the job. Retrieved October 25, 2017, from http://www.prestonlearning.com/

Public Health Agency of Canada. (2008). Canadian guidelines for sexual health education (3rd ed.). Ottawa, ON: Public Health Agency of Canada.

The Canadian Press. (2013). Saint Mary’s University under fire for frosh-week chant championing non-consensual sex with underage girls. Retrieved from http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/halifax-university-under-fire-for-frosh-week-chant-championing-non-consensual-sex-with-underage-girls

Universities Canada. (2016). Facts and stats: Overview. Retrieved from http://www.univcan.ca/universities/facts-and-stats/

Warshaw, R. (1994). I never called it rape. New York, NY: HarperPerennial.

Mainstream Education Through the Eyes of Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Students


By Lisa Marino, Brock University

“The secret in education lies in respecting the student.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

According to Foster, Long and Snell (1999), the enrollment number in higher education for students who are deaf or hard-of-hearing (D/HH) has increased specifically in mainstream settings. Even with increased enrollment, an issue noted by Myers and Taylor (2000) is that between two-thirds and three-quarters of D/HH students never graduate once they begin their post-secondary studies.  As a result of high enrollment, an increasing sense of inclusivity in a classroom for these students is needed. In the case that an inclusive environment is achieved, students will have equal opportunity access to the curriculum while being a member of a school community.

With the unique sociocultural context of post-secondary atmospheres, students face a tremendous adjustment when attending mainstream higher education institutions. There are significant problems among D/HH students such as a high dropout rate and increased experiences of depression and loneliness (Cheng, Hu & Sin, 2016). We have come a long way from trying to figure out accommodation methods; the issue is now the appropriate use of these and the increase of support each D/HH student is receiving. Foster et al. (1999) comment that services are provided such as interpreters, note takers, and tutors. Through these third-party services, students are still lacking the clarity and immediacy of a teacher-to-student or student-student interaction (Long, Vignare, Rappold & Mallory, 2007). The overall issue is the quality of higher education life among D/HH students.

The majority of student attend higher education with the hopes of achieving career readiness and skills to land a well-paying job. Success in higher education has a significant impact on the future employment among D/HH individuals who often enter the workforce feeling unprepared (Smith, 2004). Today’s modern workforce is a complex aim for any and even more so for D/HH students.

Nagle, Newman, Shaver, and Marschark (2016) note that D/HH students are taking fewer courses than hearing students. Therefore, D/HH students are at a disadvantage when reaching the workplace because their academic background knowledge is limited. The underemployment of D/HH individuals suggests why this issue needs to be addressed in order to encourage the focus on their future careers.

Delaney (2017) explores the idea that many post-secondary institutions are not reaching out to draw more D/HH students to campuses. A useful tool for rethinking the way to approach support issues is the minority model (Smith & Andrews, 2015). The minority model encourages self-advocate and resistance of ableism among people with disabilities. This connects to viewing D/HH individuals as a linguistic minority rather than a category of people with disabilities. It is important to note that deafness is not itself a learning disability. These students are more visual and process information differently from hearing students (Heffernan & Cradden, 2017).

In my opinion, a possible solution is increasing the number of mainstream environments in K-12 school settings, therefore, the expectations of post-secondary institutions are to also provide similar support. D/HH students report issues communicating with faculty and support services and outline the limited chances for social interactions between their hearing peers (Smith, 2004). Similarly to hearing students, D/HH crave the personal integration into the social fabric of campus life and suggest these limitations play a role in their academics (Smith, 2004). Therefore, I suggest extracurricular activities that D/HH students can relate to. D/HH students’ sense of belonging is lacking but encouraging these interactions will result in a strong sense of social success and satisfaction (Antia, Stinson & Gaustad, 2002).

Rather than increasing the ability to “treat” deafness, closing the divide between the D/HH and the hearing world will decrease. Positive support and academic and social experiences in higher education encourages persistence for D/HH post-secondary students. The future for D/HH students in mainstream learning environments depends on more and accurate research. Delaney (2017) mentions the need for research to draw on the students ready to learn and provide voices on issues surrounding D/HH students. Moving toward, respect among D/HH students in higher education will be the result of offered accessible resources.

Higher education should look at K-12 inclusive environments to similarly offer all students the support they need. I argue that we must evaluate the way higher education serves D/HH students and smoothly integrates them into our loud society. These improvements are essential to keep in mind as enrollment increases among D/HH students.


Antia, S. D., Stinson, M. S., & Gaustad, M. G. (2002). Developing membership in the education of deaf and hard-of-hearing students in inclusive settings. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education7(3), 214-229.

Cheng, S., Hu, X., & Sin, K. F. (2016). Thinking styles of university deaf or hard of hearing students and hearing students. Research in Developmental Disabilities55, 377-387.

Delaney, C. (2017). Letter to the editor: The university under represents deaf students. The Daily Illini. Retrieved from https://dailyillini.com/opinions/2017/05/04/letter-editor-university-represents-deaf-students/

Foster, S., Long, G., & Snell, K. (1999). Inclusive instruction and learning for deaf students in postsecondary education. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education4(3), 225-235.

Heffernan, C., & Cradden, J. (2017). Deaf children and their families fight to be heard. Irish Times. Retrieved from https://www.irishtimes.com/news/education/deaf-children-and-their-families-fight-to-be-heard-1.3199975

Myers, M. J. & Taylor, E. M. (2000). Best practices for deaf and hard of hearing student success in postsecondary education. Journal of the American Deafness and Rehabilitation Association, 34, 13–28.

Smith, D. H., & Andrews, J. F. (2015). Deaf and hard of hearing faculty in higher education: enhancing access, equity, policy, and practice. Disability & Society30(10), 1521-1536.

Smith, J. A. (2004). Deaf students in collegiate mainstream programs. Deaf Studies Today! 1, 289-305.



Instructional Techniques at Post-Secondary Institutions – A Battle Between Cost Effectiveness and Student Success


By Chloe Hanson, Brock University 

How many of us can relate to the feeling of discouragement when receiving your first assignment back in post-secondary education? According to an article posted in Maclean’s, numerous first year students are emotionally and academically defeated when they receive a grade that is not equivalent to their standards set in high school Maclean’s, 2010). In severe cases, feelings of defeat can lead to the desirability of dropping out of one’s program Maclean’s, 2010). Although retention rates in post-secondary institutions are high and increasing, there are still a small number of students who slip through the cracks. Specifically, dropout rates in first year can be due to crises occurring at home, poor academic performance, financial struggles, and program appeal Maclean’s, 2010). However, a survey conducted for the St. George campus at the University of Toronto demonstrates that “the primary barrier to success for our first-year students is not financial, it’s their own academic performance” (Maclean’s, 2010). According to Persistence in Post-Secondary Education in Canada, academic performance is dependent on persistence (Parkin & Baldwin, 2009). Low levels of persistence, and consequently drop out and failure rates, can be attributed to poor performance in terms of teaching (Parkin & Baldwin, 2009). Therefore, post-secondary institutions need to examine instructional techniques and strategies if a decrease in first-year dropout rates is desired.

Due to a neoliberal and corporatized model of higher education in Canada, the budgets for undergraduate funding are increasingly being cut, resulting in the diminishment of teaching resources (Quinlan & Fogel, 2014). Consequently, lecture based instructional approaches are adopted as the most cost effective, as with an increasing demographic of students entering post-secondary institutions, mass numbers can be accommodated for in a lecture hall (Quinlan & Fogel, 2014). Despite the cost effectiveness of utilizing lecture halls, a study conducted by Freeman et al. (2014) found that undergraduate students in classes with traditional lecture based techniques are 1.5 times more likely to fail than students who are engaged in a more stimulating and interactive learning environment.

In addition to the influence lecture based learning may have on one’s academic performance, there is a lack of skills obtained in lecture based learning environments that correlate with academic success. Lecture based learning turns students into passive beings who are expected to regurgitate the content taught on midterm assignments or examinations (Quinlan & Fogel, 2014). However, according to Shahzadi and Ahmad (2011), one of the skills that lead to academic performance in post-secondary environments is the ability to apply the knowledge learned to relevant concepts. If this is the case, the most effective learning environment would be grounded in problem based learning (PBL) techniques. PBL is an instructional method that involves presenting students with relevant/realistic scenarios or problems that are to be solved using the knowledge and content taught in class (Hmelo-Silver, 2004). However, implementing PBL environments in post-secondary institutions can be a challenge as it often requires collaboration, group work, and intimate settings that simply cannot be accommodated in a massive lecture hall (Hmelo-Silver, 2004). Therefore, although it can be suggested that PBL may have a positive effect on academic performance, post-secondary institutions may be restricted as the most cost-effective instructional technique is lecture based learning.

Despite the disconnect between post-secondary budgets and effective instructional techniques for increased academic performance, there are suggestions to be acknowledged to create a more stimulating and interactive learning environment in post-secondary classrooms. Specifically, offering students the choice between PBL versus lecture based learning could be a potential solution, as students can choose their learning preferences, thus increasing student satisfaction and accountability for academic performance (Opdecam, Everaert, Keer, & Buysschaert, 2014). However, this would require an increase in teaching resources and cost factors. Consequently, this leaves post-secondary institutions at a difficult crossroad – cost effectiveness or student success?


Freeman, S., Eddy, S., McDonough, M., Smith, M., Okoroafor, N., Jordt, H., & Wenderoth, M. (2014). Active learning increases student performance in science, engineering, and mathematics. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 111(23), 8410-8415

Hmelo-Silver, C. E. (2004). Problem-based learning: What and how do students learn? Educational Psychology Review, 16(3), 235-266.

Maclean’s (2010). Students who dropout over grades. Maclean’s Canada Press. Retrieved from http://www.macleans.ca/education/uniandcollege/students-who-dropout-over-grades/.

Opdecam, E. E., Everaert, P., Keer, H., & Buysschaert, F. (2014). Preference for team learning and lecture-based learning among first-year undergraduate accounting students. Research in Higher Education, 55(4), 400-432.

Parkin, A., & Baldwin, N. (2009). Persistence in post-secondary education in Canada: The latest research. Millennium Research Note #8. Montreal, PQ: Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation. 1-14.

Quinlan, A., & Fogel, C. A. (2014). Transcending convention and space: Strategies for fostering active learning in large post-secondary classes. Higher Education Studies, 4(6), 43-48.

Shahzadi, E., & Ahmad, Z. (2011). Academic performance of university students. International Conference on Recent Advances in Statistics, 255-268.



Part-time Faculty and the Student Experience


Lauren Klacza, Brock University

“I never imagined myself in this position…where every four months I worry about how I’m going to put food on the table” – 16-year Instructor at Wilfred Laurier University (Basen, 2014)

The plight of part-time contract faculty at postsecondary educational institutions has come to the forefront recently, with faculty from 24 Ontario colleges on strike just this week to protest current working conditions in the system. According to OPSEU (2017), 70% of the instructors at Ontario colleges are contract faculty, which includes “part-time” (less than 6 hours/week), “partial load” (7-12 hours per week) and “sessional” (over 12 hours/week) employees. Some of the employment issues with contract teaching include minimal job security, pay for only teaching hours in the classroom, limited opportunity for job advancement to full-time status, no access to benefits and no sick days (OPSEU, 2017). Striking faculty has also been prominent at Canadian Universities, with faculty strikes in the last few years at York University and University of Toronto over contract faculty working conditions (Levinson King, 2015).

It is clear from the recent strike action by Ontario college faculty that the system isn’t working and that the precarious employment position of so many can make for a challenging learning environment. Will better working conditions equal better learning experiences for students?

Part-time faculty and student experience

There is some evidence that employment status of faculty does not impact student learning in a negative way. Data have indicated that “part-time faculty evidenced neither a weaker instructional capacity nor less overall rigor in their grading, and no significant difference existed in student course evaluations or course grade distribution” (Landrum, 2009). Ronco and Cahill (2004) found little evidence that instructor type had any impact on student outcomes. Part-time instructors seem to be enthusiastic, passionate, and well-educated in their fields. This can be a breath of fresh air for students in their learning experience.

Other research shows a negative impact on student experience when faculty has part-time status. Umbach (2007) found that, compared with full-time faculty members, part-timers advised students less frequently, used active teaching techniques less often, spent less time preparing for class, and were less likely to participate in teaching workshops.

According to OPSEU (2014), a lack of full-time faculty means less time for dealing with students, less time for course and program development, and a greater challenge to maintain academic standards. Also, according to Landrum (2009), part-time faculty have many of the same teaching and grading requirements as full-time faculty but with less institutional support such as offices or university e-mail accounts.

Field, Jones, Stephenson and Khoyetsyan (2016) discuss two types of contract instructors: Classic Sessionals (those that teach for fun for a bit of extra cash, current or retired professionals who have other jobs) and Precarious Sessionals (those reliant upon the income from instructional work). Most of the latter are female, have graduate education credentials, and indicate an aspiration to find a full-time position with employee benefits in the field. Perhaps part time teaching jobs work for some, but for others who aspire for more it is currently a stressful, uphill battle. A study by Maynard and Joseph (2008) states that involuntary part-time faculty (part-time faculty desiring a full-time position) were more dissatisfied with working conditions than voluntary (part-timers that prefer part-time work) and full-time faculty.

The lack of support, resources, and job security for part-time faculty that wish to attain full time employment can make for a stressful and negative work environment, and if employment conditions were improved, experiences for students in and out of the classroom would be bettered as well (Field, Jones, Stephenson and Khoyetsyan, 2016).

Better working conditions to benefit students

Schmidt (2008) postulates that “because colleges are not likely to stop relying on part-time faculty members anytime soon, the key question raised by the latest research is how to make the best of the situation” (Making Do section, para.4).  Some solutions Schmidt (2008) mentions include rethinking the classes part-timers are assigned to teach (those with less time commitment) and having them work with populations who are least likely to need help outside the classroom.

Meixner, Kruck and Madden (2010) outline solutions for better working conditions put forward by part-time faculty themselves: engagement with department Chairs and Deans, being included in faculty email communications and events, and pairing part time faculty with a mentor that can help them in navigating resources can go a long way.

Also, outlining expectations for contract faculty at the beginning of employment is key. How many hours are they looking at spending in and out of the classroom realistically? As well, a key area to discuss with staff from the beginning involves what they are looking for from the employment-are they just teaching for “fun” or is full-time employment a goal? Promoting and retaining your most enthusiastic and qualified instructors is key to a better experience for students.

Contract faculty are some of the most enthusiastic teachers you will find, who truly love their students and teaching. Maynard and Joseph (2008) found that “part-time faculty… reported slightly higher emotional commitment to their institutions than full-time faculty” (p. 149).  Retaining these instructors and providing a better working environment for staff will impact all who cross their path.

Basen, I. (2014, Sept 7). Most university undergrads now taught by poorly paid part-timers. CBC News. Retrieved from: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/most-university-undergrads-now-taught-by-poorly-paid-part-timers-1.2756024

Field, C. C., Jones, G. A., Stephenson, G., & Khoyetsyan, A. (2014). The “other” university teachers: Non-full-time instructors at Ontario universities. Toronto, ON: Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario.

Landrum, R. E. (2009). Are there instructional differences between full-time and part-time faculty? College Teaching, 57, 23–26.

Levinson King, R (2015, Mar 19). Why this is far from Ontario’s last university strike. Toronto Star. Retrieved from: https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2015/03/19/why-this-is-far-from-ontarios-last-university-strike.html

Maynard, D.C., & Joseph, T.A. (2008). Are all part-time faculty underemployed? The influence of faculty status preference on satisfaction and commitment. Higher Education, 55, 139-154.

Meixner, C., Kruck, S. E., & Madden, L. T. (2010). Inclusion of part-time faculty for the benefit of faculty and students. College Teaching, 58(4), 141-147. doi:10.1080/87567555.2010.484032

OPSEU (2014). Report on education in Ontario colleges. Retrieved from: https://opseu.org/sites/default/files/attachments/%25node%3Atype/caata_roe_fullreport_en.pdf

OPSEU. (2017, Oct 14) College faculty table final offer in a bid to avert strike. Retrieved from: https://opseu.org/news/college-faculty-table-final-offer-bid-avert-strike

Ronco, S. L., & Cahill, J. (2004). Does it matter who’s in the classroom? Effect on instructor type on student retention, achievement and satisfaction. Published in the 44th annual forum of the Association for Institutional Research. Boston, MA.

Schmidt, P. (2008). Use of part-time instructors tied to lower student success. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 12.

Umbach, P. D. (2007). How effective are they? Exploring the impact of contingent faculty on undergraduate education. Review of Higher Education, 30(2), 91-123.



Experiential Learning in Post-Secondary Institutions


By Ann Singh

Many industry professionals have found that there is a growing gap between the skills desired by employers and those obtained by students through colleges and universities (National Post, 2016; OECD, 2017; Rushowy, 2017). This suggests that greater effort is required by post-secondary institutions to equip students with the skills needed to succeed in an increasingly demanding labour market. This issue goes back to the fundamental question of what do we need to teach and how do we teach it? Students require the skills demanded by industries, but they also require the theoretical foundations of their profession and the ability to think conceptually and critically.

Industries, governments, and educators have supported integration of various forms of experiential learning in the classroom (COU, 2014). Brock University was among the first Ontario post-secondary institutions to include an explicit mandate on experiential education (Ministry of Advanced Skills Development, 2017). Educators at Brock are encouraged to provide opportunities for students to apply their learning to real life experiences (S. Howe, personal communication, October 2, 2017). Understanding how we can better integrate experiential learning in the classroom is important because these forms of learning help students develop a range of transferrable skills such as problem solving, communication, and leadership (Baldwin & Rosier, 2016; Ivey-Dewey, 2008; COU, 2014). More importantly, experiential learning helps to equip students with the skills needed to succeed in a professional environment (COU, 2014; OECD, 2017; Roland, 2017).

In this blog I explore the concept of experiential learning, including key benefits and limitations. I will also use Brock University as a case study for identifying general principles that should be considered when integrating experiential learning into the classroom.

What is Experiential Learning?

Experiential learning is a purposeful process of engaged and active learning whereby students construct knowledge, skills, and values from direct experiences involving real-world contexts (Baldwin & Rosier, 2016; Ives-Dewey, 2008). Students apply their learning using hands-on, task-oriented activities, and then relate these experiences to their previous knowledge to generate new knowledge, skills and values (Baldwin & Rosier, 2016; Dewey, 1938; Ives-Dewey, 2008; Jose, Patrick, & Moseley, 2017; Kolb, 1984). Experiential learning can occur both inside the classroom (e.g., through simulations, case-based learning in small groups, and guest-speakers) and outside of the classroom (e.g., through internships, practicums, and fieldtrips) (Baldwin & Rosier, 2016; Jose et al., 2017; Slade, et al., 2015).

Although the origins of experiential learning can be traced back to John Dewey (1938), who believed that students thrive in an environment where they can experience and interact with the curriculum, David Kolb (1984) significantly contributed to this discourse as a teaching approach. Kolb (1984) described four key elements to this student-centred approach as depicted in Figure 1. It is important that these steps are an iterative process that students continually experience as part of their learning.


Figure 1: Kolb’s Model of Experiential Learning (adapted from Chan, 2012)

Benefits of Experiential Learning

There are several benefits to experiential learning. Educators suggest that experiential learning helps to increase students’ readiness for the workplace (OECD, 2017; S. Howe personal communication, October 2, 2017). Employers also support the notion as it helps in acquiring and developing transferrable skills that they find attractive, such as problem solving, communication, and leadership (Baldwin & Rosier, 2016; Chiose, 2015; COU, 2014; Ivey-Dewey, 2008). Students also develop greater self-esteem and confidence in their abilities because they are able to apply their knowledge to practical situations (Gilbert, Banks, Houser, Rhodes and Lees, 2014).

Experiential learning also helps students to comprehend concepts better and critically engage in their learning (Roland, 2017; Wright, 2000). Experiential learning requires that students actively take control over their learning, and shifts the focus from being passive recipients of knowledge. By doing so, students are encouraged to make connections to course material in ways that cannot be achieved through conventional teaching methods (Wright, 2000). Students reflect on their learning and translate their understanding of concepts into practical knowledge.

Limitations of Experiential Learning

There are also limitations to experiential learning. Educators must invest substantial amounts of time in developing and integrating experiential learning activities into courses both inside and outside of the classroom. This can include identifying appropriate case studies for students, making connections with industries, and a willingness to actively engage students (Wright, 2000). Educators also need to be knowledgeable of experiential learning as a teaching approach, which is sometimes not the case (S. Howe personal communication, October 2, 2017).

Another limitation relates to developing adequate methods of student assessments. Traditional forms of assessment, such as essays and exams, may not accurately reveal the learning experienced by students (Slade et al., 2007). Experiential learning requires innovative methods of assessments that educators may be unfamiliar with. It may be challenging to convince educators to integrate new methods of assessments into their courses (S. Howe, personal communication, October 2, 2017).

Baldwin and Rosier (2017) also argued that experiential learning is not a universally accepted teaching approach. Rather, it is used to support traditional modes of teaching. The authors suggest that a focus on experiential learning could devalue student learning because the focus of teaching is on generating knowledge specific to the workforce.

Principles for Integrating Experiential Learning

Baldwin and Rosier (2017) identify several strategies for integrating experiential learning into the classroom. They argue that for experiential learning to be successful, educators need to have a clear and shared purpose regarding the experiential activity; activities must be student-centred; evaluation needs to be an essential component; students need to be exposed to real world contexts; and students should be provided opportunities for reflection.

These principles are echoed in Brock University’s experiential education initiative (Brock University, 2017). Although the university’s mandate was formalized in 2013, service learning opportunities have always been a core focus of the institution in helping students to translate their classroom knowledge to employability. The formal shift from service learning to experiential education came from alignment with their strategic mandate in 2013 (Brock University, 2017; S. Howe, personal communication, October 2, 2017). This initiative started with engagement sessions with the various stakeholders to establish a common definition of experiential learning (Brock University, 2017). These sessions also allowed for discussion beyond definitions where key themes could emerge. For example, what qualifies as experiential learning? The sessions allowed for alignment from stakeholders that the activity must be a significant learning experience for the student and there must be a reflective component (S. Howe, personal communication, October 2, 2017). These components are essential to successful integration of experiential learning.


Baldwin, C., & Rosier, J. (2016). Growing future planners: A framework for integrating experiential learning into tertiary planning programs. Journal of Planning Education and Research, 37(1), 43-55.

Brock University. (2017). Building Brock University’s experiential education definitions.
Retrieved from https://brocku.ca/teaching-learning/experiential-education/

Chan, C. K. Y. (2012). Exploring an experiential learning project through Kolb’s learning theory using a qualitative research method. European Journal of Engineering Education, 37(4), 405-415.

Chiose, S. (2015). Ontario universities defend focus on research in wake of report. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved from https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/ontario-universities-defend-focus-on-research-in-wake-of-report/article27705064/?arc404=true

Council of Ontario Universities [COU]. (2014). Bringing life to learning at Ontario Universities. Retrieved from http://cou.on.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/COU-Experiential-Learning-Report-2014.pdf

Dewey, J. (1938). Experience and education. New York, NY: Collier Books.

Gilbert, B. L., Banks, J., Houser, J. H. W., Rhodes, S. J. Lees, N. D. (2014). Student development in an experiential learning program. Journal of College Student Development, 55(7), 707-713.

Ives-Dewey, D. (2008). Teaching experiential learning in geography: Lessons from planning. Journal of Geography, 107, 167-174.

Jose, S., Patrick, P.G., Moseley, C. (2017). Experiential learning theory: The importance of outdoor classrooms in environmental education. International Journal of Science Education Part B, 7(3), 269-284.

Kolb, D.A. (1984). Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development [OECD]. (2017). Education at a glance 2017: OECD Indicators. OECD Publishing. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/eag-2017-en

Ministry of Advanced Skills Development. (2017). 2014-17 Strategic Mandate Agreement: Brock University. Retrieved from https://www.ontario.ca/page/2014-17-strategic-mandate-agreement-brock-university

National Post. (2016, June 26). Ontario considers mandatory work experience programs for all students. National Post. Retrieved from http://nationalpost.com/news/canada/ontario-considers-mandatory-work-experience-programs-for-all-students

Roland, K. (2017). Experiential learning: Learning through reflective practice. International Journal of Cross-Disciplinary Subjects in Education, 8(1), 2982-2989.

Rushowy, K. (2017, Sept 12). Popular post-secondary degrees aren’t where the jobs are, says OECD. Toronto Star. Retrieved from https://www.thestar.com/news/queenspark/2017/09/12/popular-post-secondary-degrees-arent-where-the-jobs-are-says-oecd.html

Slade, C., Harwood, A., Baldwin, C., & Rosier, J. (2015). Baseline survey of current experiential learning practice in Australian and New Zealand planning schools. Australian Planner, 52(2), 103-113.

Wright, M.C. (2000). Getting more out of less: The benefits of short-term experiential learning in undergraduate sociology courses. American Sociological Association, 28(2), 116-126.



If It Ain’t Broke, Why Fix It? Why Some Ontario Colleges Transition into Universities



By Monica Wice, Brock University

Ontario colleges have been and remain a vital component within the provinces higher education system (OntarioColleges.ca, n.d.,a). The 24 schools are viewed as a place to gain essential work skills, so much so that many university graduates attend college after graduating (Abraham, 2015). Additionally, a Statistics Canada 2009 report (as cited by Abraham, 2015) predicts that college enrollment will rise by 30%, or 150,000 students by 2025, proving their need.

So, I admit I was appalled when I heard that two of Ontario’s colleges were transitioning into universities. Having graduated from several colleges and universities over my lifetime, I have developed some definite opinions about the roles of each type of institution, what they have to offer, and who they serve. I also had my suspicions that money was at the centre of their reasoning for becoming universities and wanted to dig deeper to find out the “truth”.  I will admit when I am wrong and this is one of those times. What I discovered was eye opening and should be concerning to all Ontarionians.

A Little Background

In 1965, the Ontario government created community colleges in response to the need for technical training not offered at university and beyond the level existing in the secondary school system. In 2000 Ontario colleges were allowed to also offer applied baccalaureate degree programs under the Post-Secondary Education Choice and Excellence Act (PEQAB, 2009, para 2). The four-year degree programs were deemed a success and recommendations for expansion of the degree programs were made in 2004 (Colleges Ontario, n.d.). At this point, colleges were successfully offering both diplomas and applied bachelor degrees to their communities, however in 2012, colleges like Sheridan and Yukon applied to become polytechnic universities (Brown, 2012), leaving me wondering what could possibly be their reason for wanting this change.

The College Argument for Transition

I use Sheridan as a reference because I believe they may be the first of many colleges to make this transition. Back in 2012, when Sheridan college started the transition process, then president Jeff Zabudsky claimed the sole reason for the college wanting to become a university was to give its degree students an opportunity to further their education, saying, “I want every graduate to be able to carry on to grad school if they choose, but Ontario graduate schools refuse to recognize applied degrees” (as cited in Brown, 2012, p. 1).

But simply changing the name of the institution from a college to a university will not grant students access to graduate programs that predominantly look for research experience, something Sheridan adamantly says they will not focus on (Sheridan Journey, n.d.). Their refusal to comply with the research requirement, left me asking who else might benefit from this transition?

Who Benefits? The College

The fact remains that university tuition is higher than college tuition, which results in more revenue for the institution. A 2009 report from the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) noted that there have been significant changes in revenue sources, with a considerable shift toward tuition (Snowdon & Associates, 2009). “The amount of revenue available to institutions is a key determinant of their ability to carry out their education and research functions effectively” (p. 10). The HEQCO report further acknowledged that college programs have significantly lower tuition costs than other postsecondary options (p. 67).

According to OntarioColleges.ca (n.d.,b), the average cost of tuition for one academic year in an Ontario college diploma program is $2,400 versus $6,100 per year for a bachelor’s degree program. As an example, the total tuition costs for the 4-year Bachelor of Early Childhood Education Leadership program offered at Sheridan College is $11,664 (Sheridan College, 2017), whereas a 4-year Bachelor of Early Childhood Education offered at Brock University totals $34,015 (Brock University, 2017). So, there you have it; universities charge more, therefore get more revenue from student tuition fees. Colleges who transition must be doing it for purely monetary reasons. Right? Not so fast.

Another Possibility

Digging deeper, I discovered that the working environment for college professors is nothing like that of their contemporaries at universities. Ontario colleges were originally created with the single purpose of educating and training workers to support economic development and were never intended to be academic institutions like universities. Colleges are organized and operated as businesses, with departmental managers overseeing their workers (instructors). As Hogan and Trotter (2013) note, “the creation of colleges and institutes was an explicit attempt by provincial governments to produce a separate structure of higher education not intended to share the same historical rights and privileges as universities” (p. 73).

What this means

According to a 2013 Report on Education in Ontario Colleges (MacKay, 2013), three important problems about the teaching environment were noted. First, college professors have no say in course design, content, delivery method, or evaluation methods (p. 4). Second, faculty are educational technicians only, completely ruled by management. “It does not matter if the professor teaching a course has a Ph.D. and 20 years of experience in her field, while her manager has absolutely no relevant expertise; the manager can dictate academic terms to the faculty member” (p. 58). And finally, and most disturbing to me, is that professors have no legal ownership to their intellectual property, not their curriculum, research, or publications. Without academic freedom, “there is a profound disincentive for intellectual workers to innovate, create, and develop new knowledge. In the CAATs today, all intellectual property developed by faculty is seen as the legal property of the college that employs them” (p. 59).

This may have worked within colleges of the past that employed professional experts as instructors, but today’s colleges are filled with academics with doctoral degrees who are accustomed to independent thought and the “publish or perish” mentality. Professors who would like to move on to teach within the university environment will have to rely on those publications and their research as part of their curriculum vitae. Furthermore, the growing tendency of colleges to favour part time and contract employees has led to strikes and a growing concern that colleges are at risk of survival (Rushowy, 2017).

Why Should We Care

Should other colleges go down the same path as Sheridan and Yukon, which I suspect they will, then underrepresented and marginalized populations will be left behind. The community college has been an educational alternative for those students who are not bound for university, those looking for a more vocational trade, closer to home, at a lower cost (Berger, Motte, & Parkin, 2009, p. 17). This new trend of colleges becoming universities, in my opinion, threatens educational opportunities for all the students they are entrusted to serve.


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Berger, J., Motte, A., & Parkin, A. (2009). The price of knowledge: Access and student finance in Canada. (4th ed.). Montreal, QC: Canadian Millennium Scholarship Foundation.

Brock University (2017). Undergraduate tuition and fees, 2016 academic year. Retrieved from https://brocku.ca/safa/tuition-and-fees/overview/undergraduate/ug-2016/#2016-ug-arts-science

Brown, L. (2012, February 8). Sheridan wants to become a university. The Toronto Star. Retrieved from https://www.thestar.com/yourtoronto/education/2012/02/08/sheridan_wants_to_become_a_university.html

Colleges Ontario. (n.d.). Expand degree programs at colleges. Retrieved September 5, 2017 from http://www.collegesontario.org/news/fact-sheets/Degrees-2014.pdf

Hogan, B. E., & Trotter, L. D. (2013). Academic freedom in Canadian higher education: Universities, colleges, and institutes were not created equal. Canadian Journal of Higher Education, 43(2), 68-84.

MacKay, K. (2014). Report on education in Ontario colleges. OPSEU. Retrieved from https://ocufa.on.ca/assets/2014-04_CAAT-A-Report_Education_FULL.pdf

OntarioColleges.ca (n.d.,a). Find a program. Retrieved October 1, 2017 from http://www.ontariocolleges.ca/FindProgram

OntarioColleges.ca (n.d.,b). Why choose college? Retrieved October 1, 2017 from http://www.ontariocolleges.ca/colleges/why-college

PEQAB Postsecondary Education Quality Assessment Board (2009). Quality of Ontario College Degrees. Retrieved September 11, 2017 from http://peqab.ca/QualityONCollegeDegrees.html

Rushowy, K. (2017, October 6). Ontario colleges and faculty to resume contract talks. The Star.com. Retrieved from https://www.thestar.com/news/queenspark/2017/10/06/ontario-colleges-and-faculty-to-resume-contract-talks.html

Sheridan College (2017). Tuition fees. Retrieved September 13, 2017 from https://www.sheridancollege.ca/admissions/fees-and-finances/academic-fees/2017-2018-academic-fees/tuition-fees.aspx

Sheridan Journey (n.d.). What is a teaching university? Retrieved September 10, 2017 from http://journey.sheridancollege.ca/?p=qa#

Snowdon & Associates (2009). Revisiting Ontario college and university revenue data. Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario. Retrieved from http://www.heqco.ca/SiteCollectionDocuments/Revenue%20Data%20Eng.pdf