Senate Agenda, November 17, 2000 - EXHIBIT IV, Appendix 1
"Accelerating technological innovation will transform all aspects of teaching and learning in ways that cannot yet be predicted. However, … there is no substitute for the inspiration, rigor and focus of direct contact between a teacher and her students."
- Annette Kolodny (In "Failing the Future: A Dean Looks at Higher Education in the 21st Century")
This report is about enhancing learning opportunities for students and teaching opportunities for faculty at the University of Western Ontario. Although the focus of the report, as defined by the mandate, is on the integration of new technologies into our teaching and learning programs both at a distance and on-campus, it was clear that we were dealing with a core function of the university and, therefore, we address related issues that are impacted by or have an impact on these technologies.
It should be clearly stated at the outset of this report that it is the consensus of the committee that the overriding priority in any strategic plan for instructional technology be the emphasis on quality teaching and learning - pedagogy will drive the direction of this report and its recommendations.
Organization of this Report
The report is divided into sections as follows:
o Background and Methodology
Background and Methodology
The Subcommittee on Instructional Technology was struck by the Senate Committee on University Planning in late October, 1999. The Subcommittee's primary mandate has been:
To produce a statement of strategic direction for distance studies that identifies and makes recommendations concerning those issues which must be addressed in the development of a multi-year plan for distance education at Western.
Starting in January, 2000 and continuing through to May, the Subcommittee met regularly on a weekly basis and consulted with individuals and groups from across campus in an effort to solicit and compile views on directions for online instruction from as broad a constituency as possible (see appendix for list of consultations).
The Subcommittee also reviewed documents from a range of sources concerning effective implementation of instructional technology in the university setting. The material included planning documents from a number of universities in Canada and the U.S., as well as government reports, such as the recently released COU report on learning technologies.
A preliminary report was submitted to SCUP in March, 2000 (attached). In the report, the Subcommittee indicated its intention to extend its deliberations beyond traditional distance education to include discussion of the full range of online instruction, "since the default distribution medium for 'distance studies' (i.e., the Internet) holds potential benefit for instructional technology in general." The preliminary report also identified key issues that must be addressed in forming a comprehensive and useful plan for online instruction.
The need for comprehensive planning for instructional technology at this time is critical. A number of factors point to a need for a long-term plan that addresses the concerns of central administration, faculty and students.
1. The Council of Ontario Universities Task Force on Learning Technologies (LTs) released their report ("A Time to Sow") in March of this year (see: http://www.cou.on.ca/publications/briefs_reports/online_pubs/ATimetoSowReportB&Wonly.pdf) with the following "critical recommendations":
that strategic plans be developed at each Ontario university to guide the use of learning technologies;
that a supportive environment for faculty members and students using LTs be nurtured; and
that an adequate investment in learning technologies be made, including new resources, the use of strategic partnerships and the strategic allocation of resources for successfully advancing the use of LTs.
2. The report of the external appraisers for ITS (submitted in May, 2000) ends with the following comment.
UWO is at a cross-roads with respect to IT and ITS. The opportunity is there for UWO to capitalize on the investments to date and harness the interest in the technology to strengthen the learning environment. To fully capitalize on the opportunity requires a commitment to the development of a strategic plan and implementation of the results, improved communications, continued effort to integrate IT into the academic fabric and leadership that fully recognizes the opportunity and pursues it with evangelical fervour.
3. At The University of Western Ontario, the Instructional Technology Resource Centre was established in October 1998 and now, two years later, requires a long-term strategy for fulfilling its mandate.
4. The demographics of university student populations are changing. Demand for flexible learning options for part-time and working students will require a new, coherent approach to Distance Studies at UWO that will bring our programs to students in our community who traditionally have not sought a conventional full-time university education.
5. The recently ratified collective agreement between the UWOFA and the University refers generally to the issues around technology in teaching and learning and specifically to these issues in Article "Implications of Technology." Implementation of this article requires formation of a "Joint Subcommittee on Implications of Technology."
6. In July 2000, Industry Canada struck the Advisory Committee for On-line Learning. The Committee, chaired by Dr. David Johnston, President of the University of Waterloo, will release its final report in November of this year.
As stated in our preliminary report, we have found it useful to, first, formulate a vision statement concerning online instruction and to then make recommendations concerning those issues that must be addressed in forming policy and planning. We have attempted to ground our work in the culture, history and traditions of UWO and to remain congruent with directions that have been previously declared for the University (e.g., the Leadership in Learning strategic plan of 1995). At the same time, the vision statement and attendant recommendations reflect our focus on using instructional technology to do what it has been designed to do--break down barriers of space and time that can be found between learners and learning.
Western must participate in the opportunities available through the effective use of newly emerging learning technologies in the pursuit of our teaching mission. These technologies can add quality and flexibility to learning and teaching. The use of these technologies should be supported and explored to enhance teaching and learning, to address the increasing demand for technology and information literacy in society, and to allow for time/place shifting flexibility for our students. All online instruction should be fully integrated into the teaching mission of individual faculties and departments. It is the role of the central administration to encourage and support academic units wishing to pursue technology-based instruction.
Most Ontario universities are at the same point as UWO in the development of plans and approaches for integrating of new technologies into their teaching programs. Up to the present time, most of the activity in this area has been carried out by a small number of faculty members. We note here opportunities and barriers that impact on the full integration of learning and teaching technologies into our education programs.
During the committee's deliberations and consultations, it became very clear that the operational model for planning of academic programs at UWO was a decentralized one with autonomy resting within the 12 Faculties. Our recommendations are, therefore, built on this decentralized model with defined roles for central support to faculty-based units in the area of instructional technology.
Several Faculties have formally established units with responsibilities in instructional technologies including providing student access and faculty development.
The ITRC has now established a credible reputation both on campus and across the province. ITRC has experienced ongoing success in developing technology-based educational materials and complete on-line courses and is now well recognized for its expertise and achievements to date by all Ontario universities.
In a knowledge-based society where education has become a commodity and is now marketed as our natural resources are, universities must assume the role of primary producer. Life-long learning is no longer a buzzword and has now become a way of life. This is true in virtually all fields of human endeavour, but particularly so in the professions. UWO is well positioned to develop the learning resources that will absolutely be required of individuals in engineering, law, education, medicine and allied health professions, computer science, administration and business throughout their careers. Our recommendations are based on a reconfiguration of the units currently responsible for distance and continuing education and a clear understanding of changing student demographics and emerging markets for higher education.
Perhaps the most frequently cited barrier to integrating instructional technologies into teaching programs was the lack of incentives for faculty to invest their time in this area and, consequently, risking productivity in research, for example, which is perceived across campus to have more value in Promotion and Tenure decisions. Several references to this situation appear in the recently ratified Collective Agreement and our recommendations are based on these articles.
A lack of opportunities for faculty development in the area of instructional technologies was also identified as a barrier. Steep learning curves and acquisition of often complex technological skills require a well-structured, freely available and effective program for faculty that is based on the pedagogy of instructional technology and delivered by a fully-qualified instructor/expert.
The current structure of tuition paid on a full time or part-time basis limits options for many students and effectively prevents students interested in targeted learning outside of formal programs from accessing learning opportunities at UWO on a course-by-course basis.
It is clear that there is a critical need to rationalize costs and maintain rigorous fiscal planning to best identify priorities for strategic investments in instructional technology at UWO. The rapid pace of technology change frustrates resource planning and allocation.
Summary of Recommendations
1. A decentralized model of faculty and student support for teaching and learning technologies that reflects UWO's culture of strong Faculties and the nature of the technology itself.
2. An emphasis on serving the needs of our regional communities and the community-based organizations which, more and more, are coming to rely on Western's information and knowledge base.
3. A visible research component involving interdisciplinary and discipline-specific studies into issues surrounding the use of instructional technology
That UWO adopt a strategy for achieving a leadership position in the integration of leading information technologies into all levels of its teaching and learning programs.
The University of Western Ontario has the opportunity to build on the recognized successes of the Instructional Technology Resource Centre (see below) and, through technology, create a learning environment for students at all levels regardless of time and place. UWO has one of Canada's best teaching faculties as recognized by the number of 3M National Teaching Award winners (second highest in Canada). The quality of Western's undergraduate, graduate and professional programs is second to none, and through commitment to and judicious application of new learning technologies, UWO can deliver these programs to qualified students at any place at any time.
That the mandate of the Instructional Technology Resource Centre be expanded and reorganized (and perhaps renamed) to include all central operations with natural linkages to teaching and learning technologies and that it be sufficiently resourced (human, physical, technical, and fiscal) to support all technology-related instructional endeavours at UWO including both on-campus and distance learning.
The recent external review of ITS notes the record of success established by the Instructional Technology Resource Centre and specifically recommends continued support for the ITRC and the ITRC Advisory Board. While it is true that the ITRC has enabled considerable technological enhancements for a number of courses during the past two years, The Centre, with its current resources and budget, is in no way equipped to adequately accommodate and support the IT demands which are currently developing on campus.
The committee has identified several existing support units each of which has roles and responsibilities involving instructional technology in the broad sense. These units are the ITRC, the Office of Distance and Summer Studies and Instructional Media Services. We recommend that these units be re-organized into an expanded ITRC that reflects their common functions and activities.
The functions of this unit would be as follows.
1. Support individual units within faculties in the development and promotion of instructional technologies and application of these technologies to the development of distance programs and courses. Support would be extended not only to those areas of campus which rely heavily on central computing facilities, but also to the growing number of operations which have independently established resources in support of IT. In all of its activities, the unit must not be, either perceptually or in reality, a fiscal or bureaucratic impediment to individual initiative. At the same time, the unit would be prepared to assist in the planning, developing, implementing, and assessing of technology-enhanced instruction both on campus and at a distance. "Planning" could include:
2. Faculty Development. The unit should be able to accommodate a range of levels of expertise in IT. Various workshops, conferences, project-based mentoring, as well as one-on-one assistance should all be available through the central support unit in collaboration with the Educational Development Office. Training would focus not only on new applications and technologies, but also on pedagogical issues upon which the success of technology-enhanced instruction depends. The importance of pedagogy in considering IT was emphasized to the Committee in many of our consultations. Various options for promoting faculty development include creation of a defined teaching award (sponsored by industry) for innovations in the use of technology in teaching and an opportunity for funded secondment (release time) to the ITRC to allow faculty to devote time to applied research in instructional technologies.
3. Communication. IT, by its nature, is a collaborative effort. In almost all cases, expertise is drawn from a number of sources in completing a successful IT project. Currently at Western, there is a high level of isolation among those working with instructional technologies. In the recent past, the ITRC has made important steps in addressing this problem. But there remains a need for coordination of information among interested parties. An expanded ITRC would serve this coordinating role and would be responsible for remaining informed about developments throughout campus and for the dissemination of this information. ITRC would be responsible for compiling and distributing information about the availability of online courses and programs at Western.
The new ITRC would also serve as a repository for IT innovations that could be advertised and shared. It is important to note that the value in such sharing of information was pointed out to the Committee by several managers of fairly self-supportive IT operations.
4. Research. As noted in the list of recommendations, there is an opportunity for Western, in establishing research in IT as a primary objective, to take a leading role in this area. The ITRC would serve an important role in this regard, in terms of both supporting and initiating research in a broad range of topics related to technology-based instruction. The beginnings of this mandate are already apparent in that all projects supported by the ITRC now have a mandatory evaluation component in which the faculty member must provide clear objectives and a practical method for determining if these objectives have been attained. With support for comprehensive evaluation, some projects may represent original research with the potential for publication in the academic literature. Such initiatives represent the initial stages for formal research supported by external granting agencies at both the provincial and federal levels.
Development and application of instructional technology implies innovation, which implies experimentation, which implies risk, which implies potential failure. A secure networked environment must be established within the ITRC to allow experimentation with emerging internet-based technologies in order to assess potential applications for teaching and learning.
5. Collaboration. Within the field of IT, there are a rapidly growing number of inter-institutional networks that are involved in a variety of collective ventures. It is very important that Western actively seek out opportunities to become involved in such collaborations and take full advantage of advances and expertise available from other schools and organizations. Again, the ITRC would be ideally situated to take a proactive role in this area and to provide a connection point between the various projects on campus and the larger IT network.
That the academic units of the University be responsible for the availability, quality, and funding of online course offerings.
We believe that full integration of all online instruction into the teaching mission of the academic units is in keeping with Western's strategic planning. Full integration means that decisions concerning the type and scope of online offerings would be determined at the Faculty/Department level, as would issues related to program requirements. Strategies for quality assessment and evaluation would also be determined by the academic unit, however this is an area where collaboration with the ITRC would be logical.
It is essential that online courses receive status equivalent to "regular" courses (i.e., courses which are scheduled into specific times and locations on campus and elsewhere) in terms of academic policy and funding. This means that the introduction, maintenance, and, if required, phasing out of online courses or programs would be subject to the same procedures now in place for all other courses and programs. With regard to funding, online courses should receive financial resources that are on a par with regular courses in order to operate successfully and with an appropriate instructor complement (including primary instructor, graduate teaching assistants, etc.). Online courses should also be included in all special enhancement strategies (e.g., ECF) that may be put in place in support of course offerings.
As indicated in the first recommendation, considerable support for the development and maintenance of online courses would be available to the academic units from the ITRC. Indeed, it would be desirable for each faculty/department to construct a plan for instructional technology that could be developed in consultation with the ITRC, particularly during the Deans' annual planning process.
That Western's instructional technology profile include the following three distinctive features:
1. A decentralized model of support for teaching and learning technologies that reflects UWO's culture of strong Faculties and the nature of the technology itself.
It is Western's historical tradition to be structured on strong Faculties supported by a central administration that fosters the unique cultural features of each Faculty. As mentioned above, several Faculties have instructional technology units in place and the challenge is, in this decentralized environment, to devise a rational operational plan that relates a central support (here the ITRC) with these Faculty-based units. The committee sees this structure as an opportunity to build instructional technology support into a decentralized environment with strong, central leadership providing generic services such as faculty development, instructional design, project development, research and funding opportunities while Faculty-based units take their traditional responsibility for course and program development. In effect, the relationship that would exist between an ITRC and a Faculty-based support unit would be, to use a technology-derived analogy, a client-server relationship where Faculty units represent powerful desktop workstations and an ITRC represents the central server providing applications to the network.
2. An emphasis on serving the needs of our regional communities and community-based organizations which, more and more, are coming to rely on Western's information and knowledge base.
Western's current strategic plan, Leadership in Learning, contains specific references to our role in providing educational opportunities for students off-campus in our regional communities.
Two relevant articles from the document are reproduced here:
Article 7.1: Activities of mutual support and cooperation between the University and the City of London and its surrounding communities should be strengthened. It is clear that the economic futures of Western and its communities are inextricably linked.
Article 7.3: The University should expand continuous learning opportunities for alumni and other members of the community requiring non-traditional educational opportunities.
The committee believes that the means and time for delivering on these articles have arrived and that there are outstanding opportunities for the university to establish its presence in our communities both in London and in the surrounding regions of rural southwestern Ontario. The instructional technologies central to this report effectively remove barriers of time and space to learning opportunities for students who can now engage in academic upgrading and life-long learning opportunities without the need to be tied to a timetable or physical space. All demographic indicators, from David Foot to the Council of Ontario Universities, show the demand for learning coming from "non-traditional" students will grow rapidly over the next five to ten years.
This demand can now be met as easily by the University of Phoenix as by UWO using the same distributed technologies. Competition for students takes on an entirely new meaning from the days when UWO sought the same students as four or five other regional universities. The distinct advantage that UWO brings to our community-based learners is the perspective from southwestern Ontario - building on our local histories, cultures, expertise and demographics can create learning environments that are meaningful and relevant to students' lives as no other "off-shore, virtual" university can.
However, the distinction between traditional "distance" students and those on-campus is being blurred by the ability to design effective learning environments accessible to both populations. The concept of "distributed" learning captures the fundamental nature of a new educational paradigm that has arisen from application of technology in higher education. Customization of learning options for students is now possible with the ability to deliver courses in a flexible mode that fits the needs and circumstances of a large, diverse student population.
3. A visible research component involving interdisciplinary and discipline-specific studies into issues surrounding the use of instructional technology
A common criticism from those indifferent or opposed to the application of IT to teaching and learning in higher education is that there is no evidence that learning is enhanced or teaching facilitated through technology. This is true, to a certain extent, particularly with newly emerged applications based on web technologies over the internet. Thus there is a critical need for rigorous research in the application and evaluation of these technologies.
Along with the rapid emergence of instructional technologies themselves, there has been intense interest in the evaluation of these tools from a number of perspectives. Similarly, a number of funding agencies have recognized the need for rigorous research in the pedagogy of instructional technologies. The proposed new ITRC would include in its core mandate a function as a living laboratory for such research. Support could take various forms including collaborating with faculty in writing research proposals or functioning as a centre for controlled experimentation in the application of technology in various settings (this latter function would also point to the physical location of the new ITRC in a classroom building). Such research naturally lends itself to interdisciplinary collaborations however there is also a real need for discipline-specific research in which the instructional design models may be highly differentiated from one another.
That faculty efforts in the development and application of instructional technologies be recognized appropriately in the promotion and tenure process and that specific incentives be established to support faculty in the use of instructional technologies.
The report of the COU Task Force on Learning Technologies indicates that some faculty are reluctant to use new technologies in teaching for a number of reasons, including: lack of time to develop materials; the perception that "time committed to developing technology-based instruction takes time away from other aspects of scholarship such as research and publication, which are better recognized and rewarded;" and "lack of support and incentive for understanding available options, acquiring needed skills, or considering choices among different combinations of technology, pedagogy, content, and educational purpose."
The report encourages institutions to provide a more supportive environment for faculty who are using the new learning technologies. Suggested strategies for creating such an environment, to a large extent, centre on establishing an educational technology support facility similar to the new ITRC described in our first recommendation which could play a major role in faculty development .
Several of the disincentives which discourage faculty involvement in online instruction which are cited in the COU report have been addressed in the new Collective Agreement. These concern copyright, intellectual property and teaching assignments that include the use of educational technologies. However, we believe that there are, in addition to the faculty development functions of the new ITRC, other incentives that the University should consider in order to encourage more faculty members to become involved in the use of the new technologies. These include the establishment of small grants to support innovation and experimentation instructional technology projects, and teaching awards that recognize innovation in instructional technology
That a coordinated technical infrastructure be identified which can respond to the technical needs of instructional technology on campus as a whole.
The increasing demand for online instruction will require preparation and planning at all levels of Western's technology complex. This must include not only ITS and the instruction programs it supports, but also the growing number of independent operations which are in place in various locations. Perhaps the recently formed TUMS (Team for Unit-level Microcomputer Support) group could be used as a starting point for such coordination. TUMS comprises systems administrators from across campus and affords a venue for discussion concerning the University's computing and networking environment. The recent external review suggests that "the TUMS initiative should be broadened to include a forum for the exchange of ideas and best practices across campus. In this regard, the decentralized nature of IT at UWO can be, and should be seen as a strength." Coordinating plans to meet the technical needs of online instruction could be realized by supplementing certain of TUMS' deliberations with individuals who can speak to issues of pedagogy and curriculum development.
That the University establish a steering committee which can, in the very near future, produce a strategic plan concerning information technology in general (of which this report may form a part) and which can oversee the implementation of particulars that derive from such a plan.
The recent external review of ITS encourages Western to "embark on a strategic planning exercise for IT. ITS will play a major role in the fulfillment of that plan, but it is clear that there are many other participants who must be part of the IT plan." We strongly endorse this call for detailed planning concerning all aspects of information technology. Just as we found it necessary to consider "distance education" within the context of online instruction in general, so too must any consideration of technology-based instruction be integrated into an overriding IT plan.
The report of the COU Task Force on Learning Technologies includes the outline of a five-phase strategic planning process that we would recommend as a framework for IT planning at Western.
Michael Clarke Microbiology and Immunology
Kris MacLeod Distance Studies Summer Programs
Kevin McQuillan Sociology
Richard Shroyer English
Alan Weedon Graduate Studies
Robert Wood Music
Mike Bauer Senior Director, ITS
Joyce Garnett Director of Libraries
Roma Harris Vice-Provost and Registrar
Greg Moran Provost and Vice-President (Academic)
Debra Dawson Director, Educational Development Office
Keith Fleming Faculty of Social Science
Sharon Rich Faculty of Education
Doug Link Director, Social Science Computing Laboratory
Les Ste Marie Manager, Media and Information Services Department
Faculty of Education
ITRC Advisory Board
Subcommittee on Instructional Technology
March 6, 2000
The mandate for the Subcommittee on Instructional Technology is:
To produce a statement of strategic direction for distance studies that identifies and makes recommendations concerning those issues which must be addressed in the development of a multi-year plan for distance education at Western.
The Subcommittee has held a series of consultations with the following individuals:
Senior Director of ITS
Head of Libraries
Director of EDO
We have also held a discussion with SCITS. The consultation process is unfinished; we wish to solicit opinion from other individuals and groups on campus before submitting a final report.
The Subcommittee has determined and been advised not to restrict deliberations to traditional distance education, but rather to extend discussion to the full range of online instruction, since the default distribution medium for "distance studies" (i.e., the Internet) holds potential benefit for instructional technology in general. Modes of online teaching/learning include (1) supplemental or adjunct (i.e., the use of computer-based teaching tools delivered online but in the classroom setting), (2) mixed (traditional live lecture with scheduled class meetings combined with online presentation of course material occurring outside of class time), and (3) wholly online (complete courses or programs are delivered exclusively online).
While our consultations and discussions are ongoing, we have reached a preliminary consensus that it is important for Western to continue its involvement in distance studies and indeed to provide the means (policy, direction, infrastructure, and training) by which the University's profile in the area of technology-enhanced teaching and learning may be expanded. Following are factors upon which this conclusion is based.
Educational Quality. There is growing evidence that pedagogical improvements and innovations can be realized through selective and knowledgeable use of the new learning technologies.
Demand. The Subcommittee has been told, both in written reports and in consultations, that significant growth in demand for online instruction is expected in the immediate future from both "traditional" populations of university applicants and from "nontraditional" groups, particularly those seeking professional upgrading programs.
Opportunity. In addition to the opportunity of working with "new" populations of students, the Subcommittee has been informed of the growing list of possible collaborations with other institutions interested in partnering with Western in the area of technology-based instruction.
Alternative Sources of Instruction. The list of international online providers (e.g., Open University, Athabasca University, Western Governors University), as well as those "traditional" post-secondary institutions making a sizeable investment in online instruction, is expanding at a very rapid pace.
Given the Subcommittee's mandate, we believe it best to proceed to formulate a vision statement concerning online instruction and to then identify those issues that need to be addressed in forming policy. Following is a brief overview of the Subcommittee's first attempts in forming a vision statement, accompanied by a list of issues that have been identified and discussed.
All online instruction should be fully integrated into the teaching mission of individual faculties and departments. We believe this to be essential if the use of technology-based or technology-enhanced instruction is to be successful at Western. Policy pertaining to instructional technology must be formed in such a way as to encourage and facilitate initiatives which a faculty or department may wish to pursue.
1. General support. An academic unit or individual faculty member may require assistance with some or all of the following.
• Identification of possible opportunities for online instruction
• Assessment of the feasibility of pursuing online delivery (including budget modelling)
• Analysis of instructional designs which may be suitable for a given teaching situation
• Identification of technological resources required to deliver instruction
• Development of a plan for maintaining the instruction once in place
• Assessment of the quality and outcome evaluation of an instructional package
• Identification of ways in which instruction may be improved
2. Faculty development. There is a critical need to provide learning opportunities for faculty, not only with respect to the rapidly changing technologies, but also with all aspects pertaining to online pedagogy in general. It is also important to identify and provide a range of opportunities for faculty development involving different types of learning experiences (e.g., general workshops, project-based development sessions, individualized mentoring sessions, etc.).
3. Research. It is important that the online teaching environment be supported by a robust multidisciplinary research enterprise. To a large extent, areas of investigation would obviously focus on the efficacy of various instructional tools, evaluation methodologies and pedagogical techniques and would provide an objective and theoretical basis for improvements in instruction and an opportunity to develop and explore experimental hypotheses as they relate to the use of instructional technologies by students.
4. Incentives. Academic units face a number of administrative impediments in attempting to mount technology-based instruction with the end result that the feasibility of an online alternative may not even be considered. Such disincentives need to be identified and removed.
5. Recognition. Design and development of technologically intensive instruction is time-intensive. Recognition of faculty accomplishments in the use of teaching technologies needs to be placed alongside other areas of scholarship and built into reward systems, including promotion and tenure.
6. Reliability of use. The Subcommittee has heard of a number of issues related to maintaining a reliable online infrastructure that need to be addressed. These include network security (e.g., user authentification), ease and reliability of access, and stability of offerings. (Currently, there is no policy that describes the length of time an online course or program should be available. For the student studying at a distance, therefore, there is no guarantee that he/she will be able to complete the course of study online. This is critical in the event that complete programs are offered on-line.)
7. Technological infrastructure. Increases in online instruction will place greater demands upon technical delivery systems. There is a need, therefore, to establish a coordinated resource-planning network so as to take full of advantage of the existing infrastructure and to develop efficient strategies for improving the system.
8. Communication. Those directly involved with learning technologies have told the Subcommittee that instructional development tends to be more collaborative, involving teams comprised of faculty and technical/design support. As well, innovations developed for one specific instructional situation can be applied to other settings. Thus, sharing of information and expertise in the academic community becomes an important feature of successful technology-based instruction.
1. Full integration of online instruction into the teaching profile of a faculty or department means that issues of availability and quality would remain the responsibility of the academic unit. Decisions concerning the scope and type of online offering (undergraduate, graduate, professional development at a distance or locally) would be reached at the departmental/faculty level, as would issues related to program requirements (e.g., decisions concerning what proportion of an academic program could be completed online). As well, assessment of effectiveness and quality of instruction would be determined by the academic unit in consultation with a central support unit.
2. The Subcommittee has talked at some length about support issues, specifically with regard to a central support unit. Currently, the Instructional Technology Resource Centre (ITRC) serves a central support role in assisting faculty with the "creation of on-line instructional content and use of associated technology." The ITRC currently operates within the Client Support area of ITS and works cooperatively with the Educational Development Office (EDO), the Western Centre for Continuing Studies, Summer and Distance Studies, Libraries and ITS.
In our discussions, we have considered a more comprehensive central unit as perhaps the most efficient means of providing the assistance needed to successfully design and deliver online instruction. Also, and because of an expanded range of services, the central unit may be seen as providing incentive to the academic units to consider the use of learning technologies in their course and program offerings.
The central support unit would remain a collaborative operation, exchanging resources and expertise with ITS, EDO, the Libraries, Continuing Studies, Distance Studies and individual academic units. In all of its activities, the support unit must be seen as an enabling mechanism, one that facilitates and promotes faculty initiatives in the area of learning technology.
3. The Subcommittee is attempting to identify administrative procedures which, at present, may serve as disincentives in considering online instruction options on the part of an academic unit.
4. Demand for professional upgrading and certification programs is growing very rapidly. These are areas which, with a few exceptions, the University has had little involvement. At the same time, the instructional needs of these "nontraditional" markets are ideally suited to online delivery and should be factored into any long-term planning.
5. There is unanimous agreement among committee members that online resources at Western should not be expanded specifically as a response to the double cohort.