In an effort to support post secondary schools in Ontario who offer online courses, the province government established a $42-million hub to drive enrollment. The Centre of Excellence, which will be known as Ontario Online, aims to increase online education options. It will be operated by colleges and universities as an independent, non-profit organization.
According to education officials, participation in the program is optional, but any college or university who joins the hub must offer the courses with credit once they are approved. It is expected that most colleges and universities that offer online education will be willing to participate in the program. The hope is that costs for schools and students will be reduced by reducing duplication of courses. Although some have expressed concern that the program will diminish the classroom experience, officials say that it is not meant to replace traditional classroom learning.
A steering committee made up of post-secondary institution representatives made up to $12 million available in 2014 and all funds should be disbursed by 2016. There is no limit on how many courses each university can offer through the hub. Up to $8.5 million of the fund helped universities design flagship courses and the hub will allow the schools to share knowledge for the development of online courses in the future.
More Offerings for Students
Officials say that the hub will help students who would otherwise be unable to further their education due to economic, employment, family or geographic factors. By developing an easy-to-access location where students can register for e-learning opportunities, officials hope more students will pursue post-secondary education. As more adult students decide to return to school to further their education and their careers, the need for online learning will grow rapidly over the next few years. It is hoped that the new hub will increase post-secondary school enrollment as well.
The hub has been discussed among educational professionals since 2010 when education ministers in Ontario began consulting with students and institutions about coordinating advanced online learning. At the time, there were approximately 500,000 students registered in 18,000 online courses, a number the ministry hopes will increase with the implementation of the new online course hub.