Ontario Online Plan-Issues and Concerns we should all be concerned about

OPSEU Local 415

OPSEU Local 415 is the democratically-run body that represents Algonquin College full-time and partial-load faculty (professors and instructors), cousellors, and librarians.

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Dear Members,

On Monday, January 13, Brad Duguid, Minister of Training Colleges and Universities, announced Ontario Online. Video of the announcement can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OprAhtZ0_08 Curiously, we have not seen the Minister’s announcement highlighted on myAlgonquin for reasons that may become apparent as you read on.

We believe there are many aspects of the announcement that should cause you concern as a faculty member. Attached is a leaked confidential memorandum from the Deputy Minister of MTCU to all college and university presidents. The attached consists of three parts:

(a) Deputy Deborah Newman’s cover memo

(b) “Ontario Online” (Conceptual Model), a four page document

(c) Share online Course Fund Guidelines, an eleven -page document

Although your union leadership recognizes the online learning can have its place, this initiative goes beyond sound pedagogy and takes curriculum delivery decisions away from our faculty, which ultimately means jobs and job security within our colleges.

For example, the document calls for “(maximizing) scale which minimizing duplication.” This is consistent with the province’s previously announced “Differentiation Framework.”

Issues that your union ( and you) should be concerned about are:

1. How are the courses and host institutions chosen and what impact does that have on numbers of faculty required?

2. Who develops the courses and what is the impact on SWF hours and faculty complement?

3. We know through the last round of negotiations the College Employer Council wanted a new facilitator classification with pay ranges significantly less than full-time professors. Are Differentiation ( another Ministry initiative) and Ontario Online being used as the medium to introduce facilitators into the Collective Agreement, and what impact will that have on available work, now and into the future?

4. What will be the impact on non-full time faculty and their opportunities for full-time work?

5. Is the shared course development ( for which the colleges get $75,000. per course) your work? ( See page 2 of the Shared Online Course Fund Guidelines).

Along with the above, there are a number of pedagogical, retention and academic integrity issues that will affect our Collective Agreement and our workload (SWF) assignments.

The document also states as a goal “keep low enrollment courses financially sustainable.”    Throughout, it is clear that the cost savings are a primary goal of this initiative.  The cost savings that the Ministry will be expecting will be significant if they are investing $42 million in Ontario Online.

In the opening paragraph of the Deputy Minister’s memorandum there is a reference to consultation. Your elected leaders at OPSEU and our counterparts at OCUFA ( university faculty) were not consulted regarding this Ontario Online plan.   Click Here for a news release from Warren Thomas and JP Hornick that you may have received.  You will be hearing more from OPSEU and OCUFA in the days and months to come. As your union, we have to be concerned with this announcement: it is what you expect us to do as your bargaining representatives.

We know this is a busy time for faculty but please do make yourselves aware of the issues and, as always, your feedback and comments are welcome.

Pat Kennedy

President, OPSEU Local 415 ( Algonquin College Faculty Union)

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