Friday, 12 October 2012

Remaking Higher Education in Canada

It was encouraging to see a recent special series in the Globe & Mail dedicated to the reinvention of higher education in Canada. The thesis of the series is that we need to “remake our one-size-fits-all universities for a more flexible, fast-paced future.” As those of you who have visited this blog over the past year are aware, we have described how we are engaging in a similar reinvention here at Greenwood.

The lead article in this series provides some historical context about the evolution of the university model and its deep-rooted reliance on the lecture-hall model of instruction. However, the combined impact of a rapid increase in the number of students attending university and the reduction in government funding for these institutions has led to a sharp increase in class size, thus creating a less personal experience for students.

Some observers, like Robert Mendenhall, founder of Western Governors University in Salt Lake City, advocate for a greater use of online instruction. Mendenhall believes that online instruction is the most effective way to attend to the varied pace and style of student learning.  Clearly, he has vested interest in this approach. Not surprisingly, a number of university professors have utilized various op-ed pages over the past few months criticizing the online approach, claiming that it undermines the essential premise of a liberal arts education.

At Greenwood, we believe there is an integrated solution to this debate. We believe that blended learning, an approach which combines the best of face-to-face learning with technology, is the best way to ease the transition from a one-size-fits-all approach to a more personalized solution. Certainly, it puts students at the center of learning, which as many commentators in the Globe & Mail series point out, should be the central purpose of any re-invention of the current educational system.

Allan Hardy

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