Simon Leve
News Reporter

The Ontario government is poised to redefine online learning for postsecondary students in the province.

On Jan 13, 2014, Brad Duguid, the Ontario Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities announced $42 million worth of funding over three years for an initiative aimed at improving and expanding online learning in the province, known as the Ontario Online initiative.

“(Ontario Online) moves Ontario from being middle-of-the-road to a global leader in technology for online education,” said Duguid during a telephone conference.

Duguid said Ontario Online will be phased in over the course of three years, and the initial year will be focused on establishing the Centre of Excellence for Online Learning, an organization and web network for online courses. Then much of the funding will be put into course development so there will be a good amount of product/courses ready to go when the initiative is launched for the 2015-2016 school year.

Duguid said the online courses will be standardized, and that through a competitive process institutions will put forward a product. Duguid said the best possible course will be selected by a board set up for the initiative made up of participating colleges and universities.

Curtis Bell, President of the College Student Alliance, an advocacy group representing Ontario’s college students, said the group put forward recommendations to Ontario’s government for the past several years with regard to online learning.

Bell said he was excited to see the group’s recommendations were considered throughout the announcement about the Ontario Online initiative, especially with regard to both academic and technical support services.

Bell said he believes this initiative has the potential to be seen as one of Canada’s top resources for online learning and accessing education.

Eileen DeCourcy, Associate Vice President of Teaching and Learning and Humber College said she too believes this was a necessary step for the province to take in terms of online learning for post-secondary education. She did, however point out the initiative was in its preliminary stages.

DeCourcy said “It is a step in the right direction to look to ways to provide new ways in (course) transferability. The GTA (Greater Toronto Area) has many access points, but those in rural areas don’t always have the same access.”

DeCourcy added that Humber is participating in the initiative through Colleges Ontario, an organization of which Humber is a member and which is currently adjudicating the process of transitioning Ontario colleges into Ontario Online.

He also said that to date, Humber has received $275,000 of funding from the provincial government specifically for online learning.