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Distance (including Online) Education

CAUT Policy Statement

CAUT is committed to increasing equality and equity of educational opportunity for all Canadians. Distance education, including online instruction for whole courses and for “blended” ones, can provide students, particularly members of groups traditionally under-represented in higher education, flexibility and choice in place and time of access to instructors, peers, and learning materials.

Distance education allows institutions to teach and support students over a wide geographic area. However, it requires a shift in infrastructure requirements, from physical space to increased reliance on communication and information technologies. The development and delivery of quality distance education courses require adequate specialized expertise provided by academic staff (faculty and librarians), instructional and web space designers, editors, graphics specialists, and programmers.

Distance education should not be conceived or implemented as a way to save money: for example, by enrolling hundreds of students in “pre-packaged” courses taught by Contract Academic Staff for minimal compensation.

Nor should distance education be conceived or implemented in a way that threatens or diminishes in any respect the control of curriculum and pedagogy by academic staff.

In other words, changes in platform and medium do not alter the core rights and responsibilities of those who teach. Technology in place or under development should serve distance educators, including online educators, and their goals, not vice-versa.

To ensure equity and quality in the delivery of distance education, academic staff associations shall negotiate contract language to ensure that:

  • Members who create courses retain their copyright and intellectual property rights relating to those courses. All revisions to copyrighted material must be approved by the copyright holder.
  • Courses shall be taught by fully qualified academic staff.
  • Class sizes shall be determined by collegial processes and workload standards set by the Collective Agreement
  • Academic staff shall be fairly compensated for all components of the course, including but not limited to developing, teaching, monitoring, and participating in on-line discussions, responding to student questions, assessment, etc.
  • Academic staff shall determine the method of course delivery and the selection of course materials.
  • Academic staff shall have sufficient time and resources to learn how to use distance education pedagogy and new information technologies.
  • Academic staff shall have access to academic librarians and library services for themselves and their students, especially in the areas of information literacy and reference services to support the delivery of the course.
  • Members shall be provided with professional support (including but not limited to programmers, instructional designers, editors, library services etc.) and pedagogical resources to enable the effective delivery of the course.

Approved by the CAUT Council, May 2015.