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Distance (including online) Education

CAUT Policy Statement

CAUT is committed to increasing equality and equity of educational opportunity for all students. 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.

The development and delivery of quality distance education courses require adequate specialized expertise provided by academic staff, instructional and web space designers, editors, graphics specialists, and programmers.

Different platforms and media of course delivery do not alter the core rights and responsibilities of those who teach. Technology in place or under development should serve the pedagogical goals of distance educators, including online educators.

Regardless of delivery mode, to ensure equity and quality in the delivery of distance education, academic staff associations should negotiate provisions in their collective agreements to provide that:

  • Academic staff, through collegial processes, should determine the method of course delivery and workload allocation.
  • Academic staff who create courses should retain their intellectual property rights relating to the content of those courses.
  • Academic staff who teach distance and online courses should have the same academic freedom rights as those who teach through other modes of delivery.
  • Courses should be taught by fully qualified academic staff. On-line and distance education should not be used to outsource work of the bargaining unit or as a means of reducing the complement of permanent academic staff whose duties and responsibilities involve the full range of academic activities.1
  • Academic staff should 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, assessing student work, etc. Class sizes should be determined by collegial processes and workload standards set by the Collective Agreement.
  • Academic staff should be provided with sufficient time and resources to further develop skills in distance education pedagogy and new information technologies.
  • Academic staff should 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. Students and Academic staff who are located away from the campus are entitled to library services on the same basis as those provided for students and academic staff on campus.
  • Health and Safety provisions should apply to all academic staff regardless of the location of their workplace.

Approved by the CAUT Council, May 2004;
Editorial Revisions, February 2009;
Approved by the CAUT Council, May 2015;
Approved by the CAUT Council, November 2018;
Editorial revisions, February 2023.

See CAUT “Policy Statement on Outsourcing” and CAUT “Policy Statement on the Nature of Academic Work.”