New Initiatives in Online Learning in Arts and Science: Information for Departments and Instructors (February 2011)

From Arts and Science, emailed to Department Heads, ca. 1 Mar. 2011. See also the follow-ups of 2 May 2011 and 22 February 2012


The Faculty of Arts and Science is exploring the possibility of growing enrolments through increasing the number of students studying online through Continuing and Distance Studies (CDS). Although CDS already offers 50 fully online courses each year, about 85% of the enrolments are current on-campus Queen’s students. Brenda Ravenscroft (Associate Dean, Studies) and Bev King (Manager of CDS) have been asked to develop a Business Case to grow distance enrolments, to be presented to the Provost in June 2011. The Business Case will include an examination of what programs we can offer online, whether there is a market, what it will cost, and whether it will be profitable in terms of additional tuition revenue.

According to “2011 Outlook for Online Learning and Distance Education,” a report produced by Contact North, Ontario’s Distance Education and Training Network, there is “plenty of opportunity for growth and development in online learning” in Canada.

In order to attract new distance students to Queen’s, the Faculty of Arts and Science needs to be competitive, offering high-demand programs in niche markets, with quality online courses using current best practices in online learning. 

Online Programs: Degrees and Certificates

CDS currently offers enough online courses for students to complete a BA General in Psychology, English or History. We are currently developing courses to offer a BA General in Global Development Studies and a BSC General in Life Sciences, and are developing a new program, BA General in Liberal Studies.

The main focus for new programs to grow distance enrolments is on certificate programs: 30-unit university-credit programs offered independently of a degree program at undergraduate or post-graduate level. Ideas for undergraduate certificates include: medical sciences (already under development), writing, communication and new media, liberal studies, health and nutrition, health management, social justice.

We are also soliciting ideas for “professional” certificate programs (non-university credit, unregulated tuition) and for online Master’s degrees. Global Development Studies is partnering with CDS to offer a professional certificate in the upcoming year. Programs will be offered primarily online, with a summer on-campus component.

Online Courses

Online courses in Arts and Science are designed to have the same learning outcomes as on-campus courses, but have a different mode of delivery. All online courses offered through CDS conform to a set of quality standards following best practices in online teaching and learning. Online courses for university credit are offered within the Faculty’s academic terms, are led by instructors, supported by TAs and have proctored final exams in distributed locations. They include opportunities for students to interact with the online materials (e.g. using real-time media such as video clips, self-assessment quizzes), to interact with their peers (discussion forums), and to interact with their instructor and TAs (synchronous web-based tutorials and office hours).

Related Developments using Technology in Teaching

1. Blended Learning

Blended learning involves the purposeful and complementary combination of online and in-class learning in a single course. The online component of a blended course–frequently basic content delivery–is primary, not supplemental, and the in-class component usually involves activities and group work. Contact hours are usually reduced in comparison to fully in-class courses, and there may be savings in teaching resources. The Faculty believes this is a cost-effective way of managing enrolment while enhancing the quality of teaching and learning. Two pilot projects are underway (PSYC 100 and GPHY 101) and we would like to develop further courses in a modest and strategic way.

2. Hybrid Courses

In the Faculty’s use of the term, hybrid courses are courses that are offered simultaneously on campus in a blended model (i.e. with a significant online component) and fully online (sharing the online component of the on-campus course, but replacing in-class activities with online activities that achieve the same learning outcomes).

Faculty Priorities for Development

  • Identify and develop certificate programs that draw on strengths within the Faculty and can be offered online;
  • Develop online courses that are multi-purpose, i.e. can be used in several different online programs;
  • Focus blended course development on courses that can be offered in hybrid format (see above).

Role of Departments

  • Help the Faculty to generate and develop ideas for high-demand programs, especially certificate programs;
  • Identify faculty members who are interested in innovation and in online teaching and learning;
  • Partner with the Faculty to develop a good departmental incentive model for sustaining online programs for distance students.

Support of Faculty Members

  • Faculty members are paid for course development;
  • Faculty members are supported in development phase by educational consultants and online course specialists arranged through CDS;
  • Faculty members are paid for course delivery (adjuncts according to QUFA-approved rates);
  • Faculty members are supported in course delivery phase by administrative staff in CDS.

Contact for Online Initiatives

Bev King, Manager, Continuing and Distance Studies –

Brenda Ravenscroft, Associate Dean (Studies) –

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