By Vincent Matak. As published in Queen’s Journal, 16 March 2012.
New online components mean increased enrolment for first-year courses
University representatives and local government officials met last Friday to discuss the finances of Queen’s blended-learning system.
MP for Kingston and the Islands Ted Hsu said increasing student enrolment in blended-learning courses will bring in additional revenue without the University having to spend money on accommodating more students.
“You essentially get more money for the same infrastructure,” Hsu said in a question and answer session during the event.
Aimed at large first-year courses, the program emphasizes online readings and assignments in conjunction with decreasing the number of lectures and the number of hired faculty needed to teach courses.
First-year psychology and geography courses were the first to implement blended learning in the fall of 2011.
First-year courses in sociology, gender studies, calculus and a large second-year classics class will follow suit in September.
Jill Atkinson, undergraduate chair for the department of psychology, said that because of increased enrolment, blended-learning classes increase revenue for the Faculty of Arts and Science.
She couldn’t provide a dollar amount.
“Taking more students is a way to make more money and not having to build new buildings,” Atkinson said. “It’s great if we can use our existing smaller spaces better.”
Students are expected to discuss online activities in tutorial style learning labs facilitated by fourth-year undergraduate Teaching Assistants.
Atkinson said that hiring fourth-year TAs to facilitate learning labs will incur costs for the Faculty.
“We’re spending tens of thousands of dollars in terms of paying these undergraduate TAs, plus having to offer the course for the facilitators in education so they develop expertise to facilitate students,” she said.
According to Brenda Ravenscroft, associate dean of Arts and Science, the full-year course PSYC 100 saw enrolment jump from 1,600 to 1,800 because it’s no longer limited by space. Course lecture time has decreased from three times a week to only once per week and four faculty members teach the course, compared to six in the non-blended format.
Ravenscroft said financial benefits weren’t considered when Queen’s first talked about blended learning in 2009.
“We didn’t know the details of the cost or financial benefits when we started out,” she said. “We started by asking how to engage students in large classrooms.”
In an email to the Journal, Ravenscroft said that the results obtained through a student survey will be analyzed and studied to prove the effectiveness of blended learning for students at Queen’s.
“Data is being collected about student engagement, student learning and student satisfaction.
The data will be analyzed and reported on, and will guide further developments in the future,”she wrote.