Backed by a new report from the Institute for Research in Contemporary Economics (IREC), college students are demanding more mentoring for distance learning courses, whose enrollments at the province’s colleges have surged amid the pandemic.
“Right now there is an imbalance in the student body. There are too many people in CEGEPs in large centers and too few in smaller regions. We do not take distance learning into account, since it is a new phenomenon,” stresses Maya Labrosse, president of the Quebec Collegiate Student Federation (FECQ). The distribution of programs should be better managed by Quebec, she believes.
The student organization worked with IREC on a report entitled The university distance learning offer. State of affairs and socio-economic issues released on Tuesday morning. The report looks at the digital strategy in education and higher education launched under the Couillard government in 2018 and funded with 58 million.
“CEGEPs in the regions have resorted to distance learning to fill staffing shortages and complete their groups,” notes study author Éric N. Duhaime. The pandemic has amplified the phenomenon leading to greater rivalry between institutions. For example, 18 CEGEPs offer a distance learning program in early childhood education techniques.
“It becomes counterproductive and risks becoming unhealthy competition,” said Mr. Duhaime. We can imagine that the largest institutions that have more resources will compete with smaller institutions in more remote regions that have managed to do well.
The IREC proposes nine recommendations in its report, specifically to ensure a minimum of coordination in the provision of distance learning on the Quebec scale to “avoid over-bidding of programmes”.
The researcher made several freedom of information requests to institutions and to the government. According to the Ministry of Higher Education, distance learning increased from the 2016-2017 school year to the 2019-2020 school year. It went from nearly 9,900 to 12,200 course enrollments, with the same student typically enrolled in multiple courses in the same semester. The pandemic has exploded course enrollments, which have risen to nearly 265,000 in 2020-2021.
Signs that online courses are taking off, preliminary data for 2021-2022 shows there are nearly 50,000 course enrollments.
Data should be taken with caution, however, warns Eric N. Duhaime, who says the ministry doesn’t seem to have a clear idea of the number of registrants. The researcher also had difficulty remotely obtaining a list of courses offered. He believes Quebec doesn’t have an accurate portrait, which he finds worrying given the sums invested.
“We sail by sight, without too many landmarks,” he says. We know bad Problems and challenges of distance learning. »
For its part, the FECQ believes that Quebec has “taken bad turns” in terms of teaching methodology during the pandemic. “It can’t just be face-to-face courses that we offer remotely,” says Maya Labrosse. It needs to be adapted to the online format, so teachers need to be given sufficient financial resources and time to carry out these tasks. She believes that Quebec has some catching up to do when it comes to administering distance learning compared to Ontario or British Columbia.
Edited an earlier version of this article that confused the number of students with the number of course enrollments.