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1/ A thread about postsecondary education and remote delivery in the time of COVID-19 restrictions, especially in #Alberta. No agenda here, just being infomative (I hope). This has political overtones because #abpse is shaped by provincial policy, but it applies across Canada.
2/ In March, the COVID-19 crisis meant postsecondary institutions were faced with moving most courses to remote delivery to finish the term.

"Remote delivery" didn't mean the course became an online course. It only meant the term would be finished using electronic means where
3/ possible. It made sense: converting a course to being an online course generally takes more than a year. The principles can be quite different, and the role of the instructor/tutor can be different too. If an instructor is in the middle of a term and teaching 4 courses, they
4/ won't have time (even if they have expertise) to do a full conversion.

And time is a factor here.

Many instructors found the shift to remote delivery increased their marking time and their time devoted to working with student issues. Remote delivery requires students to be
5/ self-motivated and to take initiative. When you add the anxiety and effects of COVID-19 to the usual anxiety about grades, the time spent on student issues balloons.

The situation meant dealing with students in quarantine, students with limited or no reliable internet access,
6/ students who had been counting on physical library resources that were no longer available, students whose only access becane through their phones - and their data plans were insufficient for online course delivery.

It's easy to complain that some courses became nothing more
7/ than basic weekly asynchronous discussion forums.

Instructors with experience in online delivery may have had some advantage, if they had time and if they had taught those specific courses online. But that's not a given.

There wasn't time enough moving into Spring/Summer
8/ for a full revamp, even if (and this is where it gets political and @demetriosnAB might want to read) our postsecondary instiyutions hadn't been forced to terminate so many support personnel.

Most instructors are not trained to be online delivery experts. Even if they were,
9/ a few days isn't going to be enough time to develop a fully satisfying online course.

Now add these complications as we go forward: budget constraints, how sessional instructors are used, and intellectual property rights.

Many postsecondary institutions are looking at
10/ remote delivery in the fall - not all courses, but those that can be shifted. It still won't be equivalent to "online course" and here's why.

The institutions don't have the resources to develop online versions of so many courses at once. That work is done by distance
11/ education specialists in consultation with instructors and subject matter experts. It means application of pedagogical design, as well as consistent branding of materials etc. And the institutions lack the budgets, the personnel, and tge time to make that shift.

Can the
12/ instructors themselves do it?

Some might have the skills, but not as many as you might think.

And so many courses are taught by sessional instructors.

Sessionals are contract workers with expertise in their area. They have been used to cut costs at postsecondary
13/ institutions for years, and in some institutions they are the majority of the faculty.

They have zero job security. They are hired to teach to predetermined course outcomes. Because they are not contracted to develop materials, any material they develop is their own
14/ intellectual property.

When postsecondary institutions develop courses, they usually pay for that work in some way - whether it's a separate contract for sessional faculty or considered part of the workload for ongoing faculty. Then the university owns it.

Most online
15/ courses are owned by the institution. They can tap anyone to deliver them, because the content was paid for by them.

So can postsecondary institutions afford to pay sessionals to develop online versions of courses for fall delivery? Not in Alberta, where budgets are being
16/ gutted and staff terminated. And sessionals aren't considered employees between sessions.

(for information purposes: I was told this year that a sessional working a full-time load at one institution is paid about $40k LESS than ongoing faculty. For most, that's because they
17/ aren't employees from May through August and they are paid per course rather than on a salaried basis).

So can postsecondary institutions expect sessionals to spend summer developing Fall term online courses for free? Courses which universities could then hand to other
18/ instructors?

No. Despite the wishes of governments, people have a right to be paid for their work.

And these underpaid sessionals are already being expected to subsidize the institutions. How? Because the institutions aren't paying the extra internet and phone bills. They
19/ aren't paying for the extra hours rethinking our materials for remote delivery (to be fair, my department offered some support with the clear stipulation that we would still own the rights). Our workload can't be adjusted elsewhere.

Another issue will be what tier the
20/ university is slotted into by the hovt. An undergrad university doesn't have access to grad students as teaching assistants to help alleviate the workload.

So the conditions aren't there if we want a rich online experience in Fall 2020.

Now add the negotiations with the
21/ province.

Each institution has a theoretically independent Board of Governors. The Board begotiated the Collective Agreement with the faculty association. These structures are governed by the Postsecondary Learning Act and labour legislation.

I say theoretically because
22/ governors are appointed by the province, and the province tells the boards what the province wants. Last year the @UCPCaucus terminated many governors across AB before their terms were up. The optics are that they want boards that will do as they are told.

23/ ill-considered draconian cuts of late 2019 meant universities had no fiscal resilience when COVID-19 hit. Even before the pandemic there were indications of deep cuts: increased workloads and decreased salaries.

These are variable, and they will affect sessionals more than
24/ anyone else. The very people who are already under pressure to do work for free in the shift to remote access. The very people whose contracts are in danger of not being renewed as institutions cut programs or courses and combine sections.

It's a system problem.
25/ And as long as provincial governments refuse to engage in meaningful consultation, the problem won't be solved.

In AB, the govt has, over decades, created the conditions that make it hard for institutions to do a good job of this shift. Every indication from the Minister is
26/ that the govt is determined to make it WORSE.

On a side note, I have experience with remote delivery and online courses, both as an instructor and as a student. I was an early adopter of our online systems and use them in every course to facilitate and enrich the classroom
27/ experience. I was blessed to share a research office with a colleague whose PhD is in advanced education delivery, and she was incredibly helpful when I needed guidance on assignments and tests etc. So I am confident that if I put in two months of unpaid labour for courses
28/ I might not even be hired to teach, I could provide a great experience for my classes. In return, I have been warned to expect an increase in my class size (and marking load) and that the university, per govt instructions, might seek a reduction in my remuneration of as much
28/ as 30%. After many years of good service.

So when you're wondering why some remote delivery courses are less than thrilling in Fall 2020, consider all of the above PLUS that instructors themselves are not immune to the restrictions and anxieties occasioned by the COVID-19
29/ pandemic. We don't have the same access to support services, we are working from makeshift offices with all the distractions of home, we have an administration that is under horrific stress from all sides, and our students expect us to be able to respond with solutions to
30/ all their varied COVID-19 life challenges.

So if the discussion boards are not exciting in some courses, that's a small issue compared to the expectations being put on precarious workers under attack by governments.

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