By Gavin Moodie

The ‘year of the mooc’ or massive open online course in 2012 was very annoying. Hypers of online education made wild predictions or promotions such as ‘The end of the university as we know it’ and in 50 years there will be only ten universities left in the world.

Hypers arrogantly ignored all the previous extensive expertise and experience of online education, even ignoring earlier extravagant claims such as that by the management guru Peter Drucker who in 1998 forecast or advocated that:

Thirty years from now the big university campuses will be relics. Universities won’t survive. It is as large a change as when we first got the printed book.

(Drucker, 1998)

Similar claims were repeated frequently during the year of the mooc, usually without acknowledging their antecedents.

slide1At least the parallel with the Gutenberg revolution is verifiable, unlike many other of the hypers’ claims. But unfortunately, while historians of printing have acknowledged the importance of the issue, none had investigated systematically printing’s effects on education.

I discuss these issues in my book published recently by Palgrave Macmillan Universities, disruptive technologies, and continuity in higher education: the impact of information revolutions. 

It turns out that printing had modest effects on universities. Within 50 years of Gutenberg’s introduction of printing in 1450 universities dispensed with cursorie or cursory lectures in which bachelor graduates studying for their masters read core text out for undergraduates to copy to take extensive notes.

Universities and their colleges had established libraries during the manuscript era because books were so rare and expensive that few university faculty could afford the books they needed for their work. But printing made books so available for faculty that they didn’t need to borrow them any more, and libraries fell into disuse. It wasn’t until the 18h century that university libraries revived, no longer to deal with a scarcity of books, but to manage the profusion of books that had become so numerous that few scholars could own all that they needed.

But expository lectures or lectures cum questionibus remained, the curriculum was not changed dramatically by printing, and summative assessment was still by disputations in Latin, as was teaching.

While printing transformed society generally, the new technology was absorbed into existing university practices rather than revolutionized them. This is because, as important as printing was, it did not essentially change universities’ core activities of extending, testing and transferring knowledge.

Big changes were introduced to universities during the early modern period not by the technology of printing, but by a revolution in the way knowledge was extended and tested – the Scientific Revolution.

Universities gave mathematics more importance as a core discipline of the new method from the 18th century, natural philosophy developed from auxiliary studies or parts of general education to independent disciplines of physics, astronomy, and chemistry which were studied in their own right, and biology was established as a separate discipline in 1802.

Lectures persisted but universities introduced practical classes, and more broadly lecturers illustrated propositions from experience rather than from ancient texts.

Possibly the biggest change in early modern universities was in their summative assessment, from its medieval form of oral, individualized, public, and collective disputations of questions in Latin to written, standardized, private, and individual answering of questions in the vernacular. Some of the changes in assessment were consequences of the changes in curriculum and pedagogy brought about by the Scientific Revolution, some depended on printing, but others were due to universities’ increased size and other broader changes.

I conclude that educational change isn’t the direct result of technological change. But neither is technology irrelevant to educational change. Rather, I argue that educational change involves the interaction of 3 factors: financial, technological, and physical resources; the nature, structure, and level of knowledge; and the methods available for managing knowledge. I conclude that the current digital revolution will not revolutionize universities unless it revolutionizes the way knowledge is advanced, validated or learned.

By Fatema Hossain and Hiroyoshi Hiratsuka

The internationalization of higher education has become embedded in policy and institutional-level discourse not only in Canada but around the world. Many universities are formulating and implementing internationalization strategies with diverse aims ranging from enhancing institutional reputations and competitiveness, deeper engagement in cross-border services and trade, improving students’ preparedness for the global job market, and to support the diversification of their student and faculty body.

The University of Toronto is amongst the institutions embracing the discourse of internationalization, and at the first CIHE Speakers Series of 2017 on January 19, Dr. Edward (Ted) Sargent, Vice President, International shared his vision for formulating an internationalization strategy for the university.

slide1After a formal welcome by OISE Dean Glen Jones, Dr. Sargent described what he and his office envision for the University of Toronto’s internationalization strategy, and provided a series of goals that he believes should be the university’s priorities. In his presentation, Dr. Sargent envisioned U of T’s research and teaching contributing to solving global issues, such as exploring new ways to generate and store energy from not only solar power but also from CO2.

He also envisions encouraging mobility through existing research and teaching partnerships. Dr. Sargent would like to expand opportunities for faculty and students to research and study outside of Canada in order to gain intercultural learning experiences. U of T’s internationalization strategy, he believes, will enhance the university’s global reputation and competitiveness for its research, education, and social services while meeting companies’ demand for a globally prepared workforce.

During the discussion that followed Dr. Sargent’s presentation, three interesting and important themes emerged.

Firstly, when Dr. Sargent spoke about increasing students’ and faculty members’ opportunities for cross-cultural experience across the campuses, we wondered whether the university is doing enough to leverage the current level of cultural diversity at U of T. Here, the distinction between ‘domestic’ and ‘international’ students can often feel artificial when many students have recently arrived in Canada but are divided on the basis of their current immigration status. With more than half of the population of Toronto being born outside of Canada, students who have been brought up locally are more likely to have a rich and varied cultural and ethnic background than the ‘domestic’ label implies.

Diversity does not just come from the university’s local community. Dr Sargent noted that U of T has received 70% more applicants from the US was linked implicitly to the university’s recruitment efforts. Yet there are broader factors at play, not least the current political situation in America. There are also economic considerations given the lower value of the Canadian dollar against its US counterpart, and cultural factors, with Canada often being viewed as a model for tolerance and inclusivity. For American students, Canada may represent an opportunity to study away from home but in a familiar environment.

slide1Finally, Dr. Sargent opened up the possibilities of U of T cooperating with other universities in ways that could go well beyond department-to-department collaboration. These can often form the starting point for cooperation, such as in the example of mutual working between the Physics department and University of Tokyo. Rather than limiting the partnership, the suggestion was that deeper links be built with the partner university. The decentralized nature of the U of T does mean, however, that an important first step is to ascertain just what links are already in existence across the many parts of the university before seeking to build on these.

Look out for further opportunities to engage with U of T’s internationalization strategizing in the near future.

By Marc Gurrisi

Recently, I had the pleasure of attending a symposium hosted by the Centre for the Study of Canadian and International Higher Education (CIHE), the Ontario Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development (MAESD), and the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO). The theme of this event was work-integrated learning (WIL) in Ontario’s colleges and universities, with particular focus surrounding its educational impact, its role in developing transferable skills for students, and some best practices for implementing these types of programs.


Many intriguing ideas were presented, as each panellist provided insights from their respective institutions and fielded questions from the large audience in attendance. One of the most significant discussions surrounded the notion that all students should have some form of WIL experience during their post-secondary education (as recommended by the Premier’s Highly Skilled Workforce Expert Panel earlier this year).

Specifically, many argued that these opportunities need to be relevant to the students’ respective fields of study, or at least provide students with the requisite transferable skills to prepare them for various jobs in the labour market. This is an important caveat because, as Martin Hicks of HEQCO pointed out, simply providing students with any type of work experience will not necessarily lead to substantial skills development in undergraduates. Ultimately, we need to uphold the quality of these opportunities. It was also rightly observed that institutions have always worked towards the mission of providing job-ready graduates. But what is the best way to achieve this in the contemporary context, wherein the labour market is oversaturated with diploma and degree holders?


Sytem-wide considerations

WIL or experiential learning can take place in a variety of contexts, but it is typically conceptualized in one form: co-operative work placements or internships. While this would certainly be the ideal type of experience for every post-secondary student in the province, it is an incredibly unrealistic expectation to implement. Furthermore, if this path was pursued, we could anticipate that it would lead to many students suffering through unrewarding/irrelevant jobs.

We might also anticipate issues around the equitability factor of WIL opportunities once we account for field of study or even institutional reputation. For example, from a programmatic lens we can expect that STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, math, etc.) will likely offer more direct pipelines to industry partners. This is for two reasons: 1) the industries are likely to covet the skills of these particular post-secondary students, and 2) these partnerships are already well-established in many regions/municipalities.

We can also expect that more prestigious institutions have greater capacity to provide students with these opportunities, both in terms of influence and financial resources. As such, institutions with lower resources and with greater specialization in non-STEM fields are less likely to be able to provide their students with paid positions relevant to all programs. This could create access inequities when it comes to the WIL landscape in the province.

MAESD could potentially counter-act this anticipated imbalance, though, by providing targeted funding for lower-resourced and non-STEM programs in colleges and universities. However, this does not necessitate that the quality of these opportunities will be high.

Another alternative worth considering is that perhaps field-specific placements are not the be-all-and-end-all of what an ideal WIL experience should entail. For instance, we know that employers are most critical of the transferable skillset that graduates need to succeed in the workplace, rather than discipline-specific knowledge. As such, is it really essential or even ideal to have students getting work experience in a position directly aligned with their program?

For an engineering or medical student, perhaps this answer is ‘yes’ since there are certain technical/ethical elements they need to practice in their professions. But for an arts student in philosophy, would it not be beneficial for them to get experience in fields like business or even public policy? These roles could encourage students to pursue interdisciplinary approaches to learning and increase the likelihood that they will graduate with a more well-rounded skillset. It could also help break down the silos that currently restrict hiring practices at some organizations/companies. By exposing students and employers to those who come from different backgrounds, it may expand the qualifications criteria that are currently put in job ads. In short, interdisciplinary WIL could be the answer to the lack of co-op/intern opportunities available to most arts students.

But as I said earlier, relying solely on co-op placements and internships is not the answer. If the province is genuinely intending to ensure that every post-secondary student will get a WIL experience during their studies, it is necessary for institutions to provide quality opportunities in diverse formats. A less obvious form of WIL can take the form of case studies, wherein students are tasked with completing tasks that are reflective of the type of work they would be doing in a workplace setting. These can take place as capstone projects, be given to a class on a monthly or weekly basis, or sometimes cover the entirety of a course. Another possibility can be through providing students with guest speakers who are professionals in relevant fields of study. These opportunities promote networking and mentoring options for students, as well as insider information on what some of the roles and responsibilities are for these professionals.

While including guest speakers and case studies in course design does not have the same level of appeal to most employers, they can still be incredibly beneficial to students when they are linked to specific learning outcomes. Ensuring that students both understand and can articulate the learning they receive from these diverse WIL formats should be the real goal of their inclusion. At the end of the day, it is not the length of work experience or wage received that determine a recent graduate’s employability, but rather their capacity to articulate the relevance of what they have learned to employers. This has, and always will be, the essence of what makes students employable.

As such, institutions should work to ensure that the WIL aspects of their programs and their respective learning outcomes are made explicit to all students. This would both fulfill the concerns shared by students, parents, employers, and the provincial government, as well as get institutions to embrace a more holistic approach to their learning outcomes frameworks across all disciplines.

Maintaining Open Dialogue

The most encouraging aspect of this symposium was seeing how many relevant stakeholders in Ontario’s post-secondary education sector have a genuine interest in WIL and experiential learning. This is incredibly encouraging for the province, as it suggests that the people who make and implement policy are communicating their experiences, sharing best practices, and establishing effective policies for Ontario’s college and university students.

By Fatema Hossain

cvo3syfvmaa7jxyOn Wednesday, October 19, 2016, University of Konstanz Professor Thomas Deissinger discussed the challenges of full-time Vocational Educational Training (VET) in Germany as part of the CIHE Speaker Series.

VET and apprenticeships are important parts of the German education system. The full-time VET system evolved from educational reform in 1960s-70s, which emphasized the “dual system” of preparing for occupations both in college and in structured work placements. That was a reaction to solely firm-based training, which was criticized as “unpedagogical”.

In 2014, full-time VET enrolled more than 655,000 students, while nearly half a million joined higher education, and about 513,000 enrollled in the dual-system.

Like Canada, the states of Germany have different post-compulsory education systems, which includes the provision of vocational education. The length and denomination of courses may vary across states, but generally the provision of VET starts at the secondary school level and continues at the post-secondary stage through different institutions and modalities. Responsibility for VET is shared by the federal government, state governments and the ‘social partners’ of employer and employee organizations. There are 4 sub-systems of full-time VET:

  • Courses leading to an educational qualification (e.g. the intermediate school qualification or Abitur – mostly Berufsfachschule and Higher Vocational School)
  • Courses leading to an occupational qualification according to the Vocational Training Act or the Craft Regulation Act (i.e. outside the dual system)
  • Courses leading to an occupational qualification according to federal state law (e.g. in child care or physiotherapy)
  • Courses leading to a nationally recognized qualification in the health sector (hospital nurses, nurses for the elderly).

There is a phenomenon of “tertiarization” occurring in Germany. Tertiarization involves pressures on VET to prepare students for higher education, in addition to equipping them with vocational skills. In Germany, tertiarization of VET occurred through four ways:

  • Higher commercial schools (vocational full-time schools) that provide higher school qualifications
  • Vocational colleges that provide “hybrid qualifications”
  • Higher education institutions with specialized and differentiated vocational courses
  • Vocational academies or dual universities with VET models.

These institutional models reflect a trend in Germany for both the tertiarization of VET and the “vocationalization” of higher education. The model of hybrid qualifications for instance entails preparation for the labour-market while at the same time enabling access to higher education.

The contribution of full-time VET towards tertiarization has increased over time as progression pathways between VET and higher education have been encouraged. At the same time higher education institutions have increased enrolment and vocationalized their offerings through specialized programs and employing VET models.

By Christine Arnold

On May 19th the University Partnership Centre at Georgian College and the Centre for the Study of Canadian and International Higher Education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto co-hosted a symposium discussing the various dimensions of college-university partnerships. Over 100 participants gathered in the inspiring library space at Georgian College and were welcomed by President and CEO MaryLynn West-Moynes. (more…)

By Creso Sá

cihe-colors-logo-03The Symposium on the Changing Professoriate in Ontario Colleges and Universities is now online.

The event took place at OISE on April 29, 2016, and was co-organized by the Center for the Study of Canadian and International Higher Education (CIHE); the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities; and the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario.

This event continued the efforts of CIHE faculty to engage with the policy community and to support and foster informed policy debate in higher education.

By Gavin Moodie

Partnerships between Ontario colleges and universities have become increasingly important recently for at least two reasons. Partnerships are encouraged generally in Canada, USA, Europe and elsewhere to transcend organizational boundaries, foster synergies and stimulate change. So universities are enjoined to partner with employers to integrate education and work, with industry to foster innovation and with other universities to avoid duplication. (more…)

Ontario postsecondary institutions experience shifting faculty demographics, patterns of academic work, performance expectations, and policy requirements. How have colleges and universities dealt with these changes? What role can the provincial government play to induce positive institutional responses? These questions were debated on Friday April 29 at OISE in the Symposium on the Changing Professoriate in Ontario Colleges and Universities. (more…)