Online Learning Invites Student Access
Ann Sherman, dean of education at UNB Fredericton, believes that the use of online programs can help provide accessible options to students whose situations might not make it ideal for them to learn in a more traditional classroom environment.
“To me it’s a huge social justice issue. Online material can be the most accessible form of education for some people - people doing shift work, people who live in remote communities, people who learn better with different strategies; there are people with mobility issues and people who are hearing impaired… The thing is to make sure the online courses are as rigorous and as high quality as any face-to-face classroom experience.”
Working with CETL, Sherman and the faculty of education are using a variety of technologies that support both online and more traditional ‘in person’ learning. “We’ve had great support from CETL in designing high impact online courses. We also like to think about how we can use a learning platform like D2L Brightspace to support all our courses, SoTL online and ‘face-to-face’ courses. Between CETL and our faculty librarian, we are able to put everything at students’ fingertips.”
Almost half of UNB graduate students are in the faculty of education. Of those who are pursuing a Master’s degree, about half (over 300) are doing an online program. Offering online options to busy Education students not only gives them flexibility in their scheduling, but it also exposes them to technologies and tools that they can “then transfer to their own classrooms.”
It may seem daunting to adopt online technologies, but Sherman says that educators who do are proactive in offering more students a greater number of ways to learn. “The more we can model appropriate ways of using technologies that enhance learning, the more it helps students engage with the material and learn in meaningful ways. We’re trying to encourage highly engaging forms of pedagogy.”