Faculty Perspectives on E-Learning Policy in a Canadian University
This qualitative multi-method study investigated faculty member perspectives on e-learning policy, and its influence on their use of e-learning. The research was conducted at one medium sized comprehensive university in Ontario, Canada. Data were collected from interviews with 12 full-time faculty members, eight of whom had taught at least one online undergraduate university course. Data were also collected from institutional and government documents. Respondents noted e-learning increased flexibility and/or convenience with respect to both their engagement with students, and student engagement with course material. E-learning was identified positively for its ability to save time by some respondents, and negatively as being time intensive by others. Increased student and government demand for on-line courses, as well as the opportunity to use technology for instructional purposes, increased respondents’ use of e-learning. Additionally, the university’s pedagogical centre, which provided direct support to respondents, was considered key in supporting their transition to e-learning. Respondents were generally unable to identify specific university policy related to e-learning, and some noted the lack of specific policy had hampered e-learning course development in their departments. The documents reviewed tended to view e-learning in favourable terms, highlighting it as a response to changing political, economic, and societal conditions, and promoting it for its ability to reduce costs to the university, increase student enrolment, and provide more equitable access to university programs, particularly for under-represented groups such as new Canadians, Indigenous peoples, and first-generations students. Whereas government documents tended to focus on mandates (e.g. the intent to change the university system based on each university’s strengths), institutional documents focused on teaching, learning, and e-learning, both in response to government mandates, and in alignment with the University’s strategic direction. Collectively, the documents shared the respondents’ perceptions regarding flexibility, time, and demand. However, while government documents focused on issues of cost, changing conditions, enrolment and equitable access, institutional documents explained e-learning, the differences with face-to-face teaching and learning, and how best to integrate e-learning into practice.