The shadow of online education hangs over the university network

The expected increase in student numbers in the coming years is a headache for CEGEP administrators. Many institutions are already running out of space and are looking for ways to meet student demand.

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Online teaching is one of the avenues being considered.

“It's a real threat,” said National Federation of Teachers of Quebec (FNEEQ-CSN) President Caroline Quesnel.

According to Ms. Quesnel, who represents 85% of CEGEP teachers in the province, the majority of its members reject the teaching model experienced during the pandemic.

“There are leaders who see what has happened since the start of the pandemic as a laboratory to define what higher education of the future will look like. We have a mandate to fight against (this vision),” she clarified.

Walking on eggshells

CEGEP management knows that the idea of ​​expanding online training is on hold. Teachers' unions oppose it, but student population growth brings many challenges. The number of students is expected to increase by around 20% by 2029. Solutions must be found to accommodate all these new students.

The Ministry of Education and Higher Education states that a “working group (bringing together private and public universities) has been set up and it has been assumed that the institutions will implement the specified variable measures to meet these requirements.” the increased needs, which arises from this relative increase in student clientele. It would be conceivable, for example, to increase the number of summer courses (…).”

The director of studies at the Cégep Édouard-Montpetit in Longueuil, Josée Mercier, is more precise. “We have started discussions with the teachers’ union about online teaching,” emphasized Ms. Mercier, who recognizes that this is a sensitive issue.

Josée Mercier adds that offering evening courses is also one of the scenarios being considered, but here too the director of studies sees difficulties. “Not all teachers will be interested in traveling to teach classes in the evenings. (If we want to maintain their interest and attraction to the profession), online classes might be a solution.”

FNEEQ President Caroline Quesnel believes that progress in online teaching must be the subject of negotiations with teachers.

“Distance learning already exists in the network,” she emphasized, “but this type of teaching is monitored through technical means and the recognition of the workload involved.”

“What the online teaching model has shown during the pandemic is that it leads to the physical, moral and intellectual exhaustion of teachers,” she concluded.

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