Canada

No way universities will return to jam-packed lecture halls, Canadian researcher says

TORONTO —
A University of Calgary professor says universities need to modernize themselves and adapt to the advent of remote learning​, which isn’t going away anytime soon.​

Post-secondary education researcher Loren Falkenberg, who is a professor at the University of Calgary’s Haskayne School of Business, sat down with CTV’s Your Morning on Thursday to talk about the future of Canadian universities.

While the pandemic has forced classes to be held online, Falkenberg thinks online learning in some form is here to stay, and that universities will “lose their geographic boundaries.”

“What they have to do is start to look at what are the advantages of face-to-face, and what are the advantages of online. And I think there’s an optimal level of advantages for both. But we cannot go back really to the 300-person lecture now that we recognize the value of online learning,” said Falkenberg.

Falkenberg expects costs to eventually go down with online learning becoming commonplace, but says in the short term, the transition has actually been more expensive.

“I think in some ways it’s been more expensive because we’re reinventing ourselves. So, the initial period would be more expensive. Eventually it would drop,” she said.

Earlier in April, Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ont. announced that it was slashing 11 graduate programs and 58 undergraduate programs while laying off 100 faculty members as it moved into bankruptcy insolvency. Some of the cut programs include mathematics, physics and the only French-language midwifery program in Ontario.

Statistics Canada says 45.8 per cent of the funding for universities and degree-granting colleges comes from governments while tuition and fees make up another 29.4 per cent. The rest is covered by donors.

But Falkenberg says donors often want to allocate their money towards specific issues or portions of the university that matter personally to them, which reduces the flexibility for universities.

“That reduces the flexibility for universities to be able to say, ‘You know, here’s our real budget needs right now, let’s change it.’ I think what’s going to have to happen is donors are, and the people, the universities are going to have to talk to each other.​”


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