Saturday, May 21, 2022

Why Do Online University Staff Have to be at a Campus?

Times Higher Education report that "Ministers demand online university staff live in remote town" (Paul Basken, May 20, 2022). The Alberta government wants staff of Athabasca University, a Canadian online university (similar to Australia's University of New England), to live in the town of Athabasca, where the campus is located. The idea of forcing staff to live where the campus is, and have to clock in each day is not just misguided, it is contrary to the ethos of the institution, and could damage its reputation. The Alberta Government doesn't appear to appreciate the very valuable resource it has in Athabasca University, and is damaging the reputation of their government, and province. 

Tom Worthington in
Athabasca Master of Education regalia
I designed a course offed at Athabasca University, and am a graduate, where I studied how to provide distance education, via distance education. I never visited the campus in Canada, in three years of study, from 13,000 km away in Australia. The only time I met staff face to face was when we happened to be at an international conferences on my side of the Pacific. The administrative support and the tuition was superior to my on-campus study in Australia. The whole idea of Athabasca University is to provide a quality education to people wherever they are. Saying the staff have to live near the campus doesn't help, and could harm the university.

My studies were on how to provide quality learning for international students, including during an emergency which kept them off campus. That was key to my being able to support students in Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic, and I am sure other graduates were key to supporting education across Alberta, and Canada. If Alberta doesn't want Athabasca University any more, perhaps it should move to another province, or country, where it would be welcome, and appreciated.

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