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CAUT Bulletin Archives

May 2004

A Hollow Victory

I am not particularly surprised by the ruling on intellectual property stemming from the Bryson/UBC arbitration (Bulletin, April 2004). However, I am disappointed in the lack of alternatives presented by our faculty associations in the need and opportunity for Canadian faculty and students presented by new models of education. It is true that distance education systems can be (but are not necessarily) built on industrial models that move university teaching beyond individual craft production to models that employ specialized labour in addition to that of an individual faculty member. In such cases it is hardly fair for academics to claim sole ownership of the works jointly created by a team of professionals.

Why de we assume that, individually and collectively, we are capable of participating in only one model of instructional delivery? I fear the day when fewer and fewer tenured faculty will be lecturing in fewer and fewer ill-equipped classrooms be-cause the education system is stuck in a single and arguably outmoded delivery model. Or, do we assume the current model of classroom-based lecture delivery is the ultimate form of instruction and there is no possible alternative?

Thirty years of educational research has shown there are no significant differences in learning outcomes between campus- and distance-based models of delivery. However, there are many different ways to organize the educational environment, each with advantages and disadvantages for every participant.

While CAUT gloats in this "victory," public universities, whose collective agreements allow more flexibility (for example Athabasca University and many university colleges) and private enterprise, for-profit universities (such as the University of Phoenix, Lansbridge University or the DeVries Institute) continue to expand in Canada, employing increasing numbers of academics.

Many of these institutions could and should be represented by strong faculty associations. However they will not be effectively represented until we collectively realize that education, like any other social system, can and will change its forms and structures. CAUT should be advocating for changes in collective agreements that, while protecting academic freedom, also ensure that all forms of quality education delivery are supported.

Terry Anderson
Canada Research Chair, Distance Education, Athabasca University