The Ontario College Podcast: Episode 6 Now Available!

Just a note that Episode 6 of The Ontario College Podcast is now available.

In the episode, I offer a bargaining team member’s view of where we’re at right now, between the start of our work-to-rule strike action and the Feb. 15-17 forced offer vote.

I also have the pleasure of interviewing our three first-time members of the bargaining team: Michelle Arbour, Kathleen Flynn, and Rebecca Ward. We talk about their first impressions of CAAT-A’s first-ever experience with work-to-rule, plus the status of member mental health and impact on bargaining, as well as a consideration of the fiscal health of the College system.

I hope that you check it out! As ever, your feedback is welcomed at ontariocollegeprof@yahoo.com.

The CEC’s Long-Term Vision for Faculty Workload

So, this post is inspired by a question in last Tuesday’s provincewide meeting organized by the OPSEU CAAT-Academic Divisional Executive, coupled with a member discussion that my teammate Ravi Ramkissoonsingh shared with the team last week.

It’s about the CEC’s long-term goal for system, and what they hope to achieve through bargaining, and what we can predict for the future by the way that they’re setting up the pieces in the current round of bargaining. As team Chair JP Hornick said on Tuesday night, ignore what the CEC says; pay attention to what they do.

So now I’m going to talk about one thing that they did a while back — it was on September 15th. Now to provide some context, management’s proposals had trickled in fairly slowly since bargaining started — a proposal on the Counsellor class definition on August 10 (over a month after bargaining had stared); a proposal on a Workload Task Force; a proposal to limit the ability to create new full-time positions through grievances on September 9…

September 15th is when things got interesting. On that day, management proposed five submissions — the first had housekeeping amendments and the fourth concerned monetary proposals (salary and benefits). What were most interesting — and enlightening — was the “Balance of Management’s Non-Monetary Submissions” that was divided into two parts (numbered M10A and M10B — the “M” represents management submissions).

Let me be clear: Those proposals are NOT the offer of settlement that you’re being asked to vote on in February 15-17. You’re being asked to vote on an offer of settlement that was tabled on January 17, 2022, which is virtually unchanged from the one that was tabled on November 23, 2021.

But back to M10A and M10B — Those proposals were striking. I’m going to attach them here if I can figure out how to do it. But they were really the first time that the curtain parted and provided a glimpse of where the Colleges — through the CEC — truly want to take staffing at the Colleges.

And generally, it painted a picture of new faculty having way fewer rights than established faculty, and of faculty in some areas having way fewer workload protections than faculty in other areas.

Some “highlights” from those proposals include:

  • No SWFs for faculty in academic upgrading programs
  • Up to 20 teaching hours [2 more than the current limit of 18] for faculty in academic upgrading programs
  • Four additional weeks of teaching annually for faculty in apprenticeship programs
  • Up to 200 contact days and 880 teaching contact hours annually for faculty in apprenticeship programs [an increase of 20 days and 152 hours]
  • Zero preparation time attributed for teaching “a purpose-built online course” unless “the College determines that [it] should have augmented or additional materials…”
  • The separation of “Routine” and “Assisted” forms of evaluation, with a 1/3 reduction in attributed time for grading courses with “Assisted” (i.e., online or mechanical) evaluation (from 0.015 to 0.010)
  • College approval needed for Professional development, with a new standard that such approved activities “will enhance the ability of the teacher to perform their responsibilities”
  • Unlimited overtime
  • Extended length of work day for new faculty and faculty in apprenticeship programs
  • Expectations to work on weekends for new faculty
  • Added restriction to the seniority rights of PL faculty over courses they have taught
  • 1008 hours Probation for partial-load faculty prior to which they would not have access to the Partial-Load Registry
  • Ability to hire sessional faculty for more than 12 months in a 24 month period without making the position permanent full-time, if the faculty is replacing a faculty member on leave

That’s not an exhaustive list. I’m not counting some truly frightening proposals around vacations, job security bumping rights, and ownership of “Pandemic Emergency Conversion Electronic Materials”.

Anyway, that above list of proposals is all about whittling away at the edges of our rights and our membership. Why target apprenticeship? Why academic upgrading? To pick off the outliers — to get a foothold in, to drive in a wedge of inequity. And once you get a wedge in, then it’s all just a matter of time and leverage.

So, what happened to proposals M10A and M10B? They were supplanted on that very same day by an offer of settlement, which CEC Bargaining Team Chair Laurie Rancourt described as “an enhanced three-year collective agreement extension”.

So… rejoicing all around? The bad proposals were taken away and sent to bed without dinner?

Ummm… not quite.

The fact is, you’re now being asked to vote to support some of the proposals on the above list, and to help incorporate them into our next Collective Agreement.

How? Through the details of the CEC’s current proposal for a Workload Commttee, in the current proposed offer.

To illustrate what I’m talking about, M10A had the following proposals (with proposed new language for our Collective Agreement indicated in boldface and/or underlining) that explicitly targeted the workload protections of faculty in Academic Upgrading programs.

Now we certainly could be relieved that management has ‘set aside’ those proposals in M10A in favour of their current (Jan.17) Offer of Settlement, but before faculty in academic upgrading programs breathe a sigh of relief that their workload protections are secured, it’s worth noting that the current Offer of Settlement includes an proposal for “the creation of a Workload Committee” that “shall discuss and examine” issues including…

Hmmm…. now what on earth might they have in mind? If only there was some way of knowing what the CEC was attempting to accomplish through a Workload Committee.

Oh right. There is a way to know this.

It’s by looking at what they did.

Similarly, if you were in an apprenticeship program, you might be relieved that the CEC has withdrawn the following proposal (in M-10A, with proposed changes indicated in boldface and underlined):

But you might want to hold off on celebrations once you realize that you’re being asked to vote in 10 days to approve an offer that includes a proposal for a Workload Committee that “shall discuss and examine”

Hmmm… changing the workload formula. That might impact… teaching hours? Preparation Time? Attributed time for evaluation of and feedback to students? Time for out of class assistance to students? In short, faculty in Apprenticeship programs could be targeted for an elimination of protections even broader than the increased number of teaching weeks and teaching hours explicitly proposed in M-10A.

But if you’re not in an apprenticeship program or academic upgrading, you’d be safe from the CEC’s proposed targeting of workload protections, right? The CEC is just hoping that faculty in postsecondary programs will vote to target the weekly or and/or annual workload protections for their colleagues in non-postsecondary programs, right?

Wrong. Let’s remember that the current Offer of Settlement also includes an explicit proposal that a Workload Committee examine:

Hmmm… do you think they might be planning to propose giving faculty who supervise field placement courses additional time for preparation?

But… if you don’t teach in academic upgrading or apprenticeship programs, and you don’t teach field placement courses, then your workload is safe from being targeted?

Not quite: You’re also being asked to vote in favour of a Workload Committee that would be explicitly obliged to examine:

In case it isn’t obvious, the dangerous words right there are “programs such as”. This is no longer about targeting the workload of faculty in specific individual programs, but rather wide swaths of a College’s offerings.

And, speaking of targeting wide swaths of faculty — increasing the workload of many faculty at one fell swoop — let’s turn back to M-10A’s proposal to separate the factors provided for Routine and Assisted evaluation, reducing by 1/3 the amount of time attributed for the “Assisted” evaluation of assignments graded online or with Scantron — from 2.7 minutes per student per week (in a 3 hour course) to 1.8 minutes:

Of course, 1/3 less time attributed for grading on the SWF means… considerably more students that can be assigned on the SWF, without putting a faculty member past the 44-hour maximum.

Which is why we should all be… relieved?… that the CEC ‘set Proposal M-10A aside’, and replaced it with the current Offer of Settlement, which doesn’t propose to reduce the evaluation attributions of thousands of faculty by separating the evaluation factors of “Routine” and “Assisted” grading, but instead only proposes to have a Workload Committee examine…

Feel better yet?

But wait! There’s less!

However many few librarians and counsellors may be remaining in the Ontario College system, it wasn’t enough for the CEC to attack their autonomy over their own professional development activities (in M-10A) by adding the following language that would give management the power to veto their proposed activities

Just in case it wasn’t clear, the professional development activities (or “pursuits”) would be subject to managerial approval — it’s only the arrangements for such activities that are subject to mutual agreement.

That’s a pretty staggering attack on the academic freedom of counsellors and librarians, and again, it’s important to caution that M-10A was indeed ‘set aside’ by the CEC. We’re not being asked to vote on it now. Instead, like all other faculty, Counsellors and Librarians are being asked to vote on a CEC Offer of Settlement that includes a Workload Committee to examine

and

In other words, instead of M-10A’s attack on their professional development, Counsellors and Librarians are now being asked by the CEC to vote for an offer that opens up every aspect of their workload — including their professional development activities — by having a Workload Committee “discuss and examine” the application of the entire portion of “Article 11 – Workload” that currently applies to Counsellors and Librarians.

In the earlier days of this blog, I often used the language of addiction to describe College management. It feels like that language remains applicable now.

Faculty have spent most of the last two years trying to keep the College system afloat (and, apparently, more profitable than ever). And all that the CEC can do is, on the one hand, spout platitudes about their respect for the “hard work and dedication” of college faculty, while on the other hand working to increase the hours and days that faculty could be assigned to work each week and each year.

As their formal tabled proposal M-10A uncontrovertably indicates, CEC’s long-term goal is to attack and erode workload limitations that currently offer protections to:

  • Faculty who teach in academic upgrading programs
  • Faculty who teach in apprenticeship programs
  • Faculty who teach field placement courses or supervise field placements
  • Faculty who teach in Aviation programs
  • Faculty who teach in specialized programs
  • Faculty who evaluation includes online or Scantron grading
  • Counsellors
  • Librarians

And the CEC’s short-term goal?

To get us to do it to ourselves.

On February 15-17.

A GTA Prof Recollects Our Last Two Years…

In a recent provincewide meeting, a question came in about why workload had become a major issue in this round of bargaining, when it wasn’t as prominent in, say, 2017.

Now, at some level that’s a simple question — it was the membership that determined that workload was the #1 priority. They did this via pre-bargaining surveys, 24 Local demand-setting meetings, and the provincewide final demand-setting meeting (that delegates of each Local attended). So the simplest answer to why workload was the new top priority in this round of bargaining is “democracy”.

The question of why faculty determined that workload was the top priority is a bit more nuanced, and a Zoom chat boxes wasn’t necessarily the best place to provide thoughtful analysis, but I speculated that the issue was set up for crisis by the increasing tendency of supervisors to max out the SWFs of full-time faculty to the 44-hour limit, coupled with the (obviously related) increase of class sizes, and that the switch to emergency pandemic learning tipped workload into a crisis situation, generally.

I received an e-mail yesterday that supported that interpretation (and that highlights the little-discussed concern regarding academic integrity during emergency remote teaching). I’m happy to share it below — I’ve edited it for length and clarity, and to remove potentially-identifying information.

Hi One College Prof,

Your recent post resonated with me and I thought I’d share my experience over the last 2 years of online education.

As the pandemic opened, none of us expected to still be in this situation, including administration. Mistakes made in the early days of this can easily be forgiven. As March became April, and the Winter semester became the Summer semester it became more and more obvious that this was not going to be a quick pivot back to the classroom. At this point, I turned to my department leadership for advice on things like delivering assessments that we could have some confidence in. There was a stunning lack of support for doing any sort of proctoring or attempting to enforce integrity standards. It is indeed a thorny issue, but that’s why leadership was needed, so that we didn’t have ad-hoc solutions being deployed. The advice I received was, “Don’t proctor, it’s not worth it”.

I suppose in a short term crisis we can accept this, and support the notion that we want to reach the students we can, and those that choose not to engage honestly will bear consequences when we return to face to face or when they reach industry. Smacks of kicking a problem down the road, but again, short term crisis measures can be forgiven.

In those early days there were many requests to overload the number of students beyond the typical 40 per section. Without physical limitations of the classroom, and with potential layoffs being discussed, many felt they needed to do their part to help out. The budget savings were found by not renewing part time contracts and by minimizing factors such as total contact hours on the SWF by increasing class sizes instead of opening and staffing new sections. Once more, crisis measures can be forgiven for their aggressiveness, and we certainly felt the pressure to make this work. One side effect of this increase in students was an increase in email support for panicked and disconnected students. That was volunteer work. We stepped up to be professional and support our students as much as possible because we do indeed care.

Enough history, however–let’s get back to the present day! These conditions still exist. Some students who have never faced a proctored assessment are nearing graduation and lack the skills their diplomas claim they have. Contract cheating is running rampant in many classes. There is still no solution for delivering assessments online being promoted by “leadership”, indeed permission must be given to proctor, and then only for the largest assessments. While some students have done well in their studies and have learned a great deal, these are often the self-motivated students we know would do well regardless of the format. My experience doesn’t suggest these are the majority of students. These students are worried that when they graduate, their diploma will be looked at with skepticism. They are worried that their cheating classmates who have obtained higher grades may edge them out of jobs. They are discouraged and frustrated with the institution of higher learning’s abdication of its responsibility to assess learning …. and they are justified in their feelings.

As always, the faculty are bearing the brunt of this, and what do we do about it? We counsel, we listen, we suggest things like out of class projects that they can put in a portfolio to set themselves apart, or practicing their interviewing skills so that employers will be able to perceive the validity of their education from their answers. We certainly don’t shrug our shoulders and walk away.

[. . .]

What about those in the middle? Many are floundering. Many are getting the fully reasonable consequences of not being diligent students. Yet with whatever compassion we have left in our bag of tricks we are working with them, trying to support them, trying to keep them away from further depression and anxiety, trying to cram those essential bits of learning outcomes into their heads so they can try to pick up the pieces of their semester. It’s that time of year where the emails are normally a deluge, and with increased class sizes, it’s become a tsunami.

In the midst of all this, Doug Ford says we don’t have the right to bargain for a wage increase above 1% as inflation soars around us. (Probably not going to buy the teacher’s vote anyway, better to find a few bucks in the budget on the backs of the public service to pander to “the base”.)  The CEC says, “Everything’s fine, here’s our offer–take it or leave it”, but lacks the backbone to force a vote on it … they know full well that the system is running on volunteer labour.

[. . .]

It seems once more that there’s an attack on the people who actually do the work that the institutions provide – be they nurses or professors. Organized labour has always been the enemy of management that wishes to take advantage of workers because employers have always wielded a disproportionate amount of leverage on individuals. As management asks us to be compassionate towards our students, and towards their challenges at maintaining their budgets, it’s about time they turned their gaze back to the front lines and recognize that we are tired and we are fed up with demands from both students and from administration to make this online environment work with the modicum of support that’s been given. Stop trying to figure out how we’re going to go hybrid in the fall, or offer half the classes online through Continuing Education until you figure out how to restore the quality, in collaboration with faculty. Come down out of the Ivory Tower and strike a fair deal that recognizes the value of the work that is being done to support your lifestyle.

I encourage everyone to endorse the strike vote and send a clear message that we’re tired of “figuring it out” month after month without support.  Send the message that we’re tired of being asked to demonstrate compassion without some acknowledgement of the cost of that compassion. Send the message that it’s not ok to keep trying to find ways to use non-union workers to do our work by contracting out and skirting the rules

As sure as god made little green apples, if they impose a contract, it will lack article 2 that protects the creation of full time, meaningful positions.

Give the union [members] the power to say, “When we’ve hit our limit on administrative hours, we’re forwarding the emails to management to deal with”.  Give them the power to find many, many creative job actions other than a picket line to make the point that we are worth every cent [the colleges] spend on us.

A very tired [. . .] College faculty member.

The Emergency Remote Learning Experience

So, I’m thinking about the emergency remote learning experience, from the student’s perspective. Probably most people reading this already have some fairly strong opinions about the Emergency Remote Teaching experience — I’d be happy to devote some time to opinions that anybody chooses to e-mail to ontariocollegeprof@yahoo.com (anonymity will be preserved), but I right now, my thoughts are on my students.

Which brings me to an article in yesterday’s Washington Post, entitled “For college freshmen, pandemic results in a first-year experience unlike any other”. Much of it concerns the somewhat predictable (and not unreasonable) dismay of the cohort that was denied the experience of Senior prom and high school graduation, and is now being denied the freshman experience that most of us likely did experience and enjoy.

But one quoted student captured my attention:

“The degree is more than just a piece of paper,” Abatemarco said. “It’s about the relationships that you make there in person. All of that has really been taken away. All of that is really nonexistent at this point.”

The degree is about the relationships, because education is about relationships — the relationship between teacher and student. That’s it — that’s at the core. And the less that relationship can develop, the less education can occur.

Another student quoted in the article reinforces this:

So he is plugging away at online courses: marketing, microeconomics, theology, sociology, a first-year seminar, Excel. He was grateful that professors held casual Zoom meetings outside class. One of them had an informal “dinner” with him and other students over a video link. His main human contact, outside of the family, is meeting with a few friends from Long Island. “We have a joint bond in recognizing how brutal the last three months of school have been,” he said.

An informal dinner with students? Sounds like a great idea. Sounds like something that I wish I could have done. Sounds utterly bloody impossible, given the workload demands of Emergency Remote Teaching, and Ontario Colleges’ general failure to acknowledge those demands.

Informal dinner, or meaningful individualized feedback on their actual work? Or perhaps neither?

One interesting test of the quality of the student learning experience — the quality of the educational experiences provided by Ontario Colleges through Emergency Remote Teaching — will be seeing what percentage of the current cohort of students end up providing alumni donations to their respective colleges.

Because what is the motivation behind alumni donations? Memories. Of educational experiences. Of relationships. Of the faculty who knew and impacted you personally. Of the students that you worked and socialized with. Of the groups and clubs that you were able to participate in.

All of which is not simply to say that education isn’t best when it’s in the context of an experience; it’s to say that it doesn’t exist except as an experience, and the quality of education is directly related to the quality of the experience.

Which reminds me of a slogan that I painted on a picket sign once upon a time:

How can I know my students’ needs when I don’t know their names?

SWF Primer: Evaluation Factors (A Quiz)

Right, so: Now a quiz. (If only so that I can figure out WordPress’ polling function.)

Here’s the question:

Based on the explanations of the different types of evaluation outlined earlier this week

That’s it for now — feel free to click to share your opinion (and maybe even e-mail your rationale to ontariocollegeprof@yahoo.com). I’ll provide my own opinion on the matter — and discuss more options around evaluation/feedback hours — early next week.

Online Teaching, Underway.

So…     How ya doin’?

I’d love to hear some stories from the trenches.

(Let me take a hop on that trench reference to give a shout-out to my favourite breed of dog, the Irish Terrier, which was the most popular breed for use in the WWI trenches — mainly for the benefit of hunting rats.  Apparently the one thing they weren’t good for was carrying messages throughout the trenches, because they’re exceptionally friendly dogs.  Anyway, let’s just say that the film 1917 needed more Irish Terriers, IMO.)

Where was I?  Right.  Teaching.   Online.  Like so many of us.

So, my summer break being over, let me take a moment to refer to excerpts from an interview in today’s Slate, which discusses one U.S. grade-school teacher’s experiences with hybrid teaching.

Mary Harris: How’s all that working out? This can’t be sustainable for you.

Oh, terribly. But we’re making do. Sometimes it feels totally manageable, and sometimes it feels like I am the worst teacher ever. I just don’t know where to find the balance in between both.

I did the math yesterday. It takes about two to three hours to make an edit for the video lessons, another two to three hours to format the leson, one to two hours to make the attendance quizzes for the week, another two to three hours to make sure the notes are readily available and that links are working. And that’s for one class. I teach two different math classes, so I have to double that.

That’s all work you would not have had to do if you were just teaching in person. 

Yes. I’m averaging an extra 25–35 hours a week to make hybrid learning work.

Are virtual school and hybrid learning getting easier?

Definitely not. I just don’t know any other way to put it. Even though it hasn’t even been two weeks, it has felt like the longest school year by far.

Remote learning is so distant—you don’t get to know your students as well.

For sure. Most times, my interactions are just through email. So it’s been a struggle, knowing that I have another 70 to 90 kids I’m going to meet when this is all over, but not really know them. How do we integrate them in the classroom so they feel valued and included?

It’s kind of funny; I used to get upset if I didn’t know my students’ names.  Now it feels like quite a challenge to learn anything about them other than their names.

COVID and Contract Faculty

Last week, we published a Letter from a Contract Faculty Member. I wanted to report on two replies that that letter received.

The first — from a former Partial-Load faculty — reads:

The Postsecondary Industrial Complex is an equal-opportunity exploiter of knowledge workers.

The other — from our most dedicated correspondent — suggests on the contrary that, while the industry may offer an equality of opportunity for exploitation of full-time and contract faculty alike, that doesn’t translate to an equality of outcome of exploitation between the two:

I think the “contract faculty member” is being too kind.

Management understands full-well that contract faculty “never get a break,” work through their “unpaid weeks,” “realize that the prep for online classes has to be done before the course opens,” and that “online delivery … [is] an even bigger challenge,” etc. In fact, they depend on it!

Management knows, as well, that contract faculty are ripe for intimidation, coerced into working under unfair circumstances for unfair wages, and can be terminated without cause for any hint of disloyalty or dissent. In fact, they fight for that “leverage,”

I hope these folks – among the finest and most dedicated teachers in the system – understand as well that the faculty strike of 2017 was largely about “them,” their ruthless exploitation, the necessity of getting significant job security, and a guaranteed path to full-time work.

That’s also what Bill 148 “The Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017” was about, and which Premier Ford repealed, along with cancelling the Kaplan arbitration award that opened the way for serious reform in the colleges.

In 2021, the current government will face the electorate and the “Academic Employees Collective Agreement” will expire. As an OPSEU Union steward, I can’t promise that the full-time and partial-load people will be as robust in negotiation and as courageous on the picket line as we were the last time, and I certainly cannot promise that the current government will be defeated by the voters.

Nonetheless, I can say that I am (as are all the people I know) 100% on your side and that we will do what we can to alter college governance, ensure academic freedom, and achieve the employment security we all need and deserve.

Best of luck with the new week.

Reach out to ontariocollegeprof@yahoo.com with your thoughts on your academic labour. Current topics of conversation include online class sizes, online education (done well vs. done quickly), and the challenges that we face individually and collectively as we attempt to change the way that we teach our approximately 330,000 students. Anonymity will be strictly protected.

Emergency Remote Teaching vs. Online Education

Having previewed the topic in an earlier post, I wanted to come back to the topic of what, exactly, we Ontario College faculty are currently undertaking.

In particular, I wanted to highlight one article: “The Difference Between Emergency Remote Teaching and Online Learning“, by Charles Hodges, Stephanie Moore, Barb Lockee, Torrey Trust, and Aaron Bond.

As indicated by the title, the authors differentiate between “Emergency Remote Teaching” — which is perhaps best described as the conversion or displacement of in-class courses to a virtual environment — and online learning, which describes a learning experience that is designed for the online environment and takes advantage of the properties unique to that environment to provide students with an effective learning experience.

The authors describe the two pedagogical situations as “meaningfully different”, and caution that mistaking the former for the latter will warp one’s understanding of the true potential of online education. (Emphases and hyperlinks below added):

What we know from research is that effective online learning results from careful instructional design and planning, using a systematic model for design and development. The design process and the careful consideration of different design decisions have an impact on the quality of the instruction.

[ . . . ]

[D]ecisions around class size will greatly constrain what strategies you can use. Practice and feedback, for example, are well established in the literature, but it’s harder to implement this as class size grows, eventually reaching a point where it’s just not possible for an instructor to provide quality feedback.

[ . . . ]

Thus, careful planning for online learning includes not just identifying the content to cover but also carefully tending to how you’re going to support different types of interactions that are important to the learning process. This approach recognizes learning as both a social and a cognitive process, not merely a matter of information transmission.

[ . . . ]

Typical planning, preparation, and development time for a fully online university course is six to nine months before the course is delivered. Faculty are usually more comfortable teaching online by the second or third iteration of their online courses. It will be impossible for every faculty member to suddenly become an expert in online teaching and learning in this current situation, in which lead times range from a single day to a few weeks. While there are resources to which faculty can turn for assistance, the scale of change currently being required on many campuses will stress the systems that provide those resources and most likely will surpass their capacities. Let’s face it: many of the online learning experiences that instructors will be able to offer their students will not be fully featured or necessarily well planned, and there’s a high probability for suboptimal implementation.

[ . . . ]

A full-course development project can take months when done properly. The need to “just get it online” is in direct contradiction to the time and effort normally dedicated to developing a quality course. Online courses created in this way should not be mistaken for long-term solutions but accepted as a temporary solution to an immediate problem.

The authors’ primary conclusion is a cautionary note — not against Emergency Remote Teaching, which they regard as necessary in current circumstances — but against schools’ or governments’ impulse to treat the results of the next months as somehow indicative of the quality of or potential for online teaching.

I was struck by a colleague’s comment this week: Last year, and every year prior to that, students’ primary overall criterion for choosing one Ontario College over another was geographic proximity.  The longer our current switch to online education endures, the more irrelevant that criterion will become; it will be replaced by the schools’ respective reputations for the quality of their students’ online learning experiences.

Which inspires me to recycle a tweet:

Coincidentally, my Twitter feed just yielded this headline from the Chronicle of Higher Education:

I do wonder what would be the reaction of those students, if they were to pay the full amount for learning experiences that — “Let’s face it” (as the authors concluded) — turned out in some cases “not be fully featured or necessarily well planned, [with] a high probability for suboptimal implementation”.

So, let me end on a (hopefully) optimistic note: If your manager or any person in a management position asked you or your colleagues (as a group) or your Union representatives what you needed in order to provide students with an excellent online learning experience, please feel free to acknowledge that example of good management at ontariocollegeprof@yahoo.com.  Anonymity will be strictly ensured.

Report from a Prof at La Cité

I’m grateful to have the chance to publish these snapshots from around the province, as they come in.  Today’s is from the Collège la Cité, a French-language College in Ottawa:

Collège la Cité (Ottawa) has announced officially (in an official memo from the VP to its employees on April 27th) that the fall semester would be online.  They expect the faculty to develop all this online material in the next 6 weeks.

Last week I oscillated between rage and resignation, as I remembered all the unrecognized overtime and energy invested in teaching the last 4 (online) weeks of the Winter Semester.  Obviously, it was the thing to do. But why aren’t faculty recognized for the overtime hours, I mean the REAL hours, not the ones on the SWF that are meant for a ‘regular’ semester?   And this, in the context of a world crisis that brought major unbalance in all our work and private lives.

In my case, this means developing several online classes in 6 weeks, which even in non-COVID time is too much. There is no consideration for the faculty’s fluctuating mental capacity for creativity – they just expect increased production.

All of this was communicated right after we signed our ‘normal’ SWF (a coincidence, or a calculated management move?) and no one is proposing to review our SWFs and reduce our workloads to match the true prep hours that will be invested in this huge endeavour. Obviously, who can blame my employer for deciding to switch online in these grave times?  And I’m ready to pitch in extra effort, but I will not be abused.

This week I am over this emotional rollercoaster – and I have fallen back on my feet.  I remembered that I can be assertive and say NO.  I hope our local and national union will step up and help us deal with this collectively and not each on our own, isolated, with our immediate boss.  I feel that confinement and working from home will permit high management to divide and conquer, as we are all micro-managed. It is not a time to fight, but we need a collective voice and teacher representation at all decision tables. I also suggest we start with the the power of knowledge – if one negotiates to successfully obtain accommodations, let’s share them, to empower those afraid to ask.

Let’s share ideas, indeed.  And I’m grateful to our correspondent for contributing theirs.

One idea worth remembering — in light of an announcement about the Fall semester that was issued after the SWFs were signed — is Article 11.02 A 6 (a) of the Collective Agreement, which reads:

In the event of any difference arising from the interpretation, application,
administration or alleged contravention of 11.01, 11.02, or 11.09, a teacher shall
discuss such difference as a complaint with the teacher’s immediate supervisor.

The discussion shall take place within 14 days after the circumstances giving rise to
the complaint have occurred or have come or ought reasonably to have come to the
attention of the teacher in order to give the immediate supervisor an opportunity of
adjusting the complaint. The discussion shall be between the teacher and the
immediate supervisor unless mutually agreed to have other persons in attendance.
The immediate supervisor’s response to the complaint shall be given within seven
days after discussion with the teacher.

Failing settlement of such a complaint, a teacher may refer the complaint, in
writing, to the WMG within seven days of receipt of the immediate supervisor’s
reply. The complaint shall then follow the procedures outlined in 11.02 B through
11.02 F

Alternately, if the switch to online teaching represents a change in teaching assignment, one might want to consider at 11.02 A1(b) [emphasis mine]

The College may, where a change in circumstances requires it, amend assignments
provided to a teacher after the original assignment, subject to the teacher’s right to
refer any matter to the College Workload Monitoring Group (WMG) referred to in
(17)11.02 B 1 and if necessary, the Workload Resolution Arbitrator (WRA) [. . .] .


The correspondent concludes, “It is not a time to fight, but we need a collective voice and teacher representation at all decision tables.”  Well, I definitely agree that College Faculty need to be at the tables where decisions are made (a point made most effectively by Local 110 President Darryl Bedford). . .

. . . the question is whether we’re likely to get that invitation without a fight.

Letter from a Contract Faculty Member

Some reports from different Colleges are coming in. I’m looking forward to sharing those, just as soon as I remove potentially identifying information. As ever, feel free to report the view from your college (or your home office / kitchen table) to ontariocollegeprof@yahoo.com. Your anonymity will be my highest priority.

In particular, I asked for feedback from contract faculty; I think their experiences are crucial now. I’m grateful to be able to share the following letter. I’m keeping the professor’s college unnamed, but really — is there a single college whose contract faculty couldn’t describe the following?

I do love teaching and I get amazing feedback from the students. They keep me coming back. I’m invited to teach in many programs and always asked to develop new courses (online and face to face).

They don’t realize, though, that I never get a break — ever. The “unpaid week” between semesters is spent getting courses ready for the next semester. They don’t realize that the prep for online classes has to be done before the course opens, not when it opens. I know the time I will have to put in with over 30 students in 3 of the 4 courses I am teaching online and I fear I will just not be able to be as interactive as I normally am in an online delivery and it will be an even bigger challenge due to sheer volume of activities to get timely feedback to the students . . . also important in an online course. An online course isn’t simply doing a bongo session to replace a classroom.

I also know my course load is heavier than the full-time professors’, and this happens on a regular basis–not just this semester. It will be especially hard this summer not being resentful, as I try to handle this very heavy course load for 15 weeks (when others get a vacation to recharge), only to do it all again. Being isolated from the students will make it a challenge this summer for me as well, as I won’t get that boost or energy back that I usually get from the classroom. I also have course development on my plate for the fall.