Our Current Offer of Settlement

So, I’ve been inviting faculty to offer their thoughts and opinions (on either what I write here or discuss on The Ontario College Podcast) at ontariocollegeprof@yahoo.com. I’m grateful to two individuals who reached out to me last week, to discuss the current Offer of Settlement. I’m hoping to feature their letters this week (and I invite you to share your own), but I wanted preface those discussions by presenting the faculty’s current Offer of Settlement (dated November 18) and offering some quick thoughts about each of the 18 major proposals in it.

I’m pasting the complete offer below, in .pdf form. To explain the formatting a bit, the words that are in bold and underlined are new Collective Agreement language that is being introduced in the proposal; the words that are struckthrough are being removed from the CA (according to the proposal). The words that are in yellow highlighting represent changes from the Faculty team’s last Offer of Settlement (on Nov. 8). Many of those highlighted sections feature new language that has been incorporated from the College Employer Council’s (CEC’s) previous Offer of Settlement (of November 10).

So, let me try to walk you through the proposals, briefly. This won’t be a deep dive, but it will hopefully provide a bit of an overview so that I can discuss some of them in greater detail later. Let me start by noting that I’ll be looking at these proposals in a thematic order, so the numbering below will be…messed up.

To start, let’s draw attention to the three committee structures that are proposed: one on workload; one on Equity, Diversity & Inclusion; and one on Indigenization, Decolonization, and Truth & Reconciliation. In the hopes of arriving at a deal at the table, these structures were proposed as a compromise from earlier proposals that made extensive changes to the CA to address these issues. They are in response to arguments that these issues are broad and may require research, analysis and/or consultation. In other words the faculty team has agreed (as a compromise position) to refer some large matters to committees throughout the life of the Collective Agreement, but only on the condition that the processes result in concrete recommendations or changes at the end of that time.

Faculty Proposal #6: Workload Committee (Letter of Understanding)

  • The faculty proposal provides for a professional researcher and a substantial period of time to analyze broad aspects of faculty workload, including that of Counsellors, Librarians, and the measurement and compensation of Partial-Load workload
  • It also has “Teeth”: If the parties can’t agree, a dispute resolution mechanism incorporates a third-party arbitrator’s workload recommendations into the 2023 Collective Agreement, and the committee would review workload every three years
  • Management’s comparable proposal might lead to zero change; it also targets areas for two-tiered workload protections

Faculty Proposals #7 + #8: Defining different modes of in-class and online teaching, and providing additional attributed hours for courses with an online teaching component, following discussion with supervisor

  • This creates the opportunity for immediate necessary relief for professors and instructors
  • Permits faculty and managers to come to agreement on additional attributed hours, and permits faculty to refer disputes to the Workload Monitoring Group for resolution
  • Unlike CEC’s proposal, this would provide faculty with needed time immediately, rather than years from now, if ever

Faculty Proposal #9: Increasing “Essay/Project” evaluation factor from 0.03 hours (per student per Teaching Hour) to 0.04 hours

  • Currently, faculty who teach a 3-hour class where students are evaluated only on the basis of written work or projects receive a maximum of 5.4 minutes per student per week for evaluation and feedback
  • This proposal would increase that number to 7.2 minutes per student per week
  • Unlike CEC’s proposal, this would provide faculty with needed time immediately, rather than years from now, if ever

Faculty Proposal #17: No bargaining unit member will suffer layoff, lose hours or lose wages as a result of the Employer’s contracting out work normally done by faculty in the bargaining unit

Faculty Proposal #18: The College shall not use, share, sell, or transfer course materials produced by faculty members without their consent

  • This proposal is necessary to protect faculty jobs and bargaining unit work
  • This proposal is comparable to Intellectual Property language in Canadian postsecondary institutions. Faculty in the B.C. college system, for example, own the copyright for all work produced in the course of their normal assigned duties
  • The CEC has offered no satisfactory explanation why faculty consent would be an unreasonable condition of the sale of faculty-produced materials

Faculty Proposal #10: Addition of language that coordinator duties must be “reasonable and reduced to writing” before the coordinator role is accepted

  • This proposal makes sure that coordinator assignments are clear and reasonable
  • This proposal serves to discourage potential management efforts to assign bargaining unit work outside the bargaining unit by creating workloads that would reasonably be refused by bargaining unit members
  • CEC’s proposal omits the words “reasonable and”

Faculty Proposal #1: Committee on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (Letter of Understanding)

  • Local subcommittees of the existing Union/College Committee at each College would seek to implement employment systems, policies, and practices that are non-discriminatory and equitable in nature and effect
  • Provincially, a subcommittee of the Employer-Employee Relations Committee (EERC) would make recommendations for the next round of CA bargaining
  • Unlike the CEC’s proposal, this committee “has teeth”: Where the provincial committee can’t agree, an arbitrator will decide upon recommendations for the next round of bargaining

Faculty Proposal #2: Round Tables on Indigenization, Decolonization, and Truth & Reconciliation (Letter of Understanding)

  • Provides a clear scope and framework for Indigenous-led and jointly-Chaired Local Round Tables to review each College’s policies and practices
  • Provincially, the chairs of each College’s Round Table would participate in a subcommittee of the EERC, to make recommendations for the next round of CA bargaining
  • Unlike the CEC’s proposal, this provincial subcommittee has a dispute resolution mechanism: Where the provincial committee can’t agree, an Indigenous arbitrator will determine recommendations for the next round of bargaining

Faculty Proposals #3 + #4: Access (for faculty who identify as Indigenous) to an Indigenous Elder / Traditional Knowledge Keeper as a personal support in Workload Monitoring Group meetings and Grievance Meetings

  • This faculty proposal is currently in both sides’ Offers of Settlement
  • Would improve equity of current dispute resolution mechanisms in the CA

Faculty Proposal #5: Addition of two Indigenous arbitrators to the existing list of arbitrators in the CA

  • This faculty proposal is currently in both sides’ Offers of Settlement
  • Would improve equity of current dispute resolution mechanisms in the CA
  • Part of the faculty team’s proposed dispute resolution mechanism for the provincial Round Table on Indigenizaiton, Decolonization, and Truth & Reconciliation

Faculty Proposal #11: Amendment of Class Definition of Counsellor

  • Language in faculty proposal has already been included in current CEC offer of settlement
  • CEC proposal also includes “poison pill” language that could take work away from counsellors and assign it outside of the bargaining unit, as well as undermine the autonomy of Counsellors to do their work

Faculty Proposal #12: Partial-Load faculty can bridge benefits during non-teaching periods with mere written offer of future employment

  • Currently, Partial-Load faculty need contracts for future teaching, to bridge benefits between employment periods
  • This proposal would enable PL members to bridge benefits upon receipt of an offer of future teaching
  • This item has no cost to the Colleges — members pay 100% of benefits during bridged periods

Faculty Proposal #13: Partial-Load faculty shall get credit for holidays when calculating service

  • This proposal is featured in both teams’ current Offers of Settlement
  • It is a very minor improvement that would in limited cases permit PL faculty to get a new salary step a month sooner than they would otherwise

Faculty Proposal #14: Partial-Load faculty shall be eligible for seniority hiring for courses that they have taught in any Partial-Load capacity (not just as part of a PL contract)

  • This proposal would broaden the seniority hiring entitlements for qualified PL faculty on the PL registry

Faculty Proposal #15:

a) Partial-Load faculty shall be eligible for PL Registry (and seniority hiring) if they are currently teaching Partial-Load or have done so in the past

  • Would maximize contract faculty members’ eligibility for seniority provisions of the PL Registry, at no cost to the colleges
  • The current Collective Agreement excludes Partial-Load faculty from the PL Registry if they are not currently employed as PL or lack 8 or more months of service as PL.

b) Partial-Load faculty shall keep seniority right to teach classes, even if the course code or name changes

  • Prevents college managers from undermining PL seniority rights by making superficial changes to courses

Proposal #16: Partial-Load faculty shall be eligible to the maximum number of assignable courses (up to 12 teaching hours) for which they have seniority per the PL Registry

  • Maximizes opportunity for PL faculty with seniority to have contracts that provide a living wage
  • This proposal has negligible cost (if any) to the Colleges

Monetary Proposal:

  • Bound by the limits set out by Bill 124, both parties have agreed to annual salary increases of 1% across the board
  • This would likely represent a loss in real wages (after inflation) of approximately 10%, over the three-year life of the Collective Agreement that the CEC proposes
  • Both parties have agreed to language that would see wage negotiations reopened if Bill 124 is overturned by the courts or replaced

Benefits: In addition to covering medically-prescribed cannabis, the balance of the 1% increase in benefits (permissible under Bill 124) should be used to subsidize the cost of dental implants.


Podcast Episode #4 Published!

Okay! Lots to report obviously, but let me start by offering a plug for my new-ish podcast, “The Ontario College Podcast”. The fourth episode (recorded on Tuesday Nov. 16, prior to the start of Conciliation) was published today. It’s the first new episode in an unreasonably long time, and I’ve flattered myself that the podcast was singlehandedly responsible for the College Employer Council’s touching recent obsession with communication blackouts.

Episode 4: Facts, Fiction & Conciliation

In this episode, I analyze some of the CEC’s messenging (and I note that the CEC’s messages today do nothing to contradict my theory). I also offer a preview of the Conciliation process — one that, alas, has already been surpassed by events, specifically the CEC’s request (on the first day of Conciliation!) for a “no board” report, whose only function that I can think of is to serve as a legal precondition for labour disruption.

Lastly, I talk about some of the principles that have guided the faculty bargaining team’s efforts to balance short-term and long-term thinking in arriving at the specific language and proposals in our recent Offers of Settlement. Although I refer specifically to the faculty team’s November 8th Offer of Settlement, the general and specific points that I make still seem to apply to the new Offer that the faculty team submitted today.

Anyway, let me see if I can string together a few posts on the current state of bargaining over the next few days. You’d do me a big favour towards that end by e-mailing me at ontariocollegeprof@yahoo.com and offering any of your own thoughts on what you’ve been hearing from both sides right now, or questions about the bargaining process — particularly a question that might not have been addressed at the November 11th Provincewide bargaining update, which had attendance of over 1,500! Or maybe you’d like to share some of your current experiences teaching — including teaching as Partial-Load — to help remind us all what we’re bargaining for in the first place.

Of course, the College Employer Council doesn’t need any reminder of what it’s like in the classroom right now, since — as they remind us — 79% of College administrators in the Ontario public College system have teaching experience.

Perhaps in a future #MythBusterMonday, the CEC would be willing to share some details as to whether that teaching experience was, say, at the postsecondary level, or in the Ontario public College system, or frankly whether it was even in any kind of formal education system whatsoever. And boy would it be gratifying to know how many administrators have postsecondary experience in the specific kinds of teaching modes (like asynchronous online or hybrid or hy-flex) for which they’re providing faculty with only 108 minutes to prepare a 3 hour class (per the “Established B” factor, which hasn’t changed since 1985).

Or hey, maybe they’ll just go back to talking about communications blackouts.

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.

SWF Primer: Evaluation Factors (Part Two)

[Again, a preface to communicate my sincere regret that this post pertains almost exclusively to Full-Time faculty at Ontario Colleges. It is absolutely shameful that the work associated with the preparation and evaluation of classes taught by contract faculty is not measured, despite repeated efforts by partial-load and full-time faculty — as a union — to remedy this disgusting inequity. In an upcoming post I will try to relate some of the SWF issues discussed here to the work of contract faculty.]

So, I wanted to follow up on my last post, in which I outlined the different evaluation factors, as presented in the Collective Agreement.

Today, I wanted to show how they appear on a SWF (Standard Workload Form), and what a SWF communicates to full-time faculty about the time that they are provided, to provide evaluation and feedback to students in all of their classes.

Let’s start by taking a sample SWF, which I have highlighted in different colours. I recognize that they may be formatted differently in different colleges, although they should all contain all of the information in the sample SWF provided on pp. 85-86 (e-pages 89-90) of the Collective Agreement.

The parts that are of significance for the purposes of a discussion of evaluation factors are in blue and pink. The blue column identifies the breakdown of evaluation factors for each of the classes assigned, and the pink translates that breakdown into a number of hours provided for evaluation and feedback.

So let’s start with the totals and work our way backwards: Our hypothetical professor from a hypothetical semester long, long ago is assigned to teach five sections of class (three different preps for what it’s worth), responsible for evaluating and providing feedback on the work of a grand total of 173 students in all of the classes, combined.

And to do all of the evaluation for all of the students in all of the classes, our hypothetical teacher is provided with a total of 12.47 hours weekly, for each of the weeks covered by this workload assignment. (This is shown on the bottom row of the left pink column.)

Looking upward from that row, we can see that the five sections are each allocated a specific amount of time for all of their evaluation/feedback needs — anywhere from 2.23 hours to 2.61 hours.

But let me focus on the fourth row of the classes — the section that is attributed 2.41 hours weekly for evaluation / feedback. That section has a class size of 38, yet the hypothetical professor is attributed LESS time to evaluate those 38 students than they receive to teach the 35 students in the course directly below it.

So how can a class have 8% more students, but provide a professor with 8% less time to grade and provide feedback on their assessments? The answer lies in the evaluation factors, which we see broken down by percentage in the blue columns.

(Class #1 has 70% of its assessments listed as Essay-type, 20% as Routine/Assisted and 10% as In-Process. Class #2 has 75%, 0%, 25% of the assessment under each category, and Class #3 is broken down as only 50% Essay-type and 25% for each of Routine/Assisted and In-Process.)

(As a reminder, the terms “Essay”, “Routine/Assisted” and “In-Process” to describe types of evaluation can be misleading; explanations of each are provided in the previous post.)

An increase in the percentage of “Routine/Assisted” or (especially) “In-Process” evaluation types and a corollary reduction in the percentage of “Essay”-type evaluation means that faculty will be attributed less time to evaluate more students.

So, when I was a member of a Workload Monitoring Group, one of the most common questions that I used to get was, “How can my class sizes keep going up and up, but my total workload remains the same on the SWF? The answer was most frequently that the classes in question were being credited with less “Essay”-type evaluation and more “Routine/Assisted” or “In-Process”.

Which could be absolutely fine, if the nature of the course’s evaluation was discussed between the professors who teach the class and the manager, as both faculty and management have agreed must happen (cf. Article 11.01 E3), and they came to an agreement about what types of assessments the course material requires. That conversation should see the manager asking the professor what kind of assessments and feedback would be needed, in order to determine (and promote) students’ achievement of the course outcomes, and should see both parties agreeing upon the appropriate breakdown of evaluation factors for the assignments administered to the students.

(There’s one more step, but I’ll come to that in an upcoming post.)

The problem is when the evaluation factors fail to accurately reflect the work that is completed by the students in a class, and in turn the work that must be performed by that class’ teacher. If online courses are given “in-process” evaluation factors when it is impossible for the teacher to evaluate the students and provide them with feedback during the class time, then that teacher is denied the time that they need to evaluate the students’ actual work, and those students are in turn cheated out of the feedback that they — and Ontario taxpayers — are paying for.

If the evaluation time provided on a SWF is insufficient to meet students’ needs, then faculty are left with two options: a) Perform uncredited, unacknowledged, unpaid labour to provide the students with the feedback that they deserve and need (Just like Contract faculty!) or b) Spend only the time that they are attributed for the task of evaluating students, regardless of whether that time is sufficient to meet student needs.

As ever, please submit corrections, questions, and rants to ontariocollegeprof@yahoo.com. Any letters posted in whole or in part will have identifying information removed.

SWF Primer: Evaluation Factors (Part One)

[I note that this post concerns SWFs, and is therefore of interest primarily to Full-Time faculty. I’ll try to follow it up with a post on a related issue that might be of some relevance to Partial-Load faculty.]

Okay, so… let’s talk SWFs for a bit.

It’s worth introducing the topic at this point, since SWFs for the Winter semester are due six weeks before the start of the first scheduled day of teaching, not including holidays.

So, if the teaching period of the Winter semester happens to start on Monday, January 4, then the SWF would be due on… Friday, November 13, if my calendar and math are correct.

The SWF’s delivery is, according to the Collective Agreement (Art. 11.02 A1[a]), supposed to be preceded by a discussion of the workload proposed by your manager.

In addition, Article 11.01 E3 reads:

And it’s precisely the methods of evaluation that I want to review, because the shift to online teaching may impact them in ways that faculty don’t realize.

So, let’s start by covering the three categories of evaluation / feedback recognized in the Collective Agreement. In my next post on this topic, I’ll talk about how to read a SWF to understand how evaluation factors translate to specific amounts of time that faculty are given, to evaluate their students in each of their classes and provide feedback.

Let me preface with a couple of points:

  1. Full-time faculty are given a finite amount of time to complete the evaluation and feedback of the students in their classes; that time is clearly recorded on the SWF.
  2. The Collective Agreement provides minimum attributions of time for the grading of each student in each class. The attribution of time depends on the type of evaluation that is required for each class.

There are three different types of Evaluation. I’ll outline them here, and then in my next post, I’ll demonstrate how they are put into action on a SWF.

Essay Type: Article 11.02 E2 of the Collective Agreement specifies that the Essay evaluation factor is used for grading “essays; essay type assignments or tests; projects; or student performance based on behavioral (sic) assessments compiled by the teacher outside teaching hours”. Given that list, the term “Essay” type is a bit misleading.

Broadly speaking, the litmus test for determining whether a test or assignment is “essay type” depends upon the level of interpretation required. If you’re grading according to the presence/absence of keywords, or if the work could possibly be put into a format where it could be graded by a computer or a well-trained chimpanzee, then it’s probably doesn’t qualify as “Essay” type. If, on the other hand, the evaluations depend on students working with or applying abstract concepts, or writing extended passages, then it probably does.

The other point that I would make concerns the role of student presentations, which I interpret to qualify as “student performance” that is graded “based on behavioral assessments”, and that therefore count as “Essay” type evaluation if the teacher has to compile the assessment and feedback at home.

By the same token, I understand all portfolios of students’ work (including, say, student journals or any assessment representing a compilation of student work throughout the semester) to count as “Essay-type” assessment.

If a course’s evaluation/feedback is rated as 100% “Essay”-type, then a professor is attributed a minimum of 108 seconds per week, per teaching hour of the course. In other words, a prof could be granted as little as 5.4 minutes of time each week to complete the assessments for each student of a course that has three teaching hours weekly.

Routine or Assisted Type: The same article defines the second category of evaluation — “Routine or Assisted” — as “grading by the teacher outside teaching contact hours of short answer tests or other evaluative tools where mechanical marking assistance or marking assistants are provided”.

There has been some debate about which noun was modified by the “where” clause, but let’s let that slide for the moment. I’ve always interpreted this type to include the grading that could be done by Scantron or could be graded according to an answer key that could be provided to a marking assistant (e.g., “Connect the terms in Column A to the definitions in Column B”).

It’s significant that this is a kind of assessment that isn’t evaluating students’ ability to apply theoretical concepts, or demonstrate critical thinking or apply principles to their own experiences.

The minimum attribution for Routine/Assisted-type grading in the Collective Agreement is half that attributed to Essay-type grading. This translates to 54 seconds per teaching hour per week, for a course that has only Routine/Assisted-type assessments.

In-Process: The final category of assessment for the purpose of measuring workload is “in-process”, which is defined as “evaluation performed within the teaching contact hour”.

When asked for examples of “in-process”-type assessments, I often offer an example of nursing students demonstrating their ability to use a blood pressure cuff. The assessment takes place during the class time; the student knows their grade within the class period; and there is nothing about the evaluation or feedback that the teacher (i.e., professor or instructor) needs to complete at home.

Since the evaluation takes place (and feedback is provided) during the class hour — which is already counted on the SWF — in-process evaluation/feedback is attributed very little time to complete: approximately half the time attributed for Routine/Assisted grading. So if a 3-hour course were to be graded entirely using in-process grading, the minimum attribution would be 1 minute and 40 seconds for evaluation and feedback to each student, weekly.

Some points worth considering about the evaluation types:

  • In-Process assessments (those done “in real-time” during the class teaching hour) are virtually non-existent in online teaching. I suppose that if a professor were teaching a class on American Sign Language, then it might be possible to assess every student’s skill (and return their grade) within scheduled class hours, over a screen. Beyond that, I’m having a hard time imagining what in-process grading might look like in an online (and particularly an asychronous) context.
  • Changing evaluation factors is the easiest way for managers to assign more students to faculty without increasing the mathematical measurement of their workload. Faculty are attributed as much time to grade essays for 50 students as they are to grade multiple choice tests for 100 students, or to grade in-class assessments for 163 students.
  • The minimum attribution for “Essay” type evaluation is simply inadequate for providing meaningful feedback to students. Teachers are attributed only twice as much time to grade a class with all essays as they are to grade a class that only has multiple-choice tests all semester. And they’re only given 3.3x more time to grade essays at home than faculty are given to grade assessments during the class time. And, in fact, I can read and grade an essay in a couple of minutes. What I can’t do in a couple of minutes is explain the basis for that grade to the student, and give the student feedback to help them improve on future work.
  • The time attributed to faculty for evaluation/feedback is based upon the teaching hours of a class. If a class were reduced from 3 weekly teaching hours weekly down to 2, then the time attributed for evaluation would similarly be reduced by 1/3, although it’s not clear that the assessment obligations of the faculty would be reduced appropriately.

That’s it for now. Next post will be looking at how these numbers get plugged into a SWF, and how FT faculty members can determine whether their SWFs accurately reflect the time-demands presented by their classes’ actual evaluation and feedback needs.

As ever, I invite faculty — particularly contract faculty — in Ontario Colleges to share their questions, stories and opinions. You can do this by e-mailing ontariocollegeprof@yahoo.com. Confidentiality will be strictly guarded.

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.