Canada needs an online education strategy

I’ve been asked several times in the past few months, why I started the Wide World Ed initiative. I started it because I have deeply held personal values about global education, and a strong passion for empowered, collaborative research.

I have observed, with great interest, the formation and evolution of edX, Coursera and Udacity in the U.S., as well as Australia’s Open2Study, and the UK’s FutureLearn. I have come to believe that Canada needs its own space.

Here’s why. Our education systems are different from those in the rest of the world, and differences between our education systems matter, The Globe and Mail reports. In Canada, we have unique languages, social values, and past and present cultural stories to tell. I believe that our educational expertise and cultural identities should be celebrated and shared on our own terms, within our control.

Consider Open2Study in Australia and FutureLearn in the U.K. Australia and the U.K. both have strong social mandates for public postsecondary education.

Both consortiums were established as not-for-profits, extensions of their Open Universities, with funding and significant promotional support from their governments, both feature their own national institutions prominently, and both are highly regarded internationally for their foresight upholding the value of open education.

Why are Canadian policy-makers and education funders so challenged to step up and establish an initiative in alignment with what I just described?

Do we believe that FutureLearn and Open2Study are wrong about their national need for greater access to open, online education? They have intentionally chosen to conduct their own research and establish their own space, rather than participating with U.S.-based Coursera, edX, or Udacity. We should explore with them their reasons and consider our own situation.

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