Tony Bates wrote his five wishes for online learning in 2023, along with reasons why he’s somewhat pessimistic about them being fulfilled. I wanted to spend a few minutes here discussing alternatives to Tony’s second wish: “A national certification program for higher education instructors.” If this wish has a “5% odds of happening” (and I agree with Tony here), what kinds of alternatives might have greater chances of success?

Provincial responsibility for higher education means that (at present) this is the kind of wish that is dead in the water. Some alternatives that might go towards addressing the problems of teaching competence might be the following:

  • Provincial certification programs for higher education instructors. The BC government has developed a digital learning strategy, which includes a variety of steps, resources, actions, recommendations, and tools to support and expand the effective and equitable use of digital learning in the province. With a strategy in place, developing a provincial certification program makes good sense. Some of the challenges that Tony identifies a federal program facing will still be present in the provincial context (e.g., research-teaching hierarchies, cost, academic freedom issues), but the odds of this are greater than 5%. My guesstimate? 10%. Still poor. And smaller-scale. On the other hand, a provincial program, say in BC, might become a proof of concept for other provinces, especially, if it is openly licensed, is cross-disciplinary, and is flexible enough in its design and assessment.
  • Institutional and cross-institutional certification programs, such as BCIT’s Polytechnic Academy proposal, which I understand to be similar to the work that Centers of Teaching and Learning at multiple institutions do, such as, for example, the Facilitating Learning Online (FLO) offerings, that are offered by a number of institutions/organizations in the province. There’s a slew of benefits that can come from  multi-institutional collaboration on such efforts, like Tony describes. I’m more optimistic on this, especially because there was quite a lot of collaboration during the COVID-19 pandemic that might provide the impetus and support for this, and also because I see collaborative-minded institutions coming together for other initiatives (like the new campus that four island institutions are opening in the Westshore).
  • Institutional certification programs for future faculty. This is close to my heart. Preparing current doctoral students for online/hybrid teaching – and preparing them for teaching in general – is necessary (which, I might add, also prepares them with skills that are relevant outside of the academy, like leading teams in collaborative groupwork). There’s other challenges here to be sure (such as academic departments agreeing that this is topic that is significant enough to warrant a course/certificate/microcredential/something), but this might be an area where the office/school/college of graduate studies plays a pivotal role. Another challenge: this kind of initiative addresses the current problem, but in the future, while remaining unresponsive to the status quo. It’s not a solution, but it’s part of a package for a solution.

If you would like to add more to this, the comments are open!