Last summer, Joycelyn Nortei juggled summer school, spending time with her friends and family, and working part-time. She finished her course with an 85%.

Mary Hummel also did well in the same course two summers earlier without having to step out of her Burlington home.

The Ontario government’s announcement of their intention to create a $42-million Centre of Excellence for Online Learning last Monday means more students will be able to take online courses that are transferable between participating colleges and universities. The move is intended to increase accessibility to students facing obstacles to their education, such as jobs and long commutes.

Set to launch in 2015, Ontario Online will serve as a centralized platform where each online course will be recognized by all participating schools. According to an article in the Globe and Mail, participation of individual post-secondary institutions will be optional, but the ones that choose to join Ontario Online must agree to grant credits to students who take approved courses, regardless of which college or university offers those courses.

“Ontario Online will help all students access the world-class education that they need to succeed, when and where it works for them,” said Brad Duguid, Minister of Training, Colleges, and Universities.

Nortei welcomed the initiative, listing off the benefits of her own experience in the online ENV100Y course offered in the summer.

“I didn’t lose out on time to work and save up for school,” she wrote in an email. “I had time to enjoy my vacation with my family [or] friends because I could plan out when I could do my assignments.”

Hummel said that online courses were especially convenient for students who had to commute long distances to come to class. Hers was up to an hour, which is not uncommon at UTM.

“Stay-at-home parents, young people with part-time or full-time jobs, and [others] could all benefit from online education. Also, it’s very green because it means less commuting,” she said.

Hummel expressed concerns that online course instructors don’t always take sufficient measures to prevent academic dishonesty, since the majority of the evaluations are completed online. Specifically, she said students could cheat by doing each other’s work and discussing answers during online tests.

“It isn’t fair that some work hard for their marks and degree while others have the answers written in front of them. If this issue could be better addressed (possibly through the use of new technologies or assignment types), then I see no reason why more online classes [shouldn’t] be available,” she said.

In addition to offering online courses, Ontario Online will serve as a platform for colleges and universities to share ideas and research on methods for online instruction.

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