Inter-union coalition of the University of Ottawa expresses concern with the ongoing bimodal learning format

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ICUO raised concerns about the quality of education provided by the bimodal format. Photo: Frame Abdulkader / Fulcrum

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Coalition members largely expressed dissatisfaction with the bimodal learning format at the panel event

On November 10, the Inter-union Coalition of the University of Ottawa (ICUO) held a panel discussion on bimodal courses. The panel was hosted by Ann-Marie Roy of the Association of Professors of the University of Ottawa (APUO).

Panelists for the event included Isabelle Perreault, an associate professor in the Department of Criminology, Luc Angers of the Association of Part-Time Professors at the University of Ottawa (APPROPRIATE), PhD candidate and U of O teaching assistant Nesrine Cherif and Advocate Commissioner Armaan Kheppar at the University of Ottawa Students’ Union (UOSU).

In addition to APUO, APTPUO and UOSU include the ICUO Graduate Student Association (GSAED), Local 2626 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE 2626), support staff at the University of Ottawa (SSUO), and the University of Ottawa IT Professionals.

ICUO raised concerns about the quality of education provided by bimodal format in a press release ahead of the fall semester of 2021. The release read in part: “The bimodal format is widely considered a form of experimental learning and is more commonly used in smaller classroom environments and with a number of teaching assistants in the classroom to ensure that students participating externally receive the same quality of education as those who participate personally. ”

U of O-students have expressed that they experience that the quality of learning online is inferior to personal, and a petition for qualitative grading has harvested over 2,600 signatures in mid-November. The author of this petition, second-year international student Yara Elmasry described a single bimodal semester as being more difficult than all of her two virtual semesters in the 2020-21 academic year.

The panel debate began with statements from each panelist about their experiences with bimodal learning.

The sheriff reported on his work as a TA, guiding physical laboratories with inadequate cameras for students to participate virtually to see, which led the physical students to take on more responsibility to help their peers. “The [in-person students] will take your phone and they will make the angle so [students attending online] will be able to follow you, understand the experiment. So [in person students] are studying and they are helping TA deliver the course. “

Cherif says that after the frustrating first two weeks, she went to her guiding professor to request that the lab be made personal for all students. This request was brought to the dean of the faculty, who said that the proposal should be submitted to the students. The proposal was adopted with only one student opposed.

For his part, Kheppar shared the student’s perspective: “The students’ consensus is that bimodal does not work. According to our extensive consultation, students have expressed that they experience a degraded quality of post-secondary education. And that is not fair because we pay historically high prices for our teaching, and we get something delivered that simply does not cut it. “

The panel then accepted questions from the floor, which hovered around 75 participants for the hour-long duration of the meeting.

Among those who chose to speak was Professor Alain St-Amant from the Faculty of Science, who said that bimodal worked for him. St-Amant spoke with Fulcrum earlier in the semester to express the same positive feelings of the format.

“Some children can not be in the Ottawa region, and we can not ignore that. Now I would like to see some statistics from the student union, like who are these dissatisfied students? What are the classes, because I ran an anonymous survey, and “The satisfaction rate was incredibly high. So I try to get away from the anecdotal. Try to come up with some meaningful statistics and there are some success stories out there,” he said.

Roy responded to St-Amant, saying: “I think one of the points is becoming quite clear and obvious. The exchanges we have through this panel are that there seem to be inconsistencies from one faculty to the next in terms of the resources allocated to support bimodal courses, their development and their delivery. ”

Roy then passed on the comments to Kheppar, who addressed St-Amant’s request for statistics.

“UOSU actually released a study in which they asked students how they feel the quality of their education has changed with the university’s current online learning format. I do not remember the specific percentage, but I think it was close. “80 percent of the students who shared that the quality of education has actually declined since the university tried all of these experimental online learning formats.”

Kheppar continued, “We recognize that not all students are in Ottawa or can afford to be in Ottawa, or that it just is not an option for them right now. That is why we support the continuation of online courses.”

“I know we do not have hard data to back it up, but we have consulted RSGs, we have consulted our board, and we have consulted several student groups and clubs, and the vast majority of our consultation has shown us , that bimodal is simply confusing and not very effective for most students.Although there is certainly a minority who might appreciate bimodal, it really does not work for the vast majority of us and it has been a very frustrating experience.”

“Therefore [UOSU is] seeks to ensure that online courses can continue for those who need them; however, they should be separated from personal courses, and in this way professors can better take courses into account regardless of the environment in which they will be instructed, ”said Kheppar.

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