I thought I would start this discussion thread by providing a brief overview of the Teaching & Learning Centre (TLC) at the University of Calgary and outline a major challenge that we are currently encountering.
Our TLC was "officially" opened in Sept 1998 as the Learning Commons - an amalgmation of two existing units - the Distance Learning and New Media Centres. A fair bit of private sector support was provided from Shaw Cable, the Royal Bank of Canada, SMED International and Pepsi Cola to establish the "physical presence" of the Learning Commons on the 5th floor of the BioSciences Building. Dr Randy Garrison became the Director of the TLC in 2002 and created three inter-linked units within the Centre - Teaching Development & Leadership, Blended & Online Learing Support and Media & Technology Development.
The Teaching Development & Leadership group facilitate Instructional Skills Workshops (ISWs), a University Teaching Certificate program for graduate students and a Faculty Teaching Certificate. All of these programs were initially funded by the Undergraduate and Graduate Students Associations and a recent challenge has been to find ongoing, sustained (base budgeted) funding from the University of Calgary itself.
The Blended & Online Learning Support group have facilitated the Inquiry through Blended Learning - course redesign program for the past three years. This program was originally funded through the Provost's Office but this source of funding has not been renewed.
The Media & Technology Development group are involved in a series of on and off campus development projects. A number of these projects are operated on a cost-recovery basis as this group must generate a significant portion of their own revenue.
Thus, the biggest challenge currently facing our TLC is the amount of funding we receive from the University of Calgary to sustain and grow our programs.
Is this an issue encountered by other teaching & learning centres?
Looking forward to our discussion!!
Hi Norm (and Trish too, and others also...),
Thanks for sharing information about the University of Calgary.
It's interesting that the Educational Resources section at the University of Queensland has recently gone from a fee for service unit to a centrally funded unit - I wonder what the circumstances were for this to happen (Trish?), and if there are lessons that can be gained from this?
The change from fee for service to central funding came about as an outcome of a review of TEDI in 2006. The review panel felt that ER provides an essential service, but the cost structure meant that activities were not necessarily aligned with university strategic proprities, but were driven by areas that had money.
Consequently it was decided that ER would be centrally funded so that its activities could be more closely aligned to University priorities. This is currently a trend in Australia, where we are starting to move away from user pays models for educational resource devleopment.
However, it is an uneven trend and there are many differences across the country in how these services are supplied.
This change has had quite an interesting impact on funding schemes internal to the University as people commonly wanted this type of money for acquring TEDI ER expertise. Now they need to consider other items to apply for, when seeking funding!
I'm guessing that this switch to central funding also impacts the number of requests you get for assistance? How do you prioritize projects? Due to their size, or if they are reusable?
This idea of charging for services is something that our department struggles with I think. Do you find that your potential users sometimes go to outside sources for work that your department could do? Do the media developers applu higher pedagogical standards (even without specific training, they're exposed ot it in the department and though experience) than outside companies would be? hmmmmm.
Projects are prioritorised according to stratgeic priorities and impact is important as well - so size of program can be a factor. Embedding of projects in institutional practice is considered of very high importance, so is a major consideration - we don't want things to be abandoned after one semester.
Picking up on Norm's point, I think it is likely that people will go outside the institution for development. This does happen and often people do this because they feel they get a better price, they have more control over what they want and they can do things within their own time frame. I think under the new system they will see it as a way of getting things done if their project is not recognised by the system and they have some funding.
However, the educational quality can be an issue - things can look fabulous, but be quite useless from an educational viewpoint. Many of these projects can end up on the shelf as they are not pedaggogically sound.