The disruptive power of online education

March 14, 2019

From creative methods to global learning opportunities, innovation in online course design is changing the way online students access—and engage—in their post-secondary programs.

That’s the focus of the recently released book, The Disruptive Power of Online Education: Challenges, Opportunities, Responses.

Contributors Assoc. Prof. Kathy Bishop, Prof. Catherine Etmanski and Assoc. Faculty Beth Page, along with Assoc. Prof. Eva Malisius and Prof. Charles Krusekopf wrote chapters about online learning approaches. They present their findings on learning through creative methods, creating community through digital storytelling and international study opportunities April 10 as part of the Office of Research’s Roads to Research lecture series.

A creative approach

“Taking an academic article and having somebody create a theatrical script out of it is a different way to approach the material than to just provide a summary,” Bishop says.

Bishop coauthored a chapter with, Etmanski and Page, all of whom teach in the Masters of Arts in Leadership program in the School of Leadership Studies.

In their chapter, Bishop, Etmanski and Page describe how to creatively engage online learners while providing a different entry point into the material

“Inviting people to engage creatively encourages whole-person learning. It’s a real emotional, heart-centred and hands-on way to invite a deeper dive into what people may be seeing or thinking or feeling or doing all together,” she says.

Creating community through digital storytelling

When Malisius began teaching online courses in the School of Humanitarian Studies, she also wanted to ensure online students could take the same deep dive into their coursework as their on-campus counterparts.

“Creating an online learning community just as vibrant as in a brick and mortar classroom comes down to creating a bonded learning community,” says Malisius, who teaches in the Master of Arts in Conflict Analysis and Management program.

Her chapter describes her success doing just that through the use of digital storytelling. At the beginning of the program, she asks students to create a video to share with the cohort instead of writing an essay.

“It would be rare that they would read someone else’s assignment but you’re going to watch someone else’s clip,” she says. “It very quickly removes the barriers that come with being in a cohort of 30 or 40 strangers.”

The assignment supports students to establish familiarity and trust, helping them dig in to the coursework while learning with and from each other—regardless of the distance between them.

A world class education

While online education allows students to study without leaving home, it can also be used to open new worlds of learning and opportunities for international exchange.

Krusekopf, who teaches in the School of Business, says students who work full-time while studying online have limited opportunities to engage in international education. However, online education can be used to connect students across borders.

His chapter discusses the Master of Global Management and Master of Business Administration blended dual degree program, a collaboration between Royal Roads and the Management Centre Innsbruk (MCI) in Austria.

The innovative program gives a whole new meaning to getting a world class education.

“Through a double degree option, students at both institutions complete two masters degree programs, one at each institution, taking classes together both in person and online,” Krusekopf says.

The blended program is the first degree in the world to allow mid-career students to complete an international dual degree.

Krusekopf’s research shows that while online education is theoretically open to learners in all countries, less than one per cent of people enrolled in online programs are enrolled cross-border.

“There hasn’t really been a way of interacting or taking classes with students in other countries and other schools. The dual degree program is disrupting that.”

Hear more from the authors at Roads to Research, happening April 10 from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. in the Centre for Dialogue, Learning and Innovation Centre.