Major revisions to School of Extended Learning coming and major savings to copyright fees already here
In an otherwise quiet open session of the Board of Governor’s meeting on Wednesday, two big announcements were made concerning Concordia’s School of Extended Learning (SEL) and the university’s renewal of its collective copyright agreement.
School of Extended Learning
The board agreed to significantly revise the SEL’s mandate after concerns that it was struggling to meet its obligations to its student body constituency and competing with other faculties. SEL was created several years ago to oversee continuing education students as well as those suffering academically and taking independent studies by offering alternative services and aid.
Observers found however that SEL’s current model clashed with established faculties. This effectively led to an unnecessary reduplication of efforts and expenses that made the program academically and fiscally untenable, especially with regards to continuing education.
“I think there’s a sense in the community that we needed more clarity about the mandate and that the mandate needed to be revised: that we were confusing the Continuing Education function of the university, which have historically been strong and something we’re proud of, with a work with independent students and the students who were in academic distress,” University President Alan Shepard said.
“Under the same umbrella [you had] two things going in two different directions, and one was financially subsidizing the other. We’re basically putting back what we had prior to the last reorganization,” he said, adding the students in SEL could be better helped in other ways.
While transition plans are being arranged, Shepard said the changes coming from the mandate alteration were not something accomplishable overnight. To better aid the three often very different student profiles SEL served — independent students aiming for a certain faculty, continuing education students struggling academically, and a small section of individuals truly pursuing independent, unaffiliated studies — a rewinding of the clock to an earlier, continuing education model may be required, such as by limiting or eliminating credit courses offered and advising students who did not meet prerequisite criteria to gain them at the CEGEP level. Additionally, individual faculties would take on the responsibility with monitoring and advising students in academic distress or wishing to enter their faculties of choice.
The board also announced the successful renewal, at a significantly lower fee from previous occasions, of Concordia’s agreement with Quebec’s copyright licensing organization, COPIBEC. COPIBEC, our equivalent of Canada’s Access Copyright, collectively negotiates between publishers/creators and organizations for the creation and renewal of licenses allowing for the lawful reproduction of copyrighted work necessary for things like photocopies, document access, and course packs.
Concordia’s fee for the next few years, previously at 90 cents per student per credit, was renegotiated at a 45% savings and reflects the tumultuous changes in collective copyright agreements after recent court cases expanded definitions of research and education fair-dealing — considered exempt from copyright fees under Canadian law — and caused some universities to consider ceasing their renewals altogether.
Shepard said Concordia chose the safer route because it did not wish to go down the road of schools like York University, which deemed the court offered them enough leeway, did not renew their licenses, and now faces protracted and hefty lawsuits on behalf of Access Copyright’s clients. Shepard said York’s court case, destined to be slugged around for a long time and at great cost, had made it an unenviable test subject stuck in a difficult position.
“It’s been something universities have been really worried about and seized with in the last several years. I’ve dealt with this in the last three places I’ve worked in,” said Shepard, referring to copyright issues in academic settings.