Mohawk College professor Kevin MacKay is challenging college administration to a public debate on “blending learning” in the wake of a damning report on Ontario’s colleges.

The debate would be held at Mohawk, and would provide an opportunity for students, faculty, administration and community members to “examine the facts and come to a greater understanding of this serious and far-reaching change to college education,” MacKay said Friday.

“If online and blended learning really are better for students, and not being pursued by the college for financial reasons, then the college should have no problem presenting their evidence and making their case to the public.” he said.

The college, however , said it had not received any invitation to the debate, and in any event would not participate.

“We were not aware of this challenge until CBC Hamilton forwarded us a copy of the media release,” said college spokesman Jay Robb.

“Mohawk College does not enter into public debates with our employees.”

 MacKay is the author of the recently launched Report on Education in Ontario Colleges commissioned by the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU). He says he’s concerned about the lack of student, faculty and community input regarding online learning at Mohawk College.

All of Mohawk’s lecture-based programs are now blended, and combine in-class with online learning.

After CBC Hamilton posted a story on the report Thursday, reaction from many students started to pour in. “It's completely ridiculous,” former student Mara Connacher wrote on Facebook. “They implemented blending learning but didn't lower the cost of courses as well as ignoring the feedback on blended learning from the student body. Not to mention blended learning isn't really fundamental to the learning process for the ‘hands on’ courses Mohawk College offers.”

Other students took their gripes to Twitter:

While some said they didn’t mind the practice:

The college maintains education and student satisfaction is its top priority, and that any moves toward more online coursework stems from the evolution of the education system, not cost-cutting measures.

According to the provincial Key Performance Indicators survey of students at Ontario colleges, 91 per cent of students said “online learning was important.” With many students juggling school, work and a personal life, “moving a portion of their courses online gives them greater flexibility,” spokesperson Jay Robb said.

“This is not meant to be cost cutting,” he told CBC Hamilton. “This was never the intention at Mohawk.”

MacKay questions the accuracy of the college’s claims.

“The college has often said that students are demanding a reduction in face to face learning, and that they are benefiting from this change. However, they can produce no credible evidence to back up either claim,” he said. “To date they have refused to survey students concerning online and blended learning, and have also suppressed a faculty-administered survey of 898 students that clearly showed a preference for face to face instruction.”

“There has never been a proper investigation and critical evaluation of online learning at Mohawk, despite serious concerns expressed by students, faculty, parents, and community members.”