Telelearning grant extended

Jun 27, 2002, vol. 24, no. 5
By Howard Fluxgold

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The TeleLearning network of centres of excellence (NCE) has received a $915,000 grant extension from Ottawa to allow several researchers, many of whom are students, to complete their projects.

Ottawa declined to renew funding for the network last year, effectively shutting it down. It had initially received $26 million over seven years. However, when the renewal was rejected, there was concern about several projects that were in progress.

“Of the $915,000, $850,000 goes to research projects performed across the country at 11 institutions and $65,000 to administration to close the organization down,” says Peter Guest (above), CEO of TeleLearning Network Inc. (TNI), a not-for-profit company that operates the network. “They gave us, effectively, a three month extension so that we will now close down at the end of September.”

At one time, Guest thought that TNI might be able to restructure to become a self-sustaining group. However, the specialist in starting new companies and winding down old ones no longer considers that a viable option.

“There are no assets here to make it attractive to move forward as a private company. The assets really are wrapped up in knowledge created by the researchers in the universities and the subsequent intellectual property resides with the universities,” Guest explains. “We looked at the spinoff companies and while some have developed successfully, those in which TNI held shares were without value. TeleLearning itself never made any money.”

At one time, the network consisted of more than 60 faculty researchers at 28 universities nationally and 100 private industry partners.

While the TeleLearning network, headquartered at Simon Fraser University, will cease to exist, a new network may take its place. “There is another round of NCE applications going through and there are some groups that have come out of this particular one that are now submitting applications to become a new NCE,” says Guest. “We're supporting them with their applications.”

David Kaufman, director of SFU's Learning and Instructional Development Centre, along with professors Tom Calvert and Jonathan Borwein is heading a cross-Canada group applying for NCE funding.

Unlike the network, telelearning as a method of learning will continue to progress. “This form of learning is extremely important so it will carry on. It is being handled by a lot of different organizations across Canada,” says Guest.

Guest too will carry on, but in a different industry. He will return to mining where he has plans to start a mining exploration company.

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