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Event summary produced by The Globe and Mail Events team. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.

Does online postsecondary learning offer the same value proposition as on-campus? The Globe and Mail hosted a virtual webcast on May 21 to explore what a virtual fall semester might mean for students from a cost and access perspective.

Below the recorded webcast are a few highlights from the discussion.

Below are a few highlights from the discussion:

1). Quality is key with online learning

The virtual programs put together on an emergency basis by schools in the spring is not really online learning, said Neil Fassina, president of Athabasca University, the first postsecondary institution in Canada to focus solely on distance education. High-quality online education includes opportunities for student-to-student and student-to-professor interaction, along with significant tools for social engagement. It typically takes months to build a proper online course, he added.

2). Online learning won’t mean lower costs

Postsecondary institutions will save money on maintenance and facilities if campuses remain closed in the fall but not enough to make a material difference. Alex Usher, president of Higher Education Strategy Associates said payroll accounts for about 70 percent of school budgets and scholarships for approximately five percent. Lower enrollment means postsecondary institutions will be facing financial challenges. The institutions might waive ancillary fees related to on-campus amenities but students shouldn’t expect significant breaks on tuition.

3). Virtual learning must be accessible to all students

Will students with disabilities be able to access online learning? Matthew Gerrits, vice-president of finance with the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance said the question is important to answer before the fall. He also pointed out connectivity issues. Some students don’t have the hardware or Internet connection required to join online learning in real time. Course material should allow asynchronous learning or viewing on a student’s own time, he added.

4). Open resources save students money

Lena Patterson, co-executive director (interim) with eCampusOntario, a non-profit organization focused on driving online learning, said open resources mean savings for students. Instead of asking students to purchase physical text books, postsecondary institutions could offer free open materials online, potentially saving students several hundred dollars per year. Open resources also mean students have the required materials on the first day of the course. With physical textbooks, students sometimes try to delay the purchase to when they have the money, meaning potential learning delays, she noted.

View the full webcast above.