Knowledge Network is the educational television network of the province
of British Columbia, a part of the Province's larger effort to make
post-secondary education available to all parts of the province
using various delivery systems. In 1978, the Province established
the Open Learning Institute (OLI). Its task was to develop and deliver
educational programming using distance education methods. These
included correspondence courses, audio, film, teleconferencing,
videodiscs, and strategies for reaching outside the conventional
classroom. In 1980, in order to further the goals of distance education,
the Province created the Knowledge Network as part of OLI. The Knowledge
Network reaches over 90% of all households in British Columbia.
Its mandate, however, has led it to pursue two different types of
audience. On the one hand, the Knowledge Network was mandated to
provide general public education programs which might interest casual
viewers. On the other hand, the Knowledge Network was also directed
to collaborate with the Province's educational institutions to deliver
formal instruction which would only interest registered students.
This double focus has led to a progressive diversification in the
types of programs offered.
In 1988, however, OLI was substantially re-organized. It was renamed
the Open Learning Agency (OLA) and reshaped into three constituents:
(1) the Open University, offering courses in the arts, sciences,
and administrative studies, (2) the Open College, responsible for
adult basic education and vocational courses, and (3) the Knowledge
Network responsible for the delivery of courses and the provision
of general educational programming.
The Knowledge Network's pursuit of two different types of audience
is typical, however, of virtually all educational networks in Canada.
As organizations concerned with education, educational networks
naturally attempt to extend and give shape to the larger projects
of their respective ministries of education. Consequently, they
are involved in the delivery of course material, collaborate with
educational institutions, and reflect various curricula in their
scheduling. As television networks, however, they also find themselves
confronted with a much broader constituency--in terms of age, background,
ability, education, etc.--than would be likely in any classroom.
Furthermore, they reach this constituency under conditions unconducive
to learning. Hence, like all other educational networks, the Knowledge
Network has construed education in a broad sense. It means not only
formal education or the content of lectures and courses, but also
the attempt to create a generally literate, lively, and well-educated
result is clear in the Knowledge Network's schedule. The Knowledge
Network devotes roughly half of its 6,000 annual broadcast hours
to traditional educational material (credit and non-credit courses,
college and university lectures, K-12 content, etc.). Furthermore,
less than 30% of its content consists of tele-courses. It devotes
the other half of its broadcasting hours to content of a more general
and entertaining nature. This includes programs devoted to film
(international, Hollywood, Canadian), general documentaries, teleplays,
how-to programs, music programs, children's shows, and so on.
In recent years, the very effort to construe education as both formal
and informal has led to the criticism that educational networks
are no longer fulfilling their mandates. For some they are increasingly
perceived as publicly-funded entertainment undertakings competing
unfairly with the private sector. This has, in turn, led to calls
for them to be defunded, re-organized, abolished, or sold to private
"B.C. Funds Small Net." Variety (Los Angeles), 29 March 1993.
Ian, and David Kaufman, editors. Distance Education in Canada.
London; Dover, New Hampshire: Croom Helm, 1986.
Learning and Distance Education in Canada. Ottawa, Canada: Department
of the Secretary of State of Canada, 1989.
Sweet, Robert, editor. Post-secondary Distance Education in Canada:
Policies, practices, and Priorities. Athabasca, Canada: Athabasca
University, Canadian Society for Studies in Education, 1989.