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Canada’s Higher Ed Moves Decidedly Towards Online Education

Canada’s Higher Ed Moves Decidedly Towards Online Education

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Canada’s Higher Ed Moves Decidedly Towards Online Education
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According to the “Tracking Online and Distance Education in Canadian Universities and Colleges: 2017” report from the National Survey of Online and Distance Education in Canadian Post-Secondary Education, online learning is “alive and well” up north. The number of higher ed institutions offering online courses grew 11% between 2011 and 2016, and online course enrollments increased 10% per year in the same period. In general, 85% of Canada’s higher ed institutions offer online courses.

Business, education, and health are the fields with the highest adoption rates of online learning formats, including some fully-online programs. Among those offering online education, subjects offered in at least 50% of institutions in English or French, are:

  • Arts and Social Sciences (86% offer courses, 57% offer programs)
  • Business, Commerce or Management (84% courses, 67% programs)
  • Education (77% courses, 53% programs)
  • Science (65% courses, only 23% offer programs)
  • Nursing (53% courses, 33% programs)
  • Media and Communication Studies (51% courses, 20% programs)

While only 25% of respondents said that more than 10% of face-to-face teaching has been replaced by online programming, 73% have at least a few courses who apply hybrid or blended learning. In general, hybrid or blended learning is commonly associated with “innovative teaching.”

46 institutions out of 203 reported having provided custom-fit online learning courses or programs for businesses.

Regarding technology, less than 70% of institutions responded. Among those who did, LMS are the most commonly used tool, with 92% of respondents reportedly using them extensively or moderately. Although other sources have confirmed the dominance of Moodle in the Canadian higher ed market, this report only mentions it as one of the popular ones, alongside Blackboard, Canvas, and D2L.

Other EdTech features used include:

  • Video streaming: 90%
  • Social media: 82%
  • Webinars: 71%
  • Open Educational Resources (OER): 76%

Regarding MOOCs, 20% of respondents reported having offered at least one MOOC in the last 12 months. Only one university reported offering more than five. This led authors to conclude that “there is no MOOC fever in Canada.”

One caveat in the report involves the state of Québec and its “Cégeps,” or publicly funded pre-university colleges. Their online curriculum is offered through a centralized platform, which the authors deem “underdeveloped.” Excluding the Cégeps, online enrollment in the rest of Canada shifts from 10% to 15% and represents 16% of all course enrollments instead of 12%. Cégeps show a small decline (3%) in online enrollment from the peak in 2013.

The survey used responses from 141 institutions representing 69% of post-secondary schools and colleges in Canada but representing 78% of students. The report claims responses were “highly representative of types of institution, provinces, and size of institution.” It also notes that not every school has data about online enrollment readily available, and several reported difficulties estimating hybrid and blended learning formats. While many reported doing the calculations after the survey’s request, the responses were not externally verified.

The National Survey is an annual effort by EdTech organizations and advocates, including BABSON Survey Research Group, WCET, Pearson, and Moodle competitor D2L. The 2017 report was made possible after raising $145,000 (Canadian dollars, assumedly) which the report claims “proved to be a very tight budget.” Pearson Canada and D2L contributed $20,000 each to the report.

Sign up for free to download the report at onlinelearningsurveycanada.ca.


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