You have /5 articles left.
Sign up for a free account or log in.

University of Montréal

A new report reveals that a vast majority of public non-Quebec Canadian colleges (80 percent) and universities (90 percent) offer online education, as compared with 71 percent of all U.S. institutions. In Quebec, a central service, Cégep à distance, provides distance education for that province’s colleges and universities, and the report shows that about 50 percent of Cégep institutions offer online courses.

The report -- “Tracking Online and Distance Education in Canadian Universities and Colleges: 2017” -- provides the results of a survey conducted among all public postsecondary institutions in Canada. The researchers received 140 responses, which they said represent 69 percent of all types and sizes of institutions across the country. The participating institutions enroll 78 percent of all Canadian college students.

Jeff Seaman, director the Babson Survey Research Group, which participated in the data collection and analysis, said that the report presents far more data than has ever been published about Canada’s online education efforts. “The big issue they have is, unlike the U.S., there are no national-level data standards, so institutions collect different data, and since there are no reporting requirements, many institutions don’t even collect the minimal data,” Seaman said in a statement. “Our asking them was the first time many institutions even had this much info.”

The report was sponsored by a number of Canadian and U.S. firms, including Pearson, D2L, Babson and WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET).

The Numbers

From 2011 to 2016, the number of Canadian institutions offering online courses increased by 11 percent, according to the report. Excluding Quebec, online course enrollments increased annually by about 10 percent at universities and 15 percent at colleges across Canada. However, Quebec’s Cégep à distance saw a slight decline (3 percent) in online enrollments.

In Canada, online courses are available in most subject areas, with classes in business, education and health care (including nursing) being the most frequently offered, the report states. Likewise, blended learning is common -- 72 percent of the institutions responding offer hybrid courses.

Less than 20 percent of responding institutions said they offer massive open online courses. “There is no MOOC mania in Canada,” the report says.

While institutions in British Columbia and Ontario promote the use of open educational resources, OER implementation throughout Canada is quite limited: only 5 percent of all institutions responding to the survey said they use OER extensively, and 35 percent said they only use OER moderately.

The majority of institutions reported that distance education provides greater access and more flexibility for Canadian students, and almost three-quarters said they see online learning as a means to increase enrollments.

More than two-thirds of Canadian colleges and universities surveyed rated distance education as important for their institutions long term. However, only 40 percent said they have implemented or plan to implement a strategic online learning plan.

Although distance education in Canada is pervasive, 83 percent institutions responding said they struggle to find adequate resources for their online programs. The participants noted other barriers: 69 percent said that professors don’t have adequate training, and 65 percent said instructors are resistant to teaching online. Other challenges noted include the perceived quality of online courses (55 percent) and lack of learning-technology specialists (48 percent).

Finally, just over one-third of the colleges and universities identified a lack of support from the Canadian government as a challenge.

Comparisons With U.S. Institutions

The researchers looked at other studies to make comparisons between Canadian and U.S. online programs. The report states that:

  • Canada’s overall online student enrollment has grown by double digits for the last several years. In the U.S., public institution online enrollments saw 3 percent to 5.4 percent growth, while private nonprofits averaged 11 percent online growth. Meanwhile, U.S. for-profits experienced a decrease in distance education students.
  • In both countries, most large institutions offer distance education courses, while a lesser percentage of smaller colleges offer online courses.
  • About two-thirds of colleges and universities in both countries believe that distance education is an important strategic asset for the future of their institutions.
  • The U.S. federal and state governments and accrediting agencies have different definitions for distance education. Similarly, Canadian postsecondary education is regulated by each province, and their online learning definitions differ.

Next Story

Written By

More from Teaching & Learning