Review of Canadian and U.S. Survey Results on Online and Distance Education in Post-Secondary Education

I’m attending the ICDE World Conference on Online Learning 2017 in Toronto, Canada and blogging the sessions I’m attending.

Presenter(s): Tony Bates, Ross Paul, Brian Desbiens, Denis Mayer, Eric Martel, Tricia Donovan, Russell Poulin

Babson & IPEDS have been collecting data in the U.S.; it has impacted policy at the state and federal level. But no comparable Canadian data across the whole system. So hence the new survey that is being reported on for the first time here at ICDE, and released to the public today.

This survey was done with a volunteer team, plus Babson and WCET to assist. Funding was raised, there wasn’t a federal base for it. They developed a national database of institutions to do the survey as well.

They had a 69% response rate; about 78% of the student population covered. Almost all of the post secondary institutions offer online for credit. They also checked websites and provincial records to identify what institutions were doing, even those who didn’t do the survey. It’s really a mature market – institutions have been offering online learning for 15 years or more. The growth rate has slowed because most institutions are already doing online (it’s about 2% measuring institutions; 15% colleges; 10% growth for universities 2010-2015). Online is about 16% of the teaching at the university level.

They made a distinction between distance education and online – print based being included in their distance education definition.

72% institutions rate online learning important and are developing a strategy for online.

Some technologies are hard to track because it might be at the individual professor level instead of at the institutional level.

They defined hybrid learning as a reduction in face to face time to allow time for online – that’s our blended learning definition at Andrews too. 

On hybrid learning – faculty were rethinking their teaching to better use online and face to face pedagogies. This type of learning is hard to track.

There’s no MOOC mania in Canada…. it’s neat and interesting and might be helpful but it won’t change our business.

Benefits of online learning: flexibility, increased enrollments, innovative teaching.

Challenges included lack of resources, faculty resistance or lack of training, lack of government support (lowest in Ontario, highest in Quebec).

Challenges with the survey – many Canadian institutions aren’t counting their online enrollments regularly; and even basic student counting of data is widely different across provinces; the need for a standard method of counting; post-secondary oversight is entirely provincial. FTE definitions are not the same across provinces.

Another challenge with the survey was whether to do a snapshot or an annualized version of the learning. A snapshot, for example, may not take into account summer online learning.

Comparisons between Canada and the U.S.

  • Similarities:
    • Difficulties with definitions for data collection
    • Institutional commitment and growth rates
    • Larger institutions are more likely to be doing online / distance ed
    • Institutions see online education as a strategic part of the institution moving forward
  • Differences
    • Canada: course enrollments / U.S. headcounts
    • Canada has almost all public institutions offering online; U.S. about 3/4ths public institutions involved in online

Implications

  • Scaling up faculty support – do faculty have to go to a central unit? can they get the support on their own and on demand?
  • Planning for digital learning
  • What about small institutions and the resources they need
  • What could or should the government be doing?
  • Organizational issues
  • Online course enrollment data

Links and Resources

Leave a Reply