A new study by The Conference Board of Canada’s Centre for Skills and Post-Secondary Education (SPSE) has found that while Canada’s tech industry is growing and post-secondary students are becoming more interested in the tech sector, post-secondary education (PSE) institutions aren’t providing support for e-learning, a learning approach that can prepare students for the next generation of jobs.
The study Learning in the Digital Age explores the potential of e-learning and Canada and made recommendations to improve its adoption. One of its key findings was that there is considerable variation among Canadian institutions in the emphasis they place on e-learning.
“Administrators, governments, and benefactors must work together to integrate e-learning into education, which would lower costs and improve accessibility.”
While e-learning is being adopted by several Canadian post-secondary institutions, accounting for about 10 to 15 percent of all full-time post-secondary enrolments, the rate of adopting e-learning is not distributed equally across Canadian programs. In 2010, Memorial University and the University of Manitoba were among universities with online enrolments of 31 and 19 percent, respectively, and other institutions such as Athabasca University and Télé-université du Québec were completely online, showing the unequal distribution of e-learning.
“E-learning could profoundly change the way post-secondary education is designed and delivered,” said Michael Bloom, the vice president of industry and business strategy at The Conference Board of Canada. “In many situations, e-learning can be more engaging, less passive, and more customized to different learning styles than traditional lecture-based learning.”
The study also found that e-learning isn’t being used as an alternative for full-time degree programs because post-secondary institutions are focused on making full use of existing classroom infrastructures. Instead of developing e-learning or mixed learning initiatives, post-secondary institutions want to use classrooms to carry out their teaching approaches. In addition, some faculty are skeptical about the ability to transfer their classroom approaches to teaching and learning to an online environment. Where institutions haven’t made a commitment to e-learning, faculty who want to make a transition to online learning are less likely to be supported.
In recent years, average class sizes have grown, which has limited engagement between students and their instructors. Adopting advanced e-learning methods such as animation and videos, could create a personal setting for both instructors and students; it would also allow students to learn at convenient times through a network of technologies.
Overall, the study suggests that institutional administrators, governments, and benefactors need to work together to integrate e-learning into post-secondary education, which would help lower costs and improve accessibility.
Photo via University of Cambridge