October 20, 2017

Update on Canadian survey of online learning

This update builds on two earlier posts:

The online questionnaire has now been distributed by e-mail to every public university and college in Canada, a total of 215 institutions in all. The questionnaire will have been routed through the office of the Provost or VP Education, although it is probable that several people will be involved in each institution in collecting data for the questionnaire. 

There are in fact five versions of the questionnaire:

  • anglophone universities
  • francophone universities
  • anglophone colleges
  • francophone colleges (outside Québec)
  • CEGEPs 

The questionnaire asks for data on

  • distance education enrolments, irrespective of method of delivery
  • online student enrolments (headcount and student course registrations) at different academic levels and in different program areas
  • how many years the institution has been offering online courses
  • the current status of blended and hybrid courses
  • the main technologies being used
  • information about any MOOCs offered
  • future institutional directions in online learning
  • benefits and challenges of online learning.

The deadline for completion has been set at June 12. 

We anticipate the main report will be ready in September, with sub-reports for the following sectors:

  • all universities (anglophone and francophone)
  • all colleges, institutes and CEGEPs
  • all francophone institutions (report in French)

We will also produce other sub-reports on request (for example, a provincial analysis) as well as infographics.

The reports will be available for free on request and the data will be housed at the Ontario College Application Service, and, subject to privacy requirements, will be open to other researchers.

There will be a full presentation of the report and its results at the ICDE Conference on Online Learning in Toronto in October.

We are reliant on e-mails and contact information being up-to-date and sometimes e-mails with attachments get filtered out as spam. So, if you are working in a Canadian public post-secondary institution and are not aware that this data is being collected for this survey, please contact your Provost’s Office to check that the invitation has been received. We need a high response rate from every institution to ensure that the results are valid.

However, to date we are pleased with the immediate response – we already have over 20 full responses within the first week.

Comments

  1. I was wondering if any of the questions on the survey ask questions that get at trying to understand a growing concern about the possible connection between increase in mental health issues in students attending university and the disconnect between students with each other and/or with instructors because of the increase in online course delivery or more activities online such as with blended course formats.
    If not , have you or anyone else done any research on this issue?

    • Hi, Susan

      Good question and I’m afraid the short answer is no. This is the first year we have done a national survey and the focus has been mainly on institutional data and policies and directions. Our main concern is to get a snapshot at where Canada is with regard to online and distance learning.

      I think though yours is a good question and perhaps one that might best be answered through the National Survey of Student Engagement. However, although this has been applied in Canada (last year 27 Canadian universities participated – including York University) it is an American-originated study and does not cover all Canadian universities and no colleges -see http://nsse.indiana.edu/ and http://www.macleans.ca/education/unirankings/nsse-survey-shows-student-satisfaction-levels-at-33-universities/

      I will however use my connections in the USA to see if a question on this might be included as it is an important question

  2. Hi Tony,

    Is it too late to participate in the survey? I am afraid that it may not have been completed yet – is it possible to still submit?

    Thank you.

  3. Linda Harasim says:

    Hi Tony,
    Its excellent that you have taken on this immense but important research. One question: Did your survey differentiate between distance education and online education courses? How are you dealing with the definition issue. I find it complicated because many institutions do not differentiate: they blur or ignore the difference.
    I that may have been a problem with the Sloan survey data.
    Thanks for your response and good luck with the survey!

    • Thanks, Linda

      Yes, we did distinguish between distance education and online. We provided the following definitions as a guide to completing the survey:

    • Thanks, Linda

      Yes, we did make a distinction between distance education and online learning. In the questionnaire we provided the following definition as guidance:

      Distance education courses are those where no classes are held on campus – all instruction is conducted at a distance. Distance education courses may use a variety of delivery methods, such as print-based, video/audio conferencing, as well as internet-based.

      Online courses are a form of distance education where the primary delivery mechanism is via the Internet.

      Blended/hybrid courses combine both online and face-to-face teaching in any combination. For the purposes of this questionnaire, we are primarily interested in those courses where some, but not all, of the face-to-face teaching has been replaced by by online study [Personally, I would call this hybrid rather than blended, but our piloting suggested that these two terms were also used inter-changeably.]

      However, there is no Academy Française to rule on what constitutes online or distance learning. The terms are often used inter-changeably although in my view they are not necessarily the same thing. Without agreed definitions though there is unnecessary confusion and misunderstanding.

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