Image: Tony Bates, 2014: the results of this study are behind a paywall

Usher, A. and Sullivan, M. (2021) Examining Learning Experiences during Covid, One Thought to Start Your Day, Higher Education Strategy Associates, January 28.

Higher Education Strategy Associates is a consultancy company that has recently completed a survey that looks at students’ learning experiences in Canadian post-secondary institutions (I am assuming) since the start of this academic year. A summary and brief discussion of the results appeared in Alex Usher’s blog, One Thought to Start Your Day.

Unfortunately, though, the report itself is behind a paywall. I am not willing to pay $500 for a copy, but if you are, go to:


Because I have not seen the full report, and am therefore not able to look at the methodology or the results in detail, I am reluctant to place any weight on the findings, but for the record, here they are:

  • most students (about two thirds) were satisfied or very satisfied with their fall term experience. Less than a quarter were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied.
  • the most troublesome aspect of the fall experience was the loss of the overall campus experience (77%) and the opportunity to socialise with other students outside of classes; however, only 31% of part-time students said they missed being on campus
  • 53% said they liked online classes
  • 48% said they would like to take mostly or fully in-person classes
  • finally the authors argue that as a result of Covid-19, there is pent-up demand for online learning: ‘nationally, we are talking about 200,000 to 400,000 students who might be open to making remote education a permanent part of their education.’ (According to data from the CDLRA, pre-Covid there were already about 1.36 million online credit course registrations in 2016/17).


The aggregate results will not come as a surprise to anyone already working in online learning, although they may be surprising to some in the media and some online learning critics. The value of this study though is more likely to be in the breakdowns by type of institution, size and level of programming, but you have to pay a hefty fee to get these. Also I would really like to examine the sample to answer basic questions such as how many students were involved and the response rate. Without access to such data, any published results have no merit.

Alex Usher often complains about the lack of data in Canadian post-secondary education, so I find it galling that when he collects data, they are hidden behind a paywall. I am saddened therefore that the full data and analysis are not openly accessible.


  1. Usher complains again in this annual report, “Canadian governments and statistical agencies simply do not care about producing high-quality data on education the way some other countries do”.
    That said, his annual series (back to 2018) seems to be free to access.
    Here’s a link to the 2021 report,

    As to the reports that are behind his paywall, I guess he’d say that Stats Can, et al., eventually get around to providing data, but they do not interpret it so that’s his value-added.

    Usher is perhaps a gadfly; provocative but maybe necessary 😉


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