What is e-learning?
Most simply put, e-learning is the application of computer technologies to education—whether used face-to-face in school or workplace settings, blended with traditional learning, to deliver a course fully online, or for self-directed informal learning.
E-learning provides Canadians the flexibility to learn at their own pace at any stage in the lifespan—thereby fostering positive attitudes about the value of lifelong learning.
- Self-directed: Learners can choose content and tools appropriate to their differing interests, needs, and skill levels.
- Reduces physical and geographical barriers: More educational options to learners with disabilities, and those living in remote areas.
- Timely: Learning can be delivered and learned when desired or necessary.
Why should we care about e-learning?
E-learning can substantially increase our access to knowledge and information and, as studies suggest, improve access to education, formal and informal learning, and employment opportunities.
The proportion of courses delivered online in Canada is one of the highest among countries studied; however, research suggests that Canadian post-secondary institutions have been slower than those in many other countries to incorporate significant online components into their programs. Likewise, e-learning has not become a standard feature of employee training. Various surveys show that by 2005, the percentage of workplace training delivered online ranged from 15% to 20%.
Did you know?
Many Canadians go online to pursue learning opportunities. In 2007, one-half (50%) of all home users (16 and older) went online for the purposes of education, training or school work.
E-learning in Canada
In Canada, e-learning is provided in a number of different settings and forms. It can take place in schools, the workplace and the community, and can play a key role in both formal and informal learning. For example:
Elementary and high schools
- In 2003–2004, more than one million computers were available to 5.3 million students in elementary and secondary schools across Canada—approximately one computer for every five students (better than the average ratio among OECD countries of 1:13).
- In 2003–2004, more than one-third (36%) of secondary schools across Canada had students participating in electronic or online courses.
- Virtual high schools are becoming more widespread, allow students to take online courses daily from their own communities. This is of particular importance for students who reside in more remote areas, and who may need to travel large distances or face relocation to attend secondary school.
- E-learning has increased access to education for people with disabilities, those who live in remote rural areas, and full-time employees who wish to fit courses around their work schedules.
- Learners experience enhanced learning through internet access, student portals, digital libraries, and wireless networks that support laptops, handheld and other portable devices.
- Instructors use course management systems to post syllabi, assignments and lecture notes, and to continue discussions with students between class sessions. Using tools like electronic portfolios (a tool that follows their learning progress), students can receive considerably more feedback and learn how to self-assess their learning and skills accurately.
- Many workplace organizations have adopted a blended approach—a combination of online and in-class instruction.
- Virtual classrooms, which provide for live instruction without the travel, are also growing in popularity.
- E-learning can provide employees with a wide range of skills—from technical to administrative and management skills. In particular, e-learning is appropriate for literacy and essential skills training.