Is Online Learning the Future of Canadian Education?

We like to think that we live in a fairly equitable society where all children, for example, have access to good primary and secondary education. And, for the most part, we seem to. Where the playing field gets a little uneven at times is at the college or university level. Specifically, young people living in northern Canada face more challenges than their Southern counterparts when it comes to continuing education after high school. Some youth in Quebec’s north travel as far south as Montreal to pursue training at the CEGEP, college or university level. Some find the culture shock a major stressor. At times, these young students feel alienated. Some families worry that by sending their children away for school, that they will forever lose them to the city. One possible solution is distance education.

This kind of education is also known as online learning. Basically, it enables students living in remote areas to access the same quality of high level education from the comfort of their home communities.

Online learning has other applications, of course. It is used within cities, for children who, for various reasons, are unable to attend regular courses at high school. Organizations offer employees training via distance education. And some organizations, for instance, use this kind of learning to open more doors for young people in developing countries.

Online learning is a field that is currently undergoing a lot of innovation. Some industry commentators speculate that the advent of the tablet computer will revolutionize distance education for the following reasons:

– As the tablet market takes hold, more affordable versions are emerging.

– The emergence of the tablet computer makes the switch from conventional books to digital books that much more feasible. The textbook publishing industry is expected to take a major digital shift. This will only make it easier for Northern residents engaged in online learning to access the classroom materials they need to pursue their studies, whether at the high school, college, or continuing education level.

– Teachers have discovered that online learning actually presents new opportunities for student evaluation. Since the majority of coursework must take place online, teachers can actually evaluate their student’s level of participation by taking note of their presence and activity online.

– Increasingly, campus-based teaching institutions are seeking ways to optimize distance education, whether for students in the actual or virtual classroom. What this means is that the playing field could reasonably level even more for students enrolled in conventional courses or distance education, because the tools used to serve both will be one and the same.

One thing is for sure: it is an exciting time, for teachers and students, for Northerners and Southerners alike, in the field of online learning.