Online learning in Canada is used for an incredibly diverse range of purposes and to meet a wide variety of individual and organizational goals. All trends point to online learning continuing to grow and flourish. As mentioned in the introduction, in 2005 over 25% of Canadians used the Internet for education and training, and in all probability that number is much higher now. As well, the 2008 Sloan Survey of Online Learning, a survey of 2,500 universities and colleges in the United States, discovered that enrollment in online learning rose by more than 12% from the previous year. (Source: www.sloan-c.org/publications/survey/pdf/staying_the_course.pdf. For more information, see our Trends in Online Learning module.
In the case of the Getting Online research, findings clearly indicated that online learning in Canada is both delivered and accessed for a wide variety of reasons including:
- To offer content specific training
- To establish and maintain connections
- To reduce isolation
- To network and/or communicate within an organization or with similar agencies
- To reduce barriers of time, travel and cost
- To stay current
- To improve computer skills and to explore online learning technology
- To enhance access to training and education
- To provide convenient and flexible training options
- To share information or to access information
The variety of content being delivered online is truly astounding. You can find an online learning opportunity for everything from adult literacy to family literacy to politics to music to firefighting. Online learning is also being offered in various ways including self-study, facilitated, live, accredited, using emerging Web 2.0 technologies and more. Whatever topic you are interested in is likely to be available online, and you can also probably find that training in a number of different formats, one of which will suit your personal learning style and needs.
For example, you can complete your degree online or you can take just one course. You can find professional development training online or you can watch a YouTube video to find out how to complete a do-it-yourself project at home. You can listen to a podcast of a university lecture or of an inspirational speaker or of your favourite celebrity. You can spend five minutes or five years learning about the topic of your choice, in the comfort of your home, while commuting to work, travelling on an airplane or sitting dockside at the lake.