Last updated: 26.01.12

Canadian schools 'falling behind with e-learning implementation'

Schools in Canada are failing to fully embrace the idea of e-learning, a new report has found.

A study by the Society for Quality Education suggested that Canadians are falling behind in the number of virtual learning opportunities provided to students and that a lack of use of the internet in schools could damage youngsters' qualifications.

Paul Bennett, an education consultant and author of the study, said: "We lost the competitive edge because we didn't follow up the infrastructure and the deployment of computers to the schools with any meaningful initiatives to lower the walls and open the doors to online learning."

He added teacher union contracts that contain a number of clauses relating to e-learning and administrative concerns about internet access could both result in a reluctance to fully integrate the learning experience with virtual solutions.

"It was a critical issue five years ago," Mr Bennett commented. "Before cell phones became ubiquitous and smartphones became something that every child had to have."

However, Michael Barbour, an assistant professor at Wayne State University in Detroit and one of the authors of the report, suggested that online learning in the North American country is thriving.

"Canada along with New Zealand are probably the two jurisdictions where unions have been most supportive of K-12 distance education," he explained.

Figures from the International Association for K-12 On-line Learning (iNACOL) showed that around 30 per cent of elementary schools and 40 per cent of high schools offer internet-based learning as part of their curriculum and 13.5 per cent of the student population have been involved in such courses.

According to the authors of the analysis, distance e-learning could provide particular benefits to those in remote areas of the country with widely dispersed student populations. This could minimise commutes and provide access to a wider variety of courses.

The iNACOL released a report in November last year that showed that almost 60 per cent of the more than 60 countries from around the world included in the study received government funding to boost blended classroom and distance learning as well as full-time virtual solutions.