This month eCampus Ontario released the following report and infographic.
Tracking the Impacts of the Pandemic on Digital Learning in Ontario 2021
The 2021 Ontario Report on the annual National Survey of Online and Digital Learning focuses on the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on institutions in Ontario.
While the report is focused on higher education in the province, it reached similar conclusions that the Canadian eLearning Network‘s “Pandemic Pedagogy Series” has found. The executive summary for the report reads:
Over the course of 2021, institutions were able to shift from delivering courses primarily online, due to pandemic restrictions, and return to in-person or hybrid (partially online) learning. Although there has been a somewhat renewed sense of normalcy for students and faculty, health concerns persist, and institutions face ongoing challenges as the pandemic continues.
One of the greatest impacts of the pandemic has been the increased interest in teaching and learning online. There is no doubt that many students and faculty struggled in the spring of 2020 when institutions rapidly moved to emergency online course delivery at the pandemic’s onset. Yet, as students and faculty became more familiar with an online course modality and the technology required, some realized that they preferred an online or hybrid context.
After a one-year hiatus due to the challenging nature of 2020, the CDLRA resumed our National Survey of Online and Digital Learning in Spring 2021. Our key research objective was to assess the ongoing impacts of the pandemic on the state of digital learning in Canada. The survey was conducted prior to the rise of the delta variant, which led the CDLRA to launch a short follow-up survey in the Fall 2021 to explore whether there were changes in responses from spring to fall. The CDLRA also conducted an additional, Ontario-specific study in Fall 2021 to investigate the perspectives of teaching and learning leaders related to changing instructional practices.
Overall, the findings from the research conducted in 2021 indicate a shift at Ontario postsecondary institutions toward greater technology use.
- There are strong indicators that there will be more hybrid course offerings (e.g., flipped classrooms, hyflex learning, etc.) and increased technology use, regardless of course delivery mode, at Ontario post-secondary institutions.
- Institutions hold the perception that faculty and students have a greater interest in online and hybrid learning (especially hybrid learning) than prior to the pandemic.
- Institutions are planning increases to their technology infrastructure and anticipate greater use of digital teaching materials (including increased support for open educational resources (OER)).
- The need for ongoing professional development for faculty is emphasized throughout the report and nearly all institutions expect to provide further professional development related to online and digital learning.
The mass shift to online course delivery at the onset of the pandemic was a watershed moment for digital learning at Canadian post-secondary institutions and it is becoming clear that the lasting impact will drive innovation and change in the years to come. (pp. 2-3)
It seems that the biggest difference between the higher education experience and the K-12 experience has been high education’s ability to adapt to toggling between in person and remote learning in a more seamless fashion, which likely has more to do with the fact that higher education educates learners who choose to enroll – whereas K-12 has to educate all learners regardless if they wish to be there or not.
However, the desire to return to in person learning, an increased interest in online and blended forms of learning, and a recognition of the need for more professional development – all consistent with the K-12 experience.