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Since 2017, the CDLRA/ACRFL has conducted the National Survey of Online and Digital Learning, publishing national and regional reports of the results. The National Survey is a pan-Canadian survey that tracks the status of online learning at all public post-secondary institutions across Canada. In 2020, CDLRA/ACRFL expanded our research initiatives to include short, pulse surveys throughout the year to faculty and administrators at Canadian post-secondary institutions.

Whenever possible, the CDLRA produces our publications in both English and French.


In 2021, the CDLRA relaunched the National Survey of Online and Digital Learning. Throughout the year, we will be releasing blog posts, short reports, and presentations sharing the key findings from the survey. The full 2021 National Report will be released in early 2022.


In 2020, the CDLRA/ACRFL National Survey was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the Canadian Pulse Project was launched. The Canadian Pulse Project is a multi-stage effort to track the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on higher education institutions across Canada. The CDLRA also conducted qualitative interviews with senior administrators throughout the fall and winter of the 2020-21 academic year to better understand the complexities of the impact of the pandemic.

The reports and presentations from our 2020 research studies, are listed below:


Growth in online learning continues in Canadian universities, colleges, and CEGEPs as they increasingly offer flexible access to post-secondary courses and programs throughout the country. “The 2019 survey results show continued growth in online course enrolments across all sectors of Canadian post-secondary education,” says Nicole Johnson, Research Director, CDLRA/ACRFL. “Nearly three-quarters of all institutions reported that online learning is very or extremely important for the institution’s long-term plan”

Key findings include: 

  • Online course registrations have increased 10% over 2016/17
  • There is interest in a wide range of alternative credentials 
  • Virtually all institutions use LMS technology, and video technologies have become an important tool for institutions.
  • The majority of institutions view online learning as strategically important, primarily to help increase access to post-secondary studies.
  • Issues related to faculty adoption and support continue to be the top barriers to further expansion
  • There continues to be a mismatch between the perceived importance of online and the extent of implement and faculty training.

Download the reports:


Growth in online learning continues in Canadian universities, colleges, and CEGEPs “The 2018 survey results illustrate that most Canadian post-secondary institutions see online learning as critical to their future academic plans; particularly as it relates to increasing access for students,” says Tricia Donovan, Executive Director, CDLRA/ACRFL. “We believe that capturing this data will help institutions to continue to foster student success in online learning through supports for faculty and institutional practice.”

The survey achieved a high response rate of 80% from all universities, colleges and CEGEPs.

Key findings include:

  • 1.36 million online credit course registrations in 2016/17: which is equivalent to 4 universities of 27,500 each, four colleges of 10,000 each and a Cegep of 3,500
  • One in five students are taking at least one online course per year, while many are taking between 3-10 courses each year
  • More than 2/3rds of all Canadian post-secondary institutions now offer online courses and/or programs;
  • Increasing student access and flexibility; attracting students beyond traditional service areas, and increasing student options for credential completion were identified as key benefits of online and digital learning;
  • Additional effort required of faculty was cited as the most significant barrier (85%) of respondents; inadequate training and support for faculty in online learning was identified as a key barrier by 73% of respondents.
  • Canadian leaders hold a more positive of the learning outcomes in online courses than  counterparts surveyed in the United States during the same time period.

Download the reports:


Online learning is now a core form of delivery for Canadian universities and colleges according to the survey of online learning, the first covering all Canadian public post-secondary institutions. ‘The survey shows that online learning is significantly influencing on-campus teaching as well,’ says Tony Bates. ‘Instructors are now beginning to mix face-to-face and online learning, often resulting in more engaging learning for students. We hope this national data will inform policy decisions by government, institutions, academic departments, and individual instructors, and in this way also benefit students.’

Key findings of the report are:

  • almost all Canadian colleges and universities now offer online courses;
  • online enrolments have expanded at a rate of 10%-15% per annum over the last five years; online learning now constitutes between 12%-16% of all post-secondary teaching for credit;
  • online learning is providing students with increased access and greater flexibility;
  • two-thirds of Canadian post-secondary institutions see online learning as very or extremely important for their future plans.

Download the reports: