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Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

Sept 05, 2000

Models and Strategies Towards a Canadian On-line Education Infrastructure

By Terry Anderson and Stephen Downes

Executive Summary

The Canadian adult education system is challenged by opportunity and threat arising from a new model of education provision. Education is based upon creating and distributing knowledge through individual and group activities, study and deliberation. When the tools that support these activities radically change, we can expect radical pressure and opportunity for change in the development and delivery of education services.  This report briefly reviews the forces and barriers that accompany the introduction of networked learning and teaching technologies. It then overviews five existing or emerging organizational models that are designed to support the development of on-line education. These include:


  • Pan-Canadian consortia of existing institutions
  • Regional consortia of institutions
  • A new national, on-line education entity
  • Partnerships between private on-line enablers and public institutions and
  • A Canadian portal for on-line learning


Each model already exists in some form and each provides certain advantage, opportunity and threat for Canadian learners, institutions, businesses and taxpayers. Listing and discussing these models is designed to help policy makers differentiate between alternative organizational structures. Each of the models is built upon a greater degree of collaboration than currently exists between and among public and private educational institutions. A discussion of collaboration and guidelines for effective collaboration are then outlined. Finally, the report describes eight strategies designed to stimulate and strengthen the provision of on-line learning in Canada.


Strategies for support and stimulation of on-line education are needed to insure that the Canadian postsecondary system meets new technology driven challenges and opportunities. The report presents the following list of stimulations for discussion and consideration:


  1. A national request for Proposals for on-line learning
  2. Stimulating consumer demand for on-line learning
  3. Ensuring professional competence
  4. Developing a national network of support services
  5. Creation of repositories of educational objects
  6. Community testing and information centers
  7. Competency based degrees and prior learning assessment


The report concludes by noting the change in focus from institution provision to learner choice that marks each of the models and strategies. The major hurdles of time, knowledge and money are highlighted once again, with a call to action, to marshal resources to meet the opportunity provided to recreate the Canadian adult learning system.

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This report was prepared for and funded by Industry Canada.

Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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Last Updated: Jul 18, 2024 6:57 p.m.

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