Online courses gaining popularity in Calgary

A growing number of students in Alberta are ditching the classroom in favour of online courses.

Nearly 11,000 students enrolled in online courses last year

A growing number of Alberta students are ditching the classroom for online courses. 2:22

A growing number of students in Alberta are ditching the classroom in favour of online courses.

Lauren Robinson completed her last two years of high school in Calgary without entering a classroom.

"I just found that I'd be sitting in class and I would just feel like it was almost a waste of my time," Robinson said.

"At online school, you can really go as fast as you want. I only asked the questions I wanted to ask and I didn't have to sit through other people asking questions so it really is a one-on-one personal experience."

Robinson is now attending Mount Royal University, enrolled in the Bachelor of Communication Information Design program.

"It might not be for everyone, but ... I think it provides a better quality education," Robinson said.

Tricia Donovan heads eCampusAlberta, a consortia that works on behalf of 16 post-secondary schools in Alberta that offer online programs to students.

"The majority of (students) are working full time, and they're choosing online because it meets their schedule at a time and place that works for them," Donovan said.

Research shows benefits to online learning

Nearly 11,000 students took courses at eCampusAlberta last year, which is up from about 7,000 two years ago.

The consortia also reports that 82 per cent of online students completed their courses with a passing grade last year.

Athabasca University offers all of its courses online.

George Siemens, a teacher, says online education can be more effective than classroom education.

"In fact, there's been study after study that's validated the benefit of learning online in contrast to existing campus settings," Siemens said. 

"There was a report that was released by the U.S. Department of Education last year that actually argued that learning online or specifically blended — you know where you do part of your learning online, part in a classroom — that that type of learning actually has higher education success results than the only-in classroom learning.

"So, once you get past the personal beliefs and views and you start looking at the research, it's very clear that it is comparable to existing learning in a university setting."