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Study: Using the Internet for education purposes

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The Daily

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Internet is changing the way many Canadian students conduct their research for assignments or solve academic problems, a new article reports.

The article also found that relatively more Canadians from rural and small-town communities were using the Internet for distance learning. This finding suggests that electronic distance learning could be a possible solution to some postsecondary access problems facing rural youth.

The article, published today in Education Matters, Statistics Canada's source of facts and analysis on education, training and learning, examines the use of the Internet for education-related reasons, using data from the 2005 Canadian Internet Use Survey.

Just over one-quarter (26%) of adult Canadians, an estimated 6.4 million people, logged on to the Internet for the purposes of education, training or school work during 2005. Nearly 80% of all full- and part-time students did so.

Urban residents were more likely than their rural and small-town counterparts to go online for education, training or school work. This may reflect, in part, the lower Internet use rate for education purposes among those living in rural areas and small towns, even after taking into account other factors, including age, income and education.

The most common type of education-related use of the Internet was to research information for project assignments or to solve academic problems. An estimated 4.2 million adult Canadians, comprising two-thirds (66%) of those who went online for education, training and school work, used the Internet for these purposes.

Just over one-quarter (26%) of those who used the Internet for education-related purposes went online for distance education, self-directed learning or correspondence courses. Residents of rural and small-town areas were less likely than their urban counterparts to report going online to research assignments. However, they were more likely to report going online for distance education, self-directed learning or correspondence courses.

The article highlights an important policy issue—whether online education can help reduce potential barriers to accessing education, such as cost and distance. It appears that rural and small-town Internet users from more remote communities are in fact more apt to go online for distance education.

While more definitive research on this matter is required, these findings suggest that the Internet is a valuable tool with the potential to help overcome the barrier of distance when it comes to education.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 4432.

The October 2007 issue of Education Matters: Insights on Education, Learning and Training in Canada, Vol. 4, no. 4 (81-004-XIE, free), is now available on our website. From the Publications module, under Free Internet publications, choose Education, training and learning, then Education Matters.

For more information, contact Client Services (toll-free 1-800-307-3382; 613-951-7608; fax: 613-951-4441;, Culture, Tourism and the Centre for Education Statistics.