picture of a computer with the word "Survey" on screen

Survey Background and Results

An invitation to participate in the survey was sent via email in October 2022 to a sample of students taking online programs and courses from Ontario’s public colleges, universities, and Indigenous institutes.

To support program planning and delivery of future services within the post-secondary system, Contact North | Contact Nord surveyed students using its services to imagine how they will learn in 2030. The survey results offer a high-level direction on student needs and provide a foundation for a more extensive research survey on how students want to learn in 2030.

The survey presented students with four future scenarios dealing with key components of post-secondary education to which they were asked to respond in various ways.

1) Assessment

This scenario described a situation where students would be able to demonstrate mastery of the knowledge, skills, and competencies in a course to obtain credit without having to take the course.

They could demonstrate mastery anytime in a secure environment, either in a physical location or at home.

2) Credit Transfer

This scenario described a future where students could automatically receive credit for courses taken in Ontario, either at any other Ontario institution or at many others across Canada.

Likewise, students who earned credits outside of their home institution could receive credit toward their current program. This scenario also included the concept of an “e-wallet” that would allow students to share their work experience and other achievements as well as internship reports and prior learning recognition with other institutions and employers.

3) Support Services

This scenario outlined a vision where all courses would have clearly defined learning objectives and expectations and would have an AI-based tutor associated with them.

Other services included in this scenario would be either online or in-person academic support, library assistance, career guidance, personal counselling, and financial advising.

4) Program Choices

This scenario includes a vision of a hybrid, flexible, on-demand post-secondary learning system which makes extensive use of technology to support flexible learning and access.

Included in this vision was the lowering of the minimum credits required to be taken at a given institution from the current 50% to 20% for a degree to be awarded by that institution. If students could not obtain 20% from any single institution, they could apply to receive a general studies degree/diploma using their aggregated credits from another approved institution.

This scenario further described competency-based assessments for students to demonstrate having the knowledge, skills, and capabilities to obtain credit for a course.

Read our infographic that summarizes the ten key outcomes from the survey.

In addition to asking students’ views on the four scenarios above, the survey included four other focused questions and three demographic questions.

The focused questions dealt with the topics below.

1) How they would like to obtain information about programs and courses in the future.

Most frequent choice – On the website, a live career advisor is available 24×7 will guide you through your choices and help you make a program or course selections (61%).

2) Whether they preferred on-demand online courses rather than scheduled courses and a mix of shorter courses and traditional length courses.

Most frequent choice – Some courses will be available on-demand and are not tied to a semester. You pay – you start. The materials are available online and, if there are in-person workshops, labs, or classes, you can schedule attendance at a local college, university, or Indigenous institute just like you would schedule an appointment (39%).

3) The extent to which students felt they had the skills and technology to learn in environments like those described in the four scenarios:

I have the skills and technologies (57%)

I have the technologies but need help with the skills required to fully use the technologies (22%)

I have the skills, but only limited access to the technologies (15%)

I do not have the skills and technologies needed (2%)

Not sure (4%)

4) If students felt anything was missing from the vision of a hybrid, flexible, on-demand post-secondary education and training system described in the above scenarios:

No – 84%

Yes – 16%

The three demographics questions included:

1) About how long they had been studying:

One year (34%)

Two years (19%)

More than two years (47%)

2) Their current level of study:     

Various college programs (43%)

Various university programs (18%)

Other programs (39%)

3) Where they live:

No predominant pattern

Farthest southeastern student was in Belleville

Farthest southwestern in Sarnia

Farthest northwestern in Fort Frances

Farthest northeastern in Ottawa