Last updated: February 19 2019

Access to Online Education: A Solution to the World’s Greatest Problems?

A new study from Statistics Canada released this week demonstrates how online learning for continuing or post-secondary education, may increase the opportunities available to Canadians with certain medical conditions. Have you considered alternative pathways to traditional education in planning for lifelong learning?

Though many Canadians are fortunate enough to have better access to quality education than in many other parts of the world – there are still some gaps. This new study identifies one of them: ensuring that Canadians with specific diagnoses can access education in an environment and structure that supports their learning style. Having access to realistic options is valuable to their educational pursuits for the betterment of themselves, and the global population on the whole.

This Statistics Canada study was persued to support the United Nation’s (UN) Goals for Sustainable Development, originally unveiled in 2016. The fourth goal in the UN’s plan for is education, which they cited as integral because “a quality education is the foundation to creating sustainable development. In addition to improving quality of life, access to inclusive education can help equip locals with the tools required to develop innovative solutions to the world’s greatest problems.”

The details of the study. The study draws on the National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth and the T1 Family File (T1FF). The sample is composed of individuals who were 7- to 15-year-olds in 2000/2001 whose parents reported that their child was diagnosed with a long-term neurodevelopmental condition (NDC) or mental health condition (MHC). NDCs include learning disabilities, epilepsy, cerebral palsy and intellectual disability.By definition, MHCs include attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), as well as emotional, psychological or nervous difficulties. These children were then followed until they were 21 or 22 years of age, through the T1FF, which contains various tax credits used to identify post-secondary enrollment. A comparison group of youth with neither diagnosis was also followed.

60% of youth with an NDC and just under half of those with an MHC enrolled in post-secondary education, while a mere 36% of youth diagnosed with both an NDC and an MHC did so. This is in stark contrast to the more than three-quarters of those in the same demographic with neither diagnosis who enrolled. It also unveiled that kids with even minimal ADHD symptoms were much less likely to enroll in post-secondary education.

Interestingly, a direct link between post-secondary pursuit and parental aspirations for their children was also discovered, with their expectations of post-secondary education being much lower for kids with NDCs. The impact of this becomes clear in the statistics outlined above.

How online studies may help. Though the specific learning challenges experienced by individuals with each condition vary, the Centre for ADHD Awareness in Canada outlines one underlying issue that applies across the board. That is, that traditional educational structures don’t accommodate individual learning styles and requirements, and in-class environments often create frustrating distractions.

While early-interventions and medications for school-aged children can help, children with ADHD are almost three times more likely to drop out prior to high-school graduation. When it’s estimated that there’s at least one to three kids in every classroom with ADHD, this alone is a concerning statistic. With few ever having the opportunity to pursue post-secondary education before factoring in those with other conditions outlined in the Statistics Canada study.

Online learning for continuing or post-secondary education makes good sense, but it requires the rethinking of traditional educational choices. Families considering post-secondary education for medically-challenged individuals in the family will want to expand discussions to include these alternative forms of study. It makes really good sense for busy lifelong learners, too.

Additional educational resources: Start studying online with Knowledge Bureau anytime. Free trials of the course curriculum are also available.


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