Since it emerged in education circles in 1946, distance learning has taken an important place in the types of trainings offered. It meets the needs articulated by Quebecers in the context of globalization. Every stakeholder, both private and public are interested in this form of training, but who are these stakeholders and what are the main chapters in the history of distance learning in Quebec ?

In a spirit of cooperation, the three organizations dedicated to distance learning in the province (SOFAD, Cégep@distance and TéléUniversité) created the CLIFAD – Comité de liaison en formation à distance – in 1994. Its mission was to promote distance learning, develop it and make it accessible. To respond to a need to enlarge its scope, it became the Comité de liaison interordres en formation à distance in May 2004 and now includes organizations who are fully or partially committed in the distance learning offer. The CLIFAD established that distance learning is a ‘customized training enabling a student to learn on his or her own, at his or her own pace with minimal scheduling and travelling constraints and with teaching material and the support of a distance resource. Distance training can be offered on different media: printed material, CD-ROMs, audio and video tapes, sent by mail, the Internet, televised classes or a combination of these means and mediums.”


Distance learning first made its appearance in the 19th century, originally as correspondence courses (1840-1920) and later through radio (the first licence handed for educational radio content in the United States goes back to 1921). In Quebec, the first educational radio broadcast began in 1941 with Radio-Collège, a series of educational shows on Radio-Canada (the French CBC service). A new emerging wave was produced with industrialization in 1946 with the creation of the Office des cours par correspondance.

The 1960s marked a turning point with the democratization of teaching and a will to promote accessibility to distance learning taking shape with the TEVEC Project. This initiative was using television as a learning medium.

In the 1970s, universities took ownership of the discipline. First, the emergence of ‘open’ universities enabled distance learning across the world, then the creation of Télé-Université (Téluq) in 1972 facilitated access to learning from remote locations and for students unable to move to onsite classes. Together, Téluq and UQAM (Université du Québec à Montréal) became the biggest French-language dual mode university, offering classroom and distance learning classes.

In the 1990s, centres were created to cater the needs of high school and college levels. A new central organization was created for high schools called the SOFAD (Société de formation à distance des commissions scolaires du Québec) and for colleges, called Cégep@distance (under the name of Centre collégial de formation à distance up until 2002), whose mission was to make quality training available and to design and develop required material for teaching and realize experimental projects.

Currently this training method is really successful across the world and in Quebec, we are seeing registration numbers continually increase since 1995.

We can conclude that distance training has evolved over time according to economic, political and educational needs. The potential of development leaves no doubt if stakeholders continue to take note of key success factors.


Caroline Irrmann, web editor