Online Learning

Fully online courses are offered through the department of Continuing and Distance Studies (CDS) in the Faculty of Arts and Science, in partnership with academic departments.

CDS provides current Queen’s students in all faculties with flexible course options to help them meet their academic and personal goals, particularly in the Summer Term. CDS also attracts new students to Queen’s through distance studies, enabling greater access to a Queen’s education.

Online courses are equivalent to on-campus courses in Arts and Science: they have the same learning outcomes, but a different delivery method. Quality is assured by following best practices for online learning in both course development and delivery, with a focus on interaction:

  • Students interact with their instructors and TAs through synchronous, web-based tutorials and interactive discussion forums;
  • Students interact with online materials, which incorporate video and real-time media, and self-assessment quizzes; and
  • Students interact with each other through group activities, creating a community of learners.

Most CDS courses require students to write proctored exams in distant locations to ensure academic integrity.

Queen’s has a long history as a distance education provider, and until a couple of decades ago, students could complete several degrees exclusively through correspondence. CDS is currently in a transition phase, converting older courses into fully integrated online delivery, and developing new courses to restore previous levels of offerings.

By expanding the range and number of course offerings, CDS is able to attract new distance enrolments in the Faculty of Arts and Science, as well as to serve current Queen’s students better by providing them with courses that they often take at other institutions on letters of permission (e.g. Athabasca University).

The introduction of new online courses also enables the development of distance degree and certificate programs, offering potential students unique online programs such as the Certificate in Medical Sciences (under development), and making distance studies in the Faculty of Arts and Science a viable option for non-traditional learners who might otherwise not be able to get access to a Queen’s education.

Through the expansion of distance studies the Faculty can therefore increase enrolment without adding additional pressure for new capital projects.

The Faculty’s strategic decision to expand CDS in this way grew out of the evidence provided by a business case that explored the feasibility of growing distance enrolments in Arts and Science. The business case was developed in 2011 at the request of former Provost Bob Silverman. The study included extensive research into online learning; consultation with Arts and Science departments, with other faculties, with support services within Queen’s, and with other institutions; development of quality framework, policies and processes; market research; financial modeling; and a full review of CDS. Business case [PDF].

The Faculty is promoting the development of new online courses through a strategic Course Redesign project.


“… let us take advantage of current technology to bring what Queen’s has to offer to the world.”

Principal Daniel Woolf. (2012). The Third Juncture: Some Thoughts on the Past, Present and Future of Queen’s University over the Next Decade.