From a Military Perspective, What is the True Cost of Distance Education?

Research Paper Title

Exposing the True Cost of Distance Education (and What Should be Done).


The demand for ever-increasing levels of education within the Canadian Forces (CF) continues to mount. From our very beginnings as a professional military, there was wide acceptance of the need for a liberally educated officer corps. With the increasing pace of technology, the CF must also depend on advanced education to access specialized skills. Ever-increasing complexity of bureaucratic control mechanisms demand solid understanding of the underpinning theories, as well as the application of those controls to work within and shape the mechanisms as required. The target audience has expanded beyond the officer corps to include the entire CF, grown in span to include the CF at large, and broadened to include a range of programmes often not available from within military training systems.

The CF has facilitated and encouraged members to undertake educational programmes. There has been a myriad of ongoing sponsorship programmes aimed at delivering advanced education: Advanced Degree Completion Plan, Educational Reserve, et cetera. There have also been initiatives to increase the formality of high-level military training to achieve, where possible, equivalency with civilian universities. Programmes that have been proven popular include the Officer Professional Military Education (OPME), which provides university credits, and the Staff College, which when coupled with supplemental work, offers a master’s degree.

There is also an increasing value placed on advanced education qualifications with certain positions, trades, and rank levels, requiring educational accreditation. Weighting of education on merit boards for promotion, postings, and access to highly sought courses is spreading at a sedate but steady pace. The civilian workforce also values academic qualifications, and the potential for access to a better second career is often another motivation, as is the desire to prove/improve oneself.

As the CF is unable to deliver the desired levels of education to all members during working hours, several programmes have been created to partially sponsor members willing to undertake education on their own time. The author completed his master’s degree under the Advanced Degree Completion Programme, and a newer programme called the Educational Reserve is now in place. These programmes offer monetary sponsorship while participants continue to work and complete education on their own time. In an environment where postings and deployments often occur with little warning, many members lean towards distance learning to ensure opportunity for completion.


Thorne, B. (2015) Exposing the True Cost of Distance Education (and What Should be Done). Royal Canadian Air Force Journal. Summer 2015. 4(3).

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