State of the Nation: K-12 Online Learning in Canada

State of the Nation:
K-12 Online Learning in Canada
Written by
Michael K. Barbour,
Wayne State University
State of the Nation:
K-12 Online Learning
in Canada
Written by
Michael K. Barbour,
Wayne State University
November 2010
Let me begin by thanking Mickey Revenaugh and Craig Butz of Connections Academy, Julie
Linn and Stu Finnigan of K12 Inc., and John Baker and Heather Hamrick of Desire2Learn® for their
sponsorship of this report, along with their guidance, suggestions and feedback. Also, let me thank
Wendy Fleming, Matt Wicks, Allison Powell and Susan Patrick of the International Association for
K-12 Online Learning for their editing and publication of this document.
I would also like to thank the following individuals for providing information used in the creation of
the provincial and territorial profiles, vignettes and brief issue papers.
Andy Gibbons – Lumsden School Complex
Sarah Hainsworth – Nova Scotia Department of Education
Guy Albert – Prince Edward Island Department of Education & Early Childhood Development
Kevin McCluskey & Marc André Morais – New Brunswick Department of Education
Ed Butler – Belleisle Regional High School
Thérèse Laferrière – Laval University
Robert Saucier – Société de formation à distance des commissions scolaires du Québec
Margaret Dupuis – Learn Quebec
Josée Beaudoin – Centre francophone d’informatisation des organisations
Hubert Lalande – Service de production multimedia, Centre franco-ontarien de ressources pédagogiques
Alison Slack – Ontario eLearning Consortium
Nicole Cadieux – Consortium d’apprentissage virtuel de langue française de l’Ontario
Darrin Potter – Keewaytinook Internet High School
Annette Levesque & Martha Blythe – Ottawa Carleton e-School
Donald Girouard, Howard Griffith & Jacques Dorge – Manitoba Department of Education
Howard Burston – Wapaskwa Virtual Collegiate
Sue Amundrud – Saskatchewan Ministry of Education
Vince Hill – Credenda Virtual High School & College
Barb Brown & Ed Kosloski – Calgary Roman Catholic Separate School District
Tim Winkelmans & Ed Vanderboom – British Columbia Ministry of Education
JoAnn Davidson – Yukon Department of Education
Brad Chambers – Nunavut Department of Education
State of the Nation: K-12 Online Learning in Canada 3
There is no doubt that technology has transformed the everyday life of many Canadians, particularly
with the introduction of computers and the Internet.
In the classrooms, technologies play an important and exciting role by opening up new ways of
teaching and learning, with limitless possibilities for exploration.
Over the past decade, the proliferation of online resources—such as e-learning courses and
programmes, and virtual schools—has rapidly changed the learning environment within Canada and
other countries.
Online learning is a powerful tool with the potential to expand the educational opportunities of
all students. At the elementary- and secondary-school (K–12) levels, considerable effort has been
devoted to acquiring computer hardware and software for schools, connecting them to the Internet,
and helping educators improve their own Information Communication Technologies (ICT)-related
skills and knowledge.
While conclusive, longitudinal studies remain to be done, there is growing evidence that online
learning initiatives are positively impacting the lives and learning of Canadian students. Learners are
already experiencing enhanced learning through Internet access, student portals, digital libraries, and
wireless networks that support laptops, handheld and other portable devices.
Canada’s younger generation is primed to take advantage of the potential of learning technologies.
Computers, multimedia programmes, chat rooms and other manifestations of the digital age are
now common throughout children’s developmental years—to which almost any parent or educator
will attest.
However, while the innovative use of online technologies has permeated many of Canada’s schools,
policies and practices have not kept pace with the expectations of today’s technologically-savvy
generation of students. Online learning holds tremendous promise and potential, but the journey is
far from complete.
State of the Nation: K-12 Online Learning in Canada provides an important opportunity for us to
gain critical information and insight into how Canadian educational authorities and governments
are integrating ICTs into learning and teaching—particularly for preparing students for the needs
of today’s economy and reaping the benefits from the most recent learning tools.
Erin Mills
Senior Researcher, Canadian Council on Learning
Lead author of the 2009 State of e-Learning in Canada report
State of the Nation: K-12 Online Learning in Canada 5
Table of Contents
Executive Summary 7
1. Introduction 8
1.1 Methodology 9
1.2 Definitions 10
1.3 How To Read This Document 11
2. Brief Issue Papers 12
2.1 Online Professional Development in the Remote Networked Schools 12
2.2 Keewaytinook Internet High School: Moving First Nation Students
ahead with Technology in Ontario’s Remote North 14
2.3 Blended Learning in High School 17
2.4 British Columbia’s Quality Framework for Distributed Learning 20
3. National Overview 26
3.1 Atlantic Canada 27
3.1.1 Newfoundland and Labrador 28
Vignette – Lumsden School Complex 30
3.1.2 Nova Scotia 31
3.1.3 Prince Education Island 33
3.1.4 New Brunswick 34
Vignette – Belleisle Regional High School 35
3.2 Central Canada 36
3.2.1 Quebec 37
Vignette – Learn Quebec 39
3.2.2 Ontario 40
Vignette – Ottawa Carleton e-School 42
3.3 Western Canada 43
3.3.1 Manitoba 44
Vignette – Wapaskwa Virtual Collegiate 46
3.3.2 Saskatchewan 47
Vignette – Credenda Virtual High School 48
3.3.3 Alberta 49
3.3.4 British Columbia 51
Vignette – Vancouver Learning Network Secondary 53
3.4 Northern Canada 54
3.4.1 The Yukon 55
3.4.2 Northwest Territories 57
3.4.3 Nunavut Territory 58
4. Resources 60
5. Bibliography 63
6. Appendix A 66
7. Appendix B 67
State of the Nation: K-12 Online Learning in Canada 7
Executive Summary
Two years ago, the then North American Council for Online Learning released the initial Snapshot
State of the Nation: K-12 Online Learning in Canada report. This study was the first systematic
examination of K-12 distance education policies and activities in each of the thirteen Canadian
provinces and territories. One year ago, the International Council for K-12 Online Learning released
the more complete State of the Nation: K-12 Online Learning in Canada report. This examination
found that the regulation of K-12 distance education varied from language in the Education
Act or Schools Act, Ministerial Directives, policy documents issued by the Ministry of Education,
agreements signed between the Ministry and the individual school boards, and articles included in
the collective bargaining agreement between the Government and teachers’ union. Additionally, the
author reported that all thirteen provinces and territories have some level of K-12 distance education
activity, with British Columbia having the highest number and highest percentage of student
participation and Prince Edward Island having the least.
The 2010 State of the Nation: K-12 Online Learning in Canada has found similar trends in the
regulation of K-12 distance education. British Columbia continued to have the most extensive
regulatory regime (and this report explores one aspect of that regime—the quality review process—
in one of the brief issue papers). This time last year, three provinces reported they were engaged
in the process of reviewing and updating how K-12 distance education was regulated. At present,
all three reviews are still in progress. However, Alberta has shifted the focus of its review from a
distance education strategy to a focus on creating an educational environment where online and
blended learning are as common as the textbook and whiteboard are today. Additionally, Canadian
teachers’ unions continue their cautious support of the use of distance education in the K-12
environment, and have been more interested in ensuring that the workload and demands placed
upon distance education teachers are consistent with their classroom-based counterparts.
All thirteen provinces and territories continue to use distance education within their K-12 systems.
In many instances, the method of distance education delivery is still using print-based materials,
although there is also a greater reliance upon synchronous tools such as traditional video
conferencing or virtual classroom software. It is for this reason that the term K-12 distance education
is used interchangeably in this report with K-12 online learning (however, it should be underscored
that much of the K-12 distance education in Canada does not take place online). In many instances,
distance education continues to be seen as a substitute when face-to-face learning is not feasible
or economic (e.g., in rural jurisdictions, for specialised studies such as French language instruction
for native speakers, or for students who aren’t able to succeed in the traditional classroom
environment). This kind of use is exemplified in the Brief Issue Paper on the Keewaytinook Internet
High School, a programme that allows aboriginal students in Northern Ontario to remain in their
communities and complete their education, as opposed to having to leave their home town and
travel hundreds of kilometres away simply to graduate from high school. In most jurisdictions, K-12
distance education is not viewed as an educational option of choice, only one of necessity. Even
with this common sentiment, K-12 distance education enrolment in Canada is estimated to be
between 150,000 and 175,000 students (or somewhere between 2.8% and 3.4% of the total K-12
student population).
In a study of connectivity and information and communications strategies infrastructure conducted
by Statistics Canada (but sponsored by Industry Canada’s SchoolNet programme, provincial and
territorial governments, education associations, school boards, schools, teachers and students),
Ertl and Plante (2004) reported that the number of K-12 schools connected to the Internet ranged
between 91% in Manitoba to over 99% in Newfoundland and Labrador and New Brunswick.
Further, the authors indicated that Quebec had the most students per Internet-connected computer
with 6.5 students/computer and the Yukon had the least number of students per Internet-
connected computer with 2.9 students/computer. Based on the data, the authors concluded that
“virtually all schools in Canada had computers and nearly all were connected to the Internet.
Further, “not only are schools connected to the Internet but access to the Internet within schools
is also pervasive… [and] an overwhelming majority of schools used broadband technologies to
access the Internet.” However, in a subsequent Statistics Canada study of schools information and
communication technology use, Plante and Beattie (2004) found only 30% of schools—and only
40% of secondary schools—were using the Internet for online learning.
Within the Canadian context, K-12 online learning has not been seen as an option for those
advocating the more conservative school choice movement. In fact, even in the Province of Alberta
(i.e., the only province that has charter school legislation) there are no online charter schools. As
such, K-12 online learning has historically been viewed as a substitute to be used when face-to-face
learning is not available, particularly for students in rural areas. For example, in their report the State
of e-Learning in Canada, the Canadian Council on Learning (2009) reported that more rural schools
than urban schools reported having students who participated in online courses and that this was
often to supplement the curriculum, particularly when courses were either unavailable or could not
be offered due to limited resources or teachers.
Three years ago, this research project began an examination of K-12 distance education in Canada.
The term K-12 distance education is used, as opposed to K-12 online learning, because much of
the K-12 distance education that occurs in Canada still utilises print-based, audiographics, and
video conferencing tools. The initial efforts resulted in the 2008 Snapshot State of the Nation:
K-12 Online Learning in Canada report. This document provided short commentaries about the
state of K-12 distance education for each province and territory, along with more developed case
studies on the provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario, and British Columbia. The 2009
State of the Nation: K-12 Online Learning in Canada report was a more complete discussion of the
legislation and regulations that govern K-12 distance education in each jurisdiction and description
of the various programmes that provide those K-12 distance education opportunities in each of the
State of the Nation: K-12 Online Learning in Canada 9
thirteen provinces and territories. The goal of this 2010 State of the Nation: K-12 Online Learning in
Canada report is to update and expand upon the governance of K-12 distance education and the
programmes that provide those opportunities, as well as to begin to examine some of the issues
facing K-12 distance education in Canada.
The methodology utilised for the 2009 report included a survey that was sent to each of the
Ministries of Education (see Appendix A for a copy of this survey), follow-up interviews to clarify
or expand on any of the responses contained in the survey, and an analysis of documents from the
Ministry of Education, often available in online format. During that data collection process, officials
from the Ministries of Education in eight of the thirteen provinces and territories responded. The
profiles for the remaining five jurisdictions were constructed based on information provided by
key stakeholder involved in K-12 distance education in that province or territory and the analysis of
The data collection for the 2010 report began with the provincial and/or territorial profile from
the previous year and a request to the Ministries of Education to respond to a series of questions
related to their existing profile (see Appendix B for a copy of these questions). In addition to a
general updating of information, there was a desire to focus on French-language programmes in
English-speaking provinces and independent or private school programmes. Therefore, in addition
to the general Ministry of Education contact, the author sought to contact individuals specifically
responsible for these additional programmes.
There were nine Ministries of Education that responded to this year’s request for data collection. In
three provinces there were key individuals or organisations involved in the practice of K-12 distance
education that provided information. In one province and one territory there was an analysis of
documents for any legislative or regulatory changes. Table 1 presents a summary of the data sources
for the past three years.
Table 1 indicates that the provinces of Ontario and Alberta are the only jurisdictions where there has
never been Ministry participation. However, the information for these jurisdictions should be viewed
as thorough due the efforts of individuals involved with organisations such as the Ontario eLearning
Consortium, Consortium d’apprentissage virtuel de langue française de l’Ontario, and the Alberta
Distance Learning Centre; along with the wealth of online documents provided by e-Learning
Ontario and Alberta Education.
Drafts of each profile were provided to the Ministries prior to publication, along with key
stakeholders that provided information for the profile. These individuals were given the opportunity
to suggest revisions, most of which were accepted by the author (and all of which were seriously
Table 1. Data collection sources for the State of the Nation: K-12 Online Learning in Canada over
the past three years
Province/Territory 2008 2009 2010
Newfoundland & Labrador KS / DA MoE / DA DA
Nova Scotia DA MoE / DA MoE
Prince Edward Island DA KS / DA MoE
New Brunswick DA MoE / DA MoE
Quebec KS KS / DA MoE / KS
Ontario KS / DA KS / DA KS / DA
Manitoba KS MoE / DA MoE
Saskatchewan KS / DA MoE MoE
Alberta DA KS / DA KS / DA
British Columbia MoE / DA MoE / DA MoE
Yukon DA KS / DA MoE / DA
Northwest Territories DA MoE / DA DA
Nunavut DA MoE MoE
MoE – Ministry of Education, KS – Key stakeholders, DA – Document analysis
As with the previous reports, for those familiar with K-12 online learning in the United States most
of the terms utilised are consistent with terms used to describe K-12 online learning in Canada.
There are some differences. Often in the United States, online charter schools and other full-
time programmes are referred to as cyber schools. Charter schools do not exist in most Canadian
provinces, and in the sole province where they do exist there are no online charter schools. As
such, the terms virtual school and cyber school—along with Internet high school—are used
interchangeably in the Canadian context.
In many Canadian jurisdictions, online learning is often only a portion of the overall K-12 distance
education offerings. Many provinces use the term distributed learning to describe all modes of
delivery for K-12 distance education (i.e., print-based, video conferencing, and online learning).
Additionally, two other terms that may also be unfamiliar to a non-Canadian audience are:
Anglophone – English-speaking
Francophone – French-speaking
State of the Nation: K-12 Online Learning in Canada 11
Also, in Canada there is no separation of church and state. As such, several provinces have both a
government-funded public school system and a government-funded Catholic school system.
Finally, the author of this report makes use of the definitions provided by the Virtual School Glossary
project (see in most other areas.
How to Read This Document
This State of the Nation: K-12 Online Learning in Canada report begins with a discussion of several
issues related to the design, delivery and support of K-12 distance education in Canada. The first
of these brief issue papers outlines the use of a provincial network to provide online professional
development for K-12 teachers in Quebec. The second examines the provision of K-12 online learning
to a group of aboriginal youth in Northern Ontario. The third discusses how blended learning is
being used in one school district. Finally, the fourth describes a model of quality assurance used by
one province with its K-12 distributed learning programmes.
The remainder of the report is organised in a regional fashion. The information begins with a
national overview, which is followed by a focus upon each of the four regions of Canada: Atlantic,
Central, Western, and Northern. Within each region is a general description and then detailed
provincial/territorial profiles based upon the information obtained.
Each profile is designed to look at the level of K-12 distance education activity and regulations
in that province or territory. The profiles in the 2009 report were organised to provide a detailed
description of the distance education programmes that were operating in each province and
territory. Additionally, there was a lengthy discussion of the provincial or territorial policies from
various legislative and regulatory documents (e.g., ministerial directives, collective agreements,
memorandums of understanding, and departmental memorandum). Finally, there was a specific
focus on the funding of distance education, and issues related to quality assurance, teaching, and
curriculum in distance education offerings.
This report provides a more condensed examination of each province and territory. Information that
has not changed has been summarised, and in instances where information needed to be updated
a more descriptive discussion is provided. It should also be noted that this information is simply
a snapshot in time. As the field of K-12 online learning is rapidly changing, the currency of the
information contained in this report is limited to the realities of September 2010.
Finally, continuing a feature introduced in the previous report, when possible there is a vignette
included to provide a more personalised perspective of students, teachers, schools, and programmes
involved in K-12 distance education in that jurisdiction. These vignettes focus on various aboriginal,
private school, rural, and synchronous programmes across Canada.
Brief Issue Papers
Online Professional Development
in the Remote Networked Schools
Thérèse Laferrière, Laval University
Teacher professional development benefits from the availability of online resources. Educators may
approach it as a cost-saving tactic or a promotion device. While some downplay its usefulness,
online resources and tools provide affordances for teacher professional development of many
forms. We argue in this brief issue paper for highly interactive and collaborative teacher professional
development as pressure mounts for preparing a workforce with more advanced skills and well-
informed citizens.
In Canada, this concern was first addressed in the late nineties by the TeleLearning Network
of Centres of Excellence (TL-NCE, 1995-2002) research programme.1 It was also discussed by
representatives from all provinces and territories who attended the SchoolNet Advisory Board (see ). When SchoolNet
ceased its activities in 2007, the Advanced Broadband Enabled Learning network in Ontario (http://, the Galileo network in Alberta ( and the Remote
Networked Schools (RNS) in Quebec ( were in full swing, and were able to
carry on some of the legacy from those early inquiries into the promises the Internet and the Web
for educating educators.
The RNS is the setting where we have had the opportunity to co-design teacher professional
development since 2002. The RNS is a systemic initiative funded by the Quebec Ministry of
Education. One of the aims of the RNS initiative is to enhance the learning environments of small
rural schools by transforming them into blended learning environments. Over twenty school districts
1 See http://wildcat.iat.s or html/pdmodels.html or comcont.html for
additional d etails on this project.
State of the Nation: K-12 Online Learning in Canada 13
are participating and Centre francophone d’informatisation des organisations (CEFRIO), an agency
devoted to knowledge transfer and the networking of organisations, is coordinating the initiative.
School and teacher participation is voluntary but there is increasing local pressure as results have
been most encouraging (Laferrière et al., 2008) and as the institutionalisation of the RNS model
progresses within and among school districts.
Innovative teaching is carried out using telecollaborative tools that facilitate verbal interactions, using
a multi-user desktop videoconferencing system, and written interactions, using Knowledge Forum,
between students from different schools.2 Researchers from four universities have partnered with
participating school districts to offer onsite/online professional development activities to teachers
and other educational professionals. They have applied a design research model (Collins, Joseph
& Bielaczyc, 2004), that is, a research approach that is especially suitable for innovation purposes
as capacity is built from iteration to iteration. For researchers, the challenge has been to provide
research results growing out of data that could be quickly gathered and analysed while being
meaningful to practitioners. We engaged in virtual ethnography and collected data from the online
learning activities and projects conducted with the support of the telecollaborative tools. Iteration
meetings were carried mostly online using the same videoconferencing system as the one teachers
used with school learners. These meetings brought back to school-based educators research results
that contributed to their decision making inside and outside the classroom, and to the definition
of new research questions. This form of highly interactive and collaborative teacher professional
development could not have happened without going online.
Another tool available to the teachers in these twenty-plus rural school districts has been daily
access to the online distributed team of university-based educators through a dedicated room
of the iVisit videoconferencing system. There is always a university-based educator available to
respond to inquiries from teachers, whose questions may be related to a technical, pedagogical,
organisational or research-oriented matter. The team of six-eight persons is composed of graduate
students who are familiar with the initiative and teacher educators, each devoting one or two three-
hour presence a week on the videoconferencing system. They are not always busy responding, and
can carry on other activities while not interacting with a teacher, a technician, a school principal
or even a student. This form of ongoing support in one’s daily practice is much appreciated by the
RNS educators. As they gain experience, the conversations become more pedagogically oriented.
They may even be evidence-based conversations of a reflective nature over one’s practice when,
for instance, an educator comes online asking for analytical results that pertain to his or her own
classroom, school or district.
Beyond all expectations, such just-in-time support brings a sense of closeness between university-
based and school-based educators. The “ivory tower” collapses, and in no time we may feel a
teacher’s excitement as she talks about how she engaged her students in a new project or the
disappointment when a planned online activity between two different classrooms is cancelled
for a technical matter. These emotional moments help build a sense of belongingness to the RNS
professional community. However, it is the analyses conducted over verbal or written interaction that
provide a deep sense of realness regarding teacher professional development to both practitioners
and ourselves as teacher educators. In other words, classroom-based research results inform teacher
professional development, and bring more authenticity to the process. This is also true when we
2 Exemplars of learning activities and projects are available at http://
offer professional development online sessions to ten or fifteen participants at a time as we have
plenty of exemplars to work with.
These most rewarding forms of professional development would not be possible outside of a major
systemic initiative devoted to innovation, a motive for change (small rural schools that close have
a highly detrimental effect on the town they are part of), and a university-school partnership that
value professional development and collaborative research.
Keewaytinook Internet High School:
Moving First Nation Students ahead
with Technology in Ontario’s Remote
Darrin Potter, Keewaytinook Internet High School
For decades, students in most of Canada’s remote First Nation communities had no choice other
than leave their home communities if they wished to pursue a high school education. Many
communities in the Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) territory did not have the numbers to financially
justify a high school funded through the federal Department of Indian and Northern Affairs. So
each year communities in the north were emptied of students age 13 and above who travelled to
cities and communities, as far away as Toronto, to try and attain the secondary education that other
Canadians take for granted in their home communities or area. Many of these students experienced
a shock in culture, being separated from their parents and families, education programmes not
designed for First Nation students, and new peer influences. Some students experienced cycles of
failure, as they tried year after year to make it in this new system only to be sent home after a few
weeks when it was established that they were not doing well. Sadly, many students did not make it
home alive, with an unbelievable number of the First Nations youth returning home in caskets due
to an inability to handle the changes that life away from home brought.
In the late 1990’s Keewaytinook Okimakanak (KO), a chiefs’ council in the NAN territory, was
involved in an Industry Canada initiative to investigate the community effects of broadband
technologies in the advancement of economic and social growth in First Nation communities. This
enabled advancements in the communication technologies infrastructure for medical programmes,
economic development and general educational opportunities—as well as other local initiatives.
With the new possibilities in these communities, there were more people willing to return and
stay as the economy looked healthier. At a chiefs’ meeting in Winnipeg in 1998, a chief from Deer
Lake First Nation (i.e., a First Nation community about 1000 kilometres northwest of Thunder Bay)
described the need to provide a quality education to their high school students—many of whom
were experiencing social and academic readiness challenges when they were forced to leave
their community to attend secondary school programmes in cities and communities hundreds of
kilometres from their homes. The technology that had been put in place from the earlier SMART
State of the Nation: K-12 Online Learning in Canada 15
programme seemed like a natural fit to provide the backbone for an online high school. This was
the beginning of the Keewaytinook Internet High School (KiHS) in 1999. The original pilot project
focused on the grade eight curriculum, with classrooms located in three of the KO communities.
The success of this pilot established the need and support to establish an online school that was
inspected by the provincial Ministry of Education, but funded by the federal Department of Indian
and Northern Affairs. KiHS was the first of its kind in Ontario and one of the first in Canada.
KiHS provided parents and students a way to continue in the local community dynamic, yet still
provide the youth a quality high school programme using a delivery model focusing on the role of
two teachers: an online teacher and a local teacher. The programme approaches education from
a community perspective and has a classroom identified in each partner community where an
Ontario-certified teacher works. Students are required to attend the classroom from 9 to 4 each
day and they are tutored and mentored by the local teacher and classroom assistant in all subject
areas. Each teacher is also responsible for teaching three of the online courses each academic year
and these are delivered online to students in all of the partner communities. The students complete
their actual studies online. The programme is primarily asynchronous, with online teachers posting
activities each Sunday and students completing those activities and assignments online as the week
progresses. Online teachers also schedule synchronous sessions using Elluminate® or Adobe Connect,
as well as using video conferencing, to work on activities that require more direct instruction. In
the local classroom the teachers ensure that students have the tools and understanding for task
completion. Teachers also work with the local classroom assistant to move students ahead. The
school year is divided into four terms of nine weeks and students can register for two courses each
term, which gives them opportunity to earn a total of eight credits a year (not unlike traditional
classrooms across Ontario). Some students decide to do an additional credit if they have shown to
their teacher and the administration their ability and commitment towards their studies.
The teaching presence is established using instructional design, monitoring and providing feedback,
and providing direct instruction to the students, as well as direct interaction with their local
students. From our experience, students respond better to having a teacher present when trying to
problem solve or committing to moving ahead in their educational plan. When KiHS has a positive
interaction among the students, teacher, and assistant, we see more involvement and success
from the students in this community. Being present in the community and experiencing the local
dynamics also allows the local teacher to respond to the needs of the students as an extension of
their community. KiHS has expanded from three communities in the original pilot for Grade 9 to
now operating in fourteen communities with programming in Grades 9 to 12. This expansion allows
the programme to develop more initiatives in line with the Ministry, along with providing a larger
variety of options for students. Online/Local teachers use their subject matter expertise, and their
knowledge of the community and students, to develop and deliver a curriculum that is appropriate
to Ministry standards while still including cultural relevance. These teachers have rich professional
and life experiences, as they come from all areas of Canada and even beyond to work in this
innovative programme. Many teachers have established roots in the programme and have remained
for five or more years. This enhances the continuity of our course delivery and establishes a stronger
community presence in our partnerships.
Many of the remote communities that KiHS serves did not have any means of providing a secondary
education to students before partnering with KiHS. There have been other distance learning
programmes available, however, the success rate was generally dismal because students were
required to work independently (often without having gained the independent learning skills
required to be successful in that environment). With the addition of local community classrooms
and a mandatory attendance for students, KiHS has developed a model where the students are well
supported. They have the online instructor, the local teacher/mentor and, in many cases, a local
classroom assistant. This is in addition to the horizontal support they receive from other students in
their local classroom and in their online classroom environment. The programme aims to provide a
superior supported environment that fosters student involvement and success.
Additionally, many very gifted students were being left behind in their educational potential, as no
academic programmes were available in any of the First Nation schools in the NAN territory. KiHS
provides access to all three streams of Ontario’s curriculum in grades 9 and 10 leading to workplace,
college, and university level preparatory courses in grades 11 and 12. KiHS also has a special
education specialist who travels throughout the partner communities. This specialist is responsible
for developing accommodations and modifications that allow students who have never before
experienced success in an academic environment the opportunity to have success in a high school
programme. KiHS has also developed partnership with an adult learning programme in Thunder
Bay to allow many adults who did not have the opportunity to finish high school the chance to
succeed and achieve their Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD) through the Prior Learning
and Recognition (PLAR), a Ministry of Education initiative. Finally, KiHS has established a Co-op
Education programme where students are able to gain valuable skills in the community workplace
to help them move closer to a career choice while earning school credits in the process. As students
become aware of the skills needed and opportunities available in their community, they are in a
much better informed position to plan for a future in their community.
The effects that KiHS has had on its partner communities have been immeasurable. There are
additional opportunities for students to stay engaged in the formal educational process, reducing
the number of students previously found wandering the communities. KiHS focused on its grade 11
and 12 programme in 2008, and has since graduated 22 students. The programme added additional
senior courses in the compulsory areas because of a need recognised by the community partners.
Approximately 80% of these graduates have gone on to post-secondary institutions. The overall
success of KiHS has increased dramatically since it was first launched in 1999. While the initial pilot
year produced results similar to many of the other First Nation high school programmes with a 19%
successful completion rate, KiHS has shown a continual improvement and achieved a successful
completion rate of 55% for the 2009-10 school year (with some partner communities experiencing
rates above 80%). This is significantly higher than many other First Nation high school programmes.
Additionally, the retention rates in the online programme are reaching 90% in many communities,
with an average retention hovering at approximately 70% for the 2009-10 school year (retention is
measured as the percentage of students still enroled at the end of the course, regardless of grade,
compared to the students enroled at the beginning of the course). Enrolment continues to increase,
for example there were a record of 220 students active in KiHS during the 2009-10 school year.
KiHS continues to add programming for the ever-growing number of students in these remote
communities. For example, an outdoor component has been added to the grade 9 science course,
which will give students a chance to travel to a community on the Hudson Bay for one week to learn
about the ecology and biology of the area with the assistance of experts from the community. A
State of the Nation: K-12 Online Learning in Canada 17
student success teacher has also been hired to identify at-risk students earlier in the school year, and
to work with teachers to provide a plan and follow-up interventions to ensure these students have
the supports they need to succeed.
The First Nation communities in Ontario’s remote north had a unique need that was not being met
by traditional education programmes. Through the distributed model of KiHS, each small community
can have its own fully supported and effective high school with a network of highly trained and
motivated staff. Students are now able to remain in their own communities and access the same
high quality secondary education they would receive in larger centres, without having to leave the
community. Communities no longer have to worry about the challenges their youth traditionally had
to face, often unsuccessfully with grave consequences, when leaving the community to obtain their
provincially guaranteed education. Students are now able to experience all of the traditions of their
community, while getting their secondary education online through KiHS.
Blended Learning in
High School
Barb Brown and Ed Kosloski, Calgary
Catholic School District
The Calgary Catholic School District (CCSD) is the largest Catholic School District in Alberta situated
in a dynamic multicultural city. CCSD has been operating for 125 years, with 106 schools serving
45,000 students from kindergarten through grade 12 living in the city of Calgary as well as the
surrounding communities of Airdrie, Cochrane, Chestermere, and Rocky View. Calgary has the
highest Internet usage in any Canadian city with 89% of Calgarians surfing the Internet. Calgarians
have high expectations for integrating information and communication technologies (ICT) in
education and demand a world-class learning environment with programmes that prepare students
for the unknown occupations of the future.
Alberta Education is a provincial government ministry that provides funding and system-wide supports
for K-12 learning throughout the Province of Alberta. The Ministry is responsible for setting curriculum,
policies and standards; including technology in schools. Leading in the use of technology in teaching
and learning and innovative practices, Alberta has established ICT learning outcomes integrated across
curriculum areas (Alberta Education, 2000). Furthermore, jurisdictions in the province actively research
technology implementation and teaching practices, through projects, such as the Alberta Initiative for
School Improvement (AISI), as well as grant funded projects through the Ministry.
At the turn of the century, differentiated instruction was a central focus for professional learning
and growth in CCSD. At that time, the district initiated an AISI funding distributed learning
research project using the Desire2Learn® (D2L) learning environment to complement the district’s
focus on differentiated instruction and integrating digital technologies. The primary focus of the
distributed learning research project was to explore blended learning and student engagement. The
term “distributed learning” was selected to describe the project and capture the idea of making
provisions for learning in an integrated, efficient and individualised manner in order to meet the
diverse needs of today’s students. The project proved to be a catalyst for change in teaching and
learning practices in eleven high schools across the district (Brown, 2006; Fijal & Brown, 2006), and
has continued to evolve over the last decade beyond the original grant funded research initiative.
Even though a variety of learning options are now available to students, including online courses,
self-directed and self-paced courses, blended courses remain the most prevalent.
Blended learning in CCSD refers to courses that combine synchronous in-person classroom instruction
with asynchronous knowledge building utilising digital technologies outside of the classroom. For
example, a student may attend a high school class at a scheduled time during the day with a common
group of students. The class may be comprised of 30 students at one grade level scheduled for a
class with one teacher assigned to the class. The teacher may provide the students with the learning
plan, including the objectives, assignments and assessments. The class time may include a variety of
learning activities designed to engage students in learning through collaboration, co-creation and
dialogic exchanges.The digital learning environment enhances the traditional in-person classroom
experience by providing the teacher and students access to readings, allowing time to contemplate
questions, and a chance to participate in any pre-learning or preparation related activities prior to
class. During class time the digital learning environment may be used to access learning resources or
collaborate with peers, the teacher or other outside experts for inquiry based problems. In addition,
the digital learning environment can be a powerful knowledge-building tool after the class has
concluded when used to extend the classroom learning experience through continued collaboration,
reflection, feedback and the opportunity for learning outside of scheduled classroom hours.
Another example of blended learning that occurs in the CCSD might involve a group of 90 students
attending a scheduled class with three teachers assigned to the cohort. The students in the cohort
may be at different grade levels or have different levels of ability. The students choose from learning
activities during class time to meet their individual needs. In this case, the teachers may work
together to design the digital learning environment to provide differentiated learning resources,
scaffolded learning activities and leveled assessments based on the diverse needs of students in
the cohort. The digital learning environment provides opportunities for students to choose from
various learning opportunities and experiences. For example, students may participate in online
discussions or chats even when feeling uncomfortable or insecure about contributing to in-person
discussions and would rather utilise technology for expression and communications on their own
time and at their own pace. One teacher noticed that students were posting discussion questions
and homework issues at all hours of night and throughout the weekend. Teachers commented
that some students who would never raise their hands and respond to questions in class would
commonly share their opinions and thoughts in the online discussion forum. It was observed that
students, particularly those with language difficulties, appreciate having time to formulate responses
before sharing with the whole class. Learning resources, such as large print texts for visually impaired
students can be customised and discreetly released to students on an individualised basis. Other
multimedia learning resources, such as digital texts using text-to-speech software, podcasts, and
webcasts, can be repeatedly accessed by all students as needed. There was a case where a teacher
reported that a student was in the hospital and used the digital learning environment to keep in
touch with classmates, keep up with class work, and continue engaging in learning.
State of the Nation: K-12 Online Learning in Canada 19
Even though teachers agree that using D2L supports differentiated instruction (Brown, 2006), it
has been common throughout the project for teachers to express frustration with the misuse of the
digital learning environment. The pager tool in D2L is an example of a tool considered disruptive by
teachers. Some teachers noted students would utilise the pager to continuously communicate and
send messages to each other and disrupt class time. However, following the initial novelty of using
the pager tool, the teachers and students started to recognise the benefits in being able to send
pager messages either synchronously or asynchronously in order to discuss learning. Throughout
the research project, teachers have increasingly observed students utilising the digital spaces for
communications with their peers and teachers about learning.
In many larger institutions it is common to have course developers or designers build the digital
learning environment for the teachers and students. In CCSD the teachers are all considered digital
learning designers. From the onset of the research project, each school was allocated a 0.5 FTE
teacher to support the project and provide on-site and embedded professional learning at each
school. These school-based distributed learning teachers were trained on how to use the D2L
platform and how to build digital learning environments with a focus on differentiated instruction.
During their half-time of unassigned teaching, the distributed learning teachers provided mentorship
and immediate support to teachers in small groups and on a one-to-one basis in supporting the
integration of information and communication technologies and to meet the needs of individual
students and adapting to students’ diverse needs. The site-based support for teacher professional
learning through a mentorship model has proven a successful model for continued professional
learning and growth in schools. Administrators observed what was termed as a “ripple effect” of
collaboration and sharing best practice among teachers. Teachers that were initially reluctant to
embrace the digital learning environment started to recognise the benefits of using physical and
digital spaces as a means to foster relationships with students.
Student and teacher surveys were conducted annually throughout the project and consistently
showed high levels of satisfaction in the access to online resources (Fijal & Brown, 2006). The
distributed learning research project has yielded improved learning environments, especially for
students with exceptional needs. The following profile is an excerpt from a teacher’s anecdotal
records using a pseudonym to describe a student deemed at-risk of not completing high school that
benefited from the blended learning environment.
Student Profile: Chris was diagnosed with a developmental delay at an early age. He experiences
language difficulties and requires self-management aides. He needs help in promoting
independence. He continues to use assistive technology and has been using D2L to access,
organise, complete, and submit his work. He requires teacher assistant support and extra time
to complete assignments. Chris has been submitting more homework on a regular basis and
his grades have been improving since he started accessing the digital learning environment to
complement the classroom instruction.
During initial surveys conducted with students there was limited opportunity for students to
provide input or suggestions regarding their opinions or feedback about blended learning and
the digital learning environment. Once the student surveys were revised to allow for student input
through comment fields, it was recognised that an important voice was missing from the research.
An unintended finding from the survey data collected was the significance of student voice.
Consequently, students have advised educators to focus on building relationships and personal
networks, both in the physical and digital learning environments. Students want to be active
participants in meaningful knowledge building and in collaboration with others. Students want to be
engaged in purposeful inquiries and would like educators to embrace digital technologies for learning.
The CCSD distributed learning project started as a research initiative focused on differentiated
instruction and technology integration at the high school level. The initiative has progressed over
the last decade and blended learning, consisting of in-person and online learning, is now part of
the common learning landscape for both high school students and junior high students in the
jurisdiction. The D2L learning environment provides a rich tool kit for teachers in supporting blended
learning through the use of digital technologies for pre-class, in-class and post-class learning.
British Columbia’s Quality
Framework for Distributed Learning
Tim Winkelmans, e-Learning Programmes Unit
– British Columbia Ministry of Education
British Columbia implemented its new distributed learning (DL) legislation and policies in 2006 to
provide a quality, dynamic and engaging learning environment that all students in the province can
access. Most of the Boards of Education, who are responsible for delivering educational programmes,
wanted to operate their own DL schools. The Ministry of Education’s interest lay in ensuring that,
within such a decentralised model, DL schools were providing students with quality experiences. Also,
every student in grades 10 through 12 could choose to enrol in supplemental online courses without
local permission, putting even more pressure on the Ministry to emphasise quality.
The various elements within the DL quality framework for the 53 public DL schools are discussed in
more detail below. Independent (private) DL schools fall under separate legislation and are subject to
a different framework within the office of the Inspector of Independent Schools (although there are
significant synergies).
The first key decision to enhance quality was ensuring that DL schools fit into the same funding
formula as neighbourhood schools. Prior to 2006, DL schools received between 50% to 65% of
the normal funding allocation. In 2006, this rose to 100%, plus the Ministry granted eligibility for
a variety of educational supplements. This meant that DL schools could afford to move away from
reliance upon correspondence course markers towards engaged online teachers, and they could
develop and implement support services for special needs, aboriginal, and ESL students.
State of the Nation: K-12 Online Learning in Canada 21
The other essential decision was a new legislative requirement for each Board of Education
that wished to operate a DL school to have a special District Agreement with the Ministry. The
Agreement, which the Ministry may amend at any time, contains specific requirements for DL
schools to follow, in addition to general requirements of schools in legislation. For example, there
are specific provisions that:
prevent Boards from using public funds as incentives to attract enrolments;
require Boards to meet or exceed DL Standards;
obligate Boards to participate in measures such as standardised tests, satisfaction surveys,
and quality reviews;
require Boards to list their courses and programmes on the provincial learning portal,
LearnNow BC (;
prevent neighbourhood schools from denying secondary students their ability to choose
supplemental courses; and
require Boards to hire teachers with online learning experience or to provide sufficient DL
A copy of the generic Agreement is available at
Two documents communicate expected quality levels in instructional services, leadership practices,
and content:
Standards for K-12 Distributed Learning in BC (
Standards for Digital Learning Content in BC (
The first DL standards were published in June 2006. Development of the standards began with an
environmental scan: two working groups researched global standards and then chose a ‘made in
BC’ approach that included involvement from DL school educators, education content providers,
the post-secondary sector, and industry. The current versions are based on recent additional field
consultation development and new online learning standards from iNACOL, ISTE, and others.
Each instructional practice or leadership practice standard is a statement about a high-level
expectation accompanied by several observable supporting evidence statements that provide
guidance without being specific. An example follows:
The development of a sense of community among course participants is encouraged.
Supporting Evidence
Networking software is available to initiate and engender community.
Students have frequent opportunities to provide feedback on their learning experience as
well as peers. (p. 8)
The Standards documents provide expectations that guide the implementation and oversight of the
Agreement, but also provide a framework for DL school planning and Quality Review activities.
Quality Review
The Ministry of Education created a Quality Review process for DL schools that incorporates
participation, engagement, student success, and satisfaction. The model draws upon a community
of inquiry framework (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2000) and formative evaluation principles:
Ideally, formative evaluations are developed as partnerships that give all stakeholders a hand
in planning and helping conduct the evaluation. Explicitly framing a formative evaluation as a
collaboration among stakeholders can help in more ways than one. Practitioners are more likely
to cooperate with and welcome evaluators rather than feel wary or threatened—a common
reaction. In addition, practitioners who are invited to be partners in an evaluation are more likely
to feel invested in its results and to implement the findings and recommendations. (WestEd &
United States, 2008, p. 9)
The process begins with a DL school’s internal review. Documentation supporting the internal review
is based on the BC Distributed Learning Standards, research and growing descriptions of emerging
practice in DL. All schools are involved in a school planning process, and the internal review is
intended to complement the planning process for DL schools. The Ministry has created a guide
( to support schools with their internal review.
Quality Review Model
Student Success
(achievement, satisfaction & choice)
DL Standards Research Practice
Instructional & Leadership
Practices Model:
Applying Emerging Practice
Internal Review
(complements school planning)
Figure 1. Overview of the quality review model
State of the Nation: K-12 Online Learning in Canada 23
Each year, several DL schools are selected for an external review. Using primarily qualitative
methodologies, a small team visits the school to validate the internal review, observe instructional
and leadership practices, and provide recommendations to enhance programme quality. The review
team leader prepares a report with specific input from the DL school principal. The report serves as
a template for specific actions within the school, but also identifies promising or exemplary practices
that can be shared with other DL schools. After several months, the Ministry of Education asks the
school to provide a status report on the external team’s recommendations.
Achievement Data
The Ministry of Education operates a data warehouse that contains longitudinal student enrolment
and achievement information. Prior to 2006, however, the achievement information included only
standardised test results and final grades associated with secondary school graduation credentials.
Beginning with DL in 2006, the Ministry is now collecting course-level data. On a quarterly basis,
for each student in each course, schools provide the Ministry with enrolment date, completion date,
and final marks. For now, the data is shared only with the schools to assist them in planning and
improvement processes, but the information is also helping the Ministry create a knowledge base
that will shape future discussions with schools about their instructional programmes and implications
for their Agreements. Neighbourhood school data was added to the process in the 2008-09 school
year, so we will soon be able to respond to questions about comparisons between classroom and
online instruction. The various data warehouse tables include the Personal Education Number
assigned to each student, creating additional analysis opportunities connected to demographic, prior
achievement, and location data. Over the next few months, the Ministry of Education will be using
this data to revise other quality processes, but more importantly, to engage schools in focused and
deliberative discussions about their achievement results.
Satisfaction Survey
All BC schools are required to participate in an annual satisfaction survey that gathers opinions from
students, parents and school staff on achievement, human and social development, and safety. The
normal survey is intended to provide a source of information to identify current strengths, as well as
to determine where schools may need to focus improvement. However, the standard school survey
assumes classroom-based instruction in a school that is providing a student’s entire programme. In
2009, the Ministry implemented an online satisfaction survey that combined a few key questions
from the standard surveys with additional questions based on the Distributed Learning Standards.
Individual DL school principals can add their own questions and see their own data.
Distributed Learning Audit
The Ministry of Education’s Finance and Compliance Unit operates audit programmes for the various
public schools in the province. Legislation, specific programme policies, and important procedural
instructions are organised into published criteria designed:
to provide assurance to the ministry and school boards that ministry policy is being followed;
to promote compliance with ministry funding directives; and
to support the accurate allocation of education funds based on the funding formula.
Audit results may lead to funding adjustments and to special temporary provisions in the
DL Agreement.
During an audit, an external team spends several days at school and Board of Education facilities
reviewing enrolment records and supporting evidence. The audit criteria are reviewed regularly,
published on the Ministry of Education website (, and
distributed directly to DL schools. For distributed learning, the audit teams ensure that:
student enrolments meet eligibility guidelines;
teachers are certified;
teachers are supervising the educational programme; and
schools are following policies for approved learning resources.
All of the elements described above provide the BC school system with a quality improvement
toolkit for its public distributed learning schools. With these tools, we believe that quality is
improving but unevenly distributed between and among DL schools. However, the same tools are
becoming increasingly precise in showing where the extremes in variation are occurring, providing
insights into emerging and effective practice, and illuminating weak programmes that require
State of the Nation: K-12 Online Learning in Canada 25
National Overview
At present, there is some level of K-12 distance education in all thirteen provinces and territories.
The highest level of activity appears to be in British Columbia, which also has the most
comprehensive legislative and regulatory regime. The only province that does not have its own
K-12 distance education programme is Prince Edward Island, which relies upon programmes from
other jurisdictions (similar to the three northern territories). The only jurisdictions that continue
to maintain single province-wide systems are Newfoundland and Labrador and New Brunswick.
Finally other trends include a high level of district-based cooperation in the Provinces of Ontario and
Saskatchewan. The total K-12 student population in Canada for 2009-10 was just over 5.2 million.
Based on actual and projected enrolment data, the estimated number of student engaged in K-12
distance education was between 150,00 and 175,000.
Single provincial programme
Primarily district-based programmes
Combination of provincial and district-based
Use online learning programmes from other provinces
State of the Nation: K-12 Online Learning in Canada 27
Atlantic Canada
and Labrador
New Brunswick Nova Scotia
Atlantic Canada is the smallest geographic region of Canada, with all four provinces being the
smallest in the country. Atlantic Canada is also the only region where there are still strong provincial
programmes—with New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador having only a province-wide
programme, Nova Scotia having a high level of cooperation between the province-wide initiatives
and the individual district-based programmes, and Prince Edward Island having an underutilised
province-wide video conferencing programme. As the province-wide initiatives in these provinces
are managed directly by the individual Ministries of Education, there is little legislative oversight in
place to govern K-12 distance education. However, three of these four provinces have substantial
regulatory regimes in place (with Newfoundland and Labrador being the only province without
significant public regulation established).
Newfoundland and Labrador
Population – 508,990
Total Area – 405,212 km2
Population Density – 1.26 people/km2
Capital (Population) – St. John’s (100,646)
Number of K-12 Schools – 279 (2009-10)
Number of K-12 Students – 69,665 (2009-10)
Geographically speaking, Canada’s most easterly province—Newfoundland and Labrador—is
composed of two landmasses: the island of Newfoundland and the mainland portion of Labrador.
While only 20% of the population lives in the capital, approximately 60% of the population of the
province resides within a 90-minute drive of the capital.
K-12 Online Learning
Category Yes/No Comments
Province-led programme Yes
Other online programmes No
Provincial-level policy No
Online Programmes
K-12 distance education was introduced to the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador in 1988-
89, with the delivery of a single advanced mathematics course using a telematics or audiographics
delivery system. The initial course had an enrolment of 36 students from 13 rural schools (Barbour,
2005). By 1999-2000, this province-wide programme offered 11 courses to 703 students in
77 different rural schools, with an enrolment of 898 (Brown, Sheppard, & Stevens, 2000). This
programme began to be phased out in 2000-01 when the Centre for Distance Learning and
Innovation (CDLI) came into existence—based on the recommendation of a ministerial panel
(Sparkes & Williams, 2000). The CDLI began its curricular offerings 2001-02, with 10 courses field-
tested in 10 districts (i.e., one course per district) and a total of 200 student enrolments from 76
different rural schools. After the initial field test, the CDLI expanded its course offerings so that
students from all over the province could access any course. Over the past nine years, the CDLI
has increased its offerings to approximately 38 courses. Since 2005-06 they have had an annual
enrolment of approximately 1,500 students from around 100 different schools (e.g., 2007-08 –
1,787; 2008-09 – 1,616; 2009-10 – 1,481).
The CDLI utilises a combination of synchronous and asynchronous instruction for each of their online
courses. For the synchronous instruction, the CDLI has teachers that provide, depending on the
subject area, anywhere from 30% to 80% of the students’ scheduled time (which is 10-one hour
State of the Nation: K-12 Online Learning in Canada 29
periods over a fourteen day cycle) in synchronous instruction using Elluminate®. Participating schools
must align their schedules with the specific CDLI schedule for their region to ensure that students’
class time in their brick-and-mortar schools matches with the CDLI’s synchronous class times. The
asynchronous instruction is conducted using a course management system (Desire2Learn®).3
In addition to their high school offerings, the CDLI has ventured into providing online instructional
support to the lower grades. For example, Murphy (2009) described a project where the CDLI
provided a blended learning environment for four grade six French-language teachers located in one
urban and three rural schools. The blended learning environment allowed the teachers to pool their
resources while students completed classroom-based, along with synchronous and asynchronous
lessons online.
Finally, the CDLI continues to be the most researched K-12 distance education entity in Canada.
The CDLI has been one of the main research partners for the Killick Centre at Memorial University
of Newfoundland, which has released a series of research studies as a part of their federal grant. In
addition, independent researchers have consistently investigated the programme since it’s inception
(e.g., Barbour, 2007b, 2008; Barbour & Cooze, 2004; Barbour & Mulcahy, 2004, 2008, 2009; Cooze
& Barbour, 2005; Mulcahy, 2002; Mulcahy, Dibbon & Norberg, 2008).
Governance and Regulation
At present, the CDLI is not a separate school or entity. Rather it operates within the Planning and
Educational Programmes Branch of the Ministry of Education. It receives a block grant from the
provincial Government that funds the administration, overhead and course development activities
of the online programme. One of the items included in the CDLI overhead is the placement and
maintenance of computers and other support equipment that the CDLI provides to all of the schools
that participate in its programme. The CDLI also receives a direct allocation of teaching units from
the provincial Government to hire teachers for their online courses.
At this time there is no language in the Education Act related to K-12 distance education. There
are also no policies or regulation specifically related to K-12 distance education within the Ministry
of Education, although in response to the 2009 report the CDLI did indicate that work was being
done in this area (although there is no evidence that this work has been completed or made public
at this stage).
The Ministry of Education continues to track the method of delivery that students complete their
studies. This allows for comparisons of student performance between the students who take their
courses via distance education and those enroled in the face-to-face environment (e.g., Crocker,
2009). Data related to distance education enrolment are available through the K-12 School Profile
System, while data on student performance are available from the Ministry upon request.
3 Barbour (20 07a) provides an ex tensive description of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador and its rural nature, along with a history of the
development distance education, and a det ailed description of the Centre for Distance Learning and Innovation and its delivery model.
Lumsden School Complex was a rural all grade
school with a student body of approximately
120 students and a teaching staff of 15. The
students at Lumsden School Complex came
from Lumsden, Cape Freels and Deadman’s
Bay (approximately 15 kilometres north and
south). The three communities combined have
a population of approximately 950.
Because of the small enrolment this rural school
has always been involved with K-12 distance
education in the province of Newfoundland
and Labrador. In fact, the school was one of
the eleven schools involved in the original
audiographic pilot of Advanced Mathematics
1201 in 1988-89. The school participated
in each distance education programme the
province made available, including becoming
involved with the Centre for Distance Learning
and Innovation (CDLI) in 2000-01 when it was
first piloted.
Due to the school’s long-standing involvement
with distance education, former principal Andy
Gibbons explains that “the biggest problem
that we had years ago was with the equipment;
it wasn’t with the courses or the content. We
had so many break downs and so much time
that students lost that they were behind a lot
and they used to have to try and catch up. But
lately the problems with the equipment are
almost non-existent.”
Lumsden School Complex had an established
distance education room (approximately 5
meters from the school’s main office) for
students to complete their online studies. The
equipment, which included nine computer
workstations, audio headsets, an all-in-one
printer and a video-conferencing equipped
television—all provided by the CDLI, along with
technology and curricular resources that had
been collected over the years.
Students engage in their online courses in this
distance education room, supervised only by an
occasional visit from the school’s administrator
or one of the school’s teachers. “I usually
drop into the CDLI class two or three times a
day when they are online, just to make sure
that they are there and to see if they have any
problems, to ensure the equipment is working,
or to let the students know if there’s a test
coming up. The instructors usually email me
and ask if there’s any problem with assigning
a test for a certain date and I check with
the students. If it is no problem, I e-mail the
instructors back,” states Gibbons.
It was apparent the staff of this small rural
school was invested in supporting the students
engaged in the distance education programme.
As Gibbons describes, “That’s the only way it
can work; everybody’s got to be aware that
these students are a part of the school and the
CDLI is part of the school—it’s not something
separate from the school. I think this is probably
one of the reasons that this school is still here.
However, even with their extensive use of
distance education, in 2006-07 the students in
the high school grades were removed from the
school and those students began to be bussed
to another school located approximately 40 km
away. Lumsden Academy is now a K-9 school.
State of the Nation: K-12 Online Learning in Canada 31
Nova Scotia
Population – 939,531
Total Area – 55,283 km2
Population Density – 16.99 people/km2
Capital (Population) – Halifax (372,679)
Number of K-12 Schools – 102 (2008-09)
Number of K-12 Students – 133,134 (2008-09)
Nova Scotia is one of the four original provinces that formed Canada and has the second
highest population density in Canada, approximately 40% of the province’s population living
in the capital region.
K-12 Online Learning
Category Yes/No Comments
Province-led programme Yes
Other online programmes Yes
Provincial-level policy No Included in the Provincial Teachers’ Agreement
Online Programmes
Currently, there is a single province-wide online learning programme operated by the Government
of Nova Scotia—the Nova Scotia Virtual School (NSVS). The NSVS is responsible for providing central
course management platforms, while the eight school boards in the province are responsible for
providing the individual course content and the teachers who teach those courses. Two of these
school boards have created their own district-based online programmes (i.e., Strait Regional School
Board Virtual School and Chignecto-Central Virtual School), although students from any of the
school boards are able to enrol in courses offered by these two board-based programmes. A third
school board, the Conseil scolaire acadien provincial (CSAP)—the pan-provincial school board for
French first language students, actually has the longest history with K-12 online learning in the
province. CSAP uses both room-based video conferencing and the two online platforms used by
English school boards. CSAP also has a sharing arrangement for online programming from the
Province of New Brunswick. Over the past three years there have been approximately 650 students
per year enroled in the NSVS from the eight English-speaking school boards and the CSAP. Students
enroled in courses from the NSVS are usually also enroled in a brick-and-mortar school.
There is also a correspondence study programme (CSP) that began in 1920 and continues to this
day—although the Department of Education is currently in the process of transitioning these courses
to an online delivery format. At present there are approximately 1800 students and 2200 course
enrolments in CSP. Approximately half the students enroled in CSP courses are also attending a
public school; the other half are adult students or live outside of the province.
Governance and Regulation
Learning Resources and Technology Services, a Division of the Public Schools Branch of the
Department of Education, manages the distance education programmes in Nova Scotia. The delivery
of CSP courses is mostly self-funded from tuition fees, however, these fees are often paid for by
school boards, Department of Community Services, Department of Justice, Nova Scotia School
for Adult Learning, or other sources (as opposed to the students themselves). For the NSVS, the
Department funds the online learning platforms (i.e., Marratech
and Moodle
). The individual
student enrolment fees are typically provided as regular programme seats and are funded from
the per student allocation attributed to each school board. In addition, the Department provides
additional funding for 200 seats in online courses with a priority on students from small high schools.
There is currently no legislation specifically related to K-12 distance education in Nova Scotia,
however, there are 11 provisions included in the agreement between the Government of Nova
Scotia and the Nova Scotia Teachers Union. As a contract between the Government and teachers’
union, most of the provisions deal with teacher certification and workload issues. For example, all
distance education teachers must have provincial certification and be employed by one of the eight
school districts (49.01), must not infringe upon the teachers’ “marking and preparation time, lunch
periods, days pursuant to Article 25.05 [i.e., professional development, assessment, preparation,
and personal days], School Year, or other such times provided to classroom teachers in the school
(49.02), and must be scheduled during the school day (49.08).
The agreement states that the school board is responsible for ensuring that there is a plan in place
for student supervision, and that schools must appoint a distance education coordinator and
that these responsibilities shall be included as a part of that teacher’s overall teaching assignment
(although without outlining the specific responsibilities of this coordinator), or the principal must
assume these duties (49.03). The coordinator is responsible for ensuring that students have
a physical space to complete their distance education courses, supervision and submission of
assessments and assignments, maintenance of student records, communication with the distance
education teachers, and tutoring (49.04).
There are provisions that limit the size of synchronous classes to a maximum size of 22 or 25
students from up to five different school sites. If new technologies are to be used, those involved in
the distance education programme are required to meet to discuss updated maximum number of
students and schools, along with other delivery issues (49.06). School boards are required to provide
on-going professional development in distance education for all of those involved in the distance
education programme (49.07).
Lastly, the two final provisions relate to the creation of a “standing Distance Education Committee
consisting of two representatives from the Department of Education, two representatives from
the Nova Scotia School Boards’ Association and four representatives from the Union… to address
issues surrounding distance education” that meets at least twice a year and provides annual written
reports” (p. 100).
State of the Nation: K-12 Online Learning in Canada 33
Prince Edward Island
Population – 140,402
Total Area – 5,684 km2
Population Density – 24.7 people/km2
Capital (Population) – Charlottetown (58,625)
Number of K-12 Schools – 64 (2007-08)
Number of K-12 Students – 20,813 (2007-08)
Prince Edward Island is the smallest province in Canada, joined to the mainland portion of the
country by the Confederation Bridge (a 13 km long span from Borden-Carleton, Prince Edward
Island to Cape Jourimain, New Brunswick).
K-12 Online Learning
Category Yes/No Comments
Province-led programme Yes Video conferencing
Other online programmes Yes Programmes from other provinces
Provincial-level policy Yes
Online Programmes
Prince Edward Island does have a video conferencing system that is available for use for distance
education, although it appears that this system receives little use for this purpose. In addition to
the provincial video conferencing system, students in Prince Edward Island have the ability to access
some online courses offered by the New Brunswick Ministry of Education. During the 2009-10
school year there were 11 French-language students and 23 English-language students enroled in
eight online courses.
Governance and Regulation
There is no mention of distance education in the provincial Schools Act. However, in 2001 the
Ministry of Education issued Ministerial Directive No. MD 2001-05 establishing guidelines for the
use of distance education within the K-12 system. These provisions were superceded in August
2008 by Ministerial Directive No. MD 2008-05, which applies only to courses delivered during the
regular school day, broadly defines distance education, and outlines a series of beliefs about the
nature of distance education instruction. For example, personal interaction between teachers and
students is fundamental to the teaching and learning process, that teacher education programmes
should include instruction in distance education policies, programmes, and instructional strategies.
Additionally, it states that teachers must be Canadian certified, students must be supervised at their
local school while engaged in distance education, and distance education and supervisory teachers
should have those duties considered as part of their regular load.
New Brunswick
Population – 748,319
Total Area – 72,908 km2
Population Density – 10.26 people/km2
Capital (Population) – Fredericton (50,535)
Number of K-12 Schools – 322 (2009-10)
Number of K-12 Students – 106,394 (2009-10)
New Brunswick is the only officially bilingual province in Canada, with approximately a third of
the population of Francophone descent. The province’s three urban areas are responsible for
approximately 45% of the population.
K-12 Online Learning
Category Yes/No Comments
Province-led programme Yes One English / One French
Other online programmes No
Provincial-level policy Yes Policy documents
Online Programmes
There are two online learning programmes in New Brunswick, one for the Anglophone school
system and one for the Francophone school system, both of which use the same Ministry hosted
learning management system (LMS). The majority of distance education enrolments in the province
are from supplemental students. Enrolments in the English online learning programme continued a
downward trend in 2009-10, with only 1,677 students enroling in one or more courses (compared
with 2,010 in 2008-09 and 2,911 in 2007-08). The Ministry also allows classroom teachers to use
online courses with their face-to-face students. The number of students involved with this option
also decreased in 2009-10, with only 1,575 enrolments in the provincial LMS (compared to 1,933 in
2008-09 and 1,763 in 2007-08).
The number of students enroled in the Francophone distance education programme was 328 in
2009-10 (down from 701 in 2008-09 and 708 in 2007-08). This decline was largely due to the fact
that the Ministry had to reduce the number of distance education courses offered because of the
financial context.
Governance and Regulation
There remains no specific legislation that governs K-12 distance education in New Brunswick, and
the system continues to operate based on collaboration between the Ministry of Education and
individual school districts, and a Ministry published policy handbook.
State of the Nation: K-12 Online Learning in Canada 35
Belleisle Regional High School (BRHS) is situated
in scenic Springfield, Kings County. BRHS is
a combined middle and high school serving
students ranging from grade 6 to 12 in both
English and French Immersion programmes.
There are 35 teachers and teacher assistants
that strive to meet the needs of our students.
Our course offerings are diverse and provide
our approximately 310 students with a diverse
experience in Language Arts, Math, Science,
Humanities, to the Fine Arts and a rich
experiential skills-based Technology Education
programme that includes the trades and
computer-based online courses. Thanks to local
business and agency support, students can take
advantage of a Cooperative Education work
experience in their grade 12 year. Grade 6-8
students have a true middle school experience
that is holistic and active.
One aspect that has been particularly beneficial
is the role online learning plays in the rural
community, where school funding isn’t always
a priority. As an administrator at a rural school
for the past four years, it is clear that we would
be lacking in the diversity of courses and
opportunities for our students if online course
delivery was not available. With limited selection
of classroom-based programmes, distance
education has filled many of those gaps and it
has been vital that the New Brunswick Ministry
of Education maintains a vision that includes
online learning for our students.
Local facilitators work in conjunction with the
distance education teachers in monitoring
student progress and delivering curriculum
and technical support. The distance teacher
can communicate with the students via texting
and voice. If required, the distance teacher can
use whiteboard technology to demonstrate
concepts and testing. Assessment tracking is
enhanced where the distance teacher checks
in with the local facilitator in maintaining
control of student progress. Although these
students are kept accountable for their work
completion, those students who are not strong
independent workers may not keep up. Online
programmes are designed and packaged for
strong curriculum alignment, but they are not
always accommodating for those who are not
strong readers or require ongoing assistance.
Nevertheless, their delivery makes for some
dynamic learning outside the traditional
Online learning has contributed to the
academic life of our rural school community.
The variety of courses available online provides
options that simply don’t exist without the
distance education programme. It’s a level of
experiential learning in areas like Hospitality
and Tourism, Nutrition and Healthy Living, and
Digital Technologies. These courses bring to
the student a focus on alternative programmes,
as opposed to the more traditional academic
ones. As half of our students generally enter the
trades or other programmes at community or
technical college, experiential learning must be
provided and online programmes contribute to
this endeavour.
Central Canada
Central Canada is the most populated region of Canada. In fact, Ontario and Quebec comprise
almost two thirds of the population of Canada or approximately 20 million people or approximately
60% of the country’s population (and only about a quarter of the area of the country). The vast
majority of those people, around 17 million, live in the Quebec City to Windsor Corridora 1,200
km corridor running along the southern portions of both provinces that connects two ends of one
of the main routes of the Via Rail passenger service. The corridor is the most densely-populated
and heavily-industrialised region of Canada. The remainder of both provinces—or the northern
portions—are less populated and face many of the educational challenges one would expect in rural
While both Ontario and Quebec have primarily district-based K-12 distance education programmes,
their development to that stage was very different. In Ontario there had been a historic association
of K-12 distance education, and particularly K-12 online learning, to the district level and it has only
been recently that the Ministry has begun to play a more active role. However, in Quebec K-12
distance education had historically been based at the Ministry, and it is only in the past decade and
a half that it has been devolved to the district level. Although the main distance education providers
are still province-wide in scope.
State of the Nation: K-12 Online Learning in Canada 37
Population – 7,782,561
Total Area – 1,542,056 km2
Population Density – 5.63 people/km2
Capital (Population) – Quebec City (715,515)
Number of K-12 Schools – 2850 plus 48 CEGEPs (2005-06)
Number of K-12 Students – 1,052,960 plus 157,748 in CEGEPs
The second largest province in Canada—both in terms of size and population, Quebec is the
only French-speaking province in Canada. At present, approximately 80% of the population
report French to be their first language. Quebec is also home to Canada’s second largest city,
Montreal, which has a population of 3,814,738. Unlike the other provinces, secondary school in
Quebec is from grade 7 to 11, after which students typically attend a two or three year Collège
d’enseignement général et professionnel (CEGEP) to receive a Diploma of College Studies.
K-12 Online Learning
Category Yes/No Comments
Province-led programme No All three distance education programmes are
provincial in scope
Other online programmes Yes
Provincial-level policy No
Online Programmes
The first distance education programme in Quebec was a correspondence school for vocational
education in 1946. This programme was expanded several times, and when the responsibility for
distance education was devolved from the Ministry to the school boards a joint effort between
these two groups led to the creation of the Société de formation à distance des commissions
scolaires du Québec (SOFAD) in April 1996. SOFAD is a not-for-profit organisation tasked with the
development and production of distance-learning materials, that school boards utilise in their own
district-based programmes for adult students (i.e., students who have reached the age of 16 before
July 1 of the current school year). At present, there are:
40 school boards or consortia that offer only French-language distance education;
3 school boards that offers only English-language distance education; and
1 school board and 1 consortium that offer both French-language and English-language
distance education.
These school boards and consortia operate a total of 57 centres with a total of 45,264 enrolments
from 23,577 students in 2008-09; up from 38,450 enrolments in 2007-08, 37,217 enrolments in
2006-07, and 30,038 enrolments in 2005-06. A decade earlier, there were only 10,910 enrolments
in programmes using SOFAD courses (Saucier, 2009).
In 1999-2000, three English-speaking school boards in Quebec initiated the Distance Education
and Community Network. This distance education programme grew to include all nine English-
speaking school boards and became Learn Quebec in 2006. Learn Quebec provides a variety of
resources to any English-language students throughout the province. These resources include
asynchronous course content tutorials, live tutors available four evenings each week, online
professional development for teachers, and a synchronous distance education programme that uses
Wimba as a synchronous tool and SAKAI as a learning management system. Learn Quebec reported
approximately 300 students enroled in their synchronous distance education programme for 2009-
10 (although they have over 4,000 students who use their asynchronous tutorials).
As described earlier by Thérèse Laferrière in the Brief Issue Paper section, the Quebec Ministry of
Education funded the Écoles éloignées en réseau or Remote Networked Schools (RNS) initiative in
2002. Administered by the Centre francophone d’informatisation des organisations (CEFRIO), one
of the aims of the RNS initiative is to enhance the learning environments of small rural schools by
transforming them into blended learning environments. Laferrière et al. (2004) described that:
distance education has until now focused, above all, on an operating method with two features:
the students are linked to teachers in a centre far from them and the teachers produce material
to support independent learning on the part of students. The approach adopted by this pilot
project is different in that it does not seek to compensate for the absence or closing of a school
by allowing students to engage in distance education. Instead, it seeks to bolster the ability
to intervene of existing schools by networking them with other schools and resources. In this
project, the classroom and the school are inhabited by students and teachers. By networking
certain of their learning activities, we wish to broaden the ability of students and teachers to
achieve significant, quality learning.” (p. 10)
At present, there are more than twenty Francophone school boards representing approximately 70
schools and 90 teachers involved in the RNS initiative. The use of the initiative to connect schools
where one school has a teacher with a background in a highly specialised area (e.g., chemistry or
physics) to collaborate with a teacher in a rural school that is assigned to teach that course but is not
trained in that area does not happen. While this was a goal for the initiative during its early years,
issues such as organisational structure in the school system and the professional culture not being
collaborative-oriented, have prevented this from occurring; although it is something that the project
leaders are still open to exploring.
Governance and Regulation
The Education Act in Quebec makes no reference to distance education. As the school boards have
held the primary responsibility for distance education since 1995, policies and regulations related to
K-12 distance education also appear to be at the district level.
State of the Nation: K-12 Online Learning in Canada 39
In 1999 an e-learning project was initiated
to offer quality educational services to small
schools in English-language Boards throughout
the Province of Quebec. Even though online
learning was very popular in the eastern and
western provinces, it was practically unheard
of in the province of Quebec—even at the
post secondary level. Most recognised online
learning programmes utilise an asynchronous
delivery mode, which raised concerns since
research indicated that unless a student was
an independent learner they were usually
unsuccessful. A focus on secondary students,
along with political issues and the lack of
qualified online teachers for the Quebec
education programme, forced the project
organisers to look for an innovative online
alternative that was familiar to a “brick and
mortar school”. The team focused on a
synchronous model with asynchronous support
to deliver primarily mathematics and science
Learn Quebec has evolved somewhat since
the initial project, but it has retained both its
focus on math and science, and its synchronous
model consisting of a multi-point synchronous
VOIP system with white board applications.
Because of the platform’s ability with low
bandwidth, it is ideal for the restrictive
connectivity issues encountered by many of the
receiver schools. The addition of an open source
learning management system (i.e., SAKAI)
has provided supplementary communication
tools that enhance interaction outside of the
classroom and permit the transmission of
documents between students and teachers. This
enhanced model is also being used for evening
homework tutorials (i SOS Learn), which were
made available to all English students across
Quebec. All resources produced for online
classes have also been uploaded to a provincial
LMS, making the archived material accessible to
all educators and students.
Online teachers are experienced regular
classroom instructors, who receive ongoing
online professional development. The use of
constructivist’s techniques, which incorporates
best practices, encourages students to become
independent learners. For example, the use
of the screen grab and direct web access in
the platform bring current material directly to
the student. Math teachers, such as Audrey
McGoldrick and Peggy Drolet, combine
synchronous guidance with asynchronous
activities and research to work through math
problems online and during independent work
periods. Whiteboard tools are used to engage
the learner to solve these problems and work
with classmates. Science teachers, such as Andy
Ross, Kerry Cule and Tamara Vaughan, use video
to demonstrate labs and, in turn, have students
demonstrate their work to other learners.
Through these different activities, these online
teachers encourage students to learn but also
become knowledge providers as they work in
peer sessions and share their discoveries with
their classmates and their instructors.
In 2009 a research study was presented to the
Quebec Ministry of Education that examined
student performance from the previous nine
years. The results indicated that online students’
performance was comparable and, in many
instances, better than the provincial levels
and scores.
Population – 12,986,857
Total Area – 1,076,395 km2
Population Density – 12.07 people/km2
Capital (Population) – Toronto (2,503,281)
Number of K-12 Schools – 4935 (2008-09)
Number of K-12 Students – 2,070,736 (2008-09)
Ontario is the most populated and most densely populated province in Canada. The Golden
Horseshoe has a population of 8,102,163, while the National Capital region has another 1,451,415
people. Excluding these regions, the population density falls to only 3.3 people/km2.
K-12 Online Learning
Category Yes/No Comments
Province-led programme No
Other online programmes Yes Both public and private
Provincial-level policy Yes
Online Programmes
Ontario was one of the first provinces in Canada to establish district-based online learning
programmes—with the Avon Maitland Distance Education Centre being the first programme in
Ontario in 1994-95. Since that time many of the school boards in the province have established their
own programmes, and 20 of these school boards have come together to form the Ontario eLearning
Consortium (OeLC). OeLC is designed to allow its school board members to work together to
maximise their online offerings by sharing course offerings, resources and students. During the
2009-10 school year, the OeLC had 9,695 enrolments (up from 6,276 in 2008-09).
While the OeLC has three Catholic school boards as members, recently the Catholic school boards
have also created their own Ontario Catholic eLearning Consortium (OCeLC). The purpose of this
second organisation “is to provide equity of access for Catholic secondary students to take [online]
secondary credits developed and taught by Catholic teachers.” The OCeLC does have an agreement
to share students, however, they do not waive the required course fee like the OeLC does.
Finally, since 2001 the 12 French-language school boards in the province have also cooperated to
offer distance education to their students through the Consortium d’apprentissage virtuel de langue
française de l’Ontario. The Consortium, which falls under the same regulations as the two English-
language programmes, utilises a primarily asynchronous delivery model. However, the school boards
have made the decision that those assigned to teach online do so in a full-time capacity, meaning
that students are able to contact their teacher via a 1-800 number or using synchronous tools at any
State of the Nation: K-12 Online Learning in Canada 41
time during the school day. The Consortium reported almost 1300 successful completions during the
2009-10 school year, with only a 4% failure rate.
The total enrolments in the provincial LMS for 2009-10 were 24,333 students. This does not include
students engaged in online or blended learning offered by school boards through their own LMSes.
In addition to the public school offerings, there are three private K-12 online learning programmes:
Virtual High School (Ontario), Ottawa Carleton e-School and Keewaytinook Internet High School. At
present, there are over 4,700 students enroled in private online schools in the province (i.e., VHS(O)
– 3143; OCeS – 1340; KiHS – 220).
Governance and Regulation
There is no mention of distance education or online learning in the Education Act in Ontario.
However, the Ministry of Education conducted a survey of existing distance education courses in
2004 and consolidated content into a single learning management system (LMS) maintained by the
province in 2005-06. During the course development process, the Ministry created a standardised
model and each lesson had two sets of evaluations: one for online delivery and one for face-to-
face delivery. The online courses are housed in the provincial LMS, while the face-to-face version is
made available through the Ontario Education Resource Bank to any teacher, student, or parent of a
participating board.
In 2006, the Ministry released an E-Learning Strategy, which school boards are required to follow
if they wanted to access the free curriculum and technical support provided by the Ministry. The
E-Learning Strategy includes a policy document outlining specific requirements for the individual
school boards in three areas: policies for board delivery of e-learning programmes under the
Service Level Agreement, acceptable use policies, and conditions of use policies. The E-Learning
Strategy, along with the accompanying policy document and Service Level Agreement, describes the
responsibilities and restrictions placed on school boards. The responsibilities for the Ministry, school
boards, individual schools, and online teachers primarily describe who is supposed to provide what
services and how those services should be provided. In some instances the Ministry requirements
are quite restrictive (e.g., the provincial LMS cannot be used for blended learning or professional
development). Many school boards have chosen to use the provincial LMS and also maintain their
own LMS for these other purposes.
School boards that agree to follow these policies are permitted to use this content and the LMS free
of charge with their own students. However, unless a prior agreement has been made (e.g., the
OeLC members), they are required to charge a fee of $640 to students from other school boards
who enrol in their courses.
Finally, at their 2010 annual meeting, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (one of
the four main unions representing teachers in the province) adopted a policy regarding distance
education stating, among other things, that they believe that “the Ministry of Education should
ensure that all students in publicly-funded schools should have equal access to online credit courses,
including but not limited to covering the cost of online credit courses for low-income students and
making available computers, modems and Internet access” (p. 29).
Ottawa Carleton e-School enables students
to study online in more than 50 high school
courses online. With flexible start dates,
students can register for courses on a
continuous basis throughout the year. This
flexibility enables them to study courses that
may not currently be available to them in the
traditional classroom, and to work at their own
pace and schedule. All of the high school credits
earned at e-School count toward the Ontario
Secondary School Diploma in the same way as
a credit earned in a traditional classroom. Some
students use our courses to get ahead, others
to make-up a course, and some to get a course
otherwise not available to them.
e-School courses also fill a need for students
who cannot attend classes in a traditional high
school setting. Whether it is due to physical or
psychological barriers, the pursuit of athletics,
an early career in the arts, or simply the choice
to homeschool, students find e-School courses
offer them the flexibility they need. One of
the principals of e-School, Annette Levesque
explains that parents and the school “ensure
that the student will have adequate support
throughout their course. Online learning offers
a valuable alternative learning opportunity for
students; the ability to self pace through their
course, learn one concept before moving on
to the next, and the ability to choose the hour
of the day that is most conducive to effective
learning for the student. However it is important
to recognise that the greater the individual
needs of a student (academic or physiological/
psychological), the greater the student support
that is required in order to ensure that student
experiences academic success.
Sometimes, working at one’s own pace means
slowing down to fully understand a concept
before moving on to the next area of study.
“The biggest benefit from eLearning is the
flexibility that students receive. They are able
to work at their own pace and spend more
time on concepts that they are having more
difficulty with prior to continuing to the
next cumulative unit of study. Having a solid
understanding of each concept as it presented,
increases the chances of student success as the
curriculum progresses in difficulty. “E-learning
is convenient. It fits my scheduling needs. I can
learn at my own pace,” said Nicholas Harris.
Harris is among one of more than 6,000
students who have earned credits through
Ottawa Carleton e-School since its inception.
“Students are preparing themselves to work
in an environment which is rapidly expanding
into everyday living. Students will complete
their e-School course aware of their abilities
to organise, plan and effectively implement
personalised learning in the online environment.
A skill that is going to be key going into their
post-secondary education or even directly into
the workforce,” concluded Levesque.
State of the Nation: K-12 Online Learning in Canada 43
Western Canada
The Western Canada region has the second highest population of any region, with larger cities
such as Vancouver, Victoria, Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Regina, and Winnipeg. However, the
non-urban areas of each of these provinces—particularly the northern portions—face the same
geographic challenges that you would expect in any jurisdiction with a low population density. In
the past, all four provinces in Western Canada have had strong centralised K-12 distance education
initiatives. British Columbia was the first to move to a more decentralised approach, followed by
Saskatchewan in the past year. While Alberta and Manitoba still have active province-wide K-12
distance education programmes, both provinces have significant district-based activity. In Alberta’s
case this has been through the creation of competing district-based programmes, while in Manitoba
the provincial initiatives are administered at the district level.
The Western Canadian provinces have also been the most active in establishing legislative and
regulatory regimes to govern K-12 distance education. British Columbia has led the way in this area,
with the longest established and most comprehensive system to manage K-12 distance education.
Both Manitoba and Alberta are currently engaged in a consultation process designed to establish
new policies to govern K-12 distance education in their jurisdictions.
Population – 1,213,815
Total Area – 649,950 km2
Population Density – 1.87 people/km2
Capital (Population) – Winnipeg (633,451)
Number of K-12 Schools – 686 (2009-10)
Number of K-12 Students – 196,073 (2009-10)
Manitoba is one of three Prairie Provinces (all of which are roughly the same geographic size). The
capital region contains over 60% of the provincial population, with a population density of 131
people/km2. The remainder of the province has a density of only 1.24 people/km².
K-12 Online Learning
Category Yes/No Comments
Province-led programme Yes
Other online programmes Yes Uses province learning management system and course
Provincial-level policy Yes Currently under review
Online Programmes
In Manitoba, distance learners continue to be supported with three options: Independent Study
Option (ISO), which is print-based delivery; Teacher Mediated Option (TMO), which utilises audio
conferencing; and Web-Based Course (WBC) Option or online delivery.
The Ministry of Education, or Manitoba Education is directly responsible for the ISO and TMO
distance education options. The ISO provides school-age and adult learners access to print-based
distance learning courses from grades 9 to 12. Learners complete courses independently at their
own pace and have access to a tutor/marker via e-mail and telephone, with some beginning to
utilise web conferencing tools, such as Elluminate®. The operation of ISO is funded by Manitoba
Education; however students pay a registration fee for a course.
The TMO provides school-age and adult learners access to print-based distance learning courses
supplemented with audio teleconference classes hosted by an instructor at scheduled times during
the school day. TMO courses are available to grades 9 through 12 students attending a school or an
adult learning centre. It should be noted that Manitoba Education is currently experimenting with
using the province’s learning management system (LMS) and web-based synchronous tools in the
TMO delivery model. The TMO is self-funded, where one host school division collects and holds
student registration fees from other schools/school divisions, which are then used to pay instructors.
Participating schools and school divisions use funds from their per-pupil block grant/direct allocation
State of the Nation: K-12 Online Learning in Canada 45
to pay the registration fee for TMO courses. Manitoba Education is responsible for the course
development, and the administration and implementation of the TMO programme including the
recruitment of 10 instructors.
In a model similar to the one found in Ontario, the WBC Option provides schools and teachers
access to the courses developed by Manitoba Education, along with use of the provincial LMS,
to manage their own online or blended learning programmes. The WBC option operates with
Manitoba Education taking responsibility for course development, teacher training and support, as
well as costs of running and supporting the learning management system required for development
and implementation. Schools are responsible for implementing WBCs and therefore costs related
to implementation (i.e., hiring or allocation of teachers), are covered through the regular per-pupil
block funding from the province.
Finally, where demand exists and resources permit, the Bureau de l’éducation française (a division
of Manitoba Education) has developed ISO and WBC courses for students registered in the Français
and French Immersion programmes. This offer of distance learning courses in French is occasionally
augmented by courses that may be required by students but are not available in French in Manitoba.
In this case, students will be registered in courses offered by another Canadian jurisdiction. However,
since no policy exists regarding access to out-of-province courses, each case is looked at individually.
Manitoba Education maintains enrolment figures for all three options. In the 2009-10 school year
there were approximately 3400 enrolments for ISO, approximately 530 for TMO, and approximately
4,000 students for WBC. Overall, there were about 8,000 student enrolments in distance education
in Manitoba in 2009-10 (down from approximately 8,500 enrolments in 2008-09).
Governance and Regulation
Currently, Manitoba Education is in the process of reviewing policies related to distance learning
in the province. The original policy document was written in 2000 and was accompanied by a
document outlining a peer review process for new course development. Both were out of date, and
the Distance Learning Unit and the Learning Support & Technology Unit of Manitoba Education are
working on renewal of the policy document so it better reflects the current situation in Manitoba,
and addresses all three distance learning options. The previous policy only addressed web-based
delivery (distributed learning was the term used in 2000). In 2008, Manitoba Education hosted two
forums seeking input from educators, school, and division administrators on distance learning in the
province. The policy review committee met several times during the past two years to work on the
draft document, supporting documents and handbooks for each of the three options.
The only reference in the Public Schools Act regarding distance education is that the Minister of
Education can approve courses of study, including correspondence and other courses. Manitoba
Education has issued other regulatory and policy documents, along with handbooks for each of the
three distance learning options (these handbooks are also being revised currently through the review
process described above).
The Wapaskwa Virtual Collegiate (WVC) is a
virtual high school servicing the First Nations
communities within Manitoba. WVC was
established under the Education Partnerships
Programme in 2009, funded by the federal
Department of Indian and Northern Affairs,
as a consortium project for all Manitoba First
Nations. The need for WVC was identified by
the Education Directors of the Manitoba First
Nations, and the online school began delivering
courses, as a part of an initial pilot project, in
the spring of 2010.
There are 19 First Nations schools providing
grades 9-12 courses to students seeking to meet
the graduation requirements in the Province of
Manitoba. In most locations, high schools are
unable to offer a full complement of courses,
primarily due to insufficient staffing and high
costs associated with courses in the sciences.
These limitations require First Nations schools
to offer their courses in a specific sequence in
two or three year rotations. With limited ability
to repeat courses, particularly in grade 12, it
often hinders a student’s ability to graduate on
schedule. Without the capacity for students to
have a second chance to take these courses,
the graduation rates cannot achieve parity
with those of larger schools. Additionally, the
unavailability of trade prerequisite courses
places the students in an economically
disadvantaged position.
The principal purpose of the WVC is to
ensure equal opportunity for success for First
Nations learners. With the support of and in
partnership with Credenda Virtual High School
(in Saskatchewan) and Manitoba Department
of Education, the WVC acts as an e-learning
service provider to First Nations operating K-12
schools in Manitoba. The experience of being a
novice e-learning institution over the past year
has been a challenging one, as WVC played
dual roles as both course developer(s) and
online teacher(s). As course developers, the
task was to provide an interactive programme
for a blended presentation. The programme
was required to develop courses that provided
engaging learning opportunities, through links
to online learning activities and assessment
that appealed to the different learning styles
of students. These learning options needed
to be utilised by the instructor(s) during
synchronous sessions on Elluminate® and by
the student(s) using the asynchronous material
on the Desire2Learn® management system. As
instructors, the most important information
gained through the initial pilot course was the
need to build a strong relationship between the
student and instructor. WVC was fortunate to
have opportunities to meet the students and
visit them at their local schools. Providing a
variety of opportunities for feedback to students
in the blended programme was essential for
establishing that positive working relationship.
For example, they used chat, discussion boards,
e-mail and verbal communication during the
daily synchronous Elluminate® sessions.
Although WVC was successful at providing
assessment feedback in a timely manner, our
greatest challenge was encouraging students
to complete assignments in a timely manner.
The staff and students look forward to their
second round of piloting, having survived the
many challenges of this new experience during
its first year.
State of the Nation: K-12 Online Learning in Canada 47
Population – 1,023,810
Total Area – 651,900 km2
Population Density – 1.57 people/km2
Capital (Population) – Regina (179,246)
Number of K-12 Schools – 719 (2009-10)
Number of K-12 Students – 159,818 (2009-10)
Saskatchewan is the middle of the three Prairie Provinces. While Regina is the capital, Saskatoon is
the largest city in the province, with these two cities representing 40% of the population.
K-12 Online Learning
Category Yes/No Comments
Province-led programme Yes Some print-based delivery.
Other online programmes Yes
Provincial-level policy No
Online Programmes
Historically, Saskatchewan has had a system of K-12 distance education much like Manitoba where
the Ministry was responsible for the delivery of courses through online, televised via satellite, and
print-based courses. However, in 2009-10 the Ministry devolved the responsibility for distance
education to the school divisions. As the Ministry had worked extensively to ensure that teachers,
schools and school divisions were able to build their own capacity to provide distance learning most
of the 29 school divisions were operating some sort of distance education programme. Sixteen of
these programmes also provided courses or spaces to students outside of their own school through
the Saskatchewan Distance Learning Course Repository. During the 2009-10 school year there were
3,591 course enrolments from 2650 distinct students. At present students can enrol in any one of
71 courses that are available in print-based, blended, online asynchronous, online synchronous and
televised synchronous formats.
Finally, the Ministry undertook considerable work in 2009-10 to ensure that print delivery continued
to be available for students who could not, for whatever reason, access courses online.
Governance and Regulation
The only reference to distance education in the Education Act is related to the Technology
Supported Revolving Fund, which indicates that it is to be used “to provide educational courses to all
areas of Saskatchewan through the use of distance-education technology.” This section is no longer
relevant with the devolution of distance education services from the Ministry.
Credenda Virtual High School is a First
Nations online school that uses Elluminate® to
deliver primarily synchronous learning. Since
2005 Credenda has grown to accommodate
approximately 500 eStudents over the school
year, both First Nations and Non-First Nations,
from around the Province of Saskatchewan.
Our approach to online learning is a team effort
for eStudents that provide built in supports
from Credenda in such areas as eTeacher daily
instruction and encouragement, easy access
to technical support and help desk personnel,
guidance counseling services, and administrative
supports combined with the on-site teacher
interaction for moral support and accountability.
eStudents have regularly scheduled classes
daily in an online classroom setting with their
eTeacher. Each course is structured with a
common template for achieving learning
outcomes, which is hosted on our servers
with our learning management system,
Each of the teacher’s experiences are unique to
the individual teacher. Depending on the level of
interaction they insist upon with their eStudents,
each experience is different. However, it should
be said that it takes a very special teacher to
teach online. It is not a matter of transferring
regular brick-and-mortar pedagogy into an
online setting. Credenda eTeachers say this is
the hardest they have worked in years, because
it requires so much more preparation for their
daily classes. The challenge is engagement. In
the face-to-face setting, a teacher can observe
whether a student has their head on the desk
and is having a snooze, but online a student
may log on and be doing other things. That
is why the on-site teacher is so critical to
ensure students are on task. Credenda requires
participating First Nations schools to have a
site teacher, who is a qualified teacher that
supervises or monitors students when they
are taking their online courses from Credenda.
Additionally, eTeachers ask more questions
of their eStudents to determine whether an
eStudent is listening and involved in the class.
They use a lot of online Web 2.0 resources for
student assignments. eTeachers spend a great
deal of time following up with students. If an
eStudent is absent, they are referred to the
Principal and Guidance Counselor who follow
up with the eStudent and on-site eTeacher.
Many eStudents have commented that
Credenda is a school that cares for students.
The school motto is “Be the Change you Want
to See” and, as such, Credenda organises
charity drives and offers a Social Responsibility
course for free, as well as a Leadership course.
The school feels that equipping students
academically is very important, but equally
as important is equipping them for life. So
Credenda gets involved in their lives and reaches
out to students struggling with personal issues
and tries to provide the supports they need.
Academically, Credenda has high expectations
that are outcomes driven. To achieve these
outcomes, Credenda utilises a mastery learning
approach. The school also has monthly
eStudent Assemblies where they feature a
career opportunity and connect it with their
online learning outcomes. The intent is to make
learning meaningful.
State of the Nation: K-12 Online Learning in Canada 49
Population – 3,632,483
Total Area – 661,848 km2
Population Density – 5.49 people/km2
Capital (Population) – Edmonton (730,372)
Number of K-12 Schools – 2,128 (2009-10)
Number of K-12 Students – 585,397 (2009-10)
Alberta is the most western, most populated, and largest of the three Prairie Provinces. The
metropolitan regions surrounding the cities of Edmonton and Calgary represent approximately
60% of the population. Alberta is the only province in Canada that has charter school legislation—
although there are no cyber charter schools in operation at this time.
K-12 Online Learning
Category Yes/No Comments
Province-led programme No
Other online programmes Yes
Provincial-level policy Yes Changes currently under review.
Online Programmes
At present there are over 20 K-12 distributed learning programmes in Alberta. Distributed learning
is a flexible approach to any learning that is purposefully designed to allow teachers, students, and
learning and teaching resources in the regular classroom setting or in different, non-centralised
locations, to interact while separated by time and/or place for some or all their learning activities.
Distributed learning, therefore, encompasses all forms of K-12 distance education in Alberta. There
is a single province-wide programme administered by the Pembina Hills Regional School Division,
the Alberta Distance Learning Centre (ADLC). ADLC offers courses in a variety of formats (e.g.,
print, online, and blended formats), and manages the Vista Virtual School and Centre francophone
d’éducation à distance. In 2008-09, the ADLC had 28,338 course enrolments at the secondary level
and 6,320 enrolments at the elementary and junior high levels.
In addition to this province-wide programme, there is also a series of district-based programmes
supported by the various public and Catholic school districts in the province (and note that Alberta
is a province that has publicly funded Catholic school districts). These include Argyll Centre, Aspen
View Virtual School, Battle River Online, Buffalo Trail Students Online, Golden Hills Virtual School,
Holy Family Cyber High School, Innovative Learning Services, InterEd, Peace Academy of Virtual
Education, Revelation Online, Rocky View Virtual School, School of Hope, St. Gabriel Cyber School,
St. Paul’s Academy Centre for Learning@Home, among others.
Finally, there is an aboriginal focused online school—SunChild E-Learning Community.
Governance and Regulation
At present, the School Act includes the following provisions related to distance education:
Division 4 – Section 39. (3) The Minister may make regulations:
(e) providing for correspondence courses and the fees to be charged in connection with them;
(f) governing registration in, the fees to be charged for registration in and the operation of
private correspondence courses and private tutoring institutions that offer correspondence
courses or tutoring in the same or substantially the same subjects as those offered in schools.
In addition, Alberta has sections in their annual Guide to Education related to distributed learning
and online delivery that outline some specific requirements primarily related to the amount
of required instructional time. It also advises school authorities that wish to undertake online
programmes that they will need to consider:
how student attendance is to be defined; the role of parents in instruction, assessment and
supervision of student work; staffing levels; time frames for student access to the instructional
expertise of teachers; student evaluation practices; requirements for programme access by
students living outside Alberta; programme decisions; e.g., self-paced or teacher controlled,
synchronous or asynchronous; how to deliver all outcomes of Alberta programmes of study;
provision for writing achievement tests and diploma examinations; programme and teacher
evaluation; how to provide alternative forms of programme delivery for non-resident students
who are experiencing difficulty in the online environment (Government of Alberta, 2010, p. 65).
In 2007, the Ministry of Education began a review of K-12 distance education in the province with
the goal of developing a Distributed Learning Strategy. To date there has been a broad consultation
process that has included 1774 responses to an online survey, 60 interviews, 28 focus groups, and
21 site visits. However, the development of this Distributed Learning Strategy was later subsumed by
a larger initiative.
In June 2010, the Ministry of Education released the Inspiring Action on Education discussion paper.
This document, among other things, called for a system of education where teachers were skilled in
the design and delivery of instruction “face-to-face, online, and other non-traditional environments”
(p. 24). Essentially, the vision outlined would create a school system where students, teachers and
administrators were all comfortable with education being delivered with or without technology in
a variety of delivery models. The public consultant process is still on-going, however, action on this
vision is expected to occur in Spring 2011.
State of the Nation: K-12 Online Learning in Canada 51
British Columbia
Population – 4,419,974
Total Area – 944,735 km2
Population Density – 4.68 people/km2
Capital (Population) – Victoria (78,057)
Number of K-12 Schools – 1976 (2009-10)
Number of K-12 Students – 649,952 (2009-10)
British Columbia is the most westerly province in the country, as well as the largest and most
populace of the Western Canadian provinces. The largest city in the province is Vancouver, which is
also the third largest in Canada, and the greater Vancouver region has approximately 2,300,000. If
you exclude the greater Vancouver region and the metropolitan Victoria area, the population density
of the province drops to 2.1 people/km2.
K-12 Online Learning
Category Yes/No Comments
Province-led programme Yes
Other online programmes Yes 53 public & 12 independent
Provincial-level policy Yes
School Act, Sections 3.1 & 75 (4.1)
Distributed Learning Policy
Independent School Act, Section 8.1
Online Programmes
The primary distance education programmes, or distributed learning schools (as they are referred to
in the province), are at the district level. At present there are 53 public distributed learning schools
and 12 independent (or private) distributed learning schools. LearnNowBC is a web portal and single
point of entry to information about distributed (online) learning in British Columbia for students,
parents and educators. This one-stop educational portal provides access to choices and free services
such as tutoring, advising, homework help, etc. for learners of all ages. There is a searchable course
database that lists courses from all 53 distributed learning schools. In 2009-10, there were 71,405
unique students enroled in one or more courses through distributed learning in British Columbia.
This has increased from 59,345 students in 2008-09, 48,941 students in 2007-08, and 33,022
students in 2006-07.
Open School, previously supported with Ministry of Education funding and now operated on a
cost-recovery model by another Ministry, provides provincial content and online hosting services to
Boards without the capacity or desire to manage their own.
Governance and Regulation
The legislative language in the School Act, 2006 allows for a student engaged in distributed learning
to enrol in educational programmes falling under multiple jurisdictions (or boards of education—see
section 3.1 of the School Act), and that any school district wishing to establish a distributed learning
school can do so “only with the prior agreement of the minister” (see section 75 (4.1) of the School
Act). The Independent School Act, 2006 contains similar language concerning the establishment
of distributed learning schools “only with the prior agreement of the minister” (see section 8.1).
As such, these agreements between the Ministry and the school districts or independent schools,
combined with policy, serve as the main governance documents for distributed learning in British
In addition to the distributed learning agreements between the Ministry and the individual school
districts, the Ministry also has a series of policy documents that outline the regulations that
distributed learning schools must follow. The key features of these regulations are:
boards of education are responsible for distributed learning;
boards must use BC certified teachers;
students taking distributed learning must meet the same course requirements as any other
it must be tuition free;
it must provide appropriate support within a coordinated province-wide distributed learning
courses taken through distributed learning are equivalent to the same course taken in a
classroom; and
students enrol at the school of their choice, not through the Ministry.
Links to all of the policy documents, along with the general agreements between the Ministry and
school districts are available on the Ministry’s website.
Since 2006, distributed learning is funded on a course-based model, and pro-rated based on who
is delivering the courses. Each full course is considered equivalent to 1/8 FTE and a normal FTE is 8
courses. For example, if a student takes 2 courses from a virtual school and 6 courses from a brick-
and-mortar or neighbourhood school. The virtual school would get 2 courses of funding (1/4 FTE)
and the other school 6 courses (3/4 FTE). However, it should be noted that students are not capped
at 1 FTE. A neighbourhood school can provide support for students at their school engaged in
distributed learning and receive a “DL Support Block” equal to 1/8 of the FTE funding. For example,
if a student takes 7 courses at his neighbourhood school, which also provides him with a support
block, and 1 online course from a virtual school. The neighbourhood school would get 1 FTE
funding and the online school would get 1/8 FTE funding. Neighbourhood schools that provide this
school-level support are still capped at 1 FTE.
The responsibility for quality assurance falls upon the Ministry, which is undertaken through the
use of compliance audits and quality review site visits that combine a series of quantitative and
qualitative measures. This process was described earlier, in the Brief Issue Paper written by Tim
Winkelmans from the e-Learning Programmes Unit of the Ministry of Education.
State of the Nation: K-12 Online Learning in Canada 53
Vancouver Learning Network Secondary
(VLN-S) is a distributed learning programme
of the Vancouver Board of Education, serving
students in British Columbia and, in particular,
urban students who ordinarily reside in the
Greater Vancouver area. It is currently the
largest virtual school programme in the
province, with approximately 8,000 course
registrations annually. VLN-S is centrally located
within the host district as well as within the
Greater Vancouver region. This has facilitated
accessibility for students, who occasionally
attend the school to meet with their counselors
and teachers, write required course and
provincial exams, and participate in an array
of optional activities—tutorials, workshops,
labs, fitness testing and field trips offered to
stimulate interest and engagement as well as
fulfill aspects of course learning outcomes.
The secondary programme serves grade
8-12 level students who are school age or
adults. The majority of VLN-S students are
supplemental. These students frequently
cite flexibility and choice as their reasons for
choosing to take a course at VLN-S. VLN-S
also has many students, studying full-time or
part-time, who are no longer registered in a
neighbourhood school. These students choose
to complete high school graduation through
VLN-S, and often require greater flexibility
than a face-to-face school is able or willing
to provide. From special needs to special
circumstances, these students seek a highly
individualised educational plan and customised
timelines that allow them to work at a pace
that meets their needs.
As VLN-S is a twelve month school, students
are able to start and finish courses at any time,
as well as access their education programme
from any location they may be, whether in the
same building, a few blocks away or on the
other side of the globe.
The teaching staff at VLN-S typically doubles
in the course of a year, starting with a core
group of teachers in September, with new
teachers added throughout the year as
enrolments continue to rise. Teaching at VLN-S
is organisationally demanding. As students start
and finish at different times, teachers never
have a class of students who are working on
the same lesson at the same time. Instruction
at VLN-S is largely asynchronous, however, the
teachers build core synchronous experiences—
both online and face-to-face - that students
may participate in irrespective of where they
may be in the course curriculum.
For students, VLN-S offers educational
experiences that are aligned with their use
of communications and technology. Most
students learn of VLN-S by “word of mouth”
—in the broad definition, by telling friends in
their social networks. After taking one course,
many students return for additional courses, as
they are drawn to the freedom that is gained
in school timetabling and the ability to work
at their own pace. Learners are increasingly
seeking quality, flexible learning experiences
and making more informed choices with
respect to their education.
3.4 Northern Canada
The Northern Canada region is geographically the largest in Canada, in fact it includes about 40%
of the total land mass of the country. However, less than 1% of the total population of Canada
resides in one of these three territories (i.e., 0.3% to be precise). In addition to being a large,
sparsely populated region, the three territorial governments do not enjoy the same legislative
freedom as the provinces (at least not constitutionally). All three territories utilise the K-12 curriculum
of one of the southern provinces (i.e., the Yukon uses the British Columbia curriculum, while the
Northwest Territories and Nunavut use the Alberta curriculum), with some additions to reflect their
northern status and aboriginal cultures.
As jurisdictions without their own curriculum, it is natural that all three territories make use of K-12
distance education programmes located in the provinces they share a curriculum with. Although all
three territorial governments have or have attempted their own home grown distance education
programmes. It should be noted that the territorial governments are also dealing with a variety of
other social challenges that affect the delivery of K-12 education, and K-12 distance education is
simply a small part of this larger obstacle that needs to be overcome.
State of the Nation: K-12 Online Learning in Canada 55
Population – 33,442
Total Area – 482,443 km2
Population Density – 0.07 people/km2
Capital (Population) – Whitehorse (22,898)
Number of K-12 Schools – 28 (2009-10)
Number of K-12 Students – 2933 (2009-10)
The Yukon is the most western and also the smallest of Canada’s three territories. The territory
follows the same curriculum as the Province of British Columbia, with some additions to address
their distinct language and culture. Recently, Statistics Canada reported that the Yukon was the
most connected educational jurisdiction in Canada with a student/computer ratio of 2.9:1.
K-12 Online Learning
Category Yes/No Comments
Territory-led programme Yes Video conferencing
Other online programmes No Uses programmes from other provinces
Territorial-level policy Yes
Online Programmes
The Yukon has had a long history with K-12 distance education, or distributed learning as it is
referred to in the territory. During the 1998-99 school year, the Yukon Department of Education
piloted a Grade 11 course in Information Technology to 12 students (10 of whom completed the
course successfully). The pilot was continued for several subsequent years. In 1999-2000, two Yukon
students participated in a national distributed learning project, The Hurley Island Project, developed
and implemented by the Ontario Independent Learning Centre. The Hurley Island Project saw these
two students join 23 other students from across the Canada in an online Grade 11 Information
Technology course and Grade 12 Environmental Science course.
Since 2004, the Yukon has maintained a territory-wide video conferencing programme. The
Department of Education has deployed video conferencing suites to all rural communities and to
several Whitehorse schools. Video conferencing allows for schools to take advantage of teaching
specialists in neighboring community schools. As of September 2010, three courses in mathematics
and sciences are being offered locally by video conferencing to 13 students in four community
schools (up from one student in 2009-10 and four students in 2008-09).
In addition, the Government of the Yukon has entered into agreements with a variety of course
content providers in British Columbia and Alberta. The Yukon Department of Education’s Annual
Report for the 2006-07 school year reported that Yukon students were able to take advantage of
courses offer through British Columbia’s Open School, and that there were 141 students registered
in 51 different courses (up from 87 students in 49 different courses during the 2005–06 school
year). This agreement has been in place since January 2001, when the Department reported 35
students enroled in a total of 110 correspondence courses and 15 students enroled in eight online
courses, with an overall 93% successful completion rate.
In the Annual Report for the 2008-09 school year, it was reported that the Yukon had agreements
with eight distance education schools in British Columbia (the primary one continues to be the
Northern British Columbia Distance Education School (NBCDES)), from B.C. Open School and the
Alberta Distance Learning Centre (ADLC). The agreement with the ADLC was to allow French
students access to distributed learning through the Centre francophone d’éducation à distance (a
French-language partner programme of the ADLC). In 2008-09, there were a total of 96 students
enroled in a total of 135 courses through these distance education schools.
In addition to the students enroled in the synchronous video conferencing system, there were eight
students enroled in courses offered by the ADLC and 113 students enroled in courses offered by the
NBCDES in 2009-10.
Governance and Regulation
According to the Education Act, 2002:
30 (1) The deputy minister may provide for distance education courses of instruction on
conditions prescribed by the guidelines established by the Minister.
(2) The Minister may charge fees for the provision of distance education courses as prescribed by
the regulations. S.Y. 1989- 90, c.25, s.30.
The Department of Education is also governed by Memorandums of Understanding it has with
each of the individual distance education schools. For example, the memorandum with the NBCDES
states that the distance education school must provide the courses and all resources to students,
along with other administrative and support items including the assignment of teacher advisors to
students who are using distributed learning courses and the issuing report cards.
In addition, the Department requires that all schools that enrol students in any distributed learning
programme assign a local teacher to monitor those students. This school-based teacher can range
from a dedicated distributed learning facilitator to a simple assignment given to a teacher on top of
their full-time classroom teaching duties. In most instances, these teachers are provided a block of
time for their distributed learning supervisory and facilitating duties.
Finally, since the 2003-04 school year, distributed learning courses have been offered at no cost to
students from Grade 1 to 12. The Department of Education covers the cost for their enrolment for
all students up to the age of 21. However, the Department limits the number of distributed learning
courses a student can be enroled in at any given time to two courses. But there is no maximum
number of courses a student can take, so once a student completes a distributed learning course
they can enrol in another.
State of the Nation: K-12 Online Learning in Canada 57
Northwest Territories
Population – 42,940
Total Area – 1,346,106 km2
Population Density – 0.03 people/km2
Capital (Population) – Yellowknife (18,700)
Number of K-12 Schools – 49 (2009-10)
Number of K-12 Students – 8,407 (2009-10)
The Northwest Territories is the oldest of the three territories, and it follows the same curriculum as
the Province of Alberta, with some additions to address their distinct language and culture.
K-12 Online Learning
Category Yes/No Comments
Territory-led programme No
Other online programmes No Uses distance offerings from the Alberta Distance
Learning Centre (ADLC)
Territorial-level policy Yes
Online Programmes
The only distance education programme within the Northwest Territories appears to be an online
Northern Studies 10 course offered during the second semester through Aurora College (a local
post-secondary institution in the Northwest Territories). Beyond this single course, the territorial
Government signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the ADLC in 2004 to provide
print-based and online courses to students in the territory. According to the 2005 report Towards
Excellence: A Report on Education in the Northwest Territories, from 2000 to 2005 there were a
total of 329 course enrolments, with 106 students having passed their course, 77 having failed, and
146 having withdrawn.
Governance and Regulation
The Education Act, 2009 allows various educational bodies to “authorise, supervise and evaluate
the use of distance learning programmes in the provision of the education programme” (p. 72). In
addition, the MOU outlines the specific responsibilities, duties and opportunities for both parties.
Finally, Section 17 of the Senior Secondary School Administrators’ Handbook outlines a series of
requirements for distance learning.
Schools are responsible for the course fees when a student enrols in a distance education course,
however, the Department of Education, Culture and Employment will reimburse schools upon a
student’s successful completion of the course.
Population – 29,474
Total Area – 2,093,190 km2
Population Density – 0.014 people/km2
Capital (Population) – Iqaluit (6,184)
Number of K-12 Schools – 42 (2009-10)
Number of K-12 Students – 9038 (2009-10)
Nunavut is the newest and most easterly of Canada’s three territories. Created from the Northwest
Territories in 1999, it is the largest of Canada’s provinces and territories. Nunavut has followed the
curriculum of the Province of Alberta, but is gradually developing its own curriculum to reflect the
Nunavut context of its students within the larger context of Canada.
K-12 Online Learning
Category Yes/No Comments
Territory-led programme No
Other online programmes No
Territorial-level policy No
Online Programmes
Nunavut does not have any active K-12 distance education programmes, however, the territory has
piloted programmes in the past and has indicated that it has plans for future pilot projects.
The Alberta Distance Learning Centre continues to provide the majority of distance learning courses
to Nunavut secondary students. These courses are largely print-based. Finally, some students will
take distance learning courses from other jurisdictions, although they need to be approved by the
Department as being equivalent in order to receive credit.
Governance and Regulation
When it was first created, Nunavut continued to utilise the Education Act, 1996, a piece of legacy
legislation from the Northwest Territories. This legislation contained a provision that allowed various
educational bodies to “authorise, supervise and evaluate the use of distance learning programmes in
the provision of the education programme” (p. 58).
This was later replaced when the territory passed its own legislation. The only reference to distance
education in the current Education Act, 2008 is a statement that a university providing “distance
learning programmes by mail or by electronic means from outside Nunavut to persons in Nunavut”
was not considered to be operating in the territory (p. 95).
State of the Nation: K-12 Online Learning in Canada 59
Newfoundland and Labrador
Centre for Distance Learning and Innovation
K-12 School Profile System
Killick Centre
Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia Virtual School
Correspondence Study Programme
Strait Regional School Board Virtual School
Chignecto-Central Virtual School
Agreement Between The Minister of Education of the Province of Nova Scotia and
The Nova Scotia Teachers Union /pdfdocs/collective-agreements/teachers_provincial_agreement_english.
Prince Edward Island
Minister’s Directive No. MD 2001-05 Distance Education
Minister’s Directive No. MD 2008-05 Distance Education
New Brunswick
New Brunswick Distributed Learning Programme
Société de formation à distance des commissions scolaires du Québec (SOFAD)
Learn Quebec
Écoles éloignées en réseau / Remote Networked Schools
State of the Nation: K-12 Online Learning in Canada 61
e-Learning Ontario, Ministry of Education
Ontario Education Resource Bank
Ontario eLearning Consortium
Ontario Catholic e-Learning Consortium
Consortium d’apprentissage virtuel de langue française de l’Ontario
Virtual High School (Ontario)
Ottawa Carleton e-School /
Keewaytinook Internet High School
Independent Study Option
Teacher Mediated Option
Web-Based Course Option
Wapaskwa Virtual Collegiate
Saskatchewan Distance Learning Course Repository
Credenda Virtual School
Alberta Distance Learning Centre (ADLC)
SunChild E-Learning Community
Distributed Learning Strategy
Distributed Learning Forum Online Community
Inspiring Action on Education
British Columbia
Ministry of Education, Distributed Learning /dist_learning/
Ministry of Education, Independent School Distributed Learning (DL) Programme /independentschools/bc_guide/dl_program.htm
Virtual School Society
Open School
Northern British Columbia Distance Education School
Centre francophone d’éducation à distance
Northwest Territories
Department of Education, Culture and Employment
Department of Education
State of the Nation: K-12 Online Learning in Canada 63
Alberta Education. (2000). Information and communication technology K-12 program of studies.
Retrieved from
Barbour, M. K. (2005). From telematics to web-based: The progression of distance education in
Newfoundland and Labrador. British Journal of Educational Technology, 36(6), 1055-1058.
Barbour, M. K. (2007a). Portrait of rural virtual schooling. Canadian Journal of Educational
Administration and Policy, (59). Retrieved February 11, 2007 from
Barbour, M. K. (2007b). Principles of effective web-based content for secondary school students:
Teacher and developer perceptions. Journal of Distance Education, 21(3), 93-114. Retrieved from
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Appendix A
1. Describe the current system of K-12 distance education in your programme.
2. When did the current system begin?
3. Is K-12 distance education managed at the provincial level or at the district level?
4. How many K-12 distance education programmes are there in your province?
5. Does the Ministry of Education maintain a listing of all of these programmes?
a. If yes, could this list be made available to the researcher(s)?
6. Does the Ministry of Education keep records on the number of K-12 students who complete
courses at a distance?
a. If yes, how many K-12 students were enroled in distance education courses in 2008-09?
b. If yes, how many K-12 students were enroled in distance education courses in 2007-08?
c. If yes, how many K-12 students were enroled in distance education courses in 2006-07?
7. Does the Ministry of Education track the performance of K-12 students who complete courses
at a distance separate from students who complete their courses from a traditional brick-and-
mortar school?
a. If yes, could this data be made available to the researcher(s)?
8. Are portions of the Education Act or any other piece of legislation in your province that are
specifically related to K-12 distance education?
a. If yes, what sections of which pieces of legislation?
9. Do other regulatory documents from the Ministry of Education exist that govern K-12 distance
education in your province?
a. If yes, what are they?
10. How is the K-12 distance education programme funded in your province?
11. How are the teachers selected for the three programmes?
12. How are the courses developed for the three programmes?
13. If there are any follow-up questions, who would be the best person for the researchers to
E-mail address:
Telephone number:
State of the Nation: K-12 Online Learning in Canada 67
Appendix B
I wanted to attach a copy of the profile for [insert province’s or territory’s name here] from the 2009
report and ask you the following questions.
1. Have there been any changes in the legislative regime related to K-12 distance education?
2. Have there been any changes in the regulatory regime related to K-12 distance education?
3. Are there additional programmes, not mentioned in the 2009 report, which should be
included in an updated report?
4. How many students were involved in K-12 distance education during the 2009-10 school year?
5. Do you have any policies related to the importing of online courses or online course
completion from other provinces? Other countries?
6. Do you have any policies related to the exporting of online courses or online course
completion from other provinces? Other countries?
7. Are there any additional issues related to K-12 distance education, not mentioned in the 2009
report, which should be included in an updated report?
8. Is there any information in the 2009 report that you feel should be updated or revised?
Call for Sponsors for the 2011 “State of the Nation: K-12
Online Learning in Canada” Study
iNACOL is seeking funding for next year’s K-12 online learning study of Canada. If your organisation
is interested in participating through sponsorship by supporting the third annual “State of
the Nation: K-12 Online Learning in Canada” study, please contact Michael Barbour, principal
investigator at, or Susan Patrick, CEO, iNACOL at
Your participation as a sponsor helps support more widespread participation from virtual schools
across the country in the K-12 Online Learning in Canada project and is an ideal opportunity to
demonstrate your organisation’s interest in and commitment to supporting online learning. Your
company or organisation will be recognised for its support of virtual schools seeking to effectively
expand educational options for K-12 students across Canada.
iNACOL currently has over 3,300 members and our previous studies are readily available to all
members, as well as members of their organisations who enroled over 1,500,000 students in 2009.
With your support, you will be recognised among educators as an organisation committed to
helping support online learning and virtual schools around the world.
Please review the sponsor benefits and opportunities for the State of the Nation: K-12 Online
Learning in Canada study:
Recognition in all post-study press releases, presentations and distribution of information
Opportunity to provide input into the programme survey
Participate in project conference calls
Project sponsor name and logo listed on all promotional materials
Project sponsor name and logo listed on the final report
Receive 50 copies of the final report
Receive Executive Summary of the final report for use on company website and for
marketing purposes
Receive recognition as a thought-leader for cutting-edge research of K-12 online learning in
Canada for sponsoring the research study
Sponsor recognition during iNACOL Webinar highlighting the study
The plans for the 2011 study include updating the K-12 policy and activity reports for each of the
provinces, a greater focus on some of the individual programmes within each jurisdiction (including
more vignettes), and more issue papers examining specific issues in K-12 online learning in Canada
written by individuals from a variety of sectors.
For-profit and non-profit institutions, organisations, individuals, foundations and companies are
welcome to partner with iNACOL for sponsoring the study. Please consider sponsorship of this
important survey and report to be conducted annually. Your consideration is deeply appreciated.
TOLL-FREE 888.95.NACOL (888.956.2265) DIREC T 703.752.6216 FAX 703.752.6201
MAIL 1934 Old Gallows Road, Suite 350 Vienna, VA 22182-4040
... Recently, the number of K-12 students engaged in online and blended learning in Canada has also increased significantly. In the past decade, Canadian students enrolled in distance and online programs has grown from under 140,000 students in the 2008-2009 school year to almost 300,000 students in the 2018-2019 school year (Barbour & LaBonte, 2019). The gains in enrolment have been even more dramatic for blended courses. ...
... Based upon this Canadian replication, we found that a minority (i.e., 32%) of the respondents' programs currently have online or blended field experiences for their pre-service and in-service teachers. This finding was despite the fact that the number of students in online environments has doubled in the last decade, and the number of students in blended environments has almost doubled in the last three years (Barbour & LaBonte, 2019). Surprisingly, none of those field experiences are newer than five years old (i.e., they were all established prior to 2012). ...
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K-12 online learning continues to grow in popularity and acceptance in North America. Canada, in particular, continues to expand with over 300,000 students being enrolled in distance and online programs in 2019. Despite this rapid growth, there does not appear to be much recognition of this form of learning by institutions in Canada that provide teacher training programs. Understandably, programming changes take time to adjust to workplace needs. This report highlights the status of teacher education programs with regard to provision of distance and online field experiences by Canadian teacher education programs. In-service teacher professional development is one area where distance and online training for educators is being actioned by Canadian institutions. From Newfoundland and Labrador to British Columbia there are examples of program offerings that support distance and online learning professional development for in-service educators. Graduate certificate, diploma, and degree programs across several universities in Canada are available, with Athabasca University even offering a series of open access MOOCs targeted at supporting distance and online education professional development. The information presented in this report originated from a mixed method study originally conducted in the US, which was replicated within Canada. Based upon the Canadian replication, a minority of the respondents’ programs currently had online or blended field experiences for their pre-service or in-service teachers. Furthermore, at the time there was little likelihood of more programming addressing the distance and online field experience needs of educators due to institutional lack of resources, a limited knowledge base, perceived lack of usefulness for their teachers’ future careers, and regulatory discouraging of online field experiences. This report highlights the dramatic need for programming in this area of distance and online education. Available online at: Full citation: Archibald, D., Barbour, M. K., Leary, H., Wilson, E. V., & Ostashewski, N. (2020). Teacher education and K-12 online learning. Half Moon Bay, BC: Canadian E-Learning Network.
... En Ontario, il était prévu que les eĺeves suivent une partie de leurs cours au secondaire en FAD à partir de l'anneé scolaire 2020-2021 (ministère de l'Éducation de l'Ontario, 2019) avant même que la pandémie n'impose ce mode d'enseignement. En 2018, on estimait que 5,1 % des eĺeves du Canada etaient inscrits à la FAD comparativement à 3 % pour le Quebec (Barbour & LaBonte, 2018). 5 De nombreuses recherches ont déjà été menées sur la FAD, la majeure partie de celles-ci s'intéressant à des contextes qui impliquent des adultes. ...
The article presents the first results of a research aimed at distance learning in the youth sector in social studies courses of the second cycle of secondary education in Quebec. The research relies on the concept of transactional presence and the dimensions of student support in distance learning and shows that according to the teachers, students seem to be going through motivational difficulties. At the same time, teachers have a hard time creating a strong presence to help the students.
... However, young learners lack self-regulation, and there will be some sharp problems in the online learning process (Barbour & Reeves, 2009). Previously, a few countries where K-12 education was dominant, like Canada and the United States, had an online education penetration rate of less than 10% (Barbour & LaBonte, 2015). Although China has vigorously promoted online education in the past decade and attempted to adopt online education to enrich teaching resources and enhance public services, students who apply online learning are still rare (Huang, Teo, & Zhou, 2020). ...
... There are almost no examples of machine learning for K-12 in literature within the pre-service teacher education. It may, however, be argued that some universities include content related to machine learning within their standard technology integration course or a standalone course focused on machine learning content, as observed by Archibald et al. (2020) in the case of distance and online learning. One example that stood out was a new machine learning module added to the Methods of Teaching Computer Science (MTCS) course as part of the teachers' preparation program in an Israeli University. ...
The teaching of machine learning is now considered essential and relevant in schools globally. Despite the ongoing discourse and increased research in the emerging field, teachers' conceptions of machine learning remain under-researched. This study aims at filling the gap by describing the initial conceptions of teaching machine learning by 12 African in-service teachers. We detailed the result of a phenomenography analysis of teachers' pre-conceptions on teaching machine learning in K-12 settings. Twelve high school (Grades 10-12) computer science teachers in some selected African countries were recruited for a semi-structured interview. Five categories emerged from the analysis of the semi-structured interviews as follows: supporting student technical knowledge, having knowledge of the concept, focusing on professional development practices, contextualizing teaching resources and tools, and sustainability for development goals. These involve the relevance of teaching machine learning, the pedagogical approaches, strategies, and sustainability relating to practical implementation in schools. The results suggest the need to train in-service teachers to use existing tools designed for introducing machine learning. The teachers should also be involved in the co-designing process of resources considering contextual factors and, significantly, the curriculum to integrate machine learning into mainstream education. Involving teachers in the development process would help contextualize machine learning, contributing to real impact and societal changes.
... "Online learning" will become a politicized term that can take on any number of meanings depending on the argument someone wants to advance. This was evidenced recently with the public discourse that occurred around the government's e-learning proposals in Ontario throughout 2019 (see Barbour & LaBonte, 2019), which illustrated that online learning carries a stigma of being lower quality than face-to-face learningdespite research showing otherwise (Chingos & Schwerdt, 2014;Hughes et al., 2015;Means et al. 2010;Stallings et al., 2016). ...
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In the spring of 2020, the term ‘emergency remote teaching’ began to emerge to describe what was occurring in education at all levels, despite the more commonly used term “online learning” dominating media descriptions of the instruction offered to students forced to remain at home. Hodges et al. (2020) described emergency remote teaching as an attempt not “to re-create a robust educational ecosystem but rather to provide temporary access to instruction and instructional supports in a manner that is quick to set up and is reliably available during an emergency or crisis” (¶ 13). As the new school year began, most education jurisdictions across Canada offered some combination of face-to-face, hybrid, and/or online instruction for students, including pre-existing online learning programs. Yet both designed and established online learning programs and the remote teaching offered by classroom teachers were still described by many as “online learning”, ignoring the clear differences between both instructional methods. This report is a collection of revised works from other scholars, primarily focused on the higher education context, adapted for the K-12 sector. These works include a recent article that was published in EDUCAUSE Review entitled “The Difference Between Emergency Remote Teaching and Online Learning” (Hodges et al., 2020); as well as a number of blog entries from PhilOnEdTech blog (Hill, 2020; Kelly, 2020a, 2020b; Moore & Hill, 2020). Throughout the report, we have attempted to identify each of the sections that relied upon these sources. Soon the COVID-19 threat will diminish, yet when it does we should not simply abandon remote teaching and return to our prior classroom-only practices without ensuring that we preserve the lessons of 2020 for future public health and safety issues. For example, in recent years school campuses have been closed due to natural disasters such as wildfires, hurricanes, earthquakes, and the polar vortex (Baytiyeh, 2018; Mackey et al., 2012; Samson, 2020; Watkins, 2005). As such, the possible need for remote teaching – in both emergency situations and more planned contexts – must become part of a teacher’s skill set. This report argues the importance of avoiding equating emergency remote teaching with online learning. It is clear from most schools and teacher’s experience with emergency remote teaching that much more planning and deliberate attention be provided to teacher preparation, infrastructure, education policy, and resources to be able to maintain quality instructional continuity during a crisis. This report offers recommendations for how schools can be better prepared for future crises that incorporate both home-based and school-based learning opportunities mediated through online learning environments. While it is clear that schools remain a good place for children to be supported in their emotional growth and learning, with proper planning and good communication, homes and communities outside of school walls can be as well.
... For approximately a decade, the Ontario Ministry of Education has provided each school board a coordinator focused on e-learning, or technology-enabled learning, who is responsible for assisting teachers in using the province's learning management system and online course content in their face-to-face and online teaching. Table 1, on the following page, provides an overview of the state of online learning in each jurisdiction based on the 2019 annual State of the Nation: K-12 e-Learning in Canada report (i.e., representing the 2018-19 school year) (Barbour & LaBonte, 2019). There is a single, province-wide learning management system that teachers can access for the purposes of blended learning. ...
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Ahead of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) March 11, 2020 declaration that COVID-19 was indeed a pandemic, and as Canada began diagnosing its first cases of the coronavirus, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, urged Canadian communities to “prepare for stronger public health measures to contain the spread of the new coronavirus, including closures of schools” (CMAJ News, 2020). Two days later, New Brunswick was the first of the 13 provinces and territories to close their schools across the province. However, within 10 days all K-12 schools across Canada were closed. Through the Canadian eLearning Network (CANeLearn), a leading voice in Canada for learner success in K-12 online and blended learning, this report highlights the moves each Canadian jurisdiction made to continue to promote learning throughout the pandemic. Information was gathered for each province and territory, through government websites, educational organizations, and current news releases regarding each jurisdictions strategies to provide supports, resources, and technologies appropriate for the continuation of emergency remote teaching and learning. This report is designed to delineate how each jurisdiction managed their emergency remote teaching during the spring of 2020. The goal is to report on what occurred, and it is not intended to assess the quality of what occurred. This shift was dependent on the supports and resources provided by each jurisdiction across Canada. By April 21, 2020 all of Canada had moved forward with emergency remote teaching for their K-12 learners. In providing emergency remote teaching, the three territories took much longer to release their plans then their provincial counterparts. If the territories were excluded, the average length of time it took the 10 provinces to release their emergency remote teaching plans was 14 calendar days. The supports and resources provided by each of the jurisdictions manifested in various ways, such as access to mail delivery of educational learning packages, radio and television broadcasting, centralized learning management systems and access to a variety of digital tools. Some provinces such as Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, and British Columbia provided technology to students. All jurisdictions – except for Alberta, Ontario, and New Brunswick – provided resources that did not require internet access. Further, some jurisdictions, such as British Columbia, Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut made specific considerations for Indigenous students who may be on-the-land and offered a land-based curriculum for learners who did not have access to both the internet or to educational packages. While access to resources and supports for emergency remote learning is key for the success of any program, so too is the level of preparedness and professional learning of teachers. The vast majority of teachers across Canada had no training or professional experience with online pedagogies related to using digital tools in their teaching or even how to develop online content that was instructionally sound. Yukon, Ontario, Quebec, and Nova Scotia were the only provinces that announced some form of professional learning for teachers. These professional learning opportunities were evidenced in the form of online professional development days, access to webinars, educational toolkits, access to paid digital tools, virtual learning environment instruction, and University courses. Other jurisdictions referred teachers to other ongoing professional learning options already in existence. Full citation: Nagle, J., Barbour, M. K., & LaBonte, R. (2020). Documenting triage: Detailing the response of provinces and territories to emergency remote teaching. Canadian eLearning Network.
The COVID-19 pandemic began in the late months of 2019, and by Spring of 2020, in an effort to limit transmission of the virus, schools across the globe closed and transitioned to emergency online teaching. This disrupted the schooling for over 80% of the students worldwide. While the move to online teaching and learning was inevitable, many learners, especially in rural and remote areas, found that online schooling had certain challenges due to lack of access, lack of resources, lack of infrastructure, unavailability of devices, and a lack of qualified teachers who can assist with online learning. To be able to transition to online teaching, teachers too had to adjust their instructional strategies and pedagogies. How did teachers and students navigate this sudden shift to online teaching and learning?
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This report is third of three reports designed to chronicle how each province and territory in Canada managed their response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The first report, Documenting Triage: Detailing the Response of Provinces and Territories to Emergency Remote Teaching report (Nagle, Barbour, & LaBonte, 2020), described how each jurisdiction managed their emergency remote teaching during Spring 2020. The second report, A Fall Like No Other: Between Basics and Preparing or an Extended Transition During Turmoil (Nagle, LaBonte, & Barbour, 2020), outlined how each jurisdiction attempted to manage what should have been a transition to remote teaching during Fall 2020. The goal of this third report, Stories from the Field: Voices of K-12 Stakeholders During Pandemic, was to provide vignettes authored by education stakeholders sharing their stories about what actually transpired in their homes, schools, communities, and districts. Sponsored by the Canadian eLearning Network (CANeLearn), a leading voice in Canada for learner success in K-12 online and blended learning, this report highlights the announcements, supports, and policy changes each Canadian jurisdiction made to continue to promote learning throughout the pandemic. Information was gathered for each province and territory through government websites, educational organizations, and current news releases. This information highlighted each jurisdiction’s strategies to provide supports, resources, and technologies appropriate for the continuation of teaching and learning. A website1 was created to host this report series along with an archive of online workshop presentations based on each report. In this report you will find the voices of key stakeholders within the K-12 online and blended learning community across Canada as they provide descriptions of what actually happened on the ground. Students, parents, teachers, school leaders, school trustees, and teacher-education leaders from the post-secondary offer a glimpse of the impact of what the Ministries and Departments of Education planned and announced in the Spring and Fall of 2020 for the safe return of students to schools. For students, the lack of social interaction was a noted loss, for parents their children’s physical, emotional, and mental health and their own, were worrisome at best. Many describe the education offerings lacking and some sought their own solution. Teachers, district and school leaders, even trustees, found the changing dynamic of the education landscape overwhelming. Health protocols, physical distancing, masking, the number and flow of people in the school building(s), and the social and emotional impact on staff and students was almost impossible to manage. The range of stories from school leaders offers glimpses of success in the development of new programs and the expansion of others. The stories of teachers reflect a focus on physical, social, and emotional wellbeing first, curriculum second. As new models and approaches emerge, post-secondary teacher education researchers are shining a light on what effective practices provide options today and for the future beyond pandemic. 1 The website is available at
Technical Report
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This report is second of three reports designed to chronicle how each province and territory in Canada managed their response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The goal of this second report, as with the first report Documenting Triage: Detailing the Response of Provinces and Territories to Emergency Remote Teaching report (Nagle, Barbour, & LaBonte, 2020) that described how each jurisdiction managed their emergency remote teaching during Spring 2020, is to report on what occurred, not to assess its quality. This report is designed to delineate what actions each jurisdiction took: the tools, content, and devices provided, curated, and/or created; and, the nature of instruction that occurred. The third report will provide vignettes authored by education stakeholders sharing their stories about what actually transpired in their school and community. Sponsored by the Canadian eLearning Network (CANeLearn), a leading voice in Canada for learner success in K-12 online and blended learning, this report highlights the announcements, supports, and policy changes each Canadian jurisdiction made to continue to promote learning throughout the pandemic. Information was gathered for each province and territory through government websites, educational organizations, and current news releases. This information highlighted each jurisdiction’s strategies to provide supports, resources, and technologies appropriate for the continuation of teaching and learning. A website1 was created to host this report series along with an archive of online workshop presentations based on each report. This second report provides a description of what was announced and provided for by provincial and territorial Ministries of Education during the Fall 2020. While a national view is considered, the approach taken varied among each of the provinces and territories. Some jurisdictions required students to wear masks in school buildings, others did not. Many jurisdictions required masks to be worn when physical distancing was not possible. Some jurisdictions announced specific plans for remote learning, others relied on existing online learning programs for students who remained at home. Few jurisdictions announced or published specific plans for professional development or training for teachers new to remote learning. Most schools opened as planned with physical distancing measures, restricted movement, and encouraged outdoor activity when possible. Remote learning choices were offered, but there were issues of managing choices as parents chose to shift from remote to online or the reverse after the school year started. Teachers had to be shifted from teaching in the classroom to teaching remotely or in a hybrid format as student groupings and classroom attendance shifted during the opening months. For the most part, the supports and resources provided by each of the jurisdictions continued as in the Spring, including access to mail delivery of educational learning packages, radio and television broadcasting, centralized learning management systems, and access to a variety of digital tools. Some provinces such as Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, and British Columbia provided technology to students. All jurisdictions – except for Alberta, Ontario, and New Brunswick – provided resources that did not require internet access. Further, some jurisdictions, such as British Columbia, Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut continued to make specific considerations for Indigenous students. 1 The website is available at
Full-text available
In this article, I describe findings from a study of the perceptions of course developers and electronic teachers on the principles of effective asynchronous web-based content design for secondary school students. Through interviews, participants' perceptions of various web-based components and instructional strategies, and the effectiveness of both based upon the experiences of the participants were investigated in a virtual high school context for the purpose of generating a list of guidelines that future course developers might utilize. Resumé Dans cet article, je décris les résultats d'une étude sur la perception des concepteurs de cours et des enseignants en ligne à propos des principes de conception d'un contenu Web asynchrone efficace pour les étudiants du secondaire. À travers des entrevues, les perceptions des participants, à propos de différentes composantes Web et stratégies de formation, et de l'efficacité de ces éléments sur l'expérience des participants, ont été étudiées dans le contexte d'un e n v i ronnement virtuel de niveau secondaire pour générer une liste de recommandations pour les concepteurs de cours.
Full-text available
Abstract Over the past two decades, distance education has become a reality of rural schooling in Newfoundland and Labrador. In thisarticle, I provide historicalbackground into the challenges facing rural schools in the province and how distance education was introduced to address that challenge. I also describe how that system of distance education evolved from a system that used the telephone lines and bridging technology to one that uses a combination synchronous,and asynchronous system delivered over the Internet. Finally, I examine recent literature concerning the nature of today’s secondary students that would need to avail of this system and relate how this may not be an applicable portrait of youth in rural areas, such as Newfoundland and Labrador. ,1 Canadian Journal of Educational Administration and Policy, Issue #59, February 11, 2007. © by CJEAP and the author(s).
Full-text available
K-12 online learning is growing in Canada. However, the vast majority of literature is focused on practitioners and not on systematic inquiry, and even published research has largely excluded the perspectives of students engaged in virtual schooling. This interview study examines student perceptions of components of virtual schooling that are beneficial and challenging for secondary school students. Students largely enjoyed their online courses and found synchronous classes, the technology, and the ability to control their own learning as positive aspects of their experience. They also found the lack of a sense of online community, working during their asynchronous classes, and the asynchronous content to be challenging; and made suggestions for improvement to each, along with advice to future online students. Virtual or cyber schooling is largely a North American phenomenon that first began in Canada in the mid-
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To date, most of what is known about K-12 online learning from the media and literature is focused upon experiences in the United States. However, virtual schooling first began in Canada in 1994-95. Over the past fourteen years, there has been little federal funding for the development and research of K-12 online learning in Canada. This has largely been due to the fact that education is a provincial jurisdiction and there is no federal department with this responsibility in Canada. Therefore, there have been no federal guidelines or standards for these programmes to meet through reporting or external evaluations. With limited government, foundation, and private support for education research, K-12 online learning programmes have not received financial support for research and evaluation. Moreover, there has been little activity in Canadian higher education towards research of K-12 online learning, compounded by the fact that there are fewer than five-dozen Canadian universities, which limits the focus and scope of K-12 education research. As such, K-12 online learning has continued to develop across Canada quietly, and with little dissemination outside of the country and between individual provinces. This report is the first of many steps that researchers and the North American Council for Online Learning (NACOL) are taking to begin to address the lack of information about K-12 online learning in Canada. This report will provide an examination of online learning activity at the K-12 level and how it is governed in each province and territory. Thus the authors provide a brief overview of the national landscape of K-12 online learning, with a more detailed focus on three jurisdictions. A list of selected resources and bibliography are included.