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Digital Learning in Canadian K-12 Schools: A Review of Critical Issues, Policy, and Practice



Digital learning is on the rise in Canada and now exerting an impact upon education policy in most of the nation’s ten provinces and three territories. Without a national education department, the promotion of twenty-first century skills, technology, and learning falls to provincial and territorial education authorities with varying degrees of commitment to K-12 technology education reform and classroom integration. National advocacy groups such as C21 Canada do hold sway over provincial ministers of education, but, so far, the implementation of twenty-first century learning and the explicit teaching of “digital literacies” is very uneven, particularly outside of the recognised eLearning leaders among the provinces, Ontario, British Columbia, and Alberta. In spite of the tremendous potential for expansion of online learning and virtual schooling, the free market remains regulated and private providers are largely absent. Provincial or school district authorities promote a “growth-management” strategy where online and blended learning are considered the next evolution of effective technology integration.
Digital Learning in Canadian K-12 Schools: A Review of Critical Issues, Policy and Practice
Paul W. Bennett
Digital learning is on the rise in Canada and now exerting an impact upon education policy in most of the
nation’s ten provinces and three territories. Without a national education department, the promotion of 21st
century skills, technology and learning falls to provincial and territorial education authorities with varying
degrees of commitment to K-12 technology education reform and classroom integration. National
advocacy groups such as 21C Canada do hold sway over provincial ministers of education, but, so far, the
implementation of 21st century learning and the explicit teaching of ‘digital literacies’ is very uneven,
particularly outside of the recognized eLearning leaders among the provinces, Ontario, British Columbia
and Alberta. In spite of the tremendous potential for expansion of online learning and virtual schooling,
the free market remains regulated and private providers are largely absent. Provincial or school district
authorities promote a ‘growth-management‘ strategy where online and blended learning are considered
the next evolution of effective technology integration.
Distance education Blended learning Disruptive innovation Managed growth Digital literacies
Technology may be transforming the everyday life of Canadians and particularly the younger
generation, but the implementation and growth of digital learning remains uneven in Kindergarten to
Grade 12 (K-12) schools across the Canadian nation. Over the past decade, online resources, such as e-
learning courses and programs as well as virtual schools, have either spread or popped-up in Canada’s
remarkably diverse provinces and territories (Barbour 2010 and 2014). At the elementary and secondary
school level (K-12), regular ‘brick-and-mortar’ schools have acquired computer hardware and software,
connected them to the Internet, installed wireless networks, and offered in-service training in Information
Communication Technologies (ICT) to both novice and experienced teachers. Across Canada, from
Newfoundland and Labrador to British Columbia, the infrastructure in most schools now enables Internet
access, student portals, digital libraries, and networks that support laptops, handheld and other portable
devices. (CCL/Mills 2009). Among Canadian educational authorities and teachers, there is a growing
realization that ‘digital literacies’ are becoming essential in preparing students for full participation in the
emerging post-industrial ‘knowledge society’ of the 21st century (Chen et al. 2014).
The first generation of ICT for the classroom was, as Larry Cuban aptly noted, “oversold and
underused” in North American schools (Cuban 2003, Jensen et al. 2010). Today’s Canadian students are
far more ‘cyber-savvy’ and hungering for more sanctioned opportunities to use technology inside the
schools. Popular books like Don Tapscott’s Growing Up Digital (Tapscott 1997) and others with titles
like Millennials Rising (Howe and Strauss 2000) went so far as to suggest that the ‘Net Generation’ (born
to Baby Boomers) and the Millennials (most of today’s students) had turned the “generation gap” into a
“generation lap” when it came to the mastery of technology. Such broad generalizations about the
generational differences may well be exaggerated and, as the University of Georgia’s Tom Reeves has
shown, the technical fluency and knowledge of today’s students runs far broader than it does deep
(Reeves 2008). The new generation of learners may now inhabit a “digital world” but they are also
hobbled by a strain of ‘selfie-ism’ and dogged by the legacy of “parental perfectionism.” Introducing
technology alone in schools has not proven enough without active teacher support and engaged,
motivated students (Barbour 2009).
Mobile learning technology has been adopted almost en mass by the ‘Net Generation’ and by
today’s so-called ‘screenagers.’ While the innovative use of online technologies has gradually penetrated
into the publicly-funded school system over the past ten years, the availability of, and access to, these
technologies has not kept pace with student demand or expectations. Some schools right across Canada
still remain ‘locked-down’ to the free use of such devices outside of designated rooms or access points
(Hutchison, Tin, and Chao 2008). A recent Ontario study (Jensen et al. 2010) identified the “ongoing but
under-reported disconnect between the massive spending devoted to digital technologies in schools, and
their persistent under-use in classrooms, despite claims that the ‘next gen’ of tech-savvy educators are
more inclined to integrate technology into their teaching (p. 5). “ Some of the underuse of ICT is related
to a continuing gap in the systematic implementation of technology integration, both in faculty of
education training and in ongoing professional development. Even if classroom teachers are sufficiently
prepared, a 2014 Ontario People for Education report found that they face “significant barriers to
integrate ICT,” including curricular shortcomings, constraints around access, lack of technical support and
limited preparation time (Hixon and Buckenmeyer 2009, Chen et al. 2014).
I Current State of K-12 Online Learning
Annual reports on K-12 Online Learning from 2008 to 2015, mostly researched and written by
Canadian information technology expert Michael K. Barbour, demonstrate steady and incremental
growth in the practice of distance, online and blended learning. Without a national education authority
and public education governed by the provinces and territories, accurately assessing that growth in a
country with 5.3 million K-12 students and 15,000 schools remains challenging for researchers. Based
upon increasingly reliable annual surveys, the numbers of tracked “distance education students” have
risen from some 140,000 (0.5%) in 2008-09 to 332,077 (6.2%) in 2013-14 (Barbour and LaBonte 2014).
The use of blended learning is on the rise, even if the reported data is rather patchy. With the 2012
formation of the CAN eLearning Network, a national pan-Canadian consortium focused on K-12 online
and blended learning, better data may be generated, making tracking much more accurate and reliable for
policy analysis and decision-making (Barbour 2013, CAN eLearning Network 2015 ).
Compared with the recent dramatic expansion of digital learning in the United States, online and
blended learning in Canada’s K-12 public schools has followed a decidedly different pattern of evolution
(Finn and Fairchild 2012; Barbour 2012). Much of the online learning in parts of Canada remains an
outgrowth of correspondence school education, involving e-format programmed units, audio distance
learning and video conferencing. The primary drivers in Canadian provincial and territorial systems are
government authorities, while learning corporations serve as contractors providing content, learning
technologies, and support services to the government-run operations. In spite of the tremendous potential
for expansion in online learning programs, the free market remains regulated and private providers are
largely absent. Provincial or school district authorities promote a ‘growth-management ‘strategy where
online and blended learning are considered the next evolution of effective technology integration
(Barbour SITE 2015).
Figure 1: C21 Canada Vision: A Graphic of the 21st Century Learning Framework, 2012 (C21
“Twenty-first century skills, technology and learning” is a common phrase used by Canadian
education policy-makers and the popular media to signal, first and foremost, change, defined in terms of
meeting the needs of the ‘next generation’ of learners. A national organization, C21 Canada, emerged in
2011-12, to promote “new models of public education” in response to “the advent of the knowledge and
digital era.” In May 2012, C21 Canada released a futuristic blueprint, Shifting Minds, proposing “a go-
forward 21st Century learning framework for Canada’s public education systems” founded upon a set of
seven declaratory principles, endorsing freer access for students, more “personalized” learning, and
pledging support for “educational leaders” committed to digital learning initiatives (C21 Canada 2012).
While the C21 Canada policy paper purported to be “Canadian” in origin, it mirrored the American
Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21) approach and was buttressed with mostly U.S. technology-in-
education research studies (C21 Canada 2012, Appendix). Working with the Council of Ministers of
Education Canada (CMEC) and Canadian branches of the international learning corporations, C21
Canada holds regional conferences and attempts to ‘seed’ 21st Century learning, mainly through provincial
and territorial departments of education (C21 Canada 2015). In British Columbia, the BC Learns
initiative, first proposed in late 2010, and known as “Personalized Learning,” won the support of C21
Canada and, in 2015-16, is being piloted in 16 different elementary schools (British Columbia 2015).
Ontario’s eLearning initiative from 2011 to 2014 drew, in part, on C21 Canada’s work (Ontario Education
2011). In other provinces, such as Nova Scotia, the 21st Century learning promoters have secured some
regional school board support, but gained little traction with budget-conscious provincial education
departments (Nova Scotia 2015).
More recently, Google Apps for Education (GAFE), has begun to make inroads in Canada’s K-12
school systems. When it comes to digital learning, Google has enjoyed much more success than Microsoft
and smaller players in the growing market for software in elementary and secondary schools. First
introduced in 2006, GAFE made its first big breakthroughs from 2012 onwards. Public concerns that
Google was mining student e-mail accounts for ad targeting purposes represented a setback, but that
problem was squarely addressed in April 2014. In the case of one Canadian province, Nova Scotia,
GAFE was adopted, piloted during 2014-15, and then approved for a rollout to all 400 public schools in
the province (Julian 2015). By the end of 2015, it was spreading quickly and teacher training summits had
been held or were scheduled to be held in Ontario, Alberta, Quebec and BC as well as Nova Scotia. In
schools across the country, it is becoming increasingly essential for students to have access to the Internet
in order to be successful. Homework, projects, even information and advice from teachers was now
transmitted on-line, and more readily accessible if you had the electronic tools to access the information
(Frost 2015).
II – A National Overview
Education is strictly a provincial government responsibility in Canada and the country, alone
among the OECD member states, has no national Department of Education or policy standards. Some
coordination is provided by the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC), supported by
comparative research conducted until 2010 by the Canadian Council on Learning, based in Ottawa
(CMEC 2015, CCL 2010). All ten provinces and the three territories have established and maintain
“distance education” programs within their K-12 publicly-funded school systems. The Western provinces
of British Columbia (BC) and Alberta have the most extensive online presence, in terms of percentage of
student participation. Canada’s most populous province, Ontario, has experienced the most recent spurt
of growth in student enrolments in distance education and blended learning. The smallest of the ten
Canadian provinces, Prince Edward Island (PEI), has the least participation. Three of the provinces, Nova
Scotia, Newfoundland/Labrador and New Brunswick, have a single, provincially-managed online
program. Three provinces, Ontario, Saskatchewan and BC, have primarily school district-based programs.
In Quebec, Manitoba and Alberta, online programs are a combination of provincial and district-based.
The three territories, Northwest Territories, Yukon and Nunavut, and Prince Edward Island (PEI) use
online programs from other provinces. Provincial regulations for online learning exist in BC and Nova
Scotia, but Quebec, Saskatchewan and Alberta continue to operate without much regulation of distance
learning at all. Flexibility and openness to innovation are bigger factors than regulatory restrictions in
explaining the extent of K-12 distance, online and blended learning activity (Barbour and LaBonte 2014).
The shift to online and digital learning in Canada has attracted the attention of Canadian teacher
unions, evoking trepidation varying in degree from one province to another. The Canadian Teachers
Federation (2000) was the first educational organization to begin tracking K-12 distance education
participation levels, focusing on the implications for teachers’ class loads and working conditions. In
British Columbia, distance learning gained earlier and wider acceptance, and the BC Teachers Federation
funded some of the research (Kuehn 2006). From 2013 to 2014, the Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA)
was instrumental in mobilizing a “Stop Distance Education Cuts” movement ( aimed
at sustaining funding through the public school system. “Students need choice and flexibility in their
learning opportunities ,” the ATA stated. “By cutting funding to schools that use Distance Education, the
government is effectively cutting choice and flexibility for students to complete their high school
education’ (ATA 2013a).
Figure 2: Online Learning Programs, Canadian Provinces and Territories, 2015. (Can eLearning
Provincial regulations governing Nova Scotia online learning are a response to initial concerns
raised by the Nova Scotia Teachers Union (NSTU). When presented with innovative online programs, the
instinctive response was to defend existing teacher contract provisions, limiting workload and hours of
instruction to those established for classroom-based teachers (Bennett 2012, Barbour and LaBonte 2014,
13). Another line of defence was and remains to resist online programs, unless and until they can be
offered equally to all students. Education school research conducted by Dianne Looker and the Equity
and Technology Research Alliance has served to focus resources on “the inclusion of marginal youth”
using ICT to build upon their “distinctive cultural knowledge” and serve their “economic interests”
(Looker and Naylor 2010).
Distance education serves as a supplementary curricular program in most of Canada’s provinces
and territories. Up until 2014, some provinces continued to deliver distance education in the static form
of e-links to web postings of print-based learning materials. Growing numbers of schools are making use
of synchronous tools such as traditional video conferencing or virtual classroom software. Across
Canada, however, K-12 distance education is often used interchangeably with online learning even though
most such learning does not actually take place online. Surveying the various provincial and territorial
programs, it is clear that distance education provides an attractive alternative when face-to-face learning
is not feasible or affordable, or for students requiring alternative delivery methods for remediation or
course credit recovery purposes. (Barbour 2010, 14-16). Without public charter schools pushing at the
boundaries of virtual schooling and blended instruction, as in the United States, online learning primarily
exists to provide K-12 courses for students that are not available in the brick-and-mortar school system
(Barbour SITE 2015).
Distance or online learning is growing modestly, but it still continues to represent a tiny
proportion of the total Canadian school enrolment. Out of a total student population of some 5 million,
the reported distance education enrolment has risen from 140,000 (2.7%) in 2008-09 to about 332,000
(6.2%) in 2013-14 (Barbour and LaBonte 2014, 13). Some 152,900 of the unique students (representing
46 % of the total) were from two western provinces, BC and Alberta, and enrolled in about 99 “public
distributed learning schools.” In those provinces, over 12 % of all students are enrolled in some form of
distance education, whereas enrolments continue to lag in the four Atlantic provinces, New Brunswick
(2.6%), Nova Scotia (2.2%), Newfoundland/Labrador (1.3%), and P.E.I. (0.5%). In the case of Ontario,
the development, since 2006, of a provincial consortium, e-Learning Ontario, has fostered growth in
distance education enrolment and province has been moving, since 2006, to centralize its formerly
school-district- based system under the auspices of a provincial consortium, e-Learning Ontario, and in
2013-14 reported 250,000 blended learning enrolments. Up in the Far North, I. student enrolments range
from 33 (0.1%) in Nunavut to 228 (2.8%) in the Northwest Territories, in spite of the demonstrable
advantages of online learning for rural and remote communities (Barbour and LaBonte 2014, Barbour
PTDEA 2015).
III- The Regional and Provincial Situation
Canada’s public education system can only be understood through the lens of its discrete regions,
composed of provinces and territories. Following the example of the International Association for Online
Learning (iNACOL) and CAN eLearning Network reports, this comparative analysis will highlight the
regional and provincial variations in the current provision of online and digital education. Nine of the ten
Canadian provinces have their own K-12 distance education programs; the exception being Prince
Edward Island. Two provinces, Newfoundland/Labrador and New Brunswick maintain single,
centralized, province-wide systems. Nova Scotia has its own system, but was built in collaboration with a
small number of regional school boards. Ontario and Saskatchewan are remarkably decentralized,
delegating much of online learning to consortia or remote school districts. Online learning in P.E.I. and
the territories might be described as limited in its reach (Barbour and LaBonte 2014) Only British
Columbia, Ontario, and Alberta have, so far, proven to be fertile ground for private school ventures in the
form of virtual or online schools.(Barbour 2010, 41; Kuehn, 2013). The rise of virtual schooling
delivered by ‘cyber charter schools’ has surfaced as a public policy issue in Alberta, where a University of
Alberta research unit, Parkland Institute, released an October 2013 report warning of the dangers of
“pedagogical innovation” in the form of privatization presented as a way of easing “budgetary
constraints” (Cummins and Gibson 2013).
Table 1: Registered Distance Education Students, Provinces and Territories, 2013-14 (CAN
eLearning Network)
Atlantic Canada
Canada’s four eastern most provinces, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, P.E.I., and
Newfoundland/Labrador, compose the Atlantic region and do co-operate on joint curriculum projects,
given their relative close proximity to one another. Province-wide distance learning programs exist,
managed by the Departments of Education, but only Nova Scotia has developed a regulatory regime to
govern the provision of online education. All online programs are sponsored by the provinces, some in
collaboration with district boards serving rural areas.
Distance education in Newfoundland and Labrador originated in 1988-89 with the advent of a single
advanced Mathematics course, involving 13 schools and utilizing a telematics or audio graphics delivery
system. A Centre for Distance Learning and Innovation (CDLI) was established in 2001-2 with 10
different courses field-tested enrolling 200 students in 76 different rural schools (Barbour 2005). In its
first decade, DLCI expanded to offer 38 courses with some 1,600 course registrations each year. In 2013-
14, 884 students were enrolled in 39 different courses totalling 1,576 registrations. (Barbour and LaBonte
2014). The Newfoundland high school program offers synchronous instruction matching regular school
times and using Elluminate software and asynchronous instruction supported by the Desire2Learn course
management system. Some online instructional support is also offered in the lower grades. That province
is also home to the Killick Centre at Memorial University, a leading online education research centre.
The Ministry of Education tracks online education delivery and maintains a K-12 School Profile System,
but, as of October 2015, there were no policies or regulations for distance education beyond those utilized
by CDLI. While e-Learning was recognized as one of eight NL Education “lines of business,” provincial
regulations were reportedly only under discussion. (Barbour and Mulcahy 2009, Crocker 2007, Barbour
and LaBonte 2014).
Nova Scotia has developed its own province-wide online learning program – the Nova Scotia
Virtual School (NSVS). It provides a central course management platform and delegates to the eight
school boards the responsibility for providing course content written by practicing classroom teachers
(Bennett 2012). The province’s French school board, Conseil scolaire acadien provincial (CSAP), has a
longer history of offering online courses, shared jointly with New Brunswick. Since Nova Scotia has
tended to lag behind in providing province-wide high speed Internet access, concerns about the urban-
rural “digital divide” exert considerable influence on educational policy-making (Looker and Naylor
2009, 117-136). In 2013-14, the province’s correspondence studies program was being transitioned to an
online delivery format. Although Nova Scotia has no K-12 distance education legislation, eleven
provisions in the Teachers’ Contract with the Nova Scotia Teachers Union (NSTU) set out the parameters
for current and future activity. Combined student enrolment in NSVS and correspondence courses totalled
2,720 in 2013-14, composed of 970 in VHS and 1,750 taking correspondence courses (Barbour and
LaBonte 2014, 13).
The Nova Scotia regulatory regime respects negotiated teacher rights. The eleven specific
clauses in the Agreement set out the rules of engagement and, in effect, limit the provincial government’s
freedom of action in providing online learning. All online instructors must be certified teachers,
employed by one of the eight boards, and are protected by provisions limiting their number of
instructional days and working hours and guaranteeing teachers personal days as well as dedicated
preparation and marking time. Distance education is treated like a regular in-school program with
supervisors, dedicated facilities space, and class groups limited to 20-25 students. A provincial Distance
Education Committee, with teacher union representation (four of 8 positions) exists to address “issues
surrounding distance education.”(NS Education 2011).
The Nova Scotia Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DoEECD) is
starting to embrace digital learning in close partnership with Google and tethered to Google Apps for
Education (GAFE). After piloting the program in a number of schools in 2014-15, the DoEECD decided
to make GAFE available to every single child and teacher in the 400 schools across the province. Twenty
thousand out of Nova Scotia’s 118,000 students are now using free computer software from Google as
part of their classroom activities. Provincial education officials expect Google Apps for Education to be
nearly universal by the end of 2016-17. The cloud-based suite of programs can be accessed on any
electronic device with an internet connection and a web browser. It includes email, word processing and
assignment management software. Some school boards have chosen to issue students $200 devices called
Chromebooks to let them access Google products at school and at home (Julian 2015)
Prince Edward Island is geographically small and makes minimal provision for distance or
online education. Two Ministerial Directives, issued in 2001 and in August 2008, set out the provincial
guidelines and authorize, for P.E.I. credit purposes, distance education courses offered by New Brunswick
and other provincial jurisdictions. A provincial video conferencing system exists, but it is little utilized by
the Education Department or students in local schools. In 2013-14, only 108 students out of a 20,131
total student enrolment were enrolled in online courses (Barbour 2011, Barber and LaBonte 2014, 14).
Two online learning programs are offered in New Brunswick, one in the English language, the
other in French, and serving the dual linguistic school system. While the program reflects the province’s
bilingual reality, it is delivered by the same Ministry learning management system (LMS). Student
enrolment consists mostly of students supplementing their regular in-school studies and it was relatively
static or slightly declining from 2007 to 2012, in both the Anglophone and Francophone sectors. While
New Brunswick was an early champion of “21st Century Learning,” provincial budget restraints from
2010 to 2014 limited the proliferation of ICT across the province (NB Education 2010, Barbour and
LaBonte 2014). From 2008 until 2014, the NB Ministry of education averaged 2,200 to 2,650 enrolled in
their distance education courses. Steadily increasing numbers of students were enrolled in face-to-face
courses registered in the NB learning management system where their teachers were using online material
to teach the course. In 2013-14, some 943 English students and 1,511 French students were registered in
these ‘blended’ learning activities. Recent growth in student enrolment in online courses, according to the
NB Education Department, is attributable to expanded First Nations language course offerings and
meeting Special Education course demands to serve severely learning-challenged students (Barbour and
LaBonte 2014, 15).
Central Canada
Canada’s two most populous provinces, Ontario and Quebec, are home to some 20 million people
or 60% of the nation’s total population and the lion’s share of its K-12 students. Distance education
programs in Ontario and Quebec are province-wide, but mostly offered at the district or school board
level. Ontario has a strongly rooted tradition of locally managed district programs, while Quebec has
only recently begun to devolve management from the Ministry of Education to the district level. The
provision of such programs in Ontario has undergone a distinct shift in management and control since
2006 with the emergence of two distinct e-learning consortia, Anglophone and francophone, and the
expansion of rural distance learning projects.
Quebec is a distinct, unique French-speaking province with a majority Francophone K-11 school
system and a separate one for the Anglophone minority population. Secondary school extends from
Grade 7 to 11 and thereafter students attend a two-year College d’enseignement general et professional
(CEGEP) to secure a university-preparatory diploma. The earliest distance education courses originated
as part of the vocational studies movement back in 1946. In April 1996, Quebec school boards took the
big step on establishing a provincial non-profit organization to produce online resources known as Société
de formation a distance des commissions scholaires du Quebec (SOFAD). That organization produces
distance learning materials in French for students 16 and over, offered through district-based programs in
some 57 regional centres and, by 2013-14, serving 56,608 students (Barbour 2010, Barbour and LaBonte
Quebec’s English sector developed its own Distance Education and Community Network,
founded in 1999-2000. Over the next six years, it grew to encompass all nine English-speaking school
boards and morphed into Leading English Education and Resource Network (LEARN), known as LEARN
Quebec. The Quebec English distance education agency provides a variety of distance learning offerings,
enrolling over 8,500 English-language students from across the province. In addition, close to 36,500
students are served by LEARN managed blended learning asynchronous services (Barbour and LaBonte
2014, 17).
Even though Quebec’s Education Act makes no reference to distance education, the province is
emerging as a leader in promoting online learning in small rural schools. The Ministry of Education has
funded Écoles éloignées en réseau (EER) since 2002 and the Rural Networked Schools (RNS) initiative
has broken new ground in distance education. Instead of simply compensating for the absence or closing
of a school, the program serves existing schools by “networking” certain learning activities in an effort to
enhance the quality of education by broadening access to resources (Barbour 2010, 12-13). By 2009-10,
the RNS initiative had expanded to some 20 Francophone school boards encompassing 70 schools and
involving about 90 teachers (Barbour 2011, 41-2). During 2013-14, EER engaged 392 teachers in 214
different schools and connected more than 4,600 students through use of Knowledge Forum and various
synchronous tools. One rural Quebec school district, Beauce-Etchemin, also offered 16 remedial online
courses as well as nine full-time online courses, enrolling some 700 students in eastern Quebec (Barbour
and LaBonte 2014).
Canada’s most populous province, Ontario, spent $23 billion on education in 2013-14, operating
4,897 schools and serving some 2 million students. While Ontario is a massive province geographically,
distance education lagged for many years and, for the most part, suffered from a confused sense of
direction. Since 1994-95, many of the province’s school boards have established their own district
programs and then in 2006 twenty of the boards formed the Ontario e-Learning Consortium (OeLC).
That joint venture has helped increase course offerings and the sharing of resources with positive results.
From 2008-09 to 2009-10, online student enrolments in OeLC boards jumped from 6,276 to 9,695. The
consortia model has also been replicated by Ontario’s French language boards and by the province’s
constitutionally guaranteed separate Catholic school boards. In 2010, a Northern e-Learning Consortium
(NeLC) was established to allow remote northern Ontario school districts to address shared challenges
(Ontario Education 2011).
Growing demand in Ontario for online student learning has manifested itself in the recent emergence
of private venture virtual schools. Three different private K-12 online learning programmes are
flourishing outside the state regulated school system: Virtual High School (VHS Ontario), Ottawa
Carleton e-School (Ottawa), and Keewaytinook Internet High School (Nishnawbe Aski Nation). By 2009-
10, some 3,140 of the 4,700 students in private online schools (or two-thirds of the total) were enrolled at
the phenomenally successful VHS (O), founded in 1995 by Steve Baker and a team of Huron County
public educators and based in the small town of Bayfield, Ontario (Bennett 2012). Each of these private
operations has found a niche by serving needs being unmet in K-12 Ontario public education.
Ontario’s regulatory regime, outlined in the 2006 E-Learning Strategy and codified in school
regulations initially imposed limits on the delivery of online learning. “In some instances,” North
American online learning expert Michael K. Barbour reports, “the Ministry requirements were once quite
restrictive.” Originally, the Ontario provincial LMS could not be used for either blended learning or the
professional development of teachers. That led school districts to run parallel systems, the provincial
LMS as well as their own separate LMS for those other purposes (Barbour 2010). Beginning in
September 2011, Ontario loosened its regulations and embraced blended learning as part of its system. By
2013-14, the best estimates were that about 52,095 students were taking e-learning courses, including
summer school, from school boards through the Ontario Ministry’s virtual learning environment and the
records showed 237, 930 unique blended learning logins. In addition, 20,000 Ontario students were
enrolled in correspondence courses and about 6,000 in private online schools (Barbour and LaBonte
2014, 18).
Tables 2 and 3: Technology Integration in Ontario Public Schools, 2013-14, Elementary and
Secondary Schools (People for Education 2014).
The route to expanded eLearning in Ontario was through the bargaining table. The leading Ontario
teachers’ union, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation, weighed in on this matter at their
2010 annual meeting. The big issue, for the OSSTF, is not quality programming but rather closing the so-
called “digital divide” separating students fully equipped with the latest e-tools and those without such
access (Bennett 2012). While there is an “ICT competency divide” between urban and rural Ontario,
opinions differ on whether it should limit the pace and scale of the online learning movement (Newman
2010). Now that the door is open to blended learning the province is moving more quickly to provide
student and teacher access to online tools and courses. The leading Ontario parent lobby group, Toronto-
based People for Education, has emerged as a champion of “digital literacies” (information, media and
ICT) and the promotion of ICT to enhance student learning (Chen et al. 2014). .
Western Canada
Western Canada is home to Canada’s growth-oriented resource producing provinces, Alberta,
British Columbia, and, more recently, Saskatchewan. Vast stretches of the region’s northern frontier
would seem to be prime territory for the introduction of remote online learning. Two of the four
provinces, BC and Manitoba, have centralized K-12 distance education programs. The leaders in
providing distance education are British Columbia and Alberta, while Saskatchewan has lagged behind in
terms of student enrolment. Without the financial resources of its neighbouring provinces, Manitoba has
still managed to demonstrate some ITC innovation and to enrol between 8,000 and 12,000 students per
year. British Columbia is the only western province with formal “distributed learning” regulations. Since
renewing its online learning strategy, Alberta has closed the gap and is now more competitive with BC in
the field of digital learning (Barbour 2010 and Barbour and LaBonte 2014).
Manitoba has developed its own online learning strategy and mix of support programs. The
Department of Education, known as Manitoba Education, operates three distance education programs:
Independent Study Option (ISO), with print-based delivery for Grade 9 to 12 level students; the Teacher
Mediated Option (TMO), which uses audio conferencing; and the Web Based Course (WBC) option,
operated by Manitoba Education in collaboration with local school districts. With WBC, the Department
develops the approved courses, supervises teacher training and support, and finances the learning
management system. Schools are left to implement the WBS’s, including the hiring or assigning of
teachers, and the costs are covered by regular per-student block funding from the province. A separated
Francophone Division of Manitoba Education offers ISO and WBC courses for students registered in
French first language or French immersion programs (Barbour 2010, 44-45). Manitoba Ministry statistics
for 2013-14 show 2,960 enrolments in the ISO, 379 in TMO, and 8,600 in the WBC option. With the
creation of a Manitoba “virtual collegiate,” online and blended learning opportunities are forecasted to
expand and a Wapaskawa Virtual Collegiate, initiated under a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)
with the Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre (MFNERC),
Saskatchewan’s K-12 distance education program was once centralized and much like that of
Manitoba. Under the aegis of the Ministry of Education, the province developed courses delivered online,
televised via satellite, or using print-based materials. In 2009-10, the province delegated most of the
responsibility to its 28 school divisions and responded to public concerns about the “digital divide” by
continuing to invest in providing print-delivery to students unable, for whatever reason, to access the
Internet (Barbour 2010, 47). Sixteen of the 28 school districts in 2013-14 operated or participated in some
type of distance education program. School districts without distance learning courses collaborated with
other districts to provide students with online course options. It is estimated that about 10,000 (5.8%) of
Saskatchewan’s 172,205 students during 2013-14 were engaged in some form of online learning,
registered with the Saskatchewan Distance Learning Course Repository or with one of 21 different K-12
programs. Distance education is guided by the Saskatchewan Technology in Education Framework (TEF)
which promises to further extend “equitable access to high quality instruction” through “flexible
approaches” aimed at meeting “the diverse needs of students and teachers” in each school division.
Under Saskatchewan’s 2013 Bullying and Cyberbullying Action Plan, Digital citizenship courses will be
offered to all K-12 students (Barbour and LaBonte 2014, 21-22). .
Alberta stands out as Canada’s leading oil producing province and the one most
committed to school choice for students and families. “Choice,” Alberta Education proclaimed
in 2011 on its website, “is one of the important principles Alberta's education system is built on.”
When it comes to selecting schools, parents and students can choose from a wide range of
options and among the publicly-funded choices are regular public schools, separate Catholic
schools, Francophone schools, and charter schools. Parents can also secure grant support to
home school their own children. That overall philosophy of choice is also reflected in the
province’s online learning programs (Alberta Education 2011).
Distance learning in Alberta has evolved in form to the point where, in 2013-14, the province
operated over 23 K-12 distributed learning programs. Flexibility is the overriding philosophy and Alberta
Education professes a commitment to support “ learning environments” which allow teachers and
students to utilize a wide range of teaching and learning resources in “a regular classroom setting or in
different, non-centralised locations” while “separated by time and/or place for some or all of their
learning activities.” A provincial Alberta Distance Learning Centre (ADLC), based in the Pembina Hills
school district, offers courses in the full range of formats from print correspondence courses to online
formats blended with in-school programs to Vista Virtual School, a full day school. The ADLC also
partners with Centre francophone d’éducation a distance that provides distance education services to
Alberta’s francophone students. School districts are also free to offer their own online learning programs
and many exist in the state-funded Catholic school system as well as the standard public system. District-
based programs come in many varieties, including an online school for Indigenous students, SunChild E-
Learning Community (Barbour 2010, 49-50 and Barbour 2013, 57)
Alberta’s school choice philosophy encourages innovation and, since 2007, the province has
exploring and developing a succession of policy initiatives, ranging from “distributed learning” to “open
access” and attempted in June 2010 to re-frame educational innovation, providing teachers with the
freedom to design and deliver instruction “face-to-face, online, and in other non-traditional
environments” (Alberta Education 2010, 21). With the Alberta government exploring all policy options,
including ‘cyber charter schools,’ the ATA stiffened its position, condemning such ventures as a “clear
threat to public education” (ATA 2013b ). Since the province does not collect province-wide distance
education enrolment data, the CAN eLearning Network figure of 75,000 (12.2%) of the 616, 375 students
amounts to a rough estimate for 2013-14. A provincial policy review, initiated in April 2012, may help to
provide more integration of the various types of online, blended and virtual learning (Barbour and
LaBonte 2014).
British Columbia continues to lead in the provision of K-12 online learning for students. With a
total student population of 635,057 in 2013-14, BC ranked first in online registration with 77,912 unique
students enrolled in one or more online courses. The primary distance learning programs, unlike many
other provinces, are district-level based and offered in some 60 public “distributed learning schools” as
well as some 16 independent or private “distributed learning schools.” The province also has a single,
one-stop portal, LearnNowBC, for students, parents, and teachers to use when accessing information
about all publicly-funded distributed (online) learning in BC. That portal provides a complete catalogue
of courses, a searchable database, and access to free services, including tutoring, advising, and homework
advice for elementary as well as secondary level students. Another online resource, Open School,
originally developed by BC Education, is also available, on a cost-recovery basis, providing provincial
curriculum content and hosting services to district boards in need of such support (Barbour 2010, 51-52;
Barbour and LaBonte 2014, 24).
British Columbia’s school law has recognized and enabled “distributed learning” since 2006.
Under the School Act, BC lets the school districts decide on how to deliver online learning. Students in
public schools are permitted, with prior approval of the Ministry, to enrol in educational programs falling
under multiple jurisdictions or boards of education. Schools authorized as “distributed schools” offering
online programs are subject to regulations, including the stipulation that boards only employ “BC
certified teachers.” While the BC Teachers’ Federation is more open to “distributed learning,” the union
remains cautious in its support (Barbour 2013, 15). Since 2006, the provincial funding model has been
implemented, based upon student course load, and pro-rated based upon who is delivering the courses.
Neighbourhood schools receive a “DL Support Block” grant to compensate them for accommodating
online courses and each online course is designated as worth 1/8 FTE in the funding formula. Given the
size of the BC online learning program, regular quality assurance audits now include a review of
alternative online programs (Winkelmans 2010). While the BC Teachers’ Federation is more open to
“distributed learning” than other provincial teacher associations, the BCTF remains cautious in its support
(Barbour 2013, 15).
In British Columbia, independent private schools are provincially-funded and this has greatly
assisted in the spread of what are termed “distributed learning independent schools.” In 2013-14, there
were 16 such schools, taking advantage of a 50% BC provincial grant to operate, in most cases, without
charging tuition fees. In a province where independent schools compose 12% of the total K-12 student
population, some 21% of all distributed learning enrolment (by 2009-10) was to be found in independent
schools. The province’s largest distributed learning school, Christian Heritage Online School in
Kelowna, BC, enrolls over 2,000 full-time students and has an additional 3,000 students taking one or two
courses. Much of Heritage Christian School’s appeal, according to IT Director Greg Bitgood, was
attributable to innovative technology which provides ongoing tracking of student progress and
individualized programs of study for each student (Bitgood 2011). A BCTF research report (Kuehn 2013)
claimed that provincial funding enhancements had fueled dramatic increases in private distributed school
enrolment, threatening the publicly-funded school system.
Northern Canada
Canada’s northern territories face many social challenges that impact upon the delivery of not
only online courses, but most regular education programs. All three of the territories, the Yukon, North
West Territories, and Nunavut, are on the Canadian educational frontier and far removed from the main
southern population centres. Student attendance and teacher turnover are critical factors affecting the
delivery of public education (Barbour 2011, 54). The territories have tended to utilize the K-12
curriculum from one of the southern provinces, until recently. The same is true for distance learning. The
Yukon has utilized the BC curriculum, while North West Territories and Nunavut use the Alberta
Education program. Local initiatives have emerged in the Yukon and Northwest Territories, in a region
where tackling the underlying social challenges takes precedence over online learning initiatives.
The Yukon, the smallest of the Northern territories in size and population, currently has 28 K-12
schools serving a growing student population that reached 5,122 in 2013-14. Distance education began in
1998-99, with the introduction of a Yukon Grade 11 pilot course in Information Technology with a dozen
students. Since 2004, the territory has operated a territory-wide video conferencing program, linking
Whitehorse schools with outlying remote communities. Yukon students are also able to take advantage of
BC‘s Open School program. In 2008-09, Yukon had agreements with eight distance education schools,
including the Northern British Columbia Distance Education School (NBCDES) and the Alberta Distance
Learning Centre. During 2010-11, some 80 students were enrolled in one or more of 29 different courses
offered in Yukon under inter-provincial agreements (Barbour 2011, 52).
Digital learning is gaining traction in the Yukon Territory as student enrolments continue to rise.
Yukon Education supports a Distributed Learning Program managed by the Aurora Virtual School (AVS)
that in 2013-14 served 42 home-educated students and 140 in-school students taking at least one course
online. Blended learning programs are emerging in Yukon schools and the territorial education
department has embraced the “flex model” (Staker and Horn 2012) and is tracking its implementation. A
2014 CAN eLearning Network report estimated that 182 students or 3.5 % of all students were officially
enrolled in distance education, but blended learning activity using the “rotation” model was becoming
more common (Barbour and LaBonte 2014, 25).
The Northwest Territories lags behind the Yukon in exploring new approaches to distance
education. In 2013-14, its population totalled 43,642 living in the Yellowknife and widely scattered
native communities. Although the Territories had 49 schools, the growing student population only
numbered 8,204 (Barbour and LaBonte 2014, 27). Completion rates in online courses, according to a
2005 report, were very low, with only 1 out of every 3 recording a passing grade (Barbour 2010, 57) The
most northerly school board, the Beaufort-Delta Education Council (BDEC), introduced its first online
(Internet-based) courses in 2009-10, delivered on the Internet with teachers using ElluminateLive
software and whiteboard technology (Barbour 2011, 55). Some 228 students were enrolled in distance
education during 2013-14, most taking courses offered through the Alberta Distance Learning Centre
(Barbour and LaBonte 2014, 27). .
Canada’s youngest northern territory, Nunavut, was granted sovereignty and partitioned from the
Northwest Territories in 1999. Ten years later, in 2009, a Together at a Distance program, headed by Neil
Burgess, former Nunavut IT Manager, established an online learning portal using Moodle software and
attempted to provide ‘made-in-Nunavut’ learning resources (Burgess 2011). With its small but growing
population of 35,591 this territory had 42 schools in 2013-14 enrolling 9, 728 with student numbers
growing by some 9 % a year. (Barbour 2011 and Barbour and LaBonte 2014), 28). Nunavut schools
follow the Alberta K-12 school curriculum. In the most recent Can eLearning Network study, no active
K-12 distance education courses were reported for the whole territory. A territorial policy on access to and
delivery of distance education, initiated in 2012, is still underway (Barbour and LaBonte 2014, 28).
Federal Schools
Canada’s federal government is responsible for the provision of First Nations education on the
country’s native ‘reserves’ through Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC),
recently renamed Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC). Some 60% of First Nations students
attend students on reserve, funded by AANDC/INAC and managed in collaboration with Band Councils
and a number of First Nations education authorities (Bennett and Anuik 2014). For students who live on
reserve but attend provincial schools off-reserve, the federal department pays the tuition that the province
charges non-Aboriginal students, normally through provincial or school board authorities. Four distance
education programs existed in 2012-13, designated as First Nations, Métis and/or Inuit (FNMI) programs
and enrolling an estimated 1,800 of the 106,500 identified students. In 2013, AANDC devolved the
responsibility for entering into e-learning program service agreements to First Nations education
authorities, phased in and taking effect in 2015-16. Some First Nations education authorities and regional
councils are actively exploring enhanced distance and online learning, but face significant barriers,
including scarcity of resources, lack of bandwidth or connectivity, or shortage of expertise (Barbour and
LaBonte 2014, 29).
IV– Overall Assessment – The Present State and Future of Digital Learning
Digital learning is on a growth curve in Canadian school systems, but without the radical
variations, free market experimentation, and ‘disruptive’ innovation found in the United States (Moe and
Chubb 2010; Chubb 2012; Christensen et al. 2013). Significant gaps still exist in service levels and
barriers stand in the way of expansion into un-serviced frontiers, particularly in the Far North and First
Nations communities. In all of Canada’s provinces and territories, including Alberta, school choice is
rationed or limited, learning conditions are carefully state regulated, and the delivery of education is
circumscribed by ‘brick-and-mortar’ schooling. Virtually all Canadian educational systems remain
designed around seat time, defined as providing in-school classes of regulated size with a minimum
number of instructional hours (Jenson et al. 2010; Powell et al. 2015). Some private sector virtual schools
have recently arrived and thrive outside the mainstream system. No full-time online public charter
schools exist, even in Alberta, the only province in Canada with Charter School legislation (Bennett
2012). Distance education and online learning student enrolments continue to grow incrementally in the
nation’s provincial/territorial systems and in ‘have not’ jurisdictions where expansion is limited by
budgetary spending limitations (Barbour and LaBonte BIT 2015).
The growth of online learning in Canada may be more significant than reported by provincial and
territorial authorities. While Quebec and New Brunswick both reported modest distance education
enrolments in 2013-14, estimates for teachers using the curriculum in blended format are much higher.
From 2011 to 2014, to cite another example, the Ontario Ministry of Education coordinated an initiative
to expand access to blended learning for all K-13 students, which generated almost 240,000 blended
learning enrolments in the provincial learning management system during the 2013-14 school year. If and
when provincial authorities begin tracking the extent of blended learning, the actual rate of growth will be
shown to be much higher than the official statistics (Barbour and LaBonte 2014).
Digital learning has entered the education policy discourse in most of Canada’s ten provinces and
three territories. Without a national education department, the promotion of 21st century skills, technology
and learning falls to provincial and territorial education authorities with varying degrees of commitment
to technology education reform. The national advocacy group 21C Canada holds some sway over
provincial ministers of education (C21 Canada 2015), but, so far, the implementation of 21st century
learning and the explicit teaching of ‘digital literacies’ is very uneven, particularly outside of the
recognized leaders among the provinces, Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta (Chen et al. 2014).
Blended learning is on the rise, as an outgrowth of the natural evolution of online and face-to-face
education from 2008 until 2015. Newer blended learning models, promoted by the Christensen Institute
(Powell et al. 2015), are beginning to emerge in the so-called “hybrid zone” in what might be termed
‘lighthouse’ schools. While provinces such as BC, Alberta and Ontario actively promote eLearning,
innovation is limited by the current structural boundaries and education authorities are only beginning to
track blended learning enrolment. In 2012-13, British Columbia enacted legislation enabling “flexible
learning choices” and, with the support of the BC Distributed Learning Administrators’ Association
(BCDLAA), blended learning and “flipped classroom” practices are becoming more mainstream (Barbour
2013, 61-62). Google Apps for Education has now surfaced as an affordable software option for cost
conscious school jurisdictions. National online education survey reports, produced by the CAN eLearning
Network (Barbour and LaBonte BIT 2015), testify to the steady growth of distance education and online
programs, but identify the need for “better data” and more evidence of the transition to ‘competency-
based learning’ in Canada.
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Figures and Tables
Figure 1: C21 Canada Vision: A Graphic of the 21st Century Learning Framework, 2012 (C21
Figure 2: Online Learning Programs, Canadian Provinces and Territories, 2015. (CAN eLearning
Table 1: Registered Distance Education Students, Provinces and Territories, 2013-14 (CAN
eLearning Network)
Tables 2 and 3: Technology Integration in Ontario Public Schools, 2013-14, Elementary and
Secondary Schools (People for Education 2014)
... In 2016, Bennett indicated that there were 5.3 million K-12 students and 15,000 schools in Canada. He also estimated that from the 2008-2009 to the 2013-2014 school year, the number of distance learners rose from around 140,000 to 332,000 (Bennett 2016). Within the K-12 context, distance learning is primarily supplemental to the traditional face-to-face options. ...
... In this way, individual learners can gain access to courses that might be unavailable at their schools. Furthermore, remote, distancelearning opportunities have been moving from static websites with text-based, asynchronous discussions, links to websites, and downloadable documents towards synchronous, virtual conferencing modes (Bennett 2016). With the recent school closures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is likely that use of technology and distance education has increased and may continue to increase. ...
... To be sure, most schools across Canada are equipped with Internet access, some kind of computing devices in the form of personal computers or tablets, and portals accessible to parents and students. The use of mobile devices in schools is still disputed and remains prohibited in some schools (Bennett 2016). Learning managements systems (LMS) are common in most schools with many schools hosting these systems on Canadian-based servers. ...
... In 2016, Bennett indicated that there were 5.3 million K-12 students and 15,000 schools in Canada. He also estimated that from the 2008-2009 to the 2013-2014 school year, the number of distance learners rose from around 140,000 to 332,000 (Bennett 2016). Within the K-12 context, distance learning is primarily supplemental to the traditional face-to-face options. ...
... In this way, individual learners can gain access to courses that might be unavailable at their schools. Furthermore, remote, distance-learning opportunities have been moving from static websites with text-based, asynchronous discussions, links to websites, and downloadable documents towards synchronous, virtual conferencing modes (Bennett 2016). With the recent school closures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is likely that use of technology and distance education has increased and may continue to increase. ...
... To be sure, most schools across Canada are equipped with Internet access, some kind of computing devices in the form of personal computers or tablets, and portals accessible to parents and students. The use of mobile devices in schools is still disputed and remains prohibited in some schools (Bennett 2016). Learning managements systems (LMS) are common in most schools with many schools hosting these systems on Canadian-based servers. ...
... A digital ecosystem is an interdependent group of enterprises, people and/or things that share standardized digital platforms for a mutually beneficial purpose, such as commercial gain, innovation or common interest. Digital ecosystems enable you to interact with customers, partners, adjacent industriesand even your competition (Bennett, 2017). Several aspects could be related to the digital ecosystem, for instance, business model, mobile content, information systems (IS) and sustainability (Anshari and Sumardi, 2020;Anshari et al., 2019b). ...
Purpose Industrial Revolution 4.0 is still evolving. The purpose of this paper is to assess the progress of Indonesia in achieving an initiative for Industry 4.0. As the largest country in Southeast Asia, Indonesia plays a critical role in implementing Industry 4.0. In addition, this study proposes an open innovation strategies for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in facing Industry 4.0, especially in the Indonesian setting. Open innovation is viewed as a long-term innovation model that relies on cross-border commerce between businesses and countries. Design/methodology/approach This study undertakes a comprehensive literature review to capture the necessary insights for establishing an early grasp of solution design. A total of 32 sample papers were qualified using a set of selection criteria designed to find the most relevant existing studies in the Industry 4.0 and Indonesia domains. The meta-details as significant discoveries were processed using a content analysis approach. In addition, the research deployed sentiment analysis from text mining to inter-operate and classify (positive, negative and neutral) in-text data using text analysis techniques to identify public sentiment toward Industry 4.0 in Indonesia. Findings The key finding is that there is a favorable relationship between digital ecosystem readiness and open innovation adoption for SMEs. While, knowledge management is a critical factor in guiding a country’s successful implementation of the open innovation paradigm. Furthermore, some of the major findings revealed that many initiatives for Industry 4.0 are carried out by the private sectors. In regards to the procedure, the role of government is the protection of market regulations. This could be due to preserving fair competition between corporations and SMEs. Local businesses and SMEs should be protected to ensure their survival. In addition, the major cause of the slow adoption of Industry 4.0 in Indonesia is the lack of digital equipment. This is because of the shortage of digital equipment that can create a digital divide between large and small businesses and between industries in the urban and rural areas. Research limitations/implications This study discussed some of the most essential issues of SMEs in adopting open innovation that is required for Industrial Revolution 4.0. It focuses on how digital ecosystem’s readiness influences open innovation adoption for SMEs in Indonesia. By understanding its current state of readiness, it contributes to the policymakers in deciding how and where to adopt open innovation and develop digital ecosystem and identify which ones might best meet their needs for any developing countries. Originality/value This paper is useful to academics, practitioners and policymakers in the fields of technology and public policy. The research provides some initial insights into Indonesia and any developing countries on Industry Revolution 4.0 and the needs for SMEs in adopting open innovation.
... Furthermore, SAT was intended to harmonize standards to the domain of teachers and institutions service alignment grip [8]. How to operate the K-12 framework system was very interesting and had to be examined in relation to many information that was available in network systems that could be utilized with a variety of form and search systems [9] [10]. Therefore there was need to filter that information automatically that corresponded and aligned with standards or curriculum [6]. ...
Full-text available
The use of computer media (ICT) in the development of education in United States through the implementation of the K-12 framework system was intended to develop the standards and curriculum as a means of curriculum alignment. The operation of this system was studied in order to establish how information is refined until it conforms to given curriculum standards. Through the literature review, the analysis in this article found that the concept of K-12 framework system can be seen from the point of view of grand band (according to classes), concepts and the development that allows teachers to filter the concepts and basic practices based on classes level, basic concepts, basic practice or integration of the three. The computerized basic practices of K-12 system showed computational behaviors and literacy thinking which enabled teachers and students to be connected with the world through collaboration in a computerized process and solving computational problems.
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In this study, we examined students’ natural studying behaviors in massive, open, online course (MOOC) on introductory psychology. We found that, overall, distributing study across multiple sessions—increasing spacing—was related to increased performance on end-of-unit quizzes, even when comparing the same student across different time-points in the course. Moreover, we found important variation on who is more likely to engage in spaced study and benefit from it. Students with higher ability and students who were more likely to complete course activities were more likely to space their study. Spacing benefits, however, were largest for the lower-ability students and for those students who were less likely to complete activities. These results suggest that spaced study might work as a buffer, improving performance for low ability students and those who do not engage in active practices. This study highlights the positive impact of spacing in real-world learning situations, but more importantly, the role of self-regulated learning decisions in shaping the impact of spaced practice.
This chapter introduces avenues for reflection based on case studies in order to put forward a number of elements that make it possible to highlight certain obstacles and levers that are characteristic of the place of digital technology in education. It explores the questions concerning the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) in teaching and learning. The issue that is raised lead readers to continue the reflection by focusing on two distinct cases of ICT integration and the evolution of techno‐pedagogical practices: that of the international Innovative School program and that of Ontario's e‐Learning Strategy. All data collected from form these cases were processed manually, according to the themes emerging in terms of techno‐pedagogical practices and activities, leadership, training and support. There are many common points observed regarding the deployment of digital technology and the evolution of techno‐pedagogical practices.
Technical Report
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In March 2019, the Government of Ontario unveiled its vision for education through a policy entitled Education that Works for You – Modernizing Classrooms. From an e-learning perspective, the proposed policy called for a centralization of e-learning courses and a graduation requirement that students take a minimum of four e-learning courses beginning with the 2020-21 school year. Either as a part of, in conjunction with, or simply at the same time, the Government also engaged in a public consultation around class sizes that would increase the class size limit for face-to-face courses to 28 students and increase the limit for e-learning courses to 35 students. The goal of this report is to examine the literature related to e-learning class size in Canada and internationally. However, before any examination of the literature related to class size, it is important to understand the different roles that educators play – and the different types of educators involved – in the e-learning environment. While in the traditional classroom environment a single teacher may select or design the materials used, deliver the actual instruction in a variety of ways, and support the student as they engage the lesson; in the e-learning environment the research clearly indicates that these roles are performed by multiple educators in different settings. Based on the model of e-learning utilized in Ontario, the two most defined roles are those of the e-learning teacher and the local school based facilitator or mentor. The e-learning teacher being responsible for determining the best pedagogical strategies, methods of assessment, and way to meaningful communicate with their students; while the local facilitator or mentor is responsible for supervisory and administrative duties, technical troubleshooting, and – in some cases – content-based assistance. The available literature related to e-learning class size demonstrates there has been a historical expectation in Ontario that the class size limit for e-learning courses was the same as the class size limit for face-to-face courses. The literature further demonstrates that across several provinces the class size limit for e-learning courses has ranged from a low of 22 students to a high of 30 students per course. In both Canadian and American jurisdictions where there has been a significant increase in the e-learning class size, student outcomes have also decreased significantly – particularly in full-time e-learning environments. Finally, the literature demonstrates the local facilitator/mentor role must be included in any conversation around class size because that teacher has a significant impact on class size and, more importantly, student success. The present e-learning model in Ontario clearly describes the importance of the supporting roles of teachers in school settings where students are taking e-learning courses. If teachers at the school level provide substantial levels of support in a wide range of areas, an e-learning class size could be higher than a traditional brick-and-mortar class in that context because there would be two educators that have instructional responsibility for those students. The larger question looming for the implementation of a drastic increase in e-learning in secondary schools in Ontario is how the present supports, which the research indicates are essential for e-learning success, will be scaled for the unprecedented increase of e-learning courses in the province.
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Awareness and use of Open Educational Resources (OER) has grown at all levels of education. Higher education researchers actively study OER but K-12 OER research indicates limited published results. To address this gap, this study examined articles meeting defined criteria and analyzed the results. Findings include cohesion of author-supplied keywords and ten primary categories of focus. From 38 articles studied, a variety of research methods were represented. Analysis showed Professional and Applied Sciences were overwhelmingly represented with the majority of articles within the discipline of Education and its fields with Humanities a distant second category of publication. The equal distribution between open and closed access journals may reflect changes to past scholarly publication practices. Citation analysis revealed divergences and reinforces the nascent quality of this topic. Future K-12 OER research that studies the complex change from resource scarcity to resource flexibility and digital abundance is needed.
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This last Open Praxis issue in 2018 is an open issue that includes seven research papers and one innovative practice paper
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Many involved with the practice or study of K-12 online and blended learning are familiar with the American context. It surrounds us in the media and published research. However, online and blended learning is occurring in meaningful ways to address specific K-12 student needs all around the globe. There are several areas where the international practice is consistent with what we know about the United States (e.g., similar evolutions, early initiatives were government-funded, many of the labels are similar). At the same time, there are some key differences internationally. While far less is known about K-12 online and blended learning in international contexts, programs in these jurisdictions are just as keen to tell their own success stories and undertake cyclic research to improve the design, delivery, and facilitation of their programs. As American-based researchers, it is incumbent upon us to ensure that these research-based lessons are known to our various stakeholders. Retrieved from
Technical Report
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The State of the Nation: K-12 E-Learning in Canada report continues to be Canada’s unique benchmark for the expanding use of technology-supported blended and online learning in Canada. This ninth edition of the annual report continues the strong tradition of incisive analysis of the state of K–12 online education in Canada. This year also sees a return of brief issue papers, vignettes, and individual program survey. This expanded information provides considerable insight about innovation and new approaches emerging in online and blended practices in K-12 programs across Canada. All annual reports and associated papers have been published on a new project website (, a shift from publication on the Canadian eLearning Network’s website ( due to the extensive volume of the collection. Canada continues to have one of the highest per capita student enrollment in online courses and programs of any jurisdiction in the world and was one of the first countries to use the Internet to deliver distance learning courses to students. In many ways Canada provides an interesting exemplar for the rest of the world, due in part to its division into 13 provinces and territories of widely varying population and geography, leading to a wealth of relevant comparisons with other countries/regions of similar population. Canada is also a part of the Commonwealth of Nations, leading naturally to comparisons with other English-speaking countries, but also with Quebec being linked to la Francophonie, leading to relevant role models for two major linguistic regions. And finally, Canada, through its offerings to indigenous communities, provides a role model for other countries for the provision of education to indigenes and minority populations. The "issues" papers published on the website make particularly topical reading about the challenges and innovations underway in many places across the country. Another feature that serves to “ground” the report in the realities of blended and online learnings are the “vignettes” which feature some of the personalities of the online educators who are blending practice, creating learning programs and environments with a varied mix of classroom and online methodologies where students have some control over their own learning, increasing flexibility and access to learning for students. The State of the Nation: K-12 E-Learning in Canada report, and its publication on the new project website, provides critical information and insight into how Canadian educational authorities and governments are integrating technology-supported approaches to prepare students for today’s economy and a future society in which the use of technology will be ubiquitous. This report provides a benchmark for educators as it offers background, guidance and ideas for the improvement of policy and practice in online and blended learning. The Canadian eLearning Network is a proud supporter and partner of this research, its publication and dissemination.
Technical Report
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Current research in K-12 online learning in Canada has focused on defi ning distance learning and its current strengths and weaknesses. Yet, the proliferation of technologies and digital learning spaces has led to the emergence of new instructional strategies and digital learning practices for teachers in many K-12 classrooms, both online and onsite. Traditional school-based classrooms are incorporating technology-supported open learning options, creating “blended learning” opportunities where at least part of instruction occurs in a classroom, part online at a distance to the teacher, both combined with some element of choice in learning for students. For these emerging practices little is known empirically, only anecdotally, as research into these practices has been limited or nonexistent, particularly in Canada. As you will find in this publication, many provinces and territories in Canada have some reference to distance education in their Education Act or Schools Act, the reference is typically used to describe distance education or to enable the Ministry of Education to create, approve or regulate K-12 distance education. However, few provinces and territories have any regulations describing online or blended learning. Two exceptions may be Nova Scotia and British Columbia. In Nova Scotia distance education is described in the collective agreement signed between the Government of Nova Scotia and the Nova Scotia Teachers Union. British Columbia has the highest level of regulation for K–12 online learning, featuring a structured system that allows students to freely choose any online course or program, and a funding model where dollars follow student choice. BC also has de ned and published standards and a focus on quality for their online learning programs. As digital learning practices expand, there is a clear need for further research and study in the emerging eld of K-12 online and blended learning. Canada, as the second largest country in the world, has a rich history of technology-supported distance learning strategies to bridge the country’s geographic expanse. Yet, for the past decade Canadian educators actively embracing new learning models and technologies have worked in relative isolation, sharing only locally at best. Given our rich experience in online and distance learning, an investment in Canadian-based research would be wise, and a national research model founded on the State of the Nation: K-12 E-Learning in Canada report could foster, support, communicate and share research in a manner that reaches local practitioners, not just academic journals. This eighth edition of the State of the Nation: K-12 E-Learning in Canada report, combined with the consolidation of Canadian research posted on the Canadian eLearning Network’s (CANeLearn) website (see, lays the foundation for an expansion of critical research for Canadian K-12 practitioners of K-12 online and blended learning practice and innovation. The 2015 report is a call for an expansion of research from Canada, including written publications covering topics specif ic to blended and online learning, vignettes, features and expanded information and stories about innovation and new approaches across Canada. CANeLearn looks forward to continuing to take a lead role in supporting and partnering in this research, posting this information on its website, and sharing it with members and educators across Canada and beyond. Retrieved from
Digital Diversity: Youth, Equity, and Information Technology is about youth, schools, and the use of technology. Youth are instrumental in finding novel ways to access and use technology. They are directly affected by changes such as the proliferation of computers in schools and elsewhere, and the increasingly heavy use of the Internet for both information sharing and for communication. The contributors to this volume investigate how the resources provided by information and communication technology (ICT) are made available to different groups of young people (as defined by gender, race, rural location, Aboriginal status, street youth status) and how they do (or do not) develop facility and competence with this technology. How does access vary for these different groups of youth? Which young people develop facility with ICT? What impact has this technology had on their learning and their lives? These are among the issues examined. Youth from a wide variety of settings are included in the study, including Inuit youth in the high arctic. Rather than mandate how youth should/could better use technology (as much of the existing literature does) the contributors focus on how youth and educators are actually using technology. By paying attention to the routine use and understandings of ICTs by youth and those teaching youth, the book highlights the current gaps in policy and practice. It challenges assumptions around the often taken-for-granted links between technology, pedagogy, and educational outcomes for youth in order to highlight a range of important equity issues. © 2010 by Wilfrid Laurier University Press. All rights reserved.
"Moe and Chubb have delivered a truly stunning book, rich with the prospect of how technology is already revolutionizing learning in communities from Midland, Pennsylvania to Gurgaon, India. At the same time, this is a sobering telling of the realpolitik of education, a battle in which the status quo is well defended. But most of all, this book is a call to action, a call to unleash the power of technological innovation to create an education system worthy of our aspirations and our childrens' dreams." -Ted Mitchell, CEO of the New Schools Venture Fund. "As long as we continue to educate students without regard for the way the real world works, we will continue to limit their choices. In Liberating Learning, Terry Moe and John Chubb push us to ask the questions we should be asking, to have the hard conversations about how far technology can go to advance student achievement in this country." -Michelle Rhee, Chancellor of Education for the Washington, D.C. schools. "A brilliant analysis of how technology is destined to transform America's schools for the better: not simply by generating new ways of learning, but also-and surprisingly-by unleashing forces that weaken its political opponents and open up the political process to educational change. A provocative, entirely novel vision of the future of American education." -Rick Hanushek, the Paul and Jean Hanna Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. "Terry Moe and John Chubb, two long-time, astute observers of educational reform, see technology as the way to reverse decades of failed efforts. Technology will facilitate significantly more individualized student learning-and perhaps most importantly, technology will make it harder and harder for the entrenched adult interests to block the reforms that are right for our kids. This is a provocative, informative and, ultimately, optimistic read, something we badly need in public education." -Joel Klein, Chancellor of the New York City schools.
The digital revolution accompaning the new generation is discussed. This revolution is powered by a fundamental preference for interactive media rather than broadcast media. A case study of a class is elaborated which is given the task of preparing a project on salt water fishes. The class make extensive use of Internet to prepare the project and share the project with other students with the help of Internet. The role of the teacher is limited to providing guidelines and the learning process is done by students themselves.
As the technology infrastructure of schools expands, a common concern has been the underutilization of computers and other technologies in the classroom. Teachers are often blamed for failing to integrate technology into their teaching, giving such reasons as lack of time, training, equipment, and support. However, it has been suggested that these are not the “real” reasons technology is underutilized; instead, it is argued that teachers’ core values about teaching and learning are the primary obstacles to successful technology integration (e.g., Cuban, 20018. Cuban , L. 2001 . Oversold and underused: Computers in the classroom , Cambridge, MA : Harvard University Press . View all references). Implications for professional development are addressed in relation to these barriers to classroom technology use and the developmental pattern of teachers’ technology integration.