Population: 4,025,074
Number of K-12 Schools: 2,152
Number of K-12 Students: 691,876
Number of K-12 E-Learning Programs: ~20
Number of K-12 E-Learning Students: ~60,000

Note that these profiles are taken from the most recent edition of the report, please review additional annual profiles below.

K-12 E-Learning Programs

It is believed that approximately 20 school divisions in the province offer an assortment of online learning, catering mostly to students in their own geographic jurisdiction.  Some of these district-based programs manage students in other regions of the province, but at present there is only one single province-wide program (i.e., the Alberta Distance Learning Centre [ADLC]) that offers courses to over 44,000 students in the province.  The Ministry reports that the provincial student information database indicated that there were 9,985 students enrolled in online programs during the 2015-16 school year, but many school authorities currently do not code their students as being online. Accordingly, the actual number of students engaged in some form of distance or online learning across all education authorities is unknown.  Based on the most recent responses of the annual individual program survey from 11 of the e-learning programs, there were approximately 50,000 students engaged in distance and/or online learning.

While the Ministry of Education does not collect enrollment data for blended learning, it is believed that the level of blended learning is growing in the province. For example, blendED – a conference focused on fostering the growth of quality blended learning opportunities for student in Alberta that began two years ago – has attracted approximately 300 participants each year from outreach programs, learning centres, distance learning programs or classrooms that are using the online environment to expand and extend learning opportunities and building flexibility to student learning.  This past year the Alberta’s BlendEd Learning Society was organized to support the annual blendED conference specifically to promote structured dialogue and share emerging practices while providing opportunities for networking.

Governance and Regulation

At present, the School Act grants the Minister of Education the authority to make regulations with respect to public and private distance education programs. The Ministry has generally not exerted that authority beyond outlining some specific requirements primarily related to the amount of required instructional time as a part of its annual Guide to Education.

The service agreement for ADLC has been extended for a period up to and including August 31, 2018. The extension allows the Ministry to engage in work that will inform the next steps for the future of distance, online and blended learning in Alberta; and will enable the Ministry to share more robust information in the future.  The  Centre francophone d’éducation à distance, the online service provider for the five Francophone school boards in the province, operates under an annual conditional grant from the Ministry with other operational funds secured from the francophone boards and adult education service provision.

It should be noted that since 2007 there have been consultation initiatives related specifically to distributed learning policy, that was later included as a part of the consultations on the 2011 Inspiring Action in Education initiative. These consultations were followed by a two-year review of distance education programs and services offered in the province conducted by an external consulting firm with the goal of recommending a provincial model for distance education delivery.  In 2016 an online learning advisor was appointed by the Ministry to address the need for changes in policy, as well as the establishment of standards, guidelines and quality indicators in online and blended learning. In addition, efforts are underway to identify more accurate data regarding e-learning throughout the province.

Previous Provincial Profiles

History of K-12 E-Learning

In 1923, the Deputy Minister of Education insisted that the Supervisor of Schools in Alberta, try an“education by mail” pilot project. The pilot was designed to serve 10 students who did not have a school to attend, but within the first year it was serving the needs of 100 students (Smith & Crichton, 2003).  By 1926 there were over 900 students enrolled with the majority being Grade 1 students.  By 1927 an additional 255 students joined, and for the first time the annual report made mention of a Correspondence Branch within the department of education.  From 1923 – 1936 the Alberta Correspondence Branch was administered by a single staff member, while by 1932 there were two full-time administrators and four full-time teachers responsible for 2500 students from grades 1-8. When the Public School Act changed in 1939 to include grades 1 -12, the Alberta Correspondence Branch increased its scope .  By 1940, the branch added radio content to its print materials.  The move from radio supplemented lessons to second generation technology options continued with advancements in communication tools such as reliable and less expensive telephone coverage and audio and video cassettes (i.e., multimedia courses in a box) delivered by the mail (see Distance Education in Alberta Has Come A Long Way for a different telling of this story).

Innovations in third and fourth generation distance education were evidenced in the use of video conferencing for professional development and the sharing of teacher specialization expertise among schools (Andrews, 2005).  By the 1990s, there were also several school district consortia that offered K-12 online learning programs in the province (Haughey & Fenwich, 1996), and from 1995 to 1999 there were 23 district-based online learning programs in operation (Muirhead, 1999). In fact, the first references to K-12 online learning in the academic literature were based on these district initiatives in Alberta. Over the next decade Alberta would continue to develop public and private district and multi-district programs, and by 2002-03 it was reported that Alberta continued to have the most students engaged in online learning (O’Haire, Froese-Germain, & Lane- De Baie, 2003).

In more recent years, there have been several consultation initiatives with respect to distance learning in the province. The first consultative process began in 2007 when the Ministry of Education reviewed K–12 distance education with the goal of developing a Distributed Learning Strategy. While there was a broad consultation process (including 1774 responses to an online survey, 60 interviews, 28 focus groups, and 21 site visits), that initiative appeared to be subsumed into a subsequent larger initiative. The Inspiring Action on Education initiative began in June 2010, with the release outlining the policy directions within the broader context of provincial government strategies and initiatives aimed at building a stronger future for Alberta. Public feedback occurred from June to October, followed by a series of Ministry-generated reports in December summarizing the responses. However, when the Government introduced a new Education Act in 2012, there was no reference to distributed, online or blended learning from these earlier consultations. The most recent consultations was an external initiative. In April 2012, Alberta Education contracted Schmidt and Carbol Consulting Group to conduct a province-wide review of distance education programs and services. The review, which concluded in early 2014, was not released to the public.


Andrews, K. (2005)  Videoconferencing in Alberta: What are the benefits of videoconferencing in education? Edmonton, AB: Alberta Education. Retrieved from https://education.alberta.ca/media/1224697/vcinabbrochure.pdf

Haughey, M., & Fenwick, T. (1996). Issues in forming school district consortia to provide distance education: Lessons from Alberta. Journal of Distance Education, 11(1). Retrieved from http://www.ijede.ca/index.php/jde/article/view/242

Muirhead, B. (1999). The benefits of an online education consortium for Alberta. International Electronic Journal For Leadership in Learning, 3(4). Retrieved from http://www.acs.ucalgary.ca/~iejll/volume3/muirhead.html

O’Haire, N., Froese-Germain, B., & Lane-De Baie, S. (2003). Virtual education, real educators: Issues in online learning. Ottawa, On: The Canadian Teachers’ Federation.

Smith, R. D., & Crichton, S. (2003). Online learning in Alberta: Sustainability factors. Edmonton, AB: Alberta Online Consortium.


Brief Issue Papers

Individual Program Survey Responses

 Program  Most recent response   Medium   # of Students   # of Teachers   # of Courses 
Alberta Distance Learning Centre
2015-16 Online
44,273 72 full time 265
Argyll Centre
2016-17 Online
950 online 19 full time
7 part time
215 online
Black Gold Online and Blended Courses
2016-17 Blended 580 94 part time 170
2015-16 Online 3494 (senior program)
136 (junior program)
19 full time (senior program)
14 part time (senior program)
3 full time (junior program)
2 part time (junior program)
89 (senior program)
15 (junior program)
Centre for Alternative and Virtual Education
2015-16 Online
160 5 full time
4 part time
Centre for Learning@Home
2016-17 Online 2900 34 full time
35 part time
Centre francophone d’éducation à distance
2016-17 Online
636 contractual program
1871 team teaching program
4 teachers
1 administrator
Chinook Cyber School
2016-17 Online
1010 5 full time
14 part time
Hope Christian School Online
2016-17 Online 300 2 full time
8 part time
Holy Family Cyberhigh
2010-11 Online 85 5 25
NorthStar Academy Canada http://www.northstaracademycanada.org 2012-13 Online 271 6 full time
1 part time
Palliser Beyond Borders
2016-17 Online
800+ online
?? blended
9 full time
5 part time
14 blended
81 online
100 blended
Peace Academy of Virtual Education
2016-17 Online
80 2 full time
4 part time
Rocky View Schools Online School
2016-17 Online
1800 6 full time
1 part time

To update this information, visit http://tinyurl.com/sotn-program-survey

Inter-provincial and International

If a student takes a course from another province, territory, or country the student will receive a report card from the school authority providing the course. If the student wishes to receive credit for the course the process for applying to receive transfer credit is described in the “Awarding Course Credits” section of the Guide to Education: ECS to Grade 12 and an equivalency to an Alberta course is provided.

It is the expectation of the Ministry of Education that school authorities will focus on providing programming to Alberta students and out-of-province students who physically come to Alberta to learn. Alberta Education does not provide funding for out-of-province students unless they are residents of Alberta and maintain a home in Alberta with the intention of returning to the province. It is the practice of the Ministry to not provide services to students in other countries without a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the two governing authorities. Alberta has established a number of MOUs, enabling the establishment of accredited out-of-province schools that use Alberta’s programs of study and employ Alberta certificated teachers.  In examining the list of international schools currently approved none appear to provide distance education service.