The total K-12 population in Canada for 2016-17 was approximately 5.1 million students. Based on actual and estimated enrollment data, the number of students engaged in K-12 e-learning was 812,033 or 15.7% of the overall K-12 student population (see Table 1). The overall e-learning activity was based on the number of K-12 students engaged in distance and online learning, combined with the number of K-12 students engaged in blended learning.

Table 1. Summary of the K-12 e-learning activity by jurisdiction for 2016-17

# of K-12 students # enrolled in e-learning Percent involvement
NL 66,323 ~8,000 12.1%
NS 119,383 ~54,000 45.2%
PE 20,131 89 0.4%
NB 98,906 9,179 9.3%
QC 1,003,322 ~47,900 4.8%
ON 2,003,253 ~559,000 27.9%
MB 183,304 8,941 4.9%
SK 177,787 ~8,500 4.8%
AB 704,813 ~50,000 7.1%
BC 635,037 ~63,350 10.0%
YT 5,122 1028 20.1%
NT 8,449 79 0.9%
NU 9,728 ~40 0.4%
Federal ~107,000 1,927 1.8%
Total 5,142,548 812,033 15.7%

The highest level of e-learning activity by raw numbers was Ontario (based on recent estimates), but, by proportion of students, Nova Scotia – closely followed by Newfoundland and Labrador – had the highest activity. In the case of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as Ontario for that matter, this figure was largely due to estimates of blended learning activity based on enrollments in the provincial learning management systems.

Based on actual and estimated enrollment data, the number of students engaged in K-12 distance and online learning only was 277,603 or 5.4% of the overall K-12 student population (see Table 2).

Table 2. Summary of the K-12 distance and online learning activity by jurisdiction for 2016-17

# of K-12 students # enrolled in distance/online learning Percent involvement
NL 66,323 968 1.5%
NS 119,383 ~2,600 2.2%
PE 20,131 89 0.4%
NB 98,906 3,262 3.3%
QC 1,003,322 ~42,600 4.2%
ON 2,003,253 ~91,000 4.5%
MB 183,304 8,941 4.9%
SK 177,787 ~8,500 4.9%
AB 704,813 ~50,000 7.1%
BC 635,037 57,046 9.0%
YT 5,122 189 3.7%
NT 8,449 79 0.9%
NU 9,728 ~40 0.4%
Federal ~107,000 1,289 1.2%
Total 5,142,548 277,603 5.4%

Again, as in past years, British Columbia has the highest level of reported activity in distance and online programs and/or courses followed closely by Alberta. The 5.4% proportion of students engaged in K-12 distance and online learning across the country was a decrease in the overall participation level from the previous school year (see Table 3, which provides the K-12 distance and online learning activity estimates since the 1999-2000 school year).

Table 3. K-12 distance and online learning student enrollment in Canada

Year # of distance education students % of students engaged in distance education
1999-2000* ~25,000 0.5%
2008-09 ~140,000 2.7%
2009-10 150,000-175,000 2.9%-3.4%
2010-11 207,096 4.2%
2011-12 245,252 4.9%
2012-13 284,963 5.2%
2013-14 290,185 5.4%
2014-15 311,648 6.0%
2015-16 293,401 5.7%
2016-17 277,603 5.4%

* (Canadian Teachers Federation, 2000)

From a proportional standpoint, the number of K-12 students engaged in distance and online learning has remained relatively steady in recent years (i.e., within 0.8 percentage points during that time period). However, based on raw numbers the number of students engaged in distance and online learning has decreased over the past three years (after steadily climbing for 16 years). Project researchers believe that this decrease likely represents a combination of the variability in the accuracy of data collection and an actual shift from distance and online learning to more blended learning contexts.

While blended learning is a much more recent development within the K-12 system, the best estimates that are available indicate that it is increasing significantly. Based on mainly estimated enrollment data, the number of students engaged in K-12 blended learning was 657,985 or 12.8% of the overall K-12 student population (see Table 4).

Table 4. Summary of the K-12 blended learning activity by jurisdiction for 2016-17

# of K-12 students # enrolled in blended learning Percent involvement
NL 66,323 ~8,000 12.1%
NS 119,383 ~54,000 45.2%
PE 20,131
NB 98,906 5,917 6.0%
QC 1,003,322 ~5,300 0.5%
ON 2,003,253 ~468,000 23.4%
MB 183,304
SK 177,787
AB 704,813
BC 635,037 ~6,300 9.9%
YT 5,122 830 16.2%
NT 8,449
NU 9,728
Federal ~107,000 638 0.6%
Total 5,142,548 657,985 12.8%

As indicated above, the blended learning activity in Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, and Ontario are based on enrollments in the provincial learning management system. While the enrollments in a learning management system is as good an indicator of e-learning activity as any other, it may be misleading. For example, Table 5 illustrates the blended learning that this report has estimated over the past three years and the basis for that estimation

Table 5. Summary of estimated K-12 blended learning activity over the past three years

 

# students engaged in blended learning
2014-15 2015-16 2016-17
NL 9360* 10,905* ~8,000*
NS 54,000** ~54,000** ~54,000**
PE *** *** ***
NB 5208** 4171** 5,917**
QC 36,500** 44,500** ~5,300
ON 237,930* 237,930* ~468,000*
MB *** *** ***
SK *** *** ***
AB *** *** ***
BC *** 6578**** ~6,300****
YT 379** 653** 830**
NT *** *** ***
NU *** *** ***
Federal *** *** 638**
Total 343,377 358,737 657,985

* Estimate based on learning management system data
** Data provided by Ministry
*** Unable to estimate level of activity
**** Data extracted from individual program survey response

It is interesting to note that New Brunswick, the Yukon, and Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada were all able to provide specific numbers. In the case of the Yukon it was due to a specific blended learning program that was being supported by Yukon Education, while Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada actually included two different codes for blended learning in their nominal roll. The figures provided for New Brunswick – as well as Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, and Ontario – were estimates based on the student or teacher enrollment in the provincial learning management system. Interestingly, with the exception of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, the five other provincial and territorial jurisdictions (i.e., Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario, and the Yukon) are all highly centralized jurisdictions. By ‘highly centralized’ we mean that they have systems that are managed and directly supported by the Ministry of Education in that province or territory.

It is important to underscore that these estimates of blended learning activity continue to be a best effort attempt at trying to quantify this type of e-learning activity. Beyond the issues of whether teachers or students enrolled in provincial learning management systems were engaged in blended learning, this data largely represents information obtained from programs that were primarily engaged in distance and/or online learning (and simply also involved in blended learning). For example, in last year’s State of the Nation: K-12 E-Learning in Canada, it was reported that the following were not included in the 2015-16 data in Table 5:

  • Manitoba: 1 e-learning program reported 24 students engaged in blended learning (out of 869 schools)
  • Saskatchewan: 4 e-learning programs reported 1895 students engaged in blended learning (out of 798 schools)
  • Alberta: 3 e-learning programs reported 1463 students engaged in blended learning (out of 2152 schools)

These three provinces have 3819 schools in total, which represents tens of thousands of teachers, many of whom may be involved in blended learning. Yet, for these three provinces the researchers for this study have information from only distance and/or online programs from eight school districts. While we are able to report that K-12 blended learning is growing (and appears to be quite significant in some jurisdictions), we also believe that the estimation of blended learning activity in this report does not begin to scratch the surface of the true level of blended learning in most jurisdictions.

National Overview: Level of K-12 E-Learning Activity

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