Population: 4,421,876
Number of K-12 Schools: 2,503
Number of K-12 Students: 741,802

Number of K-12 E-Learning Programs: 34
Number of K-12 E-Learning Students: 82,857

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

Governance and Regulation

While the Minister does have the authority to make regulations, there are none pertaining to distance education programs at this time. The Ministry defines online learning as:

a structured learning environment in which students engage with their teachers in one or more online courses. Alberta certificated teachers employed by a school authority are responsible for instruction. (Government of Alberta, 2018, p. 85)

Further, the Guide to Education: ECS to Grade 12 defines an online course as:

one in which the majority of instruction and assessment takes place over the Internet, using a learning management system (LMS). The LMS provides students with access to course content, teachers and other students. Students may access the LMS from multiple settings (in school and/or out of school buildings) and engage in both synchronous and asynchronous instruction. (p. 85)

The Ministry also identifies specific distance and online learning programs/schools through the Ministry’s online learning directory (see https://education.alberta.ca/online-learning/online-learning-directory/ ).

Enrolment in these programs is tracked through the use of specific codes in the Provincial Approach to Student Information systems. At present, there are currently three specific coding mechanisms for tracking online enrolments.

  1. Schools may indicate that they offer an online learning program by entering this information in the Provincial Education Directory.
  2. Course and course enrolments may be identified as virtual (online learning) and print based distance education in provincial student information systems.
  3. Students who are completing the majority of their courses online can be identified as such using the online learning student enrolment code.

Alberta Education is aware that some schools and school authorities may not use the appropriate coding for distance and online courses and is working with school authorities to increase awareness and improve accuracy in the assignment of student and program codes for online and distance learning programs.

Distance and online learning are also funded differently than brick-and-mortar education. The Funding Manual for School Authorities prescribes funding mechanisms that are that are not available when a student is enrolled as an online learning student (e.g., Plant, Operations and Maintenance; Infrastructure Maintenance and Renewal; etc.). Further, a school authority must be able to demonstrate how 950 hours of distance/online ‘access’ for elementary and junior high students and 1000 hours of distance/online ‘access’ for senior high students is being met in order to ensure requirements are met to be eligible for funding.

Finally, during the 2017-18 school year Alberta Education changed the terminology for a program that consists of two parts (i.e., where the school-authority is responsible for the student’s education program, and where the parent is responsible for their child’s education program) from blended program to “shared responsibility” program. This change allowed the province to become more aligned with the current e-learning vernacular. At present, Alberta Education does not have an official definition for blended learning.

K-12 Distance and Online Learning Activity

At present, Alberta Education lists 34 different distance and/or online learning programs as a part of their website directory. While most of these are focused at the school division level, there are two programs that are provincial in scope (the Alberta Distance Learning Centre and the Centre francophone d’éducation à distance). Based on the information in the provincial student information system, during the 2019-20 school year there were a total of 82,857 students coded as being enrolled in online learning/distance education programs. Alberta Education did not provide a breakdown on the number of students coded as fully online students, full print-based distance education, supplemental print-based distance education students, or supplemental virtual students during this data collection cycle.

To support the practice of K-12 distance and online learning, Alberta Education has published two guides entitled the Online Learning Guides for Students and Families and the Online Learning Guides for Schools and School Leaders.

K-12 Blended Learning Activity

Blended learning occurs in various forms across the province, but Alberta Education currently does not track this activity. School authorities are flexible in their support of blended teaching and learning to better meet the learning needs of students. There is an Alberta blendED Symposium, which is a conference focused on fostering the growth of quality blended and online learning opportunities for students in Alberta that had been organized annually since 2015, but was not offered in the 2019-20 school year.

Emergency Remote Teaching

Schools closed on March 16, 2020 and remote teaching began on March 20. Alberta Education launched their online resource website, as well as  links to several Albertan School Authorities’ resources. Learning packets were delivered to students with limited access to digital devices and/or the internet. There were attendance expectations and report cards were still distributed.


Alberta Education. (2018). Guide to education: ECS to grade 12, 2018-2019. Edmonton, AB. Government of Alberta.

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 – 1932 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
2018-19 Online
~22, 000 82 full time
1 part time
Argyll Centre
2017-18 Online
950 online
200 blended
17 full time
4 part time
9 blended
232 online
129 blended
Black Gold Online and Blended Courses
2019-20 Online
70 online
596 blended
1 part time
197 blended (part time)
24 online
218 blended
2017-18 Online 5,599 (senior program)
177 (junior program)
25 full time (senior program)
6 part time (senior program)
6 full time (junior program)
52 (senior program)
18 (junior program)
Centre for Alternative and Virtual Education
2015-16 Online
160 5 full time
4 part time
Centre for Learning@Home
2019-20 Online
2,250 52 full time
20 part time
Centre francophone d’éducation à distance
2018-19 Online
595 contractual program
2162 team teaching program
5 full time 72 online
68 blended
Hope Christian School Online
2020-21 Online 750 7 full time
4 part time
Holy Family Cyberhigh
2010-11 Online 85 5 25
Learn Together Anywhere
2020-21 Online 300 13 full time
4 part time
NorthStar Academy Canada
2018-19 Online 450 10 full time
4 part time
Palliser Beyond Borders
2018-19 Online
1000 online
100 blended
7 full time
4 part time
5 blended
Prairie Adventist Christian eSchool
2019-20 Online 180 9 full time
2 part time
Peace Academy of Virtual Education
2016-17 Online
80 2 full time
4 part time
Rocky View Schools Community Learning Centre
2019-20 Online 3000+ 6 full time
1 part time
SSCcyber E-learning Community
2019-20 Online 300 4 full time 100
School of Hope
2019-20 Online 492 16 full time
2 part time
St. Anne Online High School
2019-20 Online
300+ 5 full time
1 part time
St. Isidore Learning Centre
2020-21 Online
~1,500 15 full time
1 part time
All programs grade 1-12
St. Paul Alternate Education Centre
2018-19 Online
83 distance
10 blended
6 full time
1 part time
10 blended
95-100 distance
10 blended
Vista Virtual School
2019-20 Online 13,000 30 full time 227 secondary
55 K-9

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.