Population: 4,291,980
Number of K-12 Schools: 2,225
Number of K-12 Students: 704,813Number of K-12 E-Learning Programs: 23
Number of K-12 E-Learning Students: *64,007
                                                           * enrollments, not students

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

Governance and Regulation

At present, the School Act grants the Minister of Education the authority to make regulations with respect to distance education programs. While distance learning is not defined by the Ministry, online learning is defined as:

a structured learning environment in which students engage with their teachers in one or more courses online. The planning and implementation of instruction, as well as the assessment of student learning in relation to the outcomes from the Alberta programs of study, is the responsibility of Alberta certificated teachers employed by a school authority. (Government of Alberta, 2017, p. 80)

Alberta Education is currently developing an online learning toolkit that will provide guidance and direction for families, teachers and school/system leaders.

Enrolment in distance and online learning programs are tracked through the use of specific codes in the provincial student information systems. At present, there are currently three specific coding mechanisms for tracking online enrolments.

  1. Schools may indicate on their annual operating plans that they offer an online program.
  2. Courses may be identified as virtual and distance learning 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.

However, 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, it should be noted that during the 2016-17 school year, the Ministry completed 19 field support visits to those providing online programs in order to:

  • develop an understanding of the implementation of online programs to inform the development of policy, standards and quality indicators; and
  • provide an informal mechanism to raise awareness and seek input throughout the process.

These visits are being used to inform the development of an online learning toolkit, as well as assist in the creation of additional support tools and policy documents.

K-12 Distance and Online Learning Activity

Based on the information in the provincial tracking system, during the 2016-17 school year there were 364 schools that indicated on their operational forms that they had students enrolled in an online program. Additionally, 52 schools used the virtual course enrolment code, eight schools used the distance learning course enrolment code, and 81 schools used the online learning student enrolment code. Overall, there were a total of 12,736 students coded as online learning, as well as 37,608 distance learning course enrolments and 26,399 virtual course enrolments for the 2016-17 school year.

At present, Alberta Education is aware of 23 different distance and/or online learning programs. While most of these are focused at the school division level, there are two programs that are provincial in scope. The first is the Alberta Distance Learning Centre, which is operated under a service agreement between Alberta Education and the Pembina Hills School Division (which is set to expire on August 31, 2018). The second is the Centre francophone d’éducation à distance, an online service provider for the four Francophone school boards in the province, which operates under an annual conditional grant from the Alberta Education with other operational funds secured from the Francophone boards and adult education service provision.

K-12 Blended Learning Activity

A blended program in Alberta has historically been defined as a student’s education program that consists of two parts: where the school-authority is responsible for the student’s education program, and where the parent is responsible for their child’s education program. In 2017-18, Alberta Education will be transitioning this terminology to “shared responsibility” in order to identify programs where the school authority and parent share responsibility for the child’s program. This change will allow Alberta to become more aligned with the current e-learning vernacular.

Alberta Education does not collect enrolment data for blended learning, and there was only one program that completed the annual Individual Program Survey who provided blended learning data. It can be reported that in October 2017 the third annual Alberta blendED Symposium was held, a conference organized by Alberta’s BlendED Learning Society and focused on fostering the growth of quality blended learning opportunities for student in 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
2017-18 Online
27, 927 84 full time
6 part time
Argyll Centre
2016-17 Online
950 online 19 full time
7 part time
215 online
Black Gold Online and Blended Courses
2017-18 Blended 500-600 2 part time 233 online
>554 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
2017-18 Online
2,500 distance
600 blended
36 full time
36 part time
36 blended
250 distance
90 blended
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
2017-18 Online 700 8 full time
6 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
2017-18 Online
1000 online
?? blended
8 full time
4 part time
12 blended
80 online
80+ blended
Peace Academy of Virtual Education
2016-17 Online
80 2 full time
4 part time
Rocky View Schools Community Learning Centre
2017-18 Online
1,900 23 full time
3 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.