Population: 4,436,258
Number of K-12 Schools: 2,518
Number of K-12 Students: 733,599
Number of K-12 Distance Learning Programs: 46
Number of K-12 Distance Learning Students: ~92,000

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://www.alberta.ca/online-learning.aspx ).

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: 2021/22 School Year outlined the following changes related to distance education:

Sections C1.5, D1.5 – Distance Education

  • Distance Education – Non-Primary Registration funding tiers have been replaced with a per student allocation.
  • New Distance Education Non-Primary Registration funding added with the following allocations;
    • Non-Primary Registration Out-of-District Allocation
    • New Application-based for Online Providers Allocation
  • Only students who have a primary registration at a school authority in Alberta on the September count date of the school year will be counted towards non-primary enrolment of a school authority.

Section H1.1 – Funding Rates for School Jurisdictions

  • New Distance Education Non-Primary Registration WMA student rate added.

Section H1.2 – Funding Rates for Accredited Funded Private Schools

  • New Distance Education Non-Primary Registration WMA student rate added. (Alberta Education, 2021, pp. 5-6)

More specifically, funding was not allocated based on the number of students, but on a weighted moving average (WMA) using the following formula:

Full-time online students: WMA Enrolment Online Students (3 5 online credits completed or higher for high school students) x Base Instruction Rate

Part-time online students: Number of WMA completed credits x Applicable WMA Per Credit Rate (p. 30)

The WMA for 2021-22 was based on enrollment data from the 2020-21 school year. In addition to the WMA funding of students from within the boundary of the school authority, the 2021-22 funding manual added a section related to funding for students from other school authorities throughout the province. Funding for these students were provided based on the number of non-primary registrations by out of district students as of the September count day multiplied by the distance education non-primary rate. Finally, the 2021-22 funding manual provided for a rant program that school authorities could apply to support new online education programs that focused on students from outside of that school authority.

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 nomenclature. 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 46 different distance and/or online learning programs as a part of their website directory. As of December 2022, Alberta Education had not provided any enrollment information from the provincial student information system. The most recent data reported was from the 2020-21 school year, when there were a total of 97,527 students coded as being enrolled in online learning/distance education programs. While researchers were able to compare data from the 2020-21 and 2021-22 school years using the “School and Authority Student Population Data,” we were only able to identify 25 of the 46 programs (Alberta Education, 2022). A comparison of that data suggests that the 2021-22 distance and online learning enrollment was approximately 95% of the 2020-21 enrollment. As such, it is estimated that there were approximately 92,000 students enrolled in K-12 distance and/or online learning courses during the 2021-22 school year.

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 it was not offered during the 2019-20 school year. It did return in the spring of 2021 with virtual workshop sessions.

Remote Learning

Fall 2021 Reopening

Alberta public and Catholic schools returned to in-person learning for the 2021-22 school year with masking and physical distancing not required in schools. Should the need to return to remote learning arise, the decision would be made by individual school authorities (with the approval from the Ministry of Education for short-term shifts or entire schools). However, as COVID-19 numbers began to rise at the end of the summer some school boards, such as Edmonton Public Schools and Edmonton Catholic Schools, offered online learning as an option. Similarly, Calgary offered online learning through their online school CBe-learn. Alberta Education also made its online learning directory, established before the pandemic, available to parents. The hourly requirements for remote learning, when schools need to pivot to online learning, were discretionary in grades K-6 and equivalent school hours for grades 7-12. All student assessments and standardised testing resumed as normal; except for grade three testing, which was an option for school authorities. In case of a return to remote learning, these tests could be cancelled at the discretion of school authorities. School authorities also had the option of continuing with extra-curricular activities (LaBonte et al., 2021).

2021-22 School Year

As the new school year progressed, local school closures for COVID outbreaks continued with students shifting to remote learning. With the increasing spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19, on September 15 the Alberta government announced a mask requirement for all school staff and for students on buses and while in school, but not while in class, along with recommendations that students in K-6 remain in cohorts where possible. Schools continued to be open to in-person learning and public reporting of school outbreaks resumed October 6 with over 50 schools reporting outbreaks and 700 on alert due to clusters of infection. Prior to the return to school from December holidays, due to increasing community spread of the Omicron variant, school reopening was delayed one week until January 10, 2022 to allow time for delivery of rapid test kits and quality medical masks. Throughout the month of January, many schools were closed to in-person learning with students returning to remote learning due to outbreaks. February saw the gradual release of community restrictions across Canada and the Alberta government gradual release included lifting of mask requirements in schools on February 14 and all other restrictions were lifted on June 14 (LaBonte et al., 2022).


Alberta Education. (2018). Guide to education: ECS to grade 12, 2018-2019. https://education.alberta.ca/media/3772212/guide-to-education-2018.pdf

Alberta Education. (2021). Funding manual for school authorities: 2021/22 school year. https://open.alberta.ca/dataset/8f3b4972-4c47-4009-a090-5b470e68d633/resource/9e514cbb-d48e-452d-aa3d-0f2db439c275/download/edc-funding-manual-2021-2022-school-year.pdf

Alberta Education. (2022). Student population statistics. https://www.alberta.ca/student-population-statistics.aspx

LaBonte, R., Barbour, M. K., & Mongrain, J. (2022). Teaching during times of turmoil: Ensuring Continuity of learning during school closures. Canadian eLearning Network. https://canelearn.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/Teaching-During-Times-of-Turmoil.pdf

LaBonte, R., Barbour, M. K., & Nagle, J. (2021). Pandemic pedagogy in Canada: Lessons from the first 18 months. Canadian eLearning Network. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1gaNFXDCt44W9DaAC9iRAf33pDTKup2C8/view

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).  Throughout 2004-05, the Federation of Francophone School Boards of Alberta (FCSFA) negotiated with the Alberta Distance Learning Centre and the Ministry of Education to create a Virtual School in early 2005 (Center francophone d’éducation à distance, 2022).  In the Fall of 2006, the FCSFA Virtual School had expanded to the point that it rebranded as the Center francophone d’éducation à distance (CFÉD).

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? Alberta Education.  https://education.alberta.ca/media/1224697/vcinabbrochure.pdf

Center francophone d’éducation à distance. (2022). Que sommes nous? https://cfed.ca/qui-sommes-nous

Haughey, M., & Fenwick, T. (1996). Issues in forming school district consortia to provide distance education: Lessons from Alberta. Journal of Distance Education, 11(1). 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).  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. The Canadian Teachers’ Federation.

Smith, R. D., & Crichton, S. (2003). Online learning in Alberta: Sustainability factors. 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 Distance Learning Program
Black Gold Virtual School
BGSD Blended Learning
2021-22 Online
315 (online) 18 full time
21 part time
1 blended (part time)
178 online (secondary)
K-8 online
207 blended
Black Gold Home-Based School 2021-22 Online
35 1 full time
4 part time
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
2021-22 Online 628 5 full time 45
Hope Christian School Online
2021-22 Online 775 10 full time
5 part time
Holy Family Cyberhigh
2010-11 Online 85 5 25
Ignite Centre for eLearning
2021-22 Online 436 3 full time
4 part time
Learn Together Anywhere
2020-21 Online 300 13 full time
4 part time
NorthStar Academy Canada
2022-23 Online
1420 16 full time
11 part time
Palliser Beyond Borders
2021-22 Online
1052 online
86 blended
5 full time
4 part time
4 blended
50 online
Prairie Adventist Christian eSchool
2021-22 Online 230 12 full time
2 part time
All programs grade K-12
Peace Academy of Virtual Education
2016-17 Online
80 2 full time
4 part time
Rocky View Schools Community Learning Centre
2021-22 Online
200 online
2000 blended
8 full time
7 blended
SSCcyber E-learning Community
2021-22 Online 550 1 full time
7 part time
School of Hope
2019-20 Online 492 16 full time
2 part time
St. Anne Online High School
2020-21 Online
1,500 47 full time ~60
St. Gabriel Education Centre
2021-22 Online
222 online
100 blended
6 full time
1 part time
3 blended
75 online
6 blended
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
2021-22 Online 10,000 41 full time
1 part time
Several hundred
Wolf Creek Public School 2021-22 Online/Hybrid 70

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.