While online and blended teaching and learning models have been a part of the Kindergarten to Grade 12 educational landscape in Alberta for a number of years, it is only recently that a designated position was created within the Ministry of Education to support this work.
In April 2016, the position of Online Learning Advisor was established to:
- bring coherence to current policy related to online learning;
- work with stakeholders in the field of education in an effort to develop standards and quality indicators related to online learning;
- provide support to the education system in the establishment of communities of practice, to support the implementation of policy, research-based standards, quality indicators and promising practices; and
- ensure that all Alberta students registered in online programs have access to and receive a quality education.
Within the first year of this role, a number of milestones have been achieved. The advisor:
- established an Online Learning Internal Working Group within the ministry, which was tasked with the responsibility of examining current policy, as well as developing an understanding of policy related to online learning nationally and internationally;
- implemented changes to policy-related documents such as the Guide to Education, providing increased clarity regarding online learning;
- worked with stakeholders at a number of conferences and events to surface challenges and opportunities in the education system of online learning;
- conducted field support visits with schools and school authorities throughout the province to establish strong working relationships and develop a deep understanding of the current state of online learning in Alberta (e.g., promising practices in instructional design, student engagement, teacher training, pedagogy, teacher workload, use of resources, etc.); and
- established initial working relationships with post-secondary institutions to discuss the importance of pre-service and post-graduate training for teachers considering teaching in online learning environments.
In the near future, support visits will continue. Through these discussions, a deeper understanding of the application of ministry policy in online learning environments will be developed, as will standards and quality indicators to support the ongoing work in the field. This will include an increased focus on the role of school and school authority leaders in this regard.
Current policy documents such as Alberta’s Learning and Technology Policy Framework, Guide to Education, the Teaching Quality Standard and the Funding Manual for School Authorities, along with input from the field, will be important foundational aspects of ensuring a high-quality education for Alberta’s students.