The Conseil scolaire francophone de la Colombie-Britannique, also known as CSF or SD 93, is a BC-wide fully francophone school district. Although it’s a public school district, students must meet certain eligibility criteria, namely having a francophone parent who went to school in French, excluding French immersion. The CSF provides an education in French as First language to 6500 students from K to 12, and in 47 schools across the province.
To meet the needs of all of BC francophone students, even those in remote areas or where there are no francophone schools, the CSF implemented an À la carte blended model. CSF’s own école Virtuelle “Virtual School” offers SD 93’s students a variety of online courses. Until 2021, the Virtual School only offered electives to high school students in CSF schools. As of Sept 2022, it is now a fully operational Provincial Online Learning School (POLS) as part of BC’s plan to standardize online learning. As such, it now offers a complete K-12 program completely in French to over 200 students across BC and Yukon. The K-7 program is available only to homeschooled francophone students, where the grade 8-12 courses are available to any eligible students. The only restriction at the moment is that the online course must not be available at the local CSF school, if in a brick-and-mortar school.
The Virtual School uses Moodle as Learning Management System (LMS) to deliver all courses asynchronously. Students in physical schools have blocks in their schedule allocated to their online courses, where they go to a dedicated space to work. They also benefit from an EA who supports students taking online courses.
The main benefit to students is the increased number of courses in French. Another important benefit is the flexibility it offers. With the virtual school, students can start and complete courses anytime during the school year, and they can work at their own pace. As such, many students choose online courses because they feel they can be much more efficient with their time. As well, many find it avoids the chaos and overstimulation that often occurs in classrooms. Furthermore, EAs are in place to support all students and teachers are available directly through teams and indirectly by email, and appointments can be made to meet via videoconference. This makes it a good choice for a wide variety of learning styles, as well as those who wish to get ahead or who need more time to learn. The Virtual school also has its own Support teacher who creates IEPs for students with designations. However, taking online courses does not fit all learning styles. Students with poor technological and organizational skills are likely to get frustrated and disengaged.
Although the CSF’s blended model is in its infancy, it is expected to deliver tremendous benefits to the community. As students continue their schooling in French, they are more likely to contribute to reinforcing BC’s Francophonie and to attend post-secondary institutions in French.
The online courses are also available to students outside the CSF, as long as they meet the eligibility criteria. Some francophone students attend English or French-immersion schools for multiple reasons, often because there aren’t any Francophone schools in their community. SD 93 provides Apple tools to all their students and also provides electronic devices to Primary students (fully online) who request it. This makes taking online courses easier and more affordable to families. These students can now take the required French courses that will allow them to graduate with both High school diploma: the Dogwood and the Cornouiller.
Being a newer program, the CSF faces many challenges in the implementation of their À la carte blended model, including the rapid deployment of courses in a short amount of time. It also has to get all its schools, staff and parents to buy into the program and encourage their students or kids to take online courses. Given the success of CSF’s école Virtuelle in its first year as a POLS, the future is looking bright for our young francophones and BC’s French program.