Twelve years following the publication of the first State of the Nation: K-12 e-Learning in Canada report, there continues to be a great deal of consistency in types of K-12 distance and online learning programs that exist throughout the country.


Single provincial program
Primarily district-based programs
Combination of provincial and district-based programs
Use online learning programs from other provinces

Students from all thirteen provinces and territories continue to participate in K-12 distance and online learning opportunities. Most jurisdictions continue to have either primarily district-based programs or district-based programs and provincial programs. The exception to this trend is in Atlantic Canada and Northern Canada. In Atlantic Canada, the dominant model is the use of a single province-wide program, with the exception of Prince Edward Island, which does not have any distance or online learning program. The greatest change has actually occurred in the Canadian territories where the Yukon has developed its own online learning program and the Northwest Territories is in the second of a three year expansion of a district-based online pilot. However, all three territories still utilized distance and/or online learning programs from southern provinces.

In terms of level of distance and online learning activity across Canada, the total K-12 population in Canada for 2018-19 was approximately five million students. Based on actual and estimated enrolment data, the number of students engaged in K-12 distance and online learning was 299,320 or 5.9% of the overall K-12 student population (see Table 1). It is important to note that the ~ symbol below means that approximations were provided by one or more sources during the data collection.

Table 1. Summary of K-12 distance and/or online learning activity by jurisdiction for 2018-19

# of K-12 students # enrolled in distance/online learning Percent involvement
NL 64,336 1,140 1.8%
NS 120,604 2,381 2.0%
PE 20,131 ~100 0.1%
NB 98,906 ~3,270 3.3%
QC 1,003,322 ~40,000 4.0%
ON 2,020,245 ~89,000 4.4%
MB 208,796 ~11,875 5.7%
SK 184,004 8,378 4.5%
AB 718,310 75,806 10.6%
BC 633,805 ~65,000 10.2%
YT 5,456 170 3.1%
NT 8,700 130 1.4%
NU 10,107 ~70 0.1%
Federal ~107,000 ~2,000 1.9%
Total 5,056,819 299,320 5.9%

It is important to note that for the first time since the State of the Nation: K-12 e-Learning in Canada began collecting data, British Columbia did not report the highest proportion of students engaged in distance and/or online learning. The 2018-19 school year saw Alberta have the highest level of reported activity in distance and/or online courses. However, this is also the first year that a total number of students were reported for Alberta, as historically the number of students were estimated based on a total number of course enrolments (e.g., it was estimated that there were ~63,000 students engaged in distance and/or online learning in Alberta during the 2017-18 based on 80,359 reported course enrolments).

The 299,320 students or 5.9% proportion of students engaged in K-12 distance and/or online learning across the country was an increase in the overall participation level from the previous three school years (see Table 2).

Table 2. Summary of K-12 distance and/or online learning activity over the past four years

# students engaged in distance and/or online learning
2015-16 2016-17 2017-18 2018-19
NL 1,105 968 1,233 1,140
NS ~2,500 ~2,600 ~2,700 2,381
PE 89 89 56 ~100
NB 2,527 3,262 ~3,239 ~3,270
QC ~41,000 ~42,600 30,366 ~40,000
ON ~94,500 ~91,000 ~82,000 ~89,000
MB ~8,000 8,941 ~6,398 ~11,875
SK ~12,000 ~8,500 7,738 8,378
AB ~60,000 ~50,000 ~63,000 75,806
BC 69,735 57,046 65,556 ~65,000
YT 149 189 136 170
NT 81 79 93 130
NU 325 ~40 ~40 ~70
Federal 1,390 1,289 1,131 ~2,000
Total 293,401 277,603 263,686 299,320

With the exception of minor decreases in participation reported in Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia, and no real change in enrolment in New Brunswick and British Columbia, most of the remaining 10 jurisdictions reported increases of 10% or greater (with some as high as 80%+) in the level of participation in K-12 distance and/or online learning.

In fact, the 2018-19 school year witnessed the first reported increase in the proportion of students engaged in K-12 distance and/or online learning since the 2014-15 school year (see Table 3 below).

Table 3. K-12 distance and/or online learning student enrolment in Canada

Year # of distance education students % of students engaged in distance education
1999-2000* ~25,000 0.5%
2008-09 ~140,000 2.7%
2009-10 150,000-175,000 2.9%-3.4%
2010-11 207,096 4.2%
2011-12 245,252 4.9%
2012-13 284,963 5.2%
2013-14 290,185 5.4%
2014-15 311,648 6.0%
2015-16 293,401 5.7%
2016-17 277,603 5.4%
2017-18 263,686 5.1%
2018-19 299,320 5.9%

* (Canadian Teachers Federation, 2000)

As has been stated in previous reports, the number of K-12 students engaged in distance and/or online learning has remained relatively steady over the past eight years (i.e., within ~1%). Project researchers continue to believe that this stability represents the variability in the accuracy of data collection (i.e., approximately half of the 14 jurisdictions were estimates or approximations).

2019 Level of K-12 Distance/Online Learning Activity

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