Over the course of the week, we’ll be previewing the 2019 State of the Nation: K-12 e-Learning in Canada report in advance of its official release on Monday, 03 February.
There have been no major changes in the nature of regulation governing K-12 distance and online learning.
Table 1. Summary of the K-12 distance and online learning regulation by jurisdiction
|Legislation||Policy Handbook||Agreements||Memorandum of Understanding|
As a reminder, while many provinces and territories continue to have some reference to distance education in the Education Act or Schools Act, in most instances these references simply define distance education or give the Minister of Education in that province or territory the ability to create, approve or regulate K-12 distance education. Many of these references have also become antiquated given the present realities of K-12 distance and online learning. The only provinces where this is not the case are Nova Scotia (e.g., collective agreement signed between the Government of Nova Scotia  and the Nova Scotia Teachers Union) and British Columbia (e.g., section 3.1 and section 75 (4.1) of the School Act, 2006, as well as section 8.1 of the Independent School Act, 2006). The most dominant trend affecting the regulation of K-12 distance and online learning is that approximately a third of all jurisdictions use policy handbooks to regulate K-12 distance and online learning; sometimes in combination with a formal agreement or contract.
In fact, there was only one jurisdiction that had any significant change in the way e-learning was governed and/or regulated – the First Nations, Métis, and Inuit programs under federal jurisdiction. Following four years of engagement between Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) and the Assembly of First Nations, ISC announced significant changes to the Elementary and Secondary Education Program, as well as the end of the New Paths for Education Program (which had historically supported several of the e-learning programs). Motivated by efforts to adhere to the First Nations Education Transformation and the Principle of First Nation Control of First Nation Education, these changes are being implemented for the fiscal year 2019-20. As such, the changes will likely first impact e-learning programs for the 2019-20 school year.
The timeline for these changes is actually a theme from a regulatory standpoint for coming school years. For example, the 2017 amendment to the Loi sur l’instruction publique in Quebec allowed the Minister of Education to authorize pilot projects to test or innovate distance education. It is believed that several pilot projects began during the 2018-19, which can last for up to five years with an evaluation every two years and an overall evaluation at the end of the pilot project. The results of these evaluations will likely guide regulatory changes in the province. Additionally, the Government of Ontario announced in 2019 that:
- Starting in 2020-21, the government will centralize the delivery of all e-learning courses to allow students greater access to programming and educational opportunities, no matter where they live in Ontario.
- Secondary students will take a minimum of four e-learning credits out of the 30 credits needed to fulfill the requirements for achieving an Ontario Secondary School Diploma. That is equivalent to one credit per year, with exemptions for some students on an individualized basis. These changes will be phased in, starting in 2020-21. (Ministry of Education, 2019a)
Further, the Government of British Columbia began a review of the model that it uses to fund K-12 education in 2017, including addressing the “artificial division in the current model between ‘bricks-and-mortar’ and distributed learning, which should not exist” (Government of British Columbia, 2018, p. 3). These examples highlight some of the broader issues that will likely impact e-learning programs in years, and will be examined in greater detail in subsequent State of the Nation: K-12 e-Learning in Canada reports.
 The Ministry of Education (2019b) later announced that “Ontario students will be required to take two online credits to graduate from secondary school” (¶ 3).