The specific nature of regulation of K-12 distance, online, and blended learning has remained quite stable over the fifteen year period that the State of the Nation: K-12 e-Learning in Canada report has been active. 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. Table 4 provides a summary of regulations showing that 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.
Table 4. Summary of the K-12 distance and online learning regulation by jurisdiction
|Legislation||Policy Handbook||Agreements||Memorandum of Understanding|
This is not to suggest that the actual regulations have remained stable. Few provinces have made major changes to how K-12 distance, online, and blended learning is regulated. However, the nature of those regulations have changed significantly – and, in some cases, multiple times – over the past 15 years. For example, following the decision to end support for the Alberta Distance Learning Centre, which resulted in the programs closure at the end of the 2020-21 school year, Alberta Education revised its Funding Manual for School Authorities during the 2020-21 school year to introduce a grant program to encourage school authorities to develop their own distance learning capacity (Alberta Education, 2020). This program was extended during the 2021-22 school years, and the Funding Manual for School Authorities was further revised to account for – and even encourage – enrollment of students from other school authorities (Alberta Education, 2021).
The other two jurisdictions that experienced regulatory changes in K-12 distance and online learning were Ontario and British Columbia. In the case of Ontario following announcements during the 2018-19 and 2019-20 school years, the requirement that Ontario students had to take two online courses to graduate from secondary school came into effect during the 2020-21 school year. Late in 2021, the Ministry of Education announced that all secondary students in the province would receive credit for having taken one online course due to the remote and hybrid learning that occurred during the 2020-21 school year. Late in the 2021-22 school year, the Ministry of Education released Policy/Program Memorandum 167 (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2022), which – among other things – outlined the specific processes and procedures for implementing the online learning graduation requirement and opt-out process for students. Similarly, the 2021-22 school year marked the first year that Bill 8 was fully enacted in British Columbia. Beginning in 2018, following significant consultation, the original implementation of legislative changes to both the School Act and the Independent School Act were initially delayed due to COVID-19. The legislation updated the terminology from distributed learning to online learning. Additionally, the 2021-22 school year began the first interim year where some online schools will be converted to Provincial Online Learning Schools with the authorization to enroll students province-wide, while others will be converted to District Online Learning Schools under a new authorization to serve students in their own school district. Finally, a new funding and accountability framework will be introduced.
The remaining jurisdictions saw little or no change in the nature of regulation.